A little boy was looking at greeting cards in a store. A clerk asked him,
"Can I help you? Do you need a birthday card for somebody? How about a "Get Well" card? Are you looking for an anniversary card for your folks?"
"Nope," the boy said as he shook his head.
The clerk noticed a tear in the boy's eye. She asked the clerk:
"Then what kind of card do you want?"
The boy's voice cracked as he asked the clerk,
"Do you have blank report cards?"
I guess the poor kid was hoping to keep his folks from knowing about his bad grades.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could get blank lives so we could start over again? Nobody likes to fail. But we all do. We all face the cold reality of failure at some point or points in our life:
- Some of us have flunked a class.
- Some of us have had a business fail.
- Some of us have had a divorce.
- Some of us got fired.
- Some of us have had kids that made bad choices.
- Some of us have picked up an addiction.
- Some of us done something foolish.
- Some of us have hurt our parents, spouses, or kids terribly.
- Some of us have done something that hurt some people.
All of us have sinned and need God's forgiveness. Romans 3:23 says: "All of us sin and fall short of the glory of God". We are all failures.
In Acts 15:36-41 is the story of a kid named John Mark who was helping Paul and Barnabas on mission trip to the island of Cyprus. John Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas in a place that was known for bandits and danger. He ran home to Jerusalem. We are not sure if John Mark was afraid, lazy, or just lonesome for his mother. But John Mark blew it!
John Mark caused the famous rift between the Apostle Paul and Barnabas. Paul thought Mark should not get a second chance. Barnabas, whose nickname was "the son of encouragement," felt that Mark could be redeemed and salvaged. Their disagreement was so strong that Paul and Barnabas never worked together ever again.
Barnabas took this failure named John Mark under his wing. The combination of instruction in righteousness and the demonstration of grace worked God's redemption in Mark's life. Church tradition says that John Mark went on to be discipled by the Apostle Peter. In fact, John Mark is the one that God inspired to write the Gospel of Mark.
Years later, as the Apostle Paul was awaiting execution, he wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:11) these words: "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." Imagine that! John Mark's greatest critic was now begging for Mark to come in the hour of his deepest need. It says to me that Mark got his life straight! This failure got his life right with God!
Folks, you and I can get our lives straight just like John Mark. Have you failed at something? Are you ashamed about something you did? Would you like to stage a comeback? Here are seven stepping stones that God can use to bring His restoration and blessing into your life:
1. Listen to your critics
. People who criticize can be mean and harsh but there may be some tremendous lessons to learn from them. Never assume that you are always right. The Psalmist (141:5) declared: "Let a righteous man strike me-it is a kindness; let him rebuke me-it is oil on my head". In the Bible, God used a donkey to speak His word so He can use anybody to help you in your growth as a Christian. But you have to listen. You have to stop defending yourself and your point of view. When you listen to your critics, you will be surprised at the vistas of understanding that God will give you!
2. Rest in the grace of God
. Psalm 103:12 says: "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He (God) removed our transgressions." There is no sin that God can't forgive, and no failure that can't be turned around. You can enjoy the mercy and pardon of God forever with your confession and repentance. Grace is greater than all our sins!! You can't turn back time. But God can rewind and reset your clock with His grace.
3. Find a mentor
. We all need coaches and tour guides to show us the way. It is easy to get discouraged and to think it is impossible to turn things around. We all need help. Proverbs 1:5 says: "let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance."
Want to become wise? Find wise mentors and ask them to teach you things like:
- how to put your life together in the spiritual, family, social, business, physical areas of your life
- what to read that will teach you how to live God's way
- how to identify your talents and use your spiritual gifts
- how to discover and live in the will of God
- how to become the person God meant you to be
You need tour guides, teachers, advisers, and counselors in your personal life, career, finances, and especially in your walk with God. No one is smart enough or wise enough to go it alone. Proverbs 15:22 says:
"Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established." Your life will greatly improve when you bring in people to guide you into God's best for your life.
4. Start again with God
. The reason many of us have failed was that God was not fully the Lord and Master of our lives. So, put God in the center and in first place in your life this time. Only when God has the preeminence and you rely on His wisdom will you experience blessing and joy. David said in Psalm
I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes
." Meditate on God's word daily and it will make you wise. Then apply God's Word to your personal life, your career, your marriage, your financial life, and every area of your life.
5. Learn the lessons from your failure and defeat
. Personally, I've learned far more from failure than I ever learned from success. So, do some forensic work on why you failed. Ask yourself: what do I need to change? Failure is God's plan to prepare you for greater things. Just as God used failure to teach John Mark some unforgettable lessons, God wants you to learn from your failures too. Proverbs 9:9 says: "Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning." Remember a good marksman was a bad marksman who kept on shooting. Let the University of Hard Knocks give you a graduate degree in wisdom. Then, learn your lessons and move on!
6. Show grace to others.
Those who get to walk on the trail of grace do so because someone else paved the trail for them with their grace. If you have received God's forgiveness, how can you refuse to forgive others? Since Christians have been forgiven a much larger debt by God, how can we ever refuse to forgive what others owe us? If God gives you an opportunity to start again, how can we possibly refuse that same opportunity to others? Paul told the Corinthian church, (2 Corinthians 9:8), "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." When we show grace to others, we behave like God. When He gives us His grace, how can we not pass it on to others?
7. Become a mentor to others.
Tell your testimony to others. If you tell your story to other failures, it will be a living lesson. It will teach them how not to live and how God can put their lives back together. You can teach others to rise above their defeats to enjoy the blessings of God. Take people who have failed under your wing. 2 Timothy 2:2 says: "the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." Let God use your failures to accomplish His will for others. Teach others and save them the pain of what you had to learn the hard way.
Have you blown it? Is there some mistake, some defeat, or some failure that has happened to you? Well, God is in the comeback business.
No one needs to remain in failure. Just look at some of heroes of the Bible: Noah got drunk. Abraham lied to Pharaoh and to Abimelech. Jacob lied to his father. Moses killed a man. Gideon doubted God. Samson broke his vows to God. David had an affair. Jonah ran from God. Peter denied Christ. Thomas doubted Christ. Paul was an accomplice to the murder of Stephen. God let them each of these come back from their failures. God will do the same for you.
God is the author of second chances. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" You can come back from your failures and defeats. But it will take your reliance on the power of God and the Lordship of Christ in your life to put these things into action in your life.
Oh, by the way, several of you have asked what the "J." in J. Mark Platt stands for. Yup, it stands for John. My folks named me John Mark after the failure in Acts 15. Perhaps it was prophetic. My life has had some glaring failures. But I am a guy who is trying to stage a comeback most every day with God's help. You too?
That's why I invite you to join me at "Failures Anonymous," also known as East Hills Community Church this Sunday for worship! Bring a Bible, a smile, your friends, family, neighbors, and work contacts. Remember, we have: