Monthly Archives: April 2010

No Second Best

When We Have Failed – What Next?

No Second Best

When We Failed - What Next? - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

Growing up in the southernmost part of India, my friend and I would often pass the potter’s house on our way home from
school. Stopping to rest under the tall coconut tree in front of his shop, we would watch intently as he and his wife made their clay pots.

Numerous times I stood there mesmerized as he took a lump of clay and began spinning it on his wheel. Soon that which was formless turned almost magically into a beautiful and usable vessel.

Quite often I would observe that what he was working on became marred. Yet the potter was never as disappointed as we were. He knew his craft well. He simply took the piece off the wheel, kneaded the clay again and started over. This next time it seemed to me the new creation surpassed the one previously attempted.

In Jeremiah 18, the Lord had His prophet watch a potter go through this exact same routine. Then God spoke through His servant, saying, “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 18:6). These words were intended as both a warning and a message of hope that in spite of repeatedly messing up, God could still make something beautiful of this nation.

All of us have been on God’s wheel only to be taken off and repeatedly remolded. Who can’t identify with these lines?

When God wants to drill a man,

And thrill a man,

And skill a man,

When God wants to mold a man

To play the noblest part;

When He yearns with all His heart

To create so great and bold a man

That all the world will be amazed,

Watch His methods, watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects

Whom He royally elects!

How He hammers him and hurts him,

And with mighty blows converts him

Into trial shapes of clay which

Only God understands;

While his tortured heart is crying,

And he lifts beseeching hands!

How He bends but never breaks

When his good He undertakes;

How He uses whom He chooses,

And with every purpose fuses him;

By every act induces him

To try His splendor out—

God knows what He’s about.1

Too often, however, we fight the potter, sometimes sinning grievously in the process. More often than we care to admit, our flaws have been exposed in the protracted process of becoming what God has in mind.

We find ourselves thinking thoughts like,

“How do I keep going when I know I am justly reaping what I sowed? What happens if I become physically sick because of my sin (see Psalm 32:3–5)? I can’t ask God to heal me because I know this was a road I rebelliously chose to walk down. When it’s bankruptcy time, when I crash and burn, what am I left with?”

Unfortunately, our thoughts then lead to,
“I’ve ruined my life. Things can never be the same. I’ll never be what God wanted, not with how I messed up this time!” These are the ruminations
of being consigned to “second best.”

Probably the same thoughts and desperate emotions marked Adam and Eve after hearing the words, “You must leave the Garden,” knowing that Paradise was lost at their hands . . . the same for Samson when he was captured and blinded by the Philistines . . . the same for John Mark when he was kicked off the missionary team.

This is precisely when the devil implements one of his most devious strategies. The enemy isn’t really as concerned about our sin as he is our response to it. His intent is that through our collapse, we will simply give up. So he seeks to discourage us to the point at which we lose all hope and even the desire to try anymore.

As I look back on past experiences when I know I failed, it seems the devil always showed up promptly, trying to make my mess ups seem worse in my mind than they already were. “You’re a hopeless case,” he would whisper, attempting to drown me in discouragement. You see, he’s “the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night . . .” (Revelation 12:10, NKJV).

Many times when I’ve failed, I’ve felt like I should just toss in the towel. Resign. I’ve also felt like the worst husband or the most unfit father. Secretly, I wished someone else would just assume my responsibilities, because I certainly didn’t believe I was doing a good enough job.

In such moments when we most need hope, Satan slithers by hissing that hope is all but gone: “There will never be any more hope. Not after what you did!”

But remember that this hellion is a notorious liar. Jesus called him “the father of lies” (John 8:44).

If we foolishly believe the devil’s falsifications, we certainly will give up. But if we resist him and lift up our eyes to where our help comes from, we will experience the lifegiving restoration that can only come from God. I believe that is why Paul encourages us in 2 Corinthians 4:18 to “fix our eyes not
on what is seen [the natural], but on what is unseen [the supernatural]. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

God’s desire is that through our failure we will allow Him to make us into useful vessels that far surpass the beauty we had before. But this doesn’t mean we have to see ourselves as accepting God’s second best for our lives. Our failures don’t warrant us to live by Plan B rather than the first choice of Plan A. That’s
not how He thinks.

