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.
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 KP 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.