Monday, March 09, 2009

Grace: Failing Forward

This weekend I have been in some interesting discussions. On one hand, I was discussing the Bodily Resurrection and hope that this discussion will go on, On the other side I was in a deep discussion with a couple of Calvinist. During the conversation it was stated that I seem to attack Calvinist. In some ways I see that as true, yet what I pointed out was that most the time Calvinist come to me and not only accuse me of all sorts of things, they also attack me on personal levels. Funny thing is I realized that I do not remember ever being attacked by anyone who is of the Arminian persuasion. Though I know I have had some interesting discussion with Arminians, I only recall about two that took it to the level that many Calvinists have. Now, please, I am not “anti-Calvinist”. I have read up on Calvinism and in my view there are some really good things Calvin taught, yet I also see some grave errors in Calvinism.

The other people who seem to often fall into the Calvinist camp but not always, are those who seem to literally “hate” anyone associated with the emerging church/conversation. These seem to attack mostly on a personal level. I was even told a couple of times I was not “saved” because I have a link to Brian McLaren’s websites… I find some humor in that as I do not recall Jesus stating that links to people can make one lose or jeopardize their salvation.

Now the point is not about my disagreement, rather in how I sometimes respond. I admit fully at times my reactions are not very good and sometimes not Christ like… In this and other areas, I see my own personal failings as a Believer in Jesus.

What I have come to realize over the years though is that we can focus on our failings and fall into self condemnation. In fact, in my own life I know that at times I am harder on myself than God is!

Failing is not a sin. Or if it is, it is not one that takes us so far out of God’s Grace that He is unable to restore us. If one looks at failing as sinful, I see that then one may miss real opportunities to grow in Christ.

When I have failed, God has not ever forsaken me. I have sometimes felt shame and not wanted to come to God and understand what happened, yet when I have pressed in, I found that God does not feel the same shame about me. In fact, God lovingly picks me up and sets me upright again and again.

Failing is part of the process of renewing out minds. If we are not failing, then we are not moving. In fact to not fail is to not try. If we are not trying then we are not able to grow!

Victories only come when we accept we fail. God is not surprised in our failings, though I do think at times He is more surprised when we do not fail.

Romans 3:10 -12 tell us of every one’s condition:

"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

When we realize that there is not one person who is “right”, and that everyone is “wrong”, we can begin to truly seek dependence on God for all things righteous. So many people, and I include myself, fight for our own “rightness”. I see that every disagreement and fight with someone else is based on our need to be right in our own eyes. In stead of allowing God to be our “rightness” or “Righteousness” we seek our own and worse, impose our standard of “rightness” on the other.

Now we do need to use some judgment, but correctly. And as one fails, if we understand that only God is “Right” then we can trust that when we are wrong or wrong another, God will set us right again.

When failing, if we accept that we will, I see that is when God will use us. In fact as we fail, God steps in and is able to do what He intended in the first place if we trust Him to do so.

I found when I fail, God lifts me up again… He lovingly dusts me off and then shows me how to succeed. If He does not, then the lesson of course is that I do not need to succeed in that area. Yet, without failings, there is no success. Without trying there is no success.

Now, what do I mean by try?

John 5:19-21 is where one needs to start in their understanding.

Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.

Now notice what Jesus stated? Jesus did not do anything Himself but totally depended on the Father to do all things. Often we think that “trying” is what we do with our own hands. We fall into the wrong thinking that if “I” try hard enough “I” will succeed. Though one may do great things on their own, this is not how one succeeds in the Christian life. To live in total dependence on the Father as Jesus did is the only true formula to success. In living in total dependence on the Father through Jesus Christ is the only way to receive the Life of Christ. Success by man’s standards is often contrary to God’s standards.

Mark 8:35-37 asks the questions we should ask our self as to if we are truly seeking Godly success.

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

These questions should point out to us if we are seeking our own success or trusting God for His. What good is worldly success if we lose our soul in the end?

God’s grace covers our failings, yet to mire in the muck of our failings instead of running to God and admitting them, we lose the opportunity to grow as God desires us. There is no condemnation for those in Christ… so there is no condemnation for the Believer if they fail. If you have failed, get up… talk to God… listen to His guidance and know that He is more concerned and loves you than you even love your own self.

I once heard a very wise man say, “If you get to the end of your rope, grease that sucker and let go! When you do, that is when you are trusting God and He will be there.” That sounds scary as we would rather tie a knot in that rope and trust our own strength and hang on. Yet, what can we do in our own strength better than God?

Trying is not about working harder, but resting in what God has done and is still doing in you as a believer. The Christian life is a lot like floating on water. Have you ever tried to float? The more you try to float the more you sink. Yet, when you relax, trust the water to float you, you do not sink. Trying in the Christian life is just like that. If we go in trying to keep our self afloat we only sink, yet, if we relax and trust God to float us, He keeps us buoyant in the Christian life. When we struggle, often it is because we are relying on our own strength and not trusting God.

When we do fail, fail forward. Do not allow your failures to keep you from growing but allow God to teach you through your failures. Failing forward is about getting up and growing from them. When we fail, one needs to use that as an opportunity to see themselves as they are and see their real need for a Savior. It allows us to walk in the Faith God gave us and to learn how to trust God more.

My prayer is that if you are reading this and are paralyzed with fear of failure, do not give up but believe God will be there. Trust that His way for you is the best for you. Give up “trying” in your own strength and begin to trust God in His.

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