Day 42: How to Be a Failure

One of my father’s best sermons is entitled, “How to Be a Failure.” It goes something like this…

These days, we often hear messages about how to be a success. Rarely, however, do we hear a straightforward message about how to be a failure. And yet, the fear of failure drives people more than hope of success, so perhaps we ought to pay attention to what makes for a “successful” failure. The story of the feeding of the 5,000 (Luke 9:10–17) offers us three principles that, if followed, will help us fail every time.

The first principle is this: Look at the size of the task. Often, we face tasks that are, from our vantage point, gargantuan in size. Certainly the twelve apostles faced a seemingly impossible task when Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.” The them in this case meant 5,000 men. Adding in wives and children, the crowd easily numbered between 10,000 and 15,000 people. If you want to be a failure, you must always keep the size of the task first and foremost in mind.

Second, look at how little you have. If you were asked to feed 15,000 people, what would you do? I suppose you would put together a budget and find a caterer who could deliver the maximum amount of food at a minimal cost. What if, however, you had neither money nor caterer? Then, quite frankly, you would be one of the twelve apostles.

How much food do you need to feed 15,000 people? What restaurant can supply that food on short order? How much is it going to cost? What do you do if you do not have enough money? What do you do if there is no restaurant in the first place? These are the kinds of questions the apostles no doubt asked, and they are the questions asked by everyone who wants to be a spiritual failure.

The third principle of failure is this: Leave God out of the picture. From the disciples’ point of view, there simply was not enough food to feed the crowd—only five loaves and two fish. From Jesus’ point of view, this was more than enough. The difference between their two perspectives was a difference of faith. Jesus did—and the disciples did not—trust God to make up the difference between their huge need and their meager resources to meet it.

The world in which we live is filled with many temptations and trials. Indeed, it is a world at war, spiritually speaking, and we must be appropriately armed. Often, we feel overwhelmed by our trying times and too weak to fight the battle at hand. Do you want to be a failure? Look at the size of the task. Look at how little you have. And leave God out of the picture. If you want to succeed, however, start with God. Through prayer, we bring our overwhelmed weakness to God and receive power to live another day.

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