The Shape of Faith

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Archive for Hope

Failure Isn’t Final

Years ago I heard Landon Saunders say:

It’s not inhuman to fail.
It’s inhuman to deny that you fail.
That’s failing at failure.

His words are helpful because they remind me that I always have a choice as to how I will respond to my mistakes.  Will I allow them to bring a final, fatal end to my spiritual growth.  Or, will I trust that God can forgive and accomplish his purpose in my life in spite of my failure.

Failures aren’t failures
if you learn something from them.

- Anne Morrow Lindbergh -

Good people are good
because they’ve come to wisdom through failure.

- William Saroyan -

Failure is only the opportunity to begin again,
more intelligently.

- Henry Ford -

I’ve failed over and over again …
that is why I succeeded.

- Michael Jordan -

God has entrusted great tasks
to those who have handled great failure.

- Landon Saunders -

It is true that we are all created in the image of God.  But it is also true that we fall short of that image — we fail, we sin.  But failure is not final because …

FAILURE EDUCATES

It points out our “blind spots” and redirects our energies.  It answers questions, offers new options, and prevents further failure. Ask any sports figure, scientist, or teacher. The education that failure brings offers the opportunity to begin again.

FAILURE HUMBLES

Confessing failure cultivates humility in us and reminds us to be tolerant and forgiving of the failures of others.  Alexander Pope wrote, “Some people will never learn anything … because they understand everything too soon.”  Humility will always be helpful, especially in the lives of the arrogant. But sometimes it takes failure to bring humility in a life.

FAILURE MOTIVATES

Falling short of expectations does not have to be a reason to quit.  It could provide the challenge and motivation to go on.  After all, the original goal still stands.  It is still worth pursuing.  The only difference is that now your focus is sharper and the way is clearer.

FAILURE HAS AN ANSWER

Failure’s most important lesson is our great need for forgiveness.  God created us clean and he can make us clean again.  He has not given up on us and it is an insult to the image of God that we wear to give up on ourselves.

So, let us learn from our mistakes and, with a greater sense of humility and clarity, let us accept God’s forgiveness and move forward in the power of his grace.

God made Him who had no sin
to be sin for us,

so that in him we might become
the righteousness of God

- 2 Corinthians 5:21 -

Never Beyond Hope

Each week I teach a Searchers Class for people who are exploring faith. Last week I began a discussion that touches all of us … and every relationship we have …

What is the distance
between Hope and Hopelessness?

Never Beyond Hope Handout

Everyone wonders what’s on the other side of the door. It’s barely cracked open, just enough to see the brightness. Hope is looking forward, wanting the good to continue, dreaming of happy things to come, expecting the best. Some might say, “It sounds naive.” Before you give it up, consider a few great minds, like C.S. Lewis …

Those who have done the most for the present world are those who have thought the most about the next world.

Or, Norvell Young …

No one knows enough to a cynic

Or, Aristotle …

Hope is a waking dream.

Or, Albert Camus …

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

Or, Emily Dickenson …

“Hope” is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.

Or, Vaclav Havel …

Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.

Besides, what’s our alternative? Hopelessness.

Hopelessness is giving up, expecting the worst, becoming cynical and pessimistic. It grows when optimism is broken by personal failure, damaging relationships, or even our constant diet of bad news. It can be our own bad news or that of people and lands 10,000 miles away.

I remember a time when my son was young and sitting on my lap while I watched the evening news. During the broadcast, it became very clear to me that the news was scaring David. After discussing it with my wife Pam, she observed that if we applied the same principles to the news that we used for the rest of David’s television viewing, he wouldn’t watch the news!  His hope was new and fresh. The nightly news was hopeless and never ending.

But while our problems seem to grow, and our awareness of them is instant,  the battle between hope and hopelessness is not new.

At the close of 7th century BC, the prophet Habakkuk asked about hope and hopelessness. We know very little about Habakkuk except that he asked questions and got answers.

I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
— Habakkuk 2:1 —

1st, the prophet looked at his circumstances

How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. (1:2-4)

2nd, he waited on God

How I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. (3:18-19)

G. Campbell Morgan wrote, that when Habakkuk looked at his circumstances, he was confused, but when he learned to wait and listen for God, he sang.

God is in control. He is working out his own purpose, in his own time. And Habakkuk learned that he is Never Beyond Hope.

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