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[The following article is an edited transcription of the June 2005 Tape/CD of the Month, Failing Forward by Dan Gallagher.]
Let God define success for us. In fact, that is the third point of this teaching. How are we defining success? If you look to the world, you are not going to get a proper definition. Their definition includes wealth, fame, beauty, material goods such as: money, cars, fat paychecks, big bank accounts. Is that how you are defining it? Do you feel defeated because your bank account is not that big? Are you having financial difficulty? Maybe you are not the most handsome or most beautiful woman on the street. Maybe you have a car that is broken down. I am sure that many of us do, but that is not how we need to define success. That is how the world defines it, and do not let the Devil bait you into that trap. [For further study, read What Should be a Christian’s Attitude Towards Money and Material Possessions?]
Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that anything is wrong with these things in and of themselves, but it is how we relate to them. It is our perspective about them. A lot is wrong with them, though, if the possession of them or the quantity of them is how you are defining your success. I say this because God says that He has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, so we need to examine our definitions. One of the things that always keeps me sharp in this area is reminding myself that discipline does not necessarily feel very successful.
John 15:1 and 2
(1) “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
(2) He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
I do not imagine that too much is there that feels good about the pruning process. I have been pruned a lot in my life. I know when God is disciplining me, because He disciplines us like a father disciplines his children. I have four daughters, and they are wonderful women, now. They have all been raised, but it was very hard. They did not enjoy discipline, but yet God’s testimony says, “Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Well, are you feeling pruned? If you are not fruitful, you are not being pruned. That is what he says that every branch that bears fruit is going to be pruned. When you are enduring the pruning process, you have got to learn to fail forward. You have to learn to press through that.
Another example of how we define success (something that we need to remember), is that persecution never feels very successful.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
He said, “Blessed are you when people insult you.” Do people insult you? Have people falsely accused you? Do you feel persecution? I am telling you this: the testimony of Jesus Christ is that you are blessed if you are persecuted. Are you being insulted or persecuted or being falsely accused because of him? If that is the source of your persecution, you are pretty blessed. You are a successful person. You need to remember that. I know that sometimes I am accused of things which I really do not have a witness in my heart about and it hurts. It hurts a lot. It feels like eating dirt with gravel and glass in it, but yet the testimony of the Word of God is that if you are walking, serving the Father, walking in His will, pursuing a holy and righteous life style, you are going to be insulted. You are going to be persecuted, and you are going to be falsely accused.
Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.
Is your life showing some signs of persecution? I remember a story that I heard years ago. The dean of a Christian seminary used to bring in all the students and interview them. He brought in a young man one day and asked him how his life was going. The young man said, “Fine! Everything is going great, wonderful.” The dean looked really distressed. The young man said, “Why? What is wrong?” The dean said, “Then you must not being doing something right because if you are really walking with the Lord, you ought to be feeling some heat.” I really believe this is the testimony of Scripture. Do you have some heat coming against you? Do you have some adversity? Are you feeling some defeat? If you are, then you are probably doing the right thing? That is the perspective that you need to have. You need to be able to fail forward. All great achievers are given multiple reasons to believe that they are a failure, but in spite of that they persevere.
I would like to move on now and take a look at some of the myths that surround failure. In fact, I call this part of the teaching “Let’s Do A Little Myth Busting.”
Failure Is Avoidable—that is a myth. Failure is not avoidable. We all fail. You have got to realize that when you fail, when you trip, or when you stumble, it is not the end, and it is not avoidable.
