By Femi Aribisala
To overcome defeat, we have to be defeated. To overcome poverty, we have to be poor. To overcome death, Christ had to die.
Failure is written into the very fabric of the gospel. When a man is determined to trust in God, he has to be ready to be a failure. He also has to be prepared to suffer violence and endure rejection. Even Jesus might call you a dog, but you must refuse to be discouraged. The crowd might try to shut you up, but you shout out the more.
You may fall asleep while reading your bible for the umpteenth time, but you simply get up and continue reading. You may break your fast a hundred times; but you continue where you left off. You may fall and backslide ten times, but you just get up, shake off the dust from your clothes and keep on walking.
If failure were a hindrance, a child would never walk. Just think how many times a child tries to walk and falls down before he finally walks without falling. What if he gives up after the thirtieth fall? No! Although he kept falling down, his failures were merely temporary setbacks on the way to successful walking. Therefore, failure is only a bus stop. Don’t get down. Don’t even stop. Failure is the way to good success.
The bible is a litany of failures. Abraham was a liar and an adulterer. Jacob was a supplanter and a 419 expert. Moses was a murderer and a bad shepherd. David was an adulterer and a murderer. Peter was a coward and a hypocrite. All these men were failures, but they refused to accept defeat.
Jesus himself seemed to have been a failure. In the popularity stakes, he soon became a joke. He preached and preached but few believed in him. People followed him for fish-burgers and miracle healings, but at the critical juncture, those shouting “crucify him” prevailed over the hosannas. Thus, Cleopas lamented that the one presumed to be the saviour of Israel ended up crucified dead and buried.
Forced to make a choice, the people chose a common criminal, a thief called Barabbas, instead of Jesus. All his disciples, without exception, deserted him. One of them betrayed him. Another one denied him not once or twice, but three times. Worst of all, the Father, who had been by his side throughout his ministry, deserted him on the cross. “My God, my God,” he cried. “Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
The cross is a symbol of defeat and failure. That is why its preaching is foolishness to those who are perishing. The gospel of the kingdom of God is good news for those who have been defeated. Through the gospel, the wretched of the earth discover to their shock and amazement that God has always been on their side. The disciples were amazed. You mean a rich man cannot enter the kingdom of heaven? We thought God was on the side of the successful. Who then can be saved?
Listen; listen; listen to Jesus. He brought a completely different revelation. Our faith must not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. God is not on the side of the strong but of the weak. God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.
God is not a God of the successful. He is a God of failures. Failure can make or break a man. Let it make you. Before you can realise the God kind of success, you have to relinquish the human kind of success. That means that before you can realise the God kind of success, you have to be a failure.
The message of the gospel is that there is redemption for failure and for failures. Man is a failure by nature. Adam failed. We all failed. But glory be to God, we have a redeemer in Jesus Christ. He specialises in redeeming failures. He turns negatives into positives that we may be the image and likeness of God.
Failure is the true foundation of enduring success. A man who does not appreciate failure can never be truly successful. Before a man can realise the good success of God, he has to know the failure of man. He also has to relinquish the success of men. The first has to become last before it can become first in God. Good success is built on resilience. True winners are the “hardy perennials.” They just don’t quit.
God is not looking for successful people. Success comes by grace. God lets the sun shine and the rain fall on the good and on the evil. God is not interested in a flash in the pan. He is looking for survivors. God is not looking for starters; he is looking for finishers. Since victory is certain, never give up.
Jesus told his disciples they should always pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1). He said they should ask and keep on asking. They should seek and keep on seeking. They should knock and keep on knocking. (Matthew 7:7). They should run and not be weary. They should walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31).
Indeed, God is looking for losers. But he is looking for losers who refuse to be discouraged. He is looking for losers who refuse to accept defeat. He is looking for those who can endure failure. He is looking for those who can praise God at midnight. (Acts 16:25).
He is looking for those that can bear all things and endure all things. He is looking for the never-say-die. He is looking for those who, like Abraham, in hopeless situations continue to hope. He is looking for those determined to snatch victory out of the jaws of failure.
To overcome defeat, we have to be defeated. To overcome poverty, we have to be poor. To overcome death, Christ had to die. To be immunised from an infectious disease, we have to contract a small dose of the disease. The serpent of brass cured those who were bitten by the fiery serpents.
Reversal of fortune
Yes, Jesus seemed to be a failure. They arrested him and terminated his life with extreme prejudice. They nailed him to the cross and he died. But when they came back the third day, the tomb was empty. He had risen from the dead in victory, never to die again.
God’s plans and purposes are achieved even in the worst possible situations. The short-term effects or results of an action should not be confused with God’s ultimate objectives. Results have no bearing on faith. Faith has no bearing on results. Faith means believing in God and not believing in results. Faith is trusting God to fulfil his promises however and whenever.
The success that comes suddenly goes suddenly. It never lasts. When the kingdom was taken away from Saul, he nevertheless continued winning battles. (1 Sam 14:47-48). This shows there is good success and there is bad success.
God says: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8).