What Is Success? What Is Failure?

What Is Success? What Is Failure?

Everyone wants to succeed and in particular, they are fearful of failure, because failure is shameful and has its consequences. Therefore, the world is filled with many methods teaching people how they can succeed. This is because such methods are what people continue to search for as answers. How do you define success and failure? Is it like that of the world? When you have slightly less money in the bank, when you are not as popular as others or not considered as important in the eyes of others; when your educational qualification is not as high; when you have illness, or you are single, or you have no children etc, do you feel that you are a failure? On the other hand, if you have better conditions, do you feel that you are more “successful”? Is success/failure defined and its standard measured in these ways? Actually, if a person’s perspective on success/failure is wrong, there will be great influence on him. A person will pursue in the direction which he thinks will lead him to success, investing his time and efforts. It is of course beneficial if the investment is correct, but if the investment is wrong, when a person discovers that the success he is pursuing is actually a scam, it will come to nothing and that will be a real pity. Besides influencing a person’s personal life goal, a person’s perspective on success/failure will also influence his heart. Often, when a person succeeds, he will be happy; when he fails, he will be sad. If our perspective on success/failure is wrong, it will bring us into unnecessary disappointment and excitement.

A person’s outstanding conditions do not always define success, prosperity <Ecc 9:11-12>

Even if there is advantage, it does not guarantee a person’s blessedness

“The race is not to the swift.”

“The battle is not to the strong.”

“Food does not come to the wise.”; “Wealth does not come to the brilliant.”

“Favor does not come to the learned.”

Two reasons that block a person’s plan (1) time; (2) chance

(1) Time. “No one knows when their hour will come.” We do not know how much time we are left with. Regardless of how a person may plan to achieve great ideals, or how great his ability to materialise his plan, if he has no time, all will be in vain. A person cannot control time. No matter how intelligent he may be, how much he knows how to plan, he cannot determine the day he will leave this world. It is only when a person knows this, then will he not overly-rely on himself. Instead, he will develop a need for God and faith in Him.

(2) Chance. Other than time, no matter how a person may plan very carefully, he cannot control his chance.

There are many people in this world that hold on to the belief of relying on self. The general culture gives people delusion, causing them to think that they can make choices to control their own destiny. But the reality is, a person is not the master of his life.

God is not constrained by time and chance

What people may see as chance or coincidence, in God’s eyes, these are His perfect will. A person is unable to control what he may encounter but God has the ultimate sovereignty.

<Pro 16:33> The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord

Therefore, it is not about what a person can do or how good his conditions are, what is important is God’s work and sovereignty.

<Ps 127:1> Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.

Therefore, a person should be humble and acknowledge that he needs God.

Restore a correct perspective of success/failure

Failure in the Spirit

Actually, mankind has all failed in the spirit because of the inherent sin in Man [cf <Eph 2:1-3>]. People will fail in their spirit because they do not revere God and this is caused by sin. It is the duty of Man as created beings to fear God <Ec 12:13>. When a person does not acknowledge God, reject God, or is proud towards God, he has already failed in his spirit. Regardless of how wonderful or successful a life a person may be living now, if his spirit does not believe in Jesus, there is eternal death and that is the greatest failure of all failures.

Failure on earth

This may not be related to a person’s hardened heart or his sin. This is because a person who loves God may also experience failure on earth. For example, believers may fail in their interviews, examinations, business or relationship etc. But we must discern the difference between “failure” and “trial”. If we are not hardened towards God, and do not intentionally sin but when we fail, that is in fact not true failure but a trial, so that in the process, we are even more humble and more reliant on God, and be made more sanctified. This is because our God has his good, pleasing and perfect will in all things <Ro 12:2>, He is also the God who, in all things, works for the good of those who love him <Ro 8:28>, so if we wholeheartedly follow and submit to Him, we will surely be victorious. God did not say that those who believe Him will no longer be weak or fail on earth. But God’s will is that in our failures, we can trust even more in His grace. God can turn all failures in on earth to testimonies for the gospel. Just like how when Jesus was on earth, he was seen by many as a “failure” because he was tragically put to death on the Cross. At that time, it seemed that Satan had won but actually, Jesus’ death opened the door of eternal salvation for mankind.

