Failing to Succeed: The Secret to Failing Forward

Every path to success is usually marked by multiple failures.  Success is not achieved by avoiding failures, rather by learning from them.  In 1927, Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs, and set a world record which was unbroken for decades.  Few people remember however, he also struck out 89 times that same year, and led the league in that category as well.  The fact is, some of the greatest hitters in baseball, Reggie Jackson, Sammy Sosa, and Mickey Mantle, also hold the unimpressive honor of being among the top 25 players with the most career strikeouts.

If you want to succeed, you cannot be afraid of failure!  Wayne Gretzky, the only professional hockey player to ever score more than 200 points in a single season said, “You will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  I suggest failure is a necessary part of success.

When you hear someone say, “failure is not an option,” do not buy it.  While we do not set out to fail, failure is a part of life.  Failure is not our enemy.  Failure to try is.   Success is not about avoiding failure, rather, it is about learning from it.  I call it “failing to succeed.” Many times, we must fail in order to succeed, because learning does not always happen in the winner’s circle.  What we learn from the agony of defeat heightens the joy of victory.

What has God taught you from your recent failures?  Failures, like trials, leave us either bitter or better.  The choice is ours!  When we experience failures we can chose to point an accusing finger and curse those who are responsible, or we can claim Romans 8:28, give thanks for the opportunity to learn from our loss, and move forward trusting in God’s sovereignty and grace.

If this sounds crazy to you, take time to reflect on the biblical story of Joseph.  Thrown into a pit, left to die, and then sold into slavery, Joseph had plenty of reasons to resent and hate his brothers.  Over the years, God revealed His plan to this young man, and used him to deliver his people from starvation and death.  When he was finally face to face with his brothers after years of separation he said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”  Genesis 50:20 (NASB)

In spite of the fact that throughout his life Joseph experienced one failure or disappointment after another, he knew God was guiding and directing his paths.  He could see the hand of God even in the moral and ethical failure of his brothers.  Can we see God’s hand in our lives when we experience failures?

Failures can be some of the most important teachable moments in our lives.  When our failures or those of others cause hurt and grief, they have the potential to become powerful, life-changing opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.  In the aftermath of a failure, rather than wasting emotional energies on blaming others, and ourselves, we should redirect our energies to rebuilding relationships and restoring hope.  If our failures have hurt others, we must seek forgiveness and reconciliation.  When a failure, especially an ethical or moral failure, takes a toll on someone else, it is our responsibility to repair, repay and restore the damage

What have we learned from our failures?  Are we failing forward into growth, spiritual maturity, and new possibilities?  Or, are we failing backward into anger, resentment and recrimination?  It is my trust in a sovereign and merciful God that sustains me during and after a failure.  I know “all things work together for good to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Failing to succeed means understanding how failure works in God’s providential plan for my life. He has an eternal divine plan for my life, which He designed “before the foundation of the world.”  (Eph. 1:4 and Jer. 1:5).  Therefore, when we experience failure, we can rest assured God is more interested in our character than our comfort.  In addition, through failures, God teaches us that significance in His Kingdom plan is more important than success in our own plan.


About Larry Doyle

Dr. Larry S. Doyle is the Director of Missions of the Piedmont Baptist Association He has served as Director of Missions since September 1, 2003. His ministry began in the pastorate in Kentucky, his native state. He served as pastor of three churches while completing his undergraduate, graduate and post graduate degrees. He and his wife Becky, a native of Greensboro, served as IMB/SBC missionaries in Ecuador from 1980 to 1992. He then came to the Triad to pastor the Hispanic Baptist Church in Kernersville, NC from 1992 to 2000. He and his wife served as the On-site Coordinator for Disaster Relief in Honduras from January 2000 to January 2001. Dr. Doyle was the International Ministries Director for the Baptist Metrolina Ministries in Charlotte, NC from 2001 to 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Kentucky University, and received a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Larry and Becky have two sons, Steve and Tim, and are the proud grandparents of three. They attend Calvary Baptist Church in McLeansville.
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