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WHEN YOU'VE TOTALLY MESSED UP

Matt Summerfield photo Matt Summerfield · 22 Sep, 2021

Let me ask you a question. Difficult question. When was the last time you really felt like you'd messed up? Screwed up, that you had failed? It's horrible, isn't it? We feel disappointed by our circumstance, our situation. We feel disappointed with us. Like, no one likes that feeling. So how do we deal with it well? Well, the first thing I wanna remind us is that failure is an inevitable part of life. Like sometimes we can embrace, like, what is literally a toxic illusion that we must always succeed and never fail. And that those around us should never fail either, that life should be perfect, but that, dear friend, is an illusion and that will cripple us and it will cripple life because failure is an inevitable part of life. There's a wise saying in the Old Testament, Proverbs 24:16, it says this: "though a righteous man falls seven times, he will get up." Now, it could be a righteous woman, but the point is it's saying, like, even people who are following after God, seeking after Jesus, men, or women, boys, and girls, like, we will fall and we're gonna fall a lot, seven times, but we can get up. It's not the end of the story. However good you and I are, tough times will come, we will fail, we will fall. The big question is how will we deal with it? And what's so encouraging about the story in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, we see story after story of men and women who were tryna love God, live their best for him and yet they did mess up. They made mistakes, they failed. Sometimes a lot of the time, those failures were because of the own bad decisions and mistakes they'd made. Sometimes it was because of the failures of others. Like one of my favourite biblical failures is a character called Peter, he's one of Jesus' disciples. I like to think of him as the Homer Simpson of the disciples. He's the kind of guy that he speaks and does things first, and then he thinks a little bit later. He's a typical "doh" kinda guy. And on the night that Jesus was about to be arrested and the following day to be executed on the cross, Peter makes this vow in front of Jesus and all the other disciples, "Jesus, all of these other guys might abandon you. They may all leave you, but I will never ever leave you. I will never deny you. I will never tell people that you are not my closest friend and Rabbi." And Jesus smiles and looks at him and says, "well, I think you'll find that you're gonna do it three times in even just a few hours." And Peter was adamant, "this is never gonna happen." But actually that is exactly what happened, within a few hours, Jesus was denied by Peter three times and Peter was devastated that he'd failed. He thought he'd got it all together and the end he brutally failed. Like a few days later after Jesus has died and risen from again, Jesus hosts a beach barbecue. And it's the first proper time that Peter and Jesus meet. And you might think it's a bit awkward because Peters probably thinking, "oh, Jesus is probably so disappointed in me. He's so disillusioned with me." But the wonderful thing about God revealed in Jesus is that Jesus is never disillusioned with us because He never had any illusions about us in the first place. God knows that we are fragile and yet He still loves us. And what's amazing about this beach encounter between Jesus and Peter, that you can find in John's Gospel, chapter 21 is at no point in their conversation does Jesus bring up Peter's failure. He simply asks, "do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me? And if so, let's go again, get up. There's a mission to bring Heaven to Earth." and invites him to keep on keeping on. Someone once said that, "Jesus didn't come to rub it in. He came to rub it out." So what are some practical tips for coping with failure and disappointment? Well here are five: Number one. Don't deny disappointment, accept it. Like denying our emotions and the things that we feel, no matter how uncomfortable will not help us. We can't learn from failure unless we embrace the fact that actually something did go wrong. And whether we feel disappointed, frustrated, angry, we need to own those emotions. Recognise that those are natural responses to when things go awry. If we just push our emotions down, that's just gonna create a volcano that's gonna erupt at some point in the future. We don't live in our negative emotions, but we express them and we don't suppress them. So point 1, don't deny disappointment, accept it, express it. Secondly, don't let failure define you, like, redefine failure, get a new definition of failure. Regard failure as the price you pay for progress. Let me say that again. Regard failure as the price you pay for progress. The author of the Narnia Chronicles, C.S Lewis, he once said this, that "failures are finger posts on the road to achievement." Failure and mistakes time and time again are the price of success. So remember failure and mistakes are events. They are things that happen, but they don't define us. You are not a failure. You failed, but you are not a failure. It was an experience. It's something that happened to you, but it doesn't define you. Like God doesn't define us by our failures. So why should we? Which means