Which Way Lord? – Chapter 12 – by Dr Chandrakumar
The Failure Behind Our Failures
Napoleon Hill said, “There are three kinds of people in the world- The wills, The wont’s and The cant’s. The first accomplish everything, the second oppose everything and the third fail in everything.” Failure is one of the negative aspects of life. We deny it, run away from it or upon being over taken, fall into permanent paralysing fear.
Probably our reluctance to face it is the failure behind our failures. I strongly feel that failure of some kind is common to all of us. George Bernad Shaw said, “When I was a young man I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures, so I did ten times more work.”
There was a young man who was intelligent, gifted, well adjusted and who began his career with every advantage imaginable. He did not have the physical and moral defects that inflict so many of us. He could blame neither his heredity nor his environment if he made wrong decisions. Yet for all this, there was one other word that described him, that is “Failure.”
He could have gone down in history as a hero; but he is remembered primarily for a gigantic mistake. This man’s failure became the basis for our failure. Who is this man? He is Mr. Adam. He was created perfect by a direct act of God. God put him in a beautiful garden and provided everything that he needed. Then God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” (Gen. 2:18). So, more than anything Adam was given a beautiful madam as his wife. Adam and madam became the first couple in the world.
Our young people face a difficult situation in choosing their life partners and finding God’s will for the same. There was no need for Adam to find God’s will in choosing his wife. Eve was custom-made for Adam. Further more he had direct communication with God. But inspite of all this Adam failed.
So, remember that Failure did not start in you or in me but in Adam.
There are two questions that plague us 1. What is Failure? 2. Why do we fail?
I. What is Failure?
It is living a life with perverted values. It is being hooked on one or more of the three worldly motivations namely the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life (1 Jn. 2:16). These are the three components of failure.
1) Three Components of Failure
As said above, these three expressions describe our perverted drives. First of all there is the Pride of life – self-exaltation. Instead of obeying God, we by nature want to be our own God. Adam chose to eat the forbidden fruit precisely because he wanted to be like God; he wanted to be his own God. Whenever we substitute our own desires for God, we are guilty of pride. We are secretly pleased with ourselves. We consider ourselves superior to others and we try to influence people to accept that. Our pride blinds us to the deep emotional and spiritual needs of others. We too often become victims of pride, which becomes inverted. If pride cannot produce a superiority complex, it will often turn inward and become an inferiority complex. The symptom of such a psychological attitude is usually depression, a very common word used by believers today. We sometimes withdraw from others because of the fear of failure. Our excuse is inferiority, but the root of it is pride.
Secondly, there is the Lust of the Flesh – the craving for sensual desire. God has set prescribed limits for sexual conduct. But in every age, God’s restrictions have been largely ignored. The world is today characterised by hedonism – the love of pleasure. The sexual revolution has made sexual purity a rarity, if not an oddity. If pride is the most universal cause of failure, surely sensuality has the most devastating consequences.
Thirdly, there is the Lust of the Eyes – Covetousness. Adam was supposed to work in the garden while recognising that it belonged to God. If God gave Adam a job to do, he was to be merely a steward. Adam was accountable because he owned nothing. Today we covet the things of this world – things that belong to God alone. Covetousness is the hallmark of the sales industry.
Once the top sales executive of Coca – Cola went to the Pope and asked him for a favour. He said, “Your Holiness, I humbly request you to please do a slight alteration in the Lord’s Prayer. In the portion where it reads, ‘give us this day our daily bread,’ I want you to please alter it as ‘give us this day our daily Coca -cola.’” The pope very hesitantly requested this man to ask for any other favour except that. But the sales executive sadly turned and walked a few steps and then came back and said in a whispering voice, “Your holiness, please, tell me how much the ‘Daily Bread’ man gave you, I’ll give you more than that.”
In the sales industry there is no limit for covetousness and to be content with what we have is a cardinal sin. If we are satisfied with our present car, we will not get a new one. So we are bombarded with advertisement designed to make us dissatisfied with our black and white T.V, and some even with their colour T.V would desire for a video set and so on. Many people have an inner compulsion to possess everything they see. Such people are failures.
2. Two Types of Failure
There are two types of failures: One physical and the other moral or spiritual.
i) Physical Failure
Physical failures are usually unrelated to sinful motivations; a student might fail in school, a runner might fail to win the race, a businessman might fail in his business and so on. I don’t rule out the fact that sin can also cause physical failures, but more often it is due to lack of abilities. However God often uses this kind of failure to remind us how desperately we need him. But let us not singly pass the buck to God without working hard to be successful.
A college student who did not prepare for his economics exam just before Christmas vacation wrote on his answer sheet, “Only God knows the answers to these questions… Merry Christmas.”
