Proverbs 24:16 For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.
Jude 24 Now to him Who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.
Jude makes it clear that God is able to keep us from slipping and stumbling. However, He also knows that every failure has seeds of growth. He knows that apart from failure, we would have no need of His forgiveness, His communion, or His help. In His hands, failure can become one of life’s greatest teachers. His hands can use failure to refine us in ways successes cannot. Failure can reach down into the very depths of our souls and expose pockets of selfishness, pride, etc. It makes us more aware of our own limitations and humbles us. It increases our sensitivity to others and reminds us that God is not finished with us yet but has promised He will complete the work He has begun in us.
Peter is a good example of someone who fell. He had boldly told Jesus, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble. “ (Matt. 26:33) He insisted he would never fail, but Jesus stopped Peter’s bravado short when He told him failure would indeed come that very night. Most of us know how Peter failed Jesus that night by denying Him three times. Frankly, Peter’s failure had begun the moment he became overconfident and insisted he would never fail.
Sometimes our first response to failure can be to focus on the failure. “My ministry is over,” “God will never be able to use me again,” “My kids will be damaged for life.” Although we must be concerned for the present, we must be careful not to focus on it exclusively. We need to allow God to help us put failure into the proper perspective.
Failure is never final until a person quits trying. As we continue to try, failure is really only a setback and an opportunity to learn from our mistakes. Proverbs contrasts the righteous person and the wicked person. The righteous may fall time and time again, but he or she gets back up and keeps trying. When the wicked person falls, however, he or she is led into a downward spiral that causes calamity. There is no recovery, no hope, no more trying.
Failure is a part of the human experience. It can be painful but it can also be a great teacher. God’s definition of success does not preclude failure, but it does include a willingness to refuse to quit, to learn from our mistakes, and to try again. Failure can be our greatest teacher. It can destroy us, or it can immobilize us, or it can simply teach us a lesson about what not to do. It can rub off our rough edges and soften our hearts. It can be the first step towards being a great success. God can use our failures, whatever they may be, to make us the people He wants us to be.