Failure is an option

Moses striking the rock, by Willem van, the Younger Nieulandt

(Since I originally posted this blog on Dead Pastors Society, I thought I’d follow up with more thoughts here, too)

A recent comment by a friend drew me back to this blog from last year – “Why We Follow Pastors and Teachers”.

Specifically this part:

That’s why a recent text from Rick Warren is so frustrating.


Okay, I get that it is supposed to be motivational. I’m supposed to pause and consider a recent failure, pull my boots up and get back on that horse. The problem is, I could get that advice from just about any of today’s self-help gurus.

Deepak Chopra said failure contains the “seeds of success.”

Ben Franklin said something about failing to plan is planning to fail.

William Faulkner said “No man is a failure who is enjoying life.”

Mike Ditka said “failure isn’t fatal.”

Maybe I expect too much from pastors. Or maybe, as a nation, we expect too little from them these days.

Warren’s trite little saying may make us feel good, but it holds little spiritual meat to it – it doesn’t guide us back to an understanding of God. If anything, it puts more emphasis on us and our own works. Failure can have deeply spiritual context and consequences, yet Warren leads us to none of that.

Since last year, I’ve seen similar quotes from plenty of self-help teachers pastors, and it’s continually bugged me.

Here are a couple of more thoughts after a year of pondering:

1. Ever notice how these self-help teachers tell us to get past our failures, yet continually remind us about failing.

2. They usually refer you to a book or study lesson they’ve written or are promoting with self-interest.

3. God does disqualify us for failing.

God does disqualify leaders who fail to live up to His expectation – especially leaders who do not uphold God as holy – leaders who draw attention to themselves rather than the Holy and Perfect God they claim to serve. Look at Moses.

You can read about it in Numbers 20:1-12:

1 And the people of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh. And Miriam died there and was buried there.
2 Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! 4 Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? 5 And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.”
6 Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them, 7 and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.”
9 And Moses took the staff from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 10 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.
12 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

 And, reading further at the end of Deuteronomy, we see that indeed God did not let Moses into “The Promised Land.” He let him see what his people would inherit, but he died before they went in.

This is a sad event, but it is a foreshadowing of Christ’s appearance later in the New Testament.God also disqualifies people for failing to see His Son as Lord and Master of their lives. Hell will be full of people who failed to see their own sin, and their need for a Savior.

14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.

– 1 John 4:13-17

 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

– Revelation 20:11-15