About Jesus  Steve Sweetman

 Managing Failure


"I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."  These words expressing failure were written by the most influential man in the history of Christendom.  If you are honest, you will also admit that you fail on many occasions in life.  Therefore, managing failure is crucial to a satisfying and productive life.           


When thinking about managing failure, Felipe Alou, the Montreal Expos' baseball team bench coach from 1993 to 2001, maintained that the game of baseball is all about managing failure.  Think about it.  The best hitters in the game fail to get a base hit 70% of the time.  Pitching a perfect game is next to impossible.  A great winning season includes 72 losses out of 162 games.  Winning streaks always end, and when they do you have no time to muddle around in the loss.  You manage your failure and move on to tomorrow's game.      


The game of baseball mirrors life in respect to failure.  We don't win every game in life.  Many of us push failure aside, hoping that alcohol, medication, hobbies, or whatever will make failure disappear; but it doesn't disappear.  Others adopt humanistic self help techniques to manage failure, but for the Christian there is a better way to manage failure.  So, as in baseball, tomorrow is another day to win or lose; succeed or fail.


The words of failure I quoted in my opening paragraph were written by the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:15.  You may not have thought about Romans 6 through 8 in this light but Paul outlines how Christians can manage failure in those chapters, especially as it pertains to sin, and if you think it through, failure is a product of sin.


Admitting to failure as Paul did is the first step in managing failure.  "I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin (Romans 7:4)."  "What a wretched man I am (Romans 7:24)!"  That's quite a confession from one of the most important men in Christian history.       


The next step in managing failure as seen in Paul is that he didn't just admit to failure, he understood that failure was at the root of who he is.  "I know that nothing good lives within me (Romans 7:18)."  His very nature was corrupt, thus the reason for his failure.   


The next step that Paul took in managing failure was that he recognized that in one real sense of the word who he was at his core, that is his sinful nature, died with Jesus on the cross.  Jesus died on our behalf.  Therefore, from God's perspective, when He saw Jesus on the cross, He saw you and I on the cross.  In this sense of the word, and from God's viewpoint, we died with Jesus (Romans 6:4).   


The next step that Paul took in managing failure is rarely understood.  "It is no longer I that do it (sin) but sin living in me (Romans 7:17)."  We see the dual aspect of a Christian's life in this statement.  It was Paul's sinful nature that sinned, not his new nature that we will see next.  Christians have two natures; the old sinful nature in Adam who in one sense of the word is dead and the new spiritual nature in Christ who in one sense of the word is alive (Romans 7:25).      


The next stop Paul took in managing failure as it applies to sin was that he recognized that he was a brand new person.  God not only saw us inside of Jesus when He died on the cross, He saw us rise from the dead with Jesus (Romans 6:4).  The new Paul was the Paul who was "in Christ", alive, well, and filled with the Holy Spirit.  He was a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).  He had been born again (John 3:5).               


The next step Paul took in managing failure is seen in Romans 8.  Even though in one sense of the word Paul's sinful nature was dead, its stinking rotten remains still clung to his newly created self.  It still tempted him to sin and thus fail, but that didn't get Paul down.  "There is now no condemnation for those in Christ (Romans 8:1)."  Paul was not burdened down with feelings associated with guilt, condemnation, or defeat that were due to his struggle with sin and failure.  As a new person in Christ he knew God didn't condemn him.  If God didn't condemn him he wasn't going to condemn himself. 


If you have never been released from feelings associated with guilt and condemnation, you are missing out on one vital aspect of being a Christian.  I suffered with such feelings for the first 19 years of my life until in one 5 second prayer Jesus drove all of these feelings out of me for good.     


It was the presence of the Holy Spirit in Paul's life as seen in Romans 8 that was his final step in managing failure and throwing off feelings of regret or disappointment due to failure.  "To be spiritually minded is life and peace (Romans 8:6)." 


Like Paul, we don't push failure aside with alcohol, medication, hobbies, or anything else.  We don't depend on humanistic self help techniques to manage failure.  We admit our failure.  We recognize that our sin nature causes us to fail.  We recognize that we are a new creation in Christ and that the Holy Spirit lives within us.  It is the Holy Spirit who picks us up when we fail and helps us move on to a satisfying and productive life.   


"Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:25)!"  Let it be known that Christians may fail but we are not defeated.  


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