The tension between success and failure!

Most of us have our own ideas of what success and failure is. Alot of our perception of success and failure is shaped by the culture we grow up in and are currently apart of. Many of us fear failure and hunger for success but it’s quite possible to spend our entire lives leaning our ladder against the wrong building thinking that what we are investing our lives in is well worth it, when in fact it isn’t.

Being a full time minister and senior leader of a local church, I know all too well the tension that exists between success and failure in the ministry. Success and failure is not something we talk alot about in ministry circles, it remains a taboo subject. Most of our discussion on the subject has to do with the question, “How many members are in your church?” After the number is shared, opinions are formed and conclusions made.

I haven’t heard any preacher ever talk about the subject from a biblical perspective and yet it’s something that’s just under the surface of our hearts and drives alot of what we do and don’t do, even if we would hesitate to admit it.

Over the years, apart from God’s Word, I have read a couple of books that have contributed to my thinking about success and failure and they would be worthwhile additions to your library (I will include these books in my ‘Books Reading’ PAGE later today).

Many of us define success to be the accumulation of material possessions and popular experiences: houses, cars, clothes, boats, overseas holidays, etc. While these things are not bad in themselves, life has to have more depth to it than just working to purchase the right things. It’s recorded in Ecclesiastes 1-2 that the richest man who possibly ever lived, King Solomon himself,  said that after pursuing riches, wisdom and toil that all is vanity and a striving after the wind. In other words it’s meaningless.

We must sure to be careful how we dfine success and failure because whatever we define it to be that will become what we chase after and what we desperately try to avoid.

One of my close friends has shared an insightful thought to this discussion by saying that he doesn’t believe in the concept of failure because every experience is a learning opportunity to be more successful next time. Failure is not an event, we just live our lives and discover along the journey of life and this discovery helps us to become more fruitful. For him the issue is whether we are fruitful or not. He uses the analogy of the GPS in our cars. Once you program your destination in to the GPS, you can make as many wrong turns as you like but the GPS will get you back on track. So the same is in the journey of life. We can make wrong turns but as long as God is our GPS and we are open to His guidance, He can get us back on track.

For me, I have wrestled with the tension between success and failure because I have wanted to succeed…whatever that means. I do have some ideas about the tension that exists between success and failure and what these twin issues are. Alot of my thoughts have been shaped by the story of King Saul in 1 Samuel 15. Check it out. I am going to be sharing my thoughts at Activate Conference next week at the 9am Friday morning session. Register to hear what I believe will be helpful for your own life and ministry. 

I would like your feedback on what you think about what I’ve shared in this blog and I will pick this theme back up next Thursday.

Lead the Change!

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2 Responses to “The tension between success and failure!”

  1. Rach Wallace Says:

    I like what your friend said about there being no such thing as failure. I believe the same way. Some of the most amazing insights God has given me have been while on the path of ‘failure’.

    I agree that so often our own expectation is boxed up in a list of achievements or successes, so we perceive failure when they aren’t reached. However, God’s perspective and goals for our life are usually quite different to our own. Often a failure in our eyes is actually a success in God’s eyes.

    We don’t have the whole picture in life and tend to judge things according to the culture of this world. To be honest, I almost don’t believe in the term ‘success’ either. Success is portrayed as an attainment or destination but to me, it is a way of travel. A life lived where we are moving forward and learning from our mistakes is a life of success, and one of my favourite Biblical themes is God working all things together for good.

    King David sinned by committing adultery with Basheba. There was consequence; she lost her husband, they lost their baby etc, BUT she is listed in the lineage of Christ and obviously, they were both brought closer to God through repentance. Even though I am not condoning sin, God has that amazing, gracious way of even turning sin for good, by drawing us closer to him and weaving it into the tapestry of our life so that we can minister to others going through the same things.

    So no, I geuss I don’t believe there is failure. Life is life. Things happen. Sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re wrong. Grace and goodness always pervail when we listen to and recieve them and to me they are the point of life and form the shaping of our character and therefore what we are able to influence in life.

    To be honest, as I think about it, it seems to me that defining events through the filter of ‘success’ or ‘failure’ is more of an ‘us’ thing than a God thing. Success indicates reaching a place of attainment. While I believe strongly in direction and goals and celebrating good things, being too object or goal orientated can lead you to missing the point. Jonah was intent on bringing judgement to Ninevah. He heard God and was sent by God, but his interpretation of why he was sent was completely wrong. Instead of judgement, he was to bring repentance and grace. His calling was correct, but his view of what the success was to be was completely out of whack and altered by his perceptions and limitations. He considered the mission a failure, but through the process a whole city was saved and he was changed and humbled. Was that a success or a failure?

    I think life is too complex to put into 2 categories. Failure tends to be the missing of the mark of human expectation. The missing of the mark of God’s expectation is called sin. So I geuss that means repentance is success. Receiving grace is success and learning from experience is success. Accomplishments have very little to do with success, even spiritual ones.

    The crucifixion of Christ has divided humanity. By human stakes, being killed by your enemies is the epitome of failure. Some in the world believe on Him, some don’t. So has Christ succeeded or failed? Depends on your perspective. I think defining your life by or chasing success can put you into a position of confusion.

    Corey, so many times what is meant to be a 5 minute read of your blog turns into an hour of changing and broadening and defing my thoughts. LOL
    I love it. Cheers xox

  2. Rach Wallace Says:

    *Bathsheba
    **defining
    I really should edit my posts before i hit enter. LOL

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