ROSS HELGETON – Faith & Reflection
I did two inquiries on the Google search engine. The first was “Books on Success” and the second was “Books on Failure.”
The search yielded roughly four times as many books on success as on failure. Yet many people will say that it is how they dealt with the failures in their lives that ultimately resulted in their being successful.
John Gardner said, “One of the reasons … people stop growing and learning, is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.”
Thomas Edison is a remarkable example of that. For all of the success and popularity he eventually gained, he faced a tremendous number of failures.
For example, he performed 50,000 trials and experiments before successfully producing one functional storage battery. When he was asked if he had been discouraged by working so long without results, he answered, “Why? I now know 50,000 things that won’t work!”
I felt that I had a catastrophic failure early in my ministry. My wife and I were endeavouring to plant a new church in a remote village in Canada’s northland. Things had started well and we were encouraged.
After a few months, however, interest had visibly diminished. Undaunted, I planned a special service.
Normally my family was with me, but we had a brand-new baby, so my wife was at home 62 miles away.
The service time arrived and … I could hardly believe it … no one came! Not one! This was unprecedented … and unacceptable!
Amidst a generous amount of self-pity, Proverbs 24:16 came to mind. It says, “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.” Then I remembered, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” (Psalm 37:23,24)
I started to feel somewhat encouraged.
I decided to take inventory and found several positives. I knew both God and my wife would still love me. That is just how they are … and I was pleased that my children were too young to realize what a failure I was!
Gingerly, I entertained thoughts of the future. Clearly I would have to be creative, maybe even a little cunning in my approach … after all, there would be other services and more opportunities.
And there were. We later relocated and lived in that village for six years. Many blessings and burdens later, about 15 per cent of the village came to faith in Christ.
What had seemed a terrible failure became a defining moment, resulting in personal resilience and ministerial tenacity.
Failure in our lives can be a temporary lapse in our progress; it does not need to be the total collapse of our person!
Pastor Ross Helgeton is the senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church.