Permission to Fail: The Role Failure Plays in Success

The past few weeks we have been teaching through the story of Nehemiah.  We are seeing the mighty accomplishments of Nehemiah in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  It is a great feeling to accomplish even small tasks but what happens when we don’t feel like we are accomplishing anything?

Sometimes it feels like our lives are just one failure after another.  We are taught that failure is a bad thing but in fact it is often a critical part of success. Take the creator of WD-40 for example:

“WD-40 literally stands for Water Displacement, 40th attempt. That’s the name straight out of the lab book used by the chemist who developed WD-40 back in 1953. The chemist, Norm Larsen, was attempting to concoct a formula to prevent corrosion — a task which is done by displacing water. Norm’s persistence paid off when he perfected the formula on his 40th try.”  –

That means Norm failed 39 times before seeing the result he wanted. He didn’t let those failures keep him from pursuing his goal.

I was reminded of the relationship between failure and success this past Sunday night while watching “The Last Ship”. For those who haven’t seen the program it’s the story of the crew of a Navy ship who are searching for the cure to a deadly virus that has infected most of the worlds population. Dr Rachel Scott is attempting to create a vaccine to combat the virus. In the process she has often come close but has yet to succeed. Her failures are demoralizing the ship’s crew. After Dr. Scott explains that medical research is often fraught with failures the ship’s Commander makes this inspiring statement:

“It’s easy to believe in people when they are succeeding, that’s not what we’re about, we  have to believe in each other when we fail” –  Commander Tom Chandler

One reason that we don’t experience success is we don’t overcome the fear of failing. We are afraid that the people around us won’t understand nor support us if we fail. We are so afraid that we might fail that we never take the first step. We can learn something by looking at some details in this excerpt from Nehemiah’s story:

In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. 2 And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. 3 I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 4 Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” Nehemiah 2: 1-5 NLT

Let’s focus on this quote “Then I was very much afraid.” You see Nehemiah was just like us; he was experiencing fear and anxiety over making the next step in his life, to even be sad in the King’s presence was taking a big risk yet Nehemiah stayed true to the vision God had given him and acted on faith.

What vision does God have for your life? Is there something in your life that you have failed at so many times you are hesitant to even try again? Don’t give up! Listen to what Jesus says about what may seem impossible to us:

26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Matthew 19:26New Living Translation (NLT)

If you have what seems to be an overwhelming challenge in your life start moving forward and rely on God to help you accomplish your goals. Don’t let the fear of failure paralyze you into staying where you are now.

“I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can.” and “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run” –   Babe Ruth

(During his playing career Babe Ruth held not only the home run record but also the record for striking out the most times)

“Experience is the name that everyone gives to his mistakes.”  -Oscar Wilde

Scott Pollard
Associate Pastor

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