Do you ever feel like a failure? Of late, such feelings have been magnified in my inner man. I have been painfully aware of past, present and potentially future failures. Making matters worse, I have been reading through 1 Samuel—just finished today—and Saul’s life is one with which I wish I was not able to identify . . . but today, I am. I told a couple of my best friends the other day that Saul seems to always act out of fear—particularly fear of failure (with references to his role over the people of God)—instead of relying on YHWH. Just today, I read the culmination of his continuous fear and failure. YHWH would not make himself known to Saul in any way, so he turns to a conjurer of spirits,
And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a medium at En-dor” (1 Samuel . . . pause—my baby girl just threw up on me—okay . . . 28:6–7).
We know the rest of the story (if you don’t, read the rest of 1 Samuel). Saul continuously acted out of fear, and it eventually led to YHWH removing him and putting another in his place (wow vomited on and pooped on in one blog post—that’s my girl).
As a man desirous to be useful to God in his mission, this is perhaps my worst fear—to fail God and become unemployable in his work. As strolled down the panorama of my brief life, fear and failure are strung throughout. I wept when I did not make the Junior High basketball team two years in a row; I wept when I did not make the varsity basketball team; I didn’t finish a B.S. in Chemistry (this admittedly is complicated); and now much bigger things are at stake; will I be a faithful husband? Will I be a faithful father? Will I finish seminary? Will I stop learning? Will I get my doctorate? Will I be a faithful and employable pastor and teacher? Oh man. I think about these things a lot.
When I find myself in the midst of a struggle, I generally turn to Jesus’ life, and I always find an example of faithfulness in the midst of struggle. His faithfulness unto death is the strength for the believer to participate in Romans 12:12. However, sometimes I need an example of someone who has blown it big time to encourage me in the grace and mercy of God. Saul is not what I would call an encouraging example. It’s like the dude was predisposed to blowing regardless of the grace and mercy given to him (I realize that’s a theologically loaded statement).
So, I found this word—ἥττημα. It is used in the New Testament twice and in the Old Testament once. The OT example . . . not encouraging . . . basically, YHWH is a warrior who will bring defeat to the young men of Assyria—not a pleasant notion if you ask me. The two NT references are a bit more encouraging to those of us who know we are naught but failures desperate for God’s grace, mercy and strength. First, Romans 11:12,
Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
Paul speaks of the failure of Israel with regard their role in God’s mission as that which resulted in riches for the world. Further, their failure does not appear to be final, rather a restoration is promised to the failing people of Israel. Second, 1 Corinthians 6:7,
To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?
The Corinthians were failing to live out the fullness of the Christian brotherhood. They were not able to handle their disagreements with their own community, and instead, they took their arguments to the judges of the world. While they were failing in the Christian life (and not only in this way!), the apostle still reminded them that,
you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11).
If adulterous Israel and immoral Corinth can be employed by God for his mission, then perhaps there is hope for all of us. May God remind us of the Spirit given to the Christian so that we may be faithful like the Lord Jesus and remember his kindness when we are not.