Pointing to God in Both Success and Failure

You know it's important to give God the glory when you succeed. But what about when you fail? How do you point to God in your failure? Click here to find out!

Have you ever been told, “You did such a great job! You should be proud”?

I’m sure you have, for one thing or another. Most of us have had at least one experience—big or small—in which we were successful at something. Maybe it was a coloring contest when you were nine. Maybe your high school graduation or getting your first real job. Most of us have had that experience of doing well at something and being proud of it. I know I have (although none of those experiences include athletics).

We live in a world where it is so easy to get an artificial self-esteem boost. We post our success stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram then watch and wait to see how many likes we get in the first hour. When our expectations are blown away, we feel validated. When our expectations are disappointed, so are we. We carefully critique the picture or post and if we think it’s not good enough, we quietly delete it.

But when we succeed, wow! We get recognition, congratulations and good wishes. We feel so proud. People approve of me, we think. I’m accepted. Loved. Impressive. Eventually, we identify ourselves with that success. When we think of who we are as a person, we add that to our list of qualifications of doing life.

The problem with success such as I’ve described is that it doesn’t really work the way we think it will. Success is great. Doing a good job is something to be happy about. We shouldn’t strive for anything less. There are several places in Scripture where we are told that we should work hard and not be lazy. We should strive for the best. But we are also told to work for the Lord and not for man. I believe that goes deeper than “work as if you were working for Jesus and not your boss”. I think it includes not seeking man’s approval of that work, but God’s.

I think God knew what He was doing when He said that we need to give Him glory for everything we do. When we start to take credit for our successes, we start to find our identity in those successes. We know who we are because of those successes.

However, finding pride in the good we do is a double-edged sword. When we identify ourselves by our successes, what happens when we fail? We start to define ourselves by our failures too. But since we aren’t perfect and never will be, we will always experience failure from time to time; and our successes won’t always outweigh our failures. So what happens? We get caught in a downward spiral of failure, defeat and guilt.

When we allow our successes to define us, our failures will too. Click To Tweet

But God made us for so much more than that. When we were told to give glory to Him, it wasn’t just for His benefit. He loves us too much for that. It was for His glory, but also for our good. He knows we aren’t perfect. When we give God our successes, we give Him ourselves. When our successes don’t identify us, neither do our failures.

Your failures don’t define you. Neither do your successes. You are not a high-paying job or an employment insurance cheque. You are not a high GPA or a failed course. God and His love alone define you. You are a child of God.

The Son of God died for your sins, your imperfections, your failures. Then He rose, triumphant, over those sins. He defeated them. He gives you strength for your successes and grace in your failures. He is on your side and will never leave you. When you fail, He stays the same.

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Why We Need to Stop Serving in the Church

You know it's important to give God the glory when you succeed. But how do you do that when you fail? How does failure reflect God's goodness? Click here to find out!

If you grew up in the church or even have spent a lot of time being connected to a church, you know that it’s important to serve in the church. Whether you helped out in nursery or participated on the Sunday morning worship team, you were encouraged to “get involved”. As a teen, you may have been a VBS leader. As a young adult, you may have helped out with youth ministries or taught Sunday school. You may have run sound for Sunday morning services or helped in the kitchen for the seniors’ luncheon.

We are all called to serve and be served. We are to be each others’ servants and sacrificially commit our time to help others. Every job is important. We’re all members of the Body, and there’s no job too small.

But does serving mean more than volunteering at church?

Don’t get me wrong—serving our churches is important. We need to support the local church. Without a strong local church, there cannot be effective ministry outside of the church.

But I think that sometimes we get so focused on serving within the church that we forget we are also called to serve outside of the church.

Jesus said he came not to be served, but to serve. Have you ever thought about where he served?

Jesus had the knowledge of a great teacher. He had incredible wisdom, even to the point of teaching the older rabbis in the temple when he was twelve years old. If anyone should have been teaching the Jewish people, it was him. They even expected him to be their savior from Roman rule.

However, nowhere in Scripture do we actually see Jesus spending a lot of his time in the temple. Jesus sought out the broken, the lost, and the outcasts and served them. He served outside of the temple. His entire ministry was focused on reaching the people who were considered to be less-than-righteous.

But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. (Matthew 9:12)

Are we spending so much time and energy tending to the healthy that we forget about the sick? Click To Tweet

Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that it isn’t important to serve within the local church or that we should ignore the needs of those within the church. Again, the local church needs to be strong in order to minister elsewhere.

However, I think we sometimes forget that we are in the church to prepare for outside-church ministry. I grew up in the church. I started volunteering in the nursery when I was eleven, was a leader a kids’ camps for seven years, led the youth worship team, was a coach for my church’s Bible quizzing program, and participated on the Sunday morning worship team. I’ve also helped out at various other church-related events. However, I could probably count on one hand the number of hours I have spent serving outside the four walls of my church. How much time have I spent ministering to people who haven’t met Jesus? If we are to reach the lost, we must be among them.

I’d like to challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and find a way to serve outside the church. To show Jesus to those who haven’t met him. To reach the broken, the sick, the lost.

Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. (Matthew 9:13)

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What to Do when You Fail

Failure in life is inevitable. No one is perfect, and we will all mess up. The question is, how do you respond to failure? Click here to find out!

This week, I failed a test. A big test. A midterm exam, to be precise. When I say “failed”, I mean actually failed. Not “Oh I failed according to my standards…which is under a 90%”. I got an embarrassingly low mark.

Failing a test is unusual for me. In my three years of college, this is the first exam I’ve failed. I’m an A’s student. All my other midterms went really well. Failure isn’t an option I give myself.

I decided I wasn’t going to have a pity-party for myself. I reminded myself that it didn’t matter in the grand scheme of life, I couldn’t feel sorry for myself, I couldn’t change what had already happened. I “got over it”.

Two days later, I just felt like a failure at life. I was behind in another class, behind in cleaning my apartment (I need to have a clean apartment to basically function), and totally unmotivated to do school. Unmotivated to do life, really.

While walking to the bus stop, I was praying. I’m not exactly sure what I was praying. Pretty much just being sad before God. My heart was crying out for something, even if my mind wasn’t aware of it. Suddenly, God spoke these words to my aching heart: the joy of the LORD is my strength. Yes.

On the day I called, You answered me; my strength of soul you increased. (Psalm 138:3)

Without realizing it, we start to get our strength from other things. I mean, we do our devotions and pray and go about our day. But do we actually daily claim God as the sole source of our strength? When we do well in school, we are motivated to keep going. But what happens when we don’t do well?

I had prayed before that test that God would help me to pass. I had studied and I really cared about this test. But He used my failure to teach me something. I realized that I hadn’t been relying on God fully for my strength. I was getting the strength and motivation to keep going from my successes rather than my Father.

There’s nothing wrong with finding satisfaction in a job well done. But there will be times when you don’t do as well as you want. When that happens, you lose your strength. But God’s strength remains steady despite our circumstances.

The joy of the LORD is my strength. The joy of God is unconditional and cannot be impacted by our circumstances. When we find our strength in His joy, we find that we can have strength through Him and rise above our circumstances.

If you feel like giving up in whatever you’re doing, pause. Take a deep breath. The God of the universe is on your side, and He always will be. His grace is sufficient for you. Your weakness only serves to bring Him glory. When we acknowledge our weaknesses and rely on God for our strength, He is honored and we become more intimate with Him.

The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of Your hands. (Psalm 138:8)

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