& Failure From God's Point of View
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What impresses God? Here are two Scriptures to think about:
"I thank Christ Jesus, my Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service." 1 Timothy 1:12
"Yet not as I will, but as You will." Matthew 29:36b
God is impressed the most when we deny ourselves and do what is hard for us because we love Him.
Every one of us has experienced what it is like for Jesus to strengthen us to do something that is hard for us to do, something that we may never have done before: fight against some sin, keep self controlled instead of giving in to anger, confess your sins, share the gospel with a stranger, stand up for Jesus to your friends, ... you get the idea. If you think about it, you will remember many times when the extra strength you got from Jesus made all the difference between success and failure.
God is always around. He sees everything we do, and everything we try to do (Hebrews 4:12-13). He knows how hard each thing is for you. If you do something godly that is easy for you and you are good at, God will be encouraged, but it won't impress Him much. NOTE: Don't stop doing the right thing, it's still important. Read on, and you'll understand my point.
If you are one of the people who finds sharing the gospel with others difficult and scary, guess what: You have lots of company. When I share my faith with people, God is encouraged, and it's very important, but He's not super-impressed, because for me, sharing with people is not very hard. I see outreach (most of the time) as an exciting opportunity to talk to people. I like being Christ's ambassador. The Gospel is the best news there is, and I know for a fact that when I talk with people, I am giving God a chance to make something happen. I have a lot of practice in starting conversations and steering them in a spiritual direction, and I don't get discouraged when people turn me down.
I impress God the most in my sharing when I share with people who intimidate me. For me, that's the athletic types and the motorcycle gang types, because they are very different from me and I have a hard time starting a conversation with them.
For me, God is impressed when I work on my budget, finances, or long range planning. I'm not good at it. It's super-hard for me, especially emotionally. My biggest sins are in the area of financial responsibility. God is also impressed when I finish up every detail of something before starting something else. One of my character sins is to start many things, do many things, but only finish things when they are late. A great deal of my life lingers in the state of "half-done." That's who I have become, and it's something I struggle with every day of my life. But I don't give up, and that impresses God.
The hardest thing for me about writing this is not the Scriptures or the wording. For me, that's easy. The hardest thing is talking about my sins, admitting my failures, asking for more help when I've failed many times already. Surely I should have been able to change ______ by now! (Maybe you feel the same way about something in your life.)
And I probably should have. I haven't surrendered it as much as I could have, gotten as much help as I could have or tried as hard as I could have. But I'm still trying, and I'm still thankful for God's grace and the help I get from disciples who know me well, and love me anyways. Those relationships are some of the greatest blessings God gives us. Make yours special.
Think about what's hard for you, do it because you love God, and He'll be impressed. Guaranteed. Even if you fail. Just do your best.
This brings me to point 2: The Victory of Faith: How God looks at our failure.
"This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." 1 John 5:4b-5
"The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20
"I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ." Philemon 6
"The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you." 1 Samuel 17:37
God is not dismayed or disappointed by our failures, only by when we won't try. As long as we turn to Him, trust in Him, and try our best, whatever our best is, we are showing our faith and giving Him something to work with. When we don't try, when we give into fear or shame, He has nothing to work with, nothing to bless.
In fact, the greater the chance of failure, the more real faith we are giving God to work with. If you and 4 NBA pros take on me and 4 buddies in a game of basketball, it doesn't take any faith at all for you to show up and play on what should easily be the winning team. You have control over everything that matters. Too much control leads to no need for (or room for) faith.
It didn't take much faith for the Philistines to send Goliath out as a champion. They lived by sight, not by faith. And it didn't take any faith for Goliath to go out. He was confident in his own abilities, and he had every reason to be. His faith was in himself. He was his own God. But David lived by faith, by faith in the God he knew, and felt, and loved, but had never seen. David had great faith. David had experienced God's presence, God's power, God's deliverance. David trusted in God to deliver him, and his people, as long as David was willing to trust in God and do his best. David did, and God Did.
When we share with people, we have no control over how they will respond. That's why it takes faith. That's why it's called "sharing your faith." The victory is not in how they respond. That's not what impresses God. What impresses God is that we believe enough in Him and in our mission to speak up, to try, and to trust in Him. That's the victory. Understanding that is a lot of what keeps me from getting discouraged. It bolsters my zeal, and makes me more effective. It's always true, but it's not the way we look at sharing. We're focussed on our performance or their response, instead of on God and Jesus. That's what limits so many of us, and turns what could be a joy into a burden. It's time for a fresh perspective on living for God! It's a blast! It isn't always easy, but I've had a lot more joy, and a lot more to be joyful about, since I entered God's kingdom than I did in all the time before that. And it keeps getting better, and there's no limit to how good it can get! That's God! The world just isn't like that, but Satan tries hard to make you think it is.
If you give God your best, whatever that is, you will be honoring Him. And He will do more with it than you knew He could. And He will grow you in the process, and build your faith, just like He did for David. And you will win great victories for God.
Every Sunday, we're really celebrating what God has done in the last 25+ years with the faith of ordinary people, coming close to God and sharing in the redemptive power of Jesus's Resurrection. Use your faith in God to talk to some people about your worship service for this Sunday. Tell them it's more than they could ask or imagine. It will be. It's free. It's a chance to see how God works and how much God loves each one of us.
The people who come for the first time this Sunday will become a part of what God does in the next 25+ years.