Friday, May 15, 2015

DEVOTION: Lessons from Failure ~ by Karen Rees

When I was fourteen I visited the Hall of Fame in Washington DC and saw statues of people who had made major contributions to the development of the United