The Professor graded the paper and wrote this note, “God gets 100 percent and you get Zero… Happy New Year.”
ii) Spiritual Failure
Our main concern is with moral and spiritual realms, which bring guilt, defeat and depression. Spiritual failures often permanently affect our children, our friends and of course, ourselves. Spiritual failures are directly the result of our own sinful choices.
II. Why Do We Fail?
There are three main causes of failure or in other words three major failures behind all our failures namely (A) Lack of love for the Lord (B) Life without power and (C) Luke Warmness.
A. Lack of Love for the Lord
We read in Revelation 2:1-7, Christ’s message to the church in Ephesus. Ephesus at that time was a large Metropolitan city and the most prominent city in the Roman Province of Asia and this city already had a long history of Christian witness. (Paul had ministered there for three years as recorded in Acts 19). The effectiveness of his ministry is stated in Acts 19:10, “All who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord both Jews and Greeks.”
The preaching of the Gospel had affected the worship of Diana, in whose honour the temple of Diana had been built in Ephesus, a structure considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The reduction in the sale of idols of Diana and the Christian teaching that these idols were not worthy of worship resulted in riots (Acts 19:23-41). The resulting riot forced Paul’s departure from Ephesus, but the incident is a remarkable testimony to the power and effectiveness of early Christian witness in this important city. It was to this church and to the Christians living in Ephesus at the close of the first century, some thirty years after Paul, that the first of the seven messages is addressed from a church to which so much was given and from which much would be required.
Christ says, “I know thy deeds.” This has another intention than to express either praise or blame. It declares the omniscience of him who walks up and down among the candlesticks of gold from whom nothing escapes. “And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Heb. 4:13). Here, we see Christ’s commendation of doctrine and diligence of the Ephesian church. He mentions that their labour or trial, their patience or stead fastness, their abhorrence of those who were evil, and their ready detection of false teachers who claimed to be apostles but who were not. These remarkable characteristics establish the fact that the church had served the Lord well.
But inspite of these most desirable traits, Christ declared that the church at Ephesus had failed in an important matter, namely, “They had left their first love.” In the Greek language, the order of the words is especially emphatic in that the object of the verb is before the verb “Your first love you have left.” In Greek, the word for this love is Agape, which is the deepest and most meaningful word for love. Though the Ephesian Christians had not departed completely from love for God, their love no longer had the fervency, depth or meaning it once had.
Those words of Christ, “I have this against you” is the language used to blame a failure. Also we need to observe that he does not merely say, “You have Lost your first love,” as it is so frequently misquoted. But he says, “You have Left your first love,” some thing more serious. One may lose a thing involuntarily, but to leave it, is deliberate action and it counts as sin. So, the failure behind all our failures is our lack of real love for the Lord. Do we have a burning love for the Lord? Has the church left its first love? We were zealous for the Lord in distributing tracts, sharing our testimony with other needy people and so on in the initial stages when we were saved. But what happened to that fervour now?
B. Life Without Power
The second major failure behind all our failures is seen in Christ’s word to the Sardinian church. “…I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, and you are dead” (Rev. 3:1). In other words, “You prefer to be a Born Again Christian,” but your life does not correspond with your profession. In Matthew 23:27 Christ says, “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” Outwardly we appear to be people with spiritual life, but inwardly there is no fullness of the spirit of God. To understand this, let us take for example the case of Lazarus.
Jesus Liberated Lazarus from death and gave him new life. Lazarus who was a dead man became living men. Once, you and I were dead in trespasses and sins, but God, being rich in mercy because of his great love with which he loves us… made us alive together with Christ. By grace we have been saved (Eph. 2:1-5).
We read in John 11:44 “Lazarus came forth Alive, but with hand and foot bound with wrappings and face wrapped with a cloth.” Lazarus received new life and became a living man, but was still in his grave clothes, with his hands and feet bound and face wrapped with linen like any other Egyptian mummy. Anyone, who had not taken a closer look at him, would have declared him to be a dead man. Today, many of us, born again, spiritually alive people look and behave like dead and lifeless people. We are spiritually bound hand and foot and face with a life not moving but stagnant. We are out of the grave alive! But are we yet to be freed from the grave clothes?
Lazarus could not use his hands even to unwrap the wrappings around his body and face. Likewise, our hands are so tied up and are busy doing the chores of the day to day life in building up our materialistic life, and not available to hold and open the Bible to read it.
His eyes were tied by the linen cloth. Lazarus was alive but could not see Jesus. We read in Luke 24:13-32 about the so called two disciples of Jesus, whose eyes were prevented from recognising Jesus (Luke 24:16). Jesus was walking and talking with them, but still their spiritual eyes were not opened. In verse 24 Jesus calls them, “O foolish men,” because they had not used their physical eyes to read the scriptures and that is why they could not understand the heavenly purpose of Christ’s coming to this world. Negligence of God’s word makes us immature people. We profess to have Christ the life giving spirit, but there is no evidence of our Christian living, no fruit bearing, the salt has lost its Savor, and there has been no spiritual growth.