People Think of Failure as an Event. It is not a single event. It is usually a series of bad decisions. I know many times as I am counseling people, and they tell me of the specific instance where they stumbled, but yet as we talk, and you back that process up, we find a series of thought patterns and processes that led to the whole series of events that culminated into the failure (event) that they want to hold on to. It is not an event; it is a series of bad decisions. Just think of the physical world. Years ago a popular hotel had a walk-way (bridge) that collapsed during a large celebration. When they went back and did a failure analysis on it, it was not any single thing that caused the failure of that bridge. The first aspect was that too many people were on the bridge. The second aspect was that all the people were dancing and swaying to the music. The third aspect was that the contractor had shorted some of the material and bolts, in some way. The fourth aspect was that the engineer had not properly calculated all the length and span and load on the bridge. You see, although the failure was an event, what caused the failure was a series of events and not any single thing. Many times when they do failure analysis of physical events, they find that it is not any one thing but rather a series of bad decisions (bad moves) which resulted in that event. I would bet you that many times this is a similar thing in your life. How about, for example, your health? I receive calls from people asking to be ministered to. Someone may be having heart trouble, but the fact is that they have lived a life where they have eaten the wrong foods or smoked cigarettes or lived under stress, and now they want healing for their heart; however, they have sown into bad health situations. It was a series of events that led up to this heart situation.
Failure is Objective Verses Being Subjective. The majority of times failure is subjective. It is a matter of perspective. That is what we have to do, gain the proper perspective, a healthy perspective. Yes, you may have made a mistake, but you can change your perspective about that single event (defeat) so that you can learn from it and move forward. The fact is that I have made many mistakes, but I always tell myself, “Well, at least now I know what not to do.” This is a great perspective; therefore, it was not a failure. It is not a failure because now I know “that did not work,” and now I know not to do that anymore. I change my perspective on it; it is a great place to be.
Failure is an Enemy. We always think of failure as an enemy. We do not want failure to come anywhere near us. I would really like to encourage you to make failure a friend. Not that you want to desire it or to come to you, but the fact is that it is going to come to you. Remember, failure is not avoidable, but when it does come, look at failure as merely feedback. I heard a man a number of years ago say, “I never look at things as failures; I look at it as feedback.” Right? Well, now you know what does not work. You need to tell yourself, “It is not that I am a failure, but that I failed at doing something.” A big difference can be seen between these two.
Failure is Irreversible. Many times we get ourselves stuck in a hole (stuck in a pit). We think that there is no way for us to climb out. Let me tell you something. I was charged with 17 felony counts. I plead guilty to two felonies. I sit here today with no criminal record. That is by God’s mercy and grace. At one time, I did not have any idea of how to get out from underneath that. Also, I had lost a civil lawsuit of wrong things that I had done. I was 5.1 million dollars in debt, but again by God’s mercy and grace, I was able to work out a settlement with the people that I owed the money. I was able to pay them back in a huge way. Today, I am able to work in ministry. When I tell you that I have been a failure, I am not making that up. I have made plenty of mistakes in my life, but by God’s mercy and grace, failure is reversible! It is a myth to think that failure is irreversible. Don’t get me wrong. Consequences do occur for actions, and what you sow, you will reap. We do have a powerful God, and I know that from the record of Scripture—look at the life of David. I have not murdered anybody. I have never done things like that, but yet he was called a “man after God’s own heart.” Moses murdered someone, yet he was called “the friend of God.” He knew God face to face. Failure is reversible, but it is dependent upon you for changing the trajectory of your life. It is dependent upon you to make up your mind to walk holy and godly. You can do that. You can change. You do not have to live in this failure, defeat, or adversity. The power is within your own life.
We Think That Failure is Final. It is not over until it is over. Your life is not over until you stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and he looks you in the face and you hear his testimony of your life. I am looking for the day when I can stand before Jesus Christ, and he says, “Well done brother; come on in buddy, good job.” That is going to be the testimony that I will accept. Until it is over, it is not over. I have made many mistakes, and maybe so have you, but it is not over until it is over. Let us accept the testimony of God and Jesus Christ. Let us change our perspective; let us learn to fail forward.
In the next part of this teaching I would like to review four keys on how you can remove yourself from failure. I think that these are powerful and practical steps. They have worked for me and they have worked for many people. I would like you to just consider them.
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Thanks for reading.
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