By Scarlett Stough
I failed---again! So, what’s next?
Quitting is not an option. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) Excused absences don’t exist in the work of God.
What about illness? Surely, illness is a good reason to take a leave of absence. Not really.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)Do you love God? Have you been called by him? Then even your illness can be used by God for his purpose. You may be bedridden, feverish, or incapacitated in some other way, but God is not. Does that mean you have to crawl out of bed and try to ignore your illness? No, that’s not what I mean.
Remember the man who was born blind who was given his sight by Jesus? (John 9) “…but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” The work was done by God. Some illnesses result in humility that leads to repentance. Some illnesses show the grace of God at work in such a way that others see the power and mercy of God at work---such as Hezekiah whose life was extended when he pleaded with God for healing. Some infirmities (or physical challenges) inspire others to excellence in their own lives--such as Helen Keller or Joni Eareckson Tada. Sometimes, we are giving someone else an opportunity to reap the benefits of serving others and thereby showing the love of God at work in this world--such as in Mother Teresa‘s work.
What about a past that you are ashamed for anyone to know? Surely, some sins disqualify a person from good works. Not really.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (I Timothy 1:15-16)The murderous Saul turned from misdirected religious zeal into the Apostle Paul who suffered to bring the message of salvation to all people, not just his own countrymen. The key is: he used to be an arrogant and murderous person; but he yielded to the transformation Jesus gave him. Whatever your sin, God can transform you just like he did Paul.
What if I have no aptitudes or skills? Surely, that would disqualify a person from service in the kingdom of God. Not really.
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things---and the things that are not---to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God---that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 1:26-31)God is the source of all the strength any person needs to accomplish any difficult to impossible task:
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. (Hebrews 11: 32-34)What if I fail---again? Does failure disqualify a person from doing good works? Not really. God gave us a great deal of detail about the life of King David. David failed big time, many times. Yet, David remained king of Israel until his death and is assured of a place in the Kingdom of God for all eternity. He didn’t quit. When he failed, he turned back to God, admitted his failure, and kept on doing his job. Psalm 51 is David’s prayer that God inspired to be preserved so that sinners and failures like you and me can have hope that not only will God forgive us, he will sustain us and keep us working in and for his kingdom.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. (Psalm 51:11-15)Maybe, I missed your excuse, but these are mine. God says to me they are not acceptable. He will pick us up when we fall; he will give us another chance when we fail.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:21-24)