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Failing for the Lord

Are you willing to fail for the Lord?

Fail for the Lord? Now wait a minute! We sing "Victory in Jesus." We talk about God’s blessings for the righteous. We make heroes of those too big to fail. Great evangelists speak flawlessly to thousands in meeting after meeting. They see hundreds of people filling the aisles when they give the invitation to come and be saved. Famous Christian singers drive audiences into deep feelings of worship. Even in our local churches, the best and brightest give decent performances in music or teaching Sunday after Sunday. The ethic of our Christian subculture is to get it right. After all, shoddy performance might turn the world away from the gospel. This is Christ’s work. We dare not fail. We dare not bring dishonor to His name.

Still, we dare not avoid the question. Are you willing to fail for the Lord?

We honor those who succeed in their jobs. There are ministries to Christian physicians and attorneys. Parachurch organizations reach out to Christian professionals and executives. Christian athletes are always popular. On the other hand, when was the last time you heard of a gathering of Christian short order cooks? Have you ever read the Journal of Christian Unskilled Laborers? I thought not. Here in America at least, we operate on the assumption that people succeed because they deserve to. We act as if a lowly career means somebody was incompetent or unworthy. Come to think of it, the words incompetent and unworthy are synonymous to most of us. 

And we proud, successful, ladder-climbing Americans desperately need to ask ourselves the question. Are you willing to fail for the Lord?

Please understand. I’m not talking about failing the Lord. Failing the Lord and failing for the Lord remain two very different things. Sometimes failing the Lord involves giving in to temptation and sinning. Other times it may have more to do with deciding not to get involved in Christian work because we’re afraid we can’t give the polished performance people expect. Failing the Lord means failing to do what He asks. It is a miserable thing. It leads to sorrow, shame, and spiritual weakness. The question is not, “Are you willing to fail the Lord?” The question is, “Are you willing to fail for the Lord.

What does it mean to fail for the Lord? It means that you’ll stand up and teach Sunday school if you are needed; although, you’ve never been able to speak very well. It means that when there’s nobody else to play the piano at church, you’ll volunteer your rusty skills, even though your mistakes are embarrassing. When the Lord’s work calls for more than you have to give, are you willing to give what you do have? Are you willing to get up in front of a group of people and appear less than competent if that will further Christ’s kingdom? Are you willing to fail for the Lord?

What about your career? Perhaps you’re a man whose strong convictions have collided with his job. Maybe you won’t work on Sunday. Maybe you won’t sell stocks for store chains that market pornography. Maybe you won’t lend money to start a tavern. Maybe you won’t be away from your family at night several times a week. Maybe what you know God requires of you won’t square with what your employer requires of you. You can do things God’s way, of course, but you’ll be a worker instead of a leader. Are you willing to fail for the Lord?

Maybe you’re a woman with a good education and prospects of a great career. You’re also a mother who believes God wants her to take raising her children seriously. By the time the last one turns 18, your shining career will have passed you by. Is it the career or the souls of your kids? Are you willing to fail for the Lord?

Maybe you’re a minister who believes that God means what He says. Your denomination or even your local church wants God to mean what they say. You’re faced with a choice. If you preach the way He told you to, you’re out of the ministry and working the morning shift at a fast food restaurant. The ministry is the biggest joy in your life. It is the way you can completely give your self to serving the Lord. You’ll spend the rest of your life missing the pulpit, but God has called you to faithfulness. Are you willing to fail for the Lord?

Perhaps you’re single and approaching middle age. You have a divorced friend who wants to get married. You know what Jesus said about divorce and remarriage. You also know that this is the first serious prospect you’ve had in twenty years. This divorced friend is the embodiment of what you lost when ten thousand dreams didn’t come true. Every pent up passion from long years of putting healthy desires on hold is screaming for fulfillment. Your conscience is screaming back, and you have to choose for one or the other. You may win spiritually, but you’ll also spend the rest of your life feeling you’ve failed to achieve what mattered most. Are you willing to fail for the Lord?

Maybe you’re a university student. You know college graduates get better pay than high school graduates. You already have your dream career picked out.  But the campus environment presses in upon you. Your roommate practices fornication even when you’re in the room. Good times all seem to involve alcohol. Your professors mock your deepest values and assign books that you’d blush to be seen reading off campus. Sure, some people go through the academic cesspool and triumph, but you feel the pull of the world on your soul. The temptations are mounting. You’re beginning to wonder if maybe your faith was a mistake. You need to drop out of school and go back home to get your spiritual anchor set again. But if you do, the future will collapse. You’ll just be an ordinary person rather than a success. Which will it be? Will you fail the Lord, or are you willing to fail for the Lord?

Failure is something we’re programmed to avoid. And yet, in Heaven, the whole formula is different. The money lost because someone sacrificed a career to the will of God is precious there. The disappointed tears of the one who lives day in and day out with deliberately wasted potential are going into God’s bottle. The blushes that followed a botched job of song leading or watching an important person fall asleep during one’s very best effort at teaching may well be recorded in an album God entitles “Precious Memories.”

The parable of the talents was a parable. Jesus wasn’t teaching that God expected us to take what He gives us and turn a financial profit for Him. He was teaching that we need to serve Him in and through the life situations He gives us. Truly serving Him rarely comes easily or seems like a good idea in this world. Rather, it often looks like failure. It’s only when we rise to stand before Him that a life of such failure will suddenly become a beautiful offering that He publicly thanks us for.

Are you willing to fail for the Lord?

This work is in the pubic domain and may be copied and distributed freely.


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