Defining Failure

The Bible begins with the failure of Adam and Eve to live up to their potential, but it doesn’t stop there. Moses struck the rock in anger and failed to reach the Promised Land. Elijah slew 450 prophets of Baal, but ran from Jezebel. David slew Goliath, but also slept with Bathsheba and brought great pain on his family. By the world’s standard, Jesus failed to accomplish what His disciples hoped for, but He perfectly fulfilled His calling. Failure by the world’s standards is not sin, but faithlessness is. Many of the heroes mentioned in Heb. 11 would be considered flops by modern-day standards. But they weren’t mentioned because of their accomplishments; they were commended for their faithfulness. “All these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Heb. 11:39,40).

The book of Proverbs says, “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again” (24:16). To stumble and fall is not failure. To stumble and fall again is not failure. Failure comes when you say, “I was pushed,” and then fail to get up again. There are two kinds of failures: moral failure and failure to meet certain objectives. Moral failure cannot be blamed on anyone but ourselves. Such failure needs to be acknowledged only to the extent of the exposure and to those potentially affected by the sin. If only God knows, then confess only to Him. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:9,10).

So you have sinned! Confess it, get back up again, and keep moving forward. It is moral failure to blame someone else or never acknowledge your sins to God. A mistake is never a failure unless you fail to learn from it. Everybody has failed to accomplish certain objectives. Many who are afraid to fail never try, or they give up when they feel the slightest resistance. Failure is taking the path of least resistance. Success is taking the road less traveled, but it the only one that leads to success.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see