Failure Is An Event, Not A Person

How many of us have failed at something this past week? i know i did! We were blessed to have all of our family home with us for the Thanksgiving holiday. Four households and four generations converging for a special time together. Four households and four generations with different perspectives and different ways of doing things. Viva la difference, right? Well, after a while, i somehow lost all that holiday spirit, got turned sideways by those quirky differences, and my impatience began to grow until it boiled over. Now remember, i’m the proud patriarch of this “quirky” clan, so that’s not supposed to happen to me.  i’m supposed to act like the godly leader of this tribe. After all, i’m the chief “quirk”! So, at that moment, i was faced with three choices:

  1. i could try to justify my “impatience” as righteous indignation and attempt to bully everyone else into submitting to my way, or

  2. i could allow my reaction to define me and resign myself to be a failure as a godly leader and father, and sulk in my condition, or

  3. i could acknowledge that my reaction was wrong, learn from it and make an adjustment in my attitude and actions going forward.

Then on Sunday, we went to worship and the pastor, who apparently had been watching our family’s interactions via video-streaming, shared a quote from Zig Ziglar – “Failure is an event, not a person.” i could allow my failure to define me, or i could acknowledge it for what it was, make an adjustment and move on.

That principle holds true whether we’re talking about interpersonal conflict or our attempts to accomplish something that doesn’t end the way we planned. Henry Ford is well known for saying, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.

And it holds true, most often, as it relates to our sin nature. Again, it can be our reaction to those around us and how we treat them, or a choice to continue in our addictive behavior, or our failure to do what we know God would have us do.

Most of you reading this post know that a common theme for much of my writing is about our times in the wilderness journeys of our lives. Wilderness journeys tend to magnify our failures. We’re walking through uncertain times, with less margin for error – emotionally, financially, physically or spiritually. So when we encounter – or act out in – failure (sin or otherwise), it is even more conspicuous to everyone around us (or so it seems to us). We are then faced with the decision – will we allow our failure (or sin) to define us, or will we address it for what it is? But regardless of whether we are in a wilderness or not, it’s a part of our life journey.

We were all born with a sin nature. We didn’t need to do anything to receive it. It came with the package. Even our precious 17-month old grandson is a reminder of that reality! And the fact of the matter is, left unaddressed, our sin nature does define us. The individual sins may be “events”, but the sin nature, left to its own device, defines who and what we are. The bad news is that on our own, we can’t do anything about our sin nature. But the great news is Jesus died on the cross as a remedy for our sin nature. And if we have repented of our sin and surrendered our lives to Him, then we have received His forgiveness and that sin nature no longer defines us. Will we still sin? Unfortunately, yes. And therein is the point of this post. 

How will we respond to that sin? Will we repent and turn from our sin and make the adjustment we need to make so that sin no longer defines us. Will we repent of our anger and turn from it and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with the fruit of His Spirit? Or, will we repent of our addiction and turn from it and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us and lead us to walk in His victory? Or, will we repent of our _________ and turn from it and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us and lead us to walk in His victory? (You fill in the blank.) Don’t buy the lie that it is a part of who you are. God has redeemed you. You are a new creation!

The choice is ours. Gratefully, God isn’t done with any of us. He is continually at work in our lives transforming and conforming us more into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). And if that’s the case, it’s the image of Christ that defines us, and not our sins. Our sins – and our failures – are events that He has made the way for us to remedy.

Let’s not continue to allow our sins and our failures to define us. Let’s walk in the fullness He has for us – the fullness for which He created and redeemed us.

So all of us who have had that veil {of sin and failure} removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord--who is the Spirit--makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.

(2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT)