It’s time to fail

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Maybe it’s about time you failed.

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I remember when I didn’t make the varsity baseball team in high school.  I was crushed.  But through that, I ended up quitting baseball to pursue golf, a sport I turned out to be pretty good at.

In seminary, I absolutely bombed a paper that I thought was one of my better projects.  Through that, I worked hard to refine my writing, and in the process, found a great love of writing.

The first small group my wife and I were a part of (in Louisville, KY) was an abysmal failure.  I didn’t want that to happen to us, or anyone else, again.  Now I’m a small groups pastor.

The New Testament Church was led by a guy named Peter.  Don’t forget that he had an epic fail, where his pride was kicked in the teeth.  He thought he was ready to die for Jesus.  He wasn’t (John 13:37-38).  His pride would even need to be kicked again a little later. (Galatians 2:11-21) And it needed to be in order for God to use Peter.

Why you need to fail

It’s through failure that we learn what we’re not that great at. Here’s a shocker: you’re not great at everything.  God’s gifted each person uniquely…you included.  We may not always find that gifting on our first shot.  Be open to other ideas than what you’ve always thought or been told.  Maybe your failure is a good indication that you need to try something else.

It’s through failure that we find out which ideas aren’t the best. Failure becomes a way of culling out the ideas, projects, programs, and directions that needed to go.

It’s through failure that we are motivated. Who wants to fail twice?  Failure pushes you to work harder, more efficiently, and lean more heavily on others.  Failure is a great deterrent to future failure.

It’s through failure that God comforts us. It’s hard to experience comfort without some level of failure. (see Lamentations 3:16-23)

It’s through failure that our pride is sucker-punched. If you were as awesome as you thought you were, you’d not have failed.  As John Ortberg says, “There is a God, and it is not you.”

As valuable as failure is, I still find myself consistently praying, “Lord, please help this _______ to go really well.”  Or, “Lord, you want this __________ to succeed more than I do…”  Or, “Lord, help this idea to not fall flat on its face.”

Maybe I should start praying, “Lord, maybe this needs to flop.  You know best.  Help me grow in the process.  Chip away the parts of me that don’t look like You.  Grow your Church.  Knock down my pride.  Renew my faith in Your plan.”

Is there an area of your leadership or your life that needs to fail?

Have you seen God grow you more through failure or through success?


Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Jason Vana

    I tend to grow a lot more in failure than I do in success. I think a big part of it is that, when I succeed, it’s easier to think that I am the one who succeed, instead of God helping me to succeed. But it’s in my failures that I cry out to him more, it’s in my failures that I learn what NOT to do. It’s in my failures that I learn I am not what I do, but whose I am.

    Great post Ben!

  • Jason Wert

    Being honest, I have so little successes that failure has to be the choice by default. Sometimes I honestly don’t know how I would react if something didn’t fail. But you certainly learn much through the failures.

  • Jonathan Pearson

    This is a great post man. Glad you failed that paper. :)

  • Noel Bagwell

    Man, Charlie Sheen is poised – through a failure of mythic proportions – to, if he can find redemption, lead a life filled with #WINNING!

  • Jamey OConnor

    Great post! Initially, it’s a tough pill to swallow, but when handled the right way it helps you become better. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Anonymous

    I understand your point, but I disagree that we should be praying to God that we should fail. God doesn’t want us to fail. God certainly allows us to fail because we make decisions where we are convinced that it’s God’s will for our lives at the time. If it isn’t, we fail. And He allows us to fail because He hopes it will give us wisdom to deal with future decisions.

  • Luther

    We learn through failure, we persevere through failure, but I do not think we are to pray for failure. enough failure will occur natually in this sin cursed world if we are doing something that we do not need to pray for it.

    even though God orders our steps He does not prevent secondary causes from producing effects upon our lives and we as humans will make decisions that lead to ” perceived ” failure. If we gain wisdom and our path takes a different course that leads to a deeper walk with God was it a failure?