So, the second major failure behind all our failures is due to a stagnant and immature Christian life. Immaturity is a fertile ground in which sin grows unchecked and unchallenged and Christ is dishonoured by our immature behaviour.
There are three characteristics of immaturity namely, Failure in Application, Failure in Availability and Failure in Appetite. If we turn our attention to Hebrews 5:11-6:10, we learn from that passage that immaturity is serious and maturity is urgent.
Lazarus became alive, but since his ears were tied with linen, he could not properly hear what Jesus said. In Hebrews 5:11 we read, “You have become dull of hearing.” This does not simply refer to physical hearing or to the intellectual ability. This phrase means, “sluggish in mind” – that is, unconcerned about what we have heard and unsearched by it and consequently it has not brought about a change in our conduct or character. Dull of hearing is a non-response to the call of God; it is to disregard his precepts. So, it is a failure in application.
Why is this sluggishness? Many of us are familiar with holy things. We keep on hearing message after message-very spiritual messages. But what are we doing about it? Why have we become sluggish to spiritual things? Have we tried to apply what we have heard, to our personal lives? Soon after the Sunday morning service, we rush to the market and then rush back home and are busy with some other work Then have a nice sumptuous lunch, have a snoring sleep in the afternoon and then come again to the evening service. Do we ever go back home and find some time to sit with the message that we heard and meditate upon it and apply it in our lives and go to the Lord in prayer asking him to thus change our lives? Failure in application is a failure to honour God as our Lord and Master and King.
Lazarus had received new life. But, the grave clothes bound his feet and he could not walk. He could not make himself available to serve the Lord. The passage goes on to say in Hebrews 5:12, “By this time you ought to be teachers.” Are we available to Christ to mould us, make us and use us as the teachers of his Word? The world cries out for those who can speak of Jesus. But those who ought to be teachers still need to be taught. They are unskillful in using God’s word and unfit for God’s service.
Secondly, it is Failure in Availability. We have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20). Jesus has saved us and called us with a holy calling, according to his own purpose (2 Tim. 1:9), to be his fellow workers (1 Cor. 3:9), to work together with him (2 Cor. 6:1). Are we available to the Lord? God is not looking for our Ability but for our Availability.
Lazarus was Alive but could not take any food since his mouth was tied with grave clothes. Our passage in Hebrews 5:12-14 goes on to say about the need for drinking milk and the inability to take solid food. So the third characteristic of immaturity is Failure of Appetite. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, “I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly.” That means you are still in your grave clothes (sinfulness). If some one would have tried to give some milk to Lazarus in a bottle by means of a straw, piercing the straw through the grave clothes into his mouth, he could have taken the milk in. But until the grave clothes are removed it is not possible for him to open his mouth and eat solid food.
It will be senseless to teach a child grammar before the child learnt the alphabet or to teach arithmetic before it learned numerical and in the same way it is useless to teach Christians about deeper Christian living when the foundation itself is not strong, God expects us to move from dependence of milk to a desire for meat. So, immaturity is serious and maturity is urgent.
There are two marks of maturity which we read in Hebrews 5:14. They are solid food and spiritual discernment. Solid food would naturally lead us to spiritual discernment.
The third major failure behind all our failures is revealed in Christ’s word to the church in Laodicea. It is due to our Luke Warmness. In Revelation 3:15,16 Christ says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot.” In other words, what Christ meant was you are an unholy mixture. What precisely Christ says is that, He would spew out of His mouth those who seeks to mix godliness with worldliness. Corrupt Christianity is more offensive to Christ than open fidelity.
You feel that you are rich, increased with wealth and have need of nothing. You are no longer sensible of your ignorance, weakness and emptiness (Rev. 3:17). Many are content with their spiritual lives.
Mandino writes, “I will never consider defeat and will remove from my vocabulary such words and phrases as quit, cannot, unable, impossible, out of the question, improbable, failure, unworkable, hopeless and retreat; for they are the words of fools. I will avoid despair, but if this disease of the mind should infect me, then I will work on in despair. I will toil and I will endure. I will ignore the obstacles at my feet and keep mine eyes on the goals above my head, for I know that where dry desert ends, green grass grows… I will forget the happenings of the day that is gone, whether they were good or bad, and greet the new sun with confidence that this will be the best day of my life.”
If you did not accomplish all you wanted for today, if you’re discouraged and you feel let down by others, just run through the lines of the old song, “Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.”
In the pursuit of excellence, don’t just stand there. Do something!
This book is copyright by Dr Chandrakumar Manickam. It is reproduced here by permission.
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