What can we learn from failure?

Michael Jordan says that he has missed more than 9,000 shots in his career, lost over 300 games, and 26 times he has been trusted to take the game-winning shot, but he missed.

He says that he has failed over and over again in his basketball career, and that is why he succeeds.

The same thing happened to Harland David Sanders, or famously known as Colonel Sanders of KFC.

He had a hard time selling his chicken recipe at first. In fact, he was rejected for 1,009 times before he finally received a “yes” from a restaurant owner who accepted his offer. (stunningmotivation.com)

Jesus’ followers didn’t master basketball or fried chicken. Neither were they motivational speakers, but they did learn from failure.

Down from the Mountain

Luke records a sequence of events that must have been awe inspiring to his followers.

— Luke 9.1-6 – The disciples traveled through Galilee and were empowered to heal, deliver from evil spirits, and proclaim the presence of God’s kingdom.

— Luke 9.10-17 – They witnessed the multiplication of food that fed 5000 people.

— Luke 9.20 – They realized that they were traveling through the countryside with the Messiah.

— Luke 9.28-36 – The inner circle of the disciples joined Jesus on the mountain to witness his transfiguration.

At this juncture, nine of the disciples were faced with their failure to be able to help a child.

Luke 9.27-40On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.

Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child.

“Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him.

“I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”

Not making a basketball shot or not selling a fried chicken recipe cannot compare to the feeling of failure by the nine disciples.

A little child was tormented by a demon, and they were unable to help. A significant aspect of their ministry was healing and deliverance, and they couldn’t help.

I believe healing and deliverance continue to be part of God’s work through the church. I grieve over the times when we are unable to help.

— We help people get sober, only to see them relapse.

— We pray fervently for someone to be healed, but they die.

— We try to help people – ourselves included – to forsake destructive habits, only to fall back into them.

— We preach a gospel of love, but find ourselves being short and grumpy often with the people whom we love the most.

Jesus Grieves Over Failure

The disciples had been following Jesus and learning from him for a year or possibly two at this point. They were moving to the climactic events of Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem.

Luke’s next words reveal how Jesus expected them to be further along in their cooperation with his ministry.

Luke 9.41Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”

Rudy Ross and I agree that Jesus’ words express grief more than anger at the disciples.

I have been following Jesus for more than 50 years, and I am confident that he wishes I was further along in my spiritual maturity, too.

The bad news is Jesus’ disappointment with the maturity of the disciples, and ours too. The good news is that we all have the opportunity to grow with Jesus.

Healing Power

Earlier in the article, I listed some of the ways that the church experiences failure. Praise God, through the power God gives us, we also experience success.

In Jesus’ instance it looks like this:

Luke 9.42-43While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

Just as I listed failures, we can rejoice over success.

— Many people are living sober lives and following Jesus.

— Some people who should have died years ago are still living full and meaningful lives.

— Some have traded destructive habits for daily Bible study, prayer, and service.

— Some have exchanged selfishness for love.

Let’s praise God today and strive to join Jesus in his ministry.

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I discuss the failure of the disciples in today’s YouTube video. We also talk about our failures. The video can be seen on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.

Please email your prayer request to bsprad49@gmail.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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