It’s true that sin has its price to pay. But that doesn’t prohibit the Lord from doing what He wants through the lives of His children. God remains forever able to fulfill His perfect plan for us. Remember, I said perfect plan, the best plan, not the second best.

God sees the end from the beginning and knows all things before we even enter the scene. His perfect plan remains.

Was it the devil who introduced that reduced-to-second-best concept? I know this may be hard for some people to believe right now, but I write the truth—God is in the business of making miserable failures into beautiful demonstrations of His mercy and grace.

His ways are above ours. Far above! His original purposes for us are not lost.

The next time it seems the locust and cankerworm have eaten the fruitful life you once knew, look up (see Joel 1:4, KJV). Even if you doubt who you are and how you acted, please don’t doubt who He is and how He acts!

When you wake up to the scattered remains of your once-beautiful world looking for strength to carry on, know that this is not the end.

When unexpected storms of severe criticism, slander or even being blacklisted bruise the reed—I tell you the truth, hope still remains.

The next time you fail and wonder whether God is still able to make something—something even better than before—out of your life, you need to know that the answer is 1,000 times, YES! Confident in His skills, God is still totally capable of making everything better.

Never doubt the ability of the divine Master Potter to beautifully refashion flawed pieces. He’s been doing it since the beginning of time.

 

© 2006 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

I Can’t Believe I Did That!

When We Have Failed – What Next?

Chapter 2:  I Can’t Believe I Did That!

 

When We Failed - What Next? - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

Growing up in a respectable family in his community, Roy led a life of affluence with a bright future before him. His father, a successful medical doctor, was so proud when his son decided to enter medical college.

Then right before his eyes, all that looked so promising began to collapse like a deck of cards. A new school brought him new friends. But these colleagues were living on the edge, and their company took Roy on a downward spiral.

After only two years in medical college, nothing seemed to be going right. He was into drugs, and with his new pastime, his health began to waste away and his grades were slipping—he was failing. To top it off, this wayward student found out he was going to be fathering a child. His world was falling apart around him.

His parents got wind of his wild life and were completely devastated. Roy found himself shaking his head saying, “I just can’t believe how it all happened.” In essence, he was saying, “I can’t believe I did this!” Then when things could not get much worse, Roy’s best friend, who had always been there no matter what, jumped off a 12-story building and committed suicide.

Can it get any worse? I believe there is a key New Testament personality who would answer, “Yes, it can!” Maybe we should look briefly at a mortifying part of his story as told in all four of the Gospels.

Then seizing him [Jesus], they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”

But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”

“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.

About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter (Luke 22:54–61, emphasis mine).

What a horrific moment that must have been. The Son of God had heard Peter’s hot words of denial, and after listening, Jesus, the prisoner, turned and looked straight at His disciple.

What a dreadful turn of events for Peter. In his wildest dreams, he never would have believed himself capable of what he had just done. We know this was traumatic for him, because the passage reports that “he went outside and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62).

I Can’t Believe I Did That!

Chances are you can recall a time in your own life when you “wept bitterly” over something. Like Peter, what you thought could never happen to you did indeed, leaving you

ashamed . . .

confused . . .

uncomfortable . . .

frightened . . .

conscience-stricken.

Maybe it was a divorce that threw off your normal equilibrium or a marriage that underwent severe stress. Perhaps it was a business failure that made your life so wretched or an important relationship in which miscommunication and hurt feelings took over. Could it have been the belief that you failed someone important, even yourself? You fell so far short of your personal expectations. Whatever it was, you couldn’t believe this was happening, not to you anyway.

Certainly Peter’s earlier words, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33), came back to mock him. Each of us starts out in life with desires, ambitions and dreams, plus the early commitment and resolve to achieve them. But somewhere along the way, whether by our own deliberate choice or by external circumstances, these aspirations come crashing down before us, crumbling in our hands.

There we sit in the ruins, replaying the various destructive scenes and moaning at the appropriate times, “If only that didn’t happen!” Regret clings to our every thought as we struggle to stand with knees made weak by our own choices.

That’s where Peter was stuck in his thoughts. Earlier he had so triumphantly announced that Jesus was the Son of the living God. Yes, he was one of those in the “inner circle” closest to his Lord. He even miraculously walked on water. And it was to him that Christ talked about that rock upon which His Church would be built.