*Of the two failures listed above, the failure of the spirit is more serious. Let us pray to be more fearful of the failure in the spirit than the failure on earth.

Restore the correct perspective of success/ failure

(1) Having results itself does not represent true success. [Example of Moses striking the rock <Nu 20: 7-12>]

(2) Failures mistaken as success. Some people thought that they are very successful but actually, from God’s perspective, they are in fact failures. Just like many people in this world who think that having fame, wealth, material blessing, marriage, children, health etc is equivalent to success. However, they will later discover that, without Jesus, these are not considered success in eternity. “Many will say to [Jesus] on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name ad in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then [Jesus] will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.’”. <Mt 7:22-23>. The Lord said “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” <Mt 20:16>. There are some people who do not look like they are successful in this world, but great is their reward in heaven. There are so people who are considered successful but are not seen in heaven, or their reward in heaven is small.

(3) “Feel like a failure, but in fact not a failure.” For example, there are missionaries who spent many years of hard work in a region but the number of people who are saved did not increase much.  Therefore, they or the church who sent them may think that they have failed. The Bible also records prophets who seemingly “failed”, like Prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah but in fact God was pleased with them because they lived by obeying the word of God.

(4) Does failure mean that we are not good enough?

(5) True success lies in:

Do we have eternal assurance, and whether we belong God.

Do we revere/fear God, and are also living in His will

How should blessed people handle failure?

Is it “success” or “failure” that will be a greater threat to our faith?

“Success” may potentially have greater danger.

<1 Co 10:12> So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.

<De 8:10-14, 17-19>

To God, what is important is not whether it is success or failure. What is important is our “response”.

Sometimes, God gives us some success to test us, to assess if we can manage greater success, or if we fall as a result of a little self-satisfaction. There are also times when God allows us to experience failures/mistakes to assess if we are still faithful to Him even if we do not get what we want.

How should we manage failure?

Failure and falling happens to teach us important lessons:

Allow us to see how much we actually need to rely on Jesus

Cause us to be humble

Teach us wisdom

Prevent us from falling into even greater failure

There is a perfect will when God allows believers to fail. Therefore, all the more believers must pick themselves up from failure and falls. They must not end up in pessimism, self-pity and give up on themselves, such that they cannot advance. In our failures, if we are willing to repent and submit, we will receive new grace and opportunities from God.

How do we manage success?

* The important thing is to not be stumbled by success; instead one must seek success via blessed means, and use your success in a God-pleasing way.

(1) What do we rely on for our success?

There is nothing wrong with pursuing success. God is also willing for his children to have victory, and prosperity. But what do we rely on for our success? Actually, only the success attained by relying on God will be beneficial to us. If not, if our success comes from our human-driven efforts, or other idols, it will lead us to a greater sin of going deeper into human-driven methods and further distancing ourselves from God. 

(2) What is our response after success?

Success can bring about two kinds of response. One is to become proud and be further from God; this is the sinful response. The other response is to be thankful and be close to God; this is the blessed response. When we are full of thanksgiving towards God for our success, this will draw us closer to God. Even after we are successful, we remain humble and give all glory to God, and God will be willing to continue to bless us. Also, if our motivation of success is not for selfish gains and personal glory, but coming from a desire to testify God’s grace and greatness through our success, that will sure please God. The more successful we are, the more we must be vigilant towards the trap of pride. We must be more humble and rely on God more, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” <2 Co 10:17>

Preacher Huijun Lin

Huijun serves as Secretary of The Blessed RUN Ministries. She is also the Preacher at The Life Church and Missions (Singapore). She graduated from Singapore Bible College and currently lives in Singapore with her husband, Chengji.

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