THE POWER OF FAILURE
There can be great value in failure. This is especially true for Christians. There can be great value in failure. I share this in light of a recent failure.
I spoke recently at a local university. After the event was over, I was approached by two charming, friendly and articulate young women. One was Muslim and one said she was a Christian. In my talk I had argued for how the death and resurrection of Jesus changes everything. Because of this and other reasons, you should believe the Gospel and trust and read the Bible as authoritative and trustworthy - even in the face of strong objections made by postmodern theory, religious pluralism, atheism, and Islam. The two young women came to try and convince me that we should strive to keep our religious commitments while we gather together to celebrate our common, but diverse humanity. In other words, from the position of modern Canada’s most strongly held values, they wanted me to substantially change what I said.
If people had been watching us; we stood still, all smiling. In reality, the conversation was a dance. I affirmed the value of civility, conversation and an open public square. They kept pressing for a deeper commitment - one that would involve me rejecting one of my central claims - the real, true uniqueness of the person of Jesus and His finished work and the need for all to come to Him to be made right with God.
I largely failed in this conversation. I did not give up what is true, but I was unable to figure out how to turn the conversation from me playing defense to me engaging them to consider the weakness of their position and therefore, their need of a Saviour.
It was not a bad thing that I failed. It has led me to think about the conversation and their beliefs. I have learned important truths about myself. It will have to be the topic of another blog, but I think I will handle the next conversation far better. I appreciate the wisdom and necessity of the Gospel and the whole counsel of God more for being challenged. It has also led me to pray for the young women.
Too many Christians live as if failure is not an option. But this is not true. We will fail. Our hope is not to be based upon our success, but our Saviour. If we believe that failure is not an option, we will “stay safe” and not reach out; not bear witness to the Gospel. We will live in a ghetto. We will not teach in light of what people actually think and actually say. We will not learn and we will not grow. We will learn how to fit into our sub-culture when we are in our sub-culture, and we will learn to say nothing and fit in with the dominant culture when we live outside of our sub-culture.
Sometimes failure just leads to more and more failure and despair. But “success” is also based on failure - on trying and learning. The Gospel provides the strongest place to stand as we fail and fail and learn and try and fail and learn and grow. The Gospel shapes me to find my identity, my justification, my righteousness, in the Gospel and not in my accomplishments. The Gospel shapes me to know the final word that God will say about me - and know that that final word depends on Christ and His finished work, not my accomplishments.
The Gospel pushes me to bear witness to the Gospel as it reminds me that only God can pierce our blinded eyes and shine in a heart to give the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (see 2 Corinthians 4:1-6). I bear witness, He does all the hard work. The Gospel pushes me to know that my failure is not final and that I can step out in faith and share, for the Gospel is not the power of my arguments, but the power of God for salvation for all who believe.