But he had just denied the very One he earlier declared to be the Messiah, the man he had said he would follow to the very end and even die for. So much for all his big talk. Jesus had heard with His own ears Peter’s strong statements of denial. How could this happen . . . to Peter?

How Could This Happen?

We all have had those feelings. We think, “How could I have done that? I know better than this. I should have learned by now.” Deep inside we have the defense that we are better than the wrong we committed.

Even the worst criminal has all kinds of reasons and explanations for the mess in which he finds himself. For example, “Two Gun” Crowley, responsible for murdering many people in the 1930s, was cornered within a building awaiting an inevitable arrest. He wrote a note while the police were firing at him. The note read, “Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one.” Then as he faced capital punishment, he questioned his sentence, saying: “This is what I get for defending myself.”1

In spite of rationalizing and trying to minimize our failure, guilt gnaws at our heart. We sink as we consider what we have done. Yet as followers of God, we know that upon repentance we can experience firsthand His marvelous mercy. Why then do we feel this shadow over us?

Roy Hession puts it so clearly in his book “When I Saw Him”:

If you are still mourning and blaming yourself it is not because God is blaming you; He has put the blame on Jesus. It can only be due to one of two things. Either that you have not really repented, or, more likely, you are mourning over your lost righteousness. Perhaps you feel that, having been saved for so long, you should not be failing as you are. . . . You are in effect saying, “Alas for my lost righteousness.” That is nothing but pride.2

Jesus has taken our blame, the charge against us, the sting of our failure. Then why are we so sick about our failure? Because we thought we were better. We regret that our “report card” does not show all the “good marks” we want others to see.

But all the best marks of our own righteousness can only amount to “filthy rags” as the prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 64:6. They will never be anything we want to showcase. The only righteousness worthy of displaying is the righteousness of Jesus that we have through His powerful and precious blood.

If what we hang on to is filthy rags, why grasp for it anymore? Why mourn over the loss of it? Will we be like the criminal who until the very end esteemed and held on to “his own righteousness,” although obviously it was nothing to boast in?

Paul sums it up in the book of Philippians:

I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith (3:8–9).

Let us leave our rags behind and hold on to His riches.

He Wept Bitterly

Back to Peter—little wonder this giant of a man ran, brushing aside any outstretched arms that would stop him, to a place outside where he could openly sob his heart out. Crying can be therapeutic. The genuine tears of a naughty child usually quickly touch the heart of a loving parent.

When we are truly saddened by what we have done to hurt the heart of our Savior, those tears of remorse can lead us to repentance. Being vulnerable through them can help bring us to the place of looking Christ in the eye, knowing He saw and heard everything, and telling Him how sorry we are.

Too bad Judas didn’t understand this truth. Scripture reports that he was “seized with remorse” (Matthew 27:3). Unfortunately, instead of going to his heavenly Father, he “went away and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5).

If you have never asked Jesus to be Lord of your life, He is waiting for you with open arms. He has long awaited the time to forgive you of all that you have ever done and draw you into His embrace.

He sees your heartache. He wants to wipe away your tears and give you a fresh start. Don’t harden your heart like Judas and walk away.

Simply believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who never sinned, who died for the consequence of your sins and rose to bring you life eternal. Ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins; then commit your life and all that you have into His care and direction.

Your Final Chapters

Remember Roy? That was not the end of his story. After his friend’s death, he too considered suicide. But that same week he miraculously heard a Christian radio broadcast. He listened to God’s Word, and he too found restoration in Jesus Christ. His life completely changed. His sins and wild life were forgiven. What looked like a life that was lost, became a beacon of light to many.

He married the young lady who was pregnant with his child and finished his schooling. Then he went to one of the hardest regions of North India as a doctor ministering to the poor, bringing his skills and the message of Jesus Christ. Many people have found hope through Roy’s life.

For Peter, at that moment when his eyes met the eyes of Jesus, he did not know the end of his own story. He could not comprehend the incredible manner in which Jesus would rise from the dead. He didn’t foresee his own restoration taking place on a beach in Galilee a few weeks later. He wasn’t yet able to envision the miraculous growth of the New Testament Church and the strategic role he would play in that narrative. All he knew at that instant was how he was spiritually washed out.

