Is it okay to fail? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Failure is a big issue for many of us. This is especially so in the ministry I think. Why? We’re doing the work of God after all. God deserves our very best. If we are giving Him our very best, how could we ever fail? Are we not letting God down when we do that?
The reality is that you and I, we’re not perfect. We are all prone to make mistakes. No one ever bats 1,000. No one ever gives the absolute perfect answer every time. No matter how good you are in one area, someone will always do better at you in another. You cannot know everything. In apologetics, one of the first mistakes you can make is to think that you can give an answer for everything. You can’t.
There are issues of philosophy. There are issues of the Old Testament and the New Testament. Each of these can be divided into several sub-issues. There’s ethics. There are other religions and that can be broken down into branches of those religions. There are other cults and that can be broken down into branches of those cults. There are issues of science. There is the refinement of Christian doctrine. All of these have numerous twists and turns to them.
You cannot know it all. You cannot be an expert at everything. To not be an expert is not the same as being a failure. When someone contacts me with a science question, I happily tell them I don’t know and I can easily refer them to a place like Reasons To Believe. Just last week I had someone message me wanting my thoughts on the multiverse. I said I had none. I don’t study it and it would really be unfair to give an amateur answer to someone who will likely think I’m an expert. After all, why else would they ask me unless they thought my opinion was important?
Despite this, sometimes you will fail. It will happen. When I first started off in this field, I failed regularly. I would often very easily get pounded in a debate. That failure was hard, but ultimately, it was a good thing for me. It showed me where I was weak and where I needed to improve and I went out and did that. Falling down is rough when it happens. What is worse is if you fall down and don’t learn from it. All that means is that you’ll fall the exact same way again.
Sometimes you will be caught flat-footed. Sometimes you will not speak up when you should have. That is falling. Don’t stay there. Get up, dust yourself off, and learn from it. With the great heroes of the Bible, it doesn’t take long to go through and find out where they all failed. (Jesus being the exception of course.)
The story of Peter being reinstated is an example. Can you imagine a bigger fail than denying the Lord you had spent nearly three years with and had given you the power to work miracles? Peter gets scared because a little girl is asking him questions. Seriously? Jesus does not have any harsh rebuke for him. Instead, he gently reinstates him to his service and Peter goes on to have an excellent ministry.
Remember the importance of forgiveness always, and that includes forgiveness of yourself. Many times, you are one of the hardest people to forgive. God wants you to give your best, but He also knows that you are dust. He has limitless patience for you. He is gentle and knows when you are really trying.
When you find a weak spot, learn how to improve in it. If your problem is not speaking up, then take some work and learn how to be assertive. If it’s a question that you think you should be able to answer, then go to the library and get a book to answer that question. If it’s your people skills, find a way to improve those. Whatever it is, find a way.
Get yourself a good mentor as well. There is someone who will be glad to come alongside you and help you with matters. I to this day still have mentors that I turn to when I am in need and people who I seek to learn from. If you reach the point that you’re not learning from anyone, you have a lot more to learn.
Also, failure is not always because of you. You witness to someone and they don’t come to Jesus like you would hope. Of course, always check and see if you could have improved your presentation of the Gospel somehow, but sometimes, it’s them. Some people don’t heed the drawing of the Holy Spirit. If that makes you a failure, then Jesus Christ is a failure since so many people walked away from His teaching.
If someone else does not respond how you want, you are not responsible for that. You are only responsible for what you do. They are responsible for what they do. Pray for them then. Again, check yourself first and make sure you did a good presentation. Sometimes people just aren’t ready to bend the knee yet. We hope they will, but we have to accept it when they don’t because we can’t force them.
This is especially so if you’re starting out. It’s easy to get discouraged at the start of any endeavor. It’s easy to think you’ll never be good at it. It’s easy, but it’s not right. You don’t master anything overnight. No one starts off doing perfectly. Every Olympic athlete starts off making mistakes. That’s why they have a coach. No one enters college already knowing everything, although sadly now they think they do.
Have grace, because God has it for you. Strive to do your best, but accept it when you can’t be perfect. God never calls us to be perfect. He calls us to be faithful. We are to be faithful when we succeed and when we fail. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on.