thirdly, we need to learn. Thirdly, not to obsess over our failures. We own them, we learn from them and move on. Thirdly, we don't obsess over our failures. We own them, we learn from them and we move on. In his leadership book 'Failing Forward', John C. Maxwell tells us four negative ways of responding to failure. I wonder if you or I have ever been guilty of these? Number one, what he says, "blow up." This is when we get angry and we look for someone to blame. Number two, "cover up." When we try to hide our failure, either from others or even from ourselves. Number three is "speed up", that we just carry on regardless, trying to ignore things and hoping the problem will go away. Or number four is to "give up" where we just quit and think, "I'll never." And those words like, "I'll never" are never gonna be helpful to us. And yet the reality is, is failure is a massive learning opportunity from us. In fact, we learn far more from our failures than we do our successes. Thomas Edison, who was the guy involved in the invention of the light bulb, he was once asked, "how Thomas do you feel to have failed 10,000 times?" That's a tough question from a reporter right there. And he famously replied, "I have not failed 10,000 times. I've just found 10,000 ways that it won't work." Now that's not just being positive in thinking, that's Thomas Edison recognising that every seeming failure is a learning opportunity to know well that doesn't work, now I can try again and find what might work. Like people will grow always. You will grow always if you try new things, if you take risks, if you engage in new experiences and sometimes they'll go well and sometimes they'll fail. And the failure therefore can be a significant opportunity to grow us if we adopt the right attitude and the right actions. A guy called H. Stanley Judd said this, "learn from your failures and go onto the next challenge. It's okay to fail. If you're not failing, you're not growing." There's a quote. Number four in dealing with failure: "don't hold back, keep going and keep growing." 'Cause one of the great risks that John C. Maxwell alluded to is that we just quit, we give up, we stop taking risks. We stop taking a challenge and steps outside of our comfort zone. There's a verse in the New Testament written by a guy called Paul in a book called Colossians 3:23 and he says, "whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as if you're working for the Lord." Like, never stop trying. Winston Churchill said, "success is the ability to go from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm." Or the basketball player Michael Jordan once said, "I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something, but I can't accept not trying." Even in the book of Philippians 3:12-14, like, Paul talks about I forget what's behind. I forget the mistakes and failures and even the goods, the highs, the lows of the past, and I press on to the good things that God's got for me, the race that he set out for me to win. I'm focused on that. Setting off face forward, keep going. And number five, finally, "don't go it alone, do it with people." Like, there's a famous quote from a guy called John Don, he was a poet and he says, "no man is an island." And what he's talking about is that we all need people around us who help us learn from our failures, process our failures, cheer us on as we get their wisdom. Again, a verse from the Bible, Proverbs 15:21 tells us that, "plans go wrong for lack of advice, but many advisors bring great success." Many advisors bring great success. I remember a few years ago, I had the privilege of being over in the states and I went to an American football game with the Dallas Cowboys and in one of the breaks, in one of the intervals, they brought out this guy called Darren Woodson, who was being inducted into the Dallas Cowboy's ring of honour. He played from them for 12 years, from 1992 to 2004. And everyone was cheering, 90,000 people going crazy. And when he took the mic, he gave thanks for four types of people who he said, "these are the people who got me where I am today." He talked about the people who sharpened him, the people who sacrificed for him, the people who grounded him, the people who cheered him on. And we all need people like that in our lives, Darren Woodson said, "we need people to help us keep on keeping on, learning and growing through success and even more so through failure." And then as he finished his little talk and he said, "but the most important person in the whole of my life who sharpened me, sacrificed for me, grounded me, cheered me on." He said, "is my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." And he made this incredible point in front of 90,000 people that ultimately it is God who forgives and restores and empowers to help us keep going and keep growing, becoming more like Jesus, which is the goal of our lives ultimately. To be free and whole and well like Jesus is and to join in with what God is doing, to see more of Heaven break out on the Earth. I pray for you and I pray for myself that we will give our failures and our struggles to God and receive His love and forgiveness. We'll learn from them. Receive advice, keep on, keeping on, keep growing, keep going and see what God might do. God bless ya.

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