Maybe all you see right now is your own failure. But as you ask for God’s forgiveness, He sees His perfect righteousness when He looks at you. He sees the beautiful end of your story—it isn’t over yet. Those final chapters have yet to be written. The Lord is saying to you, “Your story isn’t anywhere near finished!”

Countless times our sovereign and gracious God has heard the bitter cries of His people after they have sinned in ways they never imagined possible. Countless times the Master Potter has shown His great skill as He remolds these vessels into expressions of His glory.

Do you believe that the One who did this for Peter 2,000 years ago can still do the same for you today? He who did it then still does it today. What He did for others, He will do for you.

Take that step: Believe Him.

 

© 2006 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

There is Hope

When We Failed - What Next? - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

When We Have Failed – What Next?

Chapter 1:  There is Hope

 

 

Robert Robinson lived in the 18th century. Converted through George Whitefield’s preaching, he himself went on to become the Methodist minister who wrote the famous hymn “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” You probably remember the lines:

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;

Streams of mercy, never ceasing,

Call for songs of loudest praise.

In his latter years, Robinson wandered from the faith to pursue the pleasures of this world. While riding on a stagecoach during this time, he sat by a woman deeply fascinated by a book she was reading. When she came across a lyric she considered especially beautiful, she turned to Robinson and said, “I am reading something wonderful. What do you think about it?” This is what she read:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love.2

She had no idea she was sitting next to the very man who had penned those words years earlier.

Upon remembering the song and the man he once was, Robinson broke down. With tears he replied, “Madam, I am the poor, unhappy man who composed that hymn many years ago. I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.” Through this encounter, Robinson was brought back into the outstretched arms of his loving God.

This story of restoration at the end of sin’s winding road is neither the first, nor will it be the last. From the beginning of time, history has demonstrated that there is hope for the one who has fallen.

The fact that you picked up this booklet shows that you too are seeking for that reassuring hope. I want you to know there is hope. Our failures are no surprise to God. He knows, with greater understanding than we, the creation He made. And this One, who sees our sins, also knows His purposes for us.

History Reveals

In the Bible, God left us the complete stories of spiritual giants through whom He worked—Moses, Elijah, David and many more—just as they were, flaws and all. He did not touch up the negatives or use Photoshop to present them in a better light. There was no cover-up.

Look at Moses. What an incredible life story is his—forsaken at birth and then rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. He was raised in a powerful family of influence. As an adult, Moses’ heart was burdened for his people, and he spoke out against the cruel slavery inflicted upon the children of Israel. Unfortunately, he “ruined” what he felt God had called him to do by killing a man and subsequently spent 40 years hiding in the desert.

Remember that Moses was a real human being with the same feelings as you and I. Forty years is a long time to contemplate failure. When the Lord eventually came to offer him hope and unfold His rescue plan, Moses responded that God was making a mistake and that He should look for someone else (see Exodus 4:10, 13).

Elijah—the great prophet of God—was one who, in a time of terrible discouragement, simply said, “I want to die” (see 1 Kings 19:4). Talk about singing the blues!

David is another classic example. This shepherd boy turned king seemed to take the worst fall of them all. This national hero who began so well, anointed by God and considered a man after His own heart, fell into adultery and then murdered the woman’s husband to cover it up (see 2 Samuel 11). Does it get much worse than that?

Why does God show us the failures of these great leaders? Could it be He wants us to know that in spite of our fiascoes, He can still make something glorious out of our lives?

The list of names in Hebrews 11 underscores this truth. In this passage, men and women of great faith are noted—ones whom God Almighty approved. One might be shocked, however, to discover how many of them were restored spiritually following failures such as deception, drunkenness, adultery, idolatry and murder.

Consider Jacob. What a saga his life story is. From birth, God gave him a remarkable promise that he would be blessed and his older brother would serve him. With this kind of divine assurance, it would seem like Jacob would turn out to be the perfect saint. Instead, he became a crook who lied to his own father, stole his blessing and lived a life full of deceit. Jacob ended up wasting 20 precious years of his life.

I consider his biography one of the most interesting of them all. Here is why: Numerous times throughout the Bible, God reminds His people that He is “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:15). In fact, in this same verse, God says, “This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.”

Toward the end of Jacob’s journey, God changed his name, which means “deceiver,” to Israel, meaning “Prince of God.” So, why doesn’t He say, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and . . . Israel”? How strange! How come He associates His name with a cheat who wasted two decades trying to do things his own way?

Through His name, His very identity, God wants to say to you and me, “I am still the God who makes failures into princes of God. I remain the God who takes broken lives— people with multiple divorces, sick in body because of sin, in prison for decades, labeled as losers, crazy folk nobody wants, outcasts with no hope—and turns them into something beautiful.”

Beauty for Ashes

The nation of Israel was betrothed to God. Yet she cast her beauty before every possible lover she could find, forsaking her true suitor. As we read through Psalm 78, we see time and again God’s faithfulness displayed in contrast to Israel’s unfaithfulness. In spite of her vulgar idolatry and the terrible offering of human sacrifices, God did not cut Israel off forever.

What does God say about her? “ ‘You have played the harlot with many lovers; Yet return to Me,’ says the LORD” (Jeremiah 3:1, NKJV). Instead of deserting Israel because of her countless sins, He declares that there is hope, saying, “I will win her back once again. I will lead her out into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope” (Hosea 2:14–15, NLT). These are gracious words from the living God about His adulterous people.

Today there is a gateway of hope. God is the original and ultimate rescuer. And for all who want to be rescued, He is able.

There is no sin too great,

God cannot forgive it.

There is no loss,

He cannot restore.

There is no scar,

He cannot heal.

There is no distance you can go,

His grace cannot reach.

There is nothing—absolutely nothing—

to stop His love and mercy for you.

If there is breath in your being,

there is hope.

There is hope.3

The thief on the cross confessed that he failed miserably and admitted he deserved the horrible death he was dying. It was all over for him—hell waited, its mouth open to devour him. At least that was what he believed. Yet because of his confession and the marvelous grace of God, he made it into paradise that very day with the Son of God (see Luke 23:43).

It is never too late. God is not mad at you. He is, in fact, for you. Don’t give up. Mighty to save and faithful to love is He (see Zephaniah 3:17–19). It is to the very ones who know the pain of personal failure that He comes and extends hope:

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, . . . to comfort all who mourn, . . . to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor (Isaiah 61:1–3, emphasis mine).

Maybe you are like Robert Robinson who wandered away from the God he once loved. Perhaps you revisited a sin from the past you thought you were through with. You may be living with painful memories of what once was or simply shaking your head at a sin that seems to surface too regularly.

In any case, whatever letdown you are facing, whether considerable or minor, my sincere prayer is that in Robinson’s words, you will experience God’s “streams of mercy, never ceasing.” Another line from this same hymn I have been quoting reads:

And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,

Safely to arrive at home.4

Is that your hope? Then let today mark a new beginning for you.

You can read Chapter 2 next week.  Or go to the Gospel for Asia website and download this book in its entirety for free.  Click here.

© 2006 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

When We Have Failed – What Next?

When We Failed - What Next? - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

Introduction

I once heard about a man whose memory was failing. He went to his doctor to seek treatment. After this man had gone through
various tests, his doctor’s conclusion was, “I want to be of help, but in my opinion, we only have one option. I can do surgery
to prevent you from losing more of your memory, but you need to know that in the process you could lose your eyesight.”

The doctor then left his patient with time to decide whether or not he wanted to go through with the treatment. On the doctor’s
return, the man seeking help responded, “I’ve thought about it and decided not to have the surgery. I’d rather have my eyesight than my
memory. I prefer to see where I’m going rather than remember where I’ve been.”

Although this is obviously not a true story, how many of us desperately wish we could in their entirety forget the failures of our past? So
many of us don’t experience joy in its fullest because we are still tethered to the sins of yesterday.

We cannot change the past no matter how wishful we may be. We can, however, learn from it. That’s certainly better than being held
captive to its regrets, setbacks and problems.

Every morning you awake to a new gift— the gift of today. It is my prayer that through this booklet you will be freed to let go of yesterday—learn from it, yes, but also let go of it—and then to embrace today. For today is full of hope.

“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11).

I believe this small booklet is one of God’s ways of extending hope to you right now. Please reach out and receive its truth. May God bless you.

 

© 2006 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.