God's Grace in Failure
By Matthew Castro
I am afraid to fail. When I was a boy running track and field, I hated to compete, because I feared the possibility of losing. I won my share of races, but I dreaded the potential result of failure. I would feel sick to my stomach. Not competing at all eliminated the fear of failure. I tend now to flee competition. A few friends of mine recently asked if I would be interested in running 5K races occasionally. I emailed back a sharp decline.
As a church planter, I have joined one of the nastiest competitions of them all. Establishing a vibrant and stable church in most communities in America can be a rat race. Trying to convince people and families to join your ministry can feel like a college football coach recruiting that star player to sign with your school over your rival.
In Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird’s study entitled The State of Church Planting in the United States, they discovered that a church plant’s survival rate after 4 years is sixty-eight percent. While those are good odds that Redeemer Fellowship Church will be around after four years, Redeemer is also not immune to complete failure.
I worry too often that I am going to fail as a church planter. I struggle with disappointing others and missing expectations.
While the possibility of failure is present, God’s view of me has little to do with the results of Redeemer’s sustainability. However, God’s disappointment with me is centered on my fear of failure, because my sin is a result of mistrust in God’s provision and sovereign will in all situations.
GOD’S STRENGTH TO HIS PEOPLE
Recently, I preached from 1 Timothy 1:12. Paul writes to Timothy, “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service.” Christ Jesus commissioned Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Luke quotes Jesus’ words about Paul in Acts 9:15, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”
Strength to be faithful to “our charge to love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5) comes from Christ Jesus himself. As Paul encourages Timothy to stay faithful to God’s Word in his appointment through the strength of Christ Jesus, I must also be strengthen in my commission to plant Redeemer Fellowship Church through the power of Jesus Christ regardless of the future.
We cannot be overwhelmed by the fear of failure. We must trust in God’s provision of strength to sustain us in success and failure. Our charge is faithfulness to God’s Word in love, which Christ will provide us from his abounding grace, to the end.
GOD’S SOVEREIGN WILL THROUGH FAILURE
While great intentions and effort may not lead to overwhelming success, God is sovereign over failure. God does not fear the potential closing of a church. He designs all outcomes to bring him glory.
I read a sermon recently by Greg Gilbert. He highlights God’s sovereignty over Jospeh’s imprisonment by his brothers. God is sovereign over everything including our failures. Paul states, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purposes” (Romans 8:28). God uses our own failures and disappointments for our own good and for his great glory.
GOD WILL ACCOMPLISH HIS PLAN
We have a tendency as Christians to believe that everything is riding own our ministries. If our churches fail, then God’s kingdom will lose. However, God will accomplish what he desires. Our failed agendas and strategies will not cause God to be sidetracked from fulfilling his plan.
Therefore, we can minister with patience and love knowing that God will accomplish his will. Nothing, even our own failures, can prevent God from succeeding.
We all must play our roles with faithfulness. Some have been appointed according to God’s perfect will to see great success in their ministries. Others are called to serve with faithfulness and love through suffering and failure. God is good in both scenarios. His will is accomplished by both ministries.
I pray that God would strengthen me to be faithful wherever he has chosen to place me. I pray that I will not be plagued by the fear of failure, but live in the joy of knowing that God is sovereign over everything. Nothing is purposeless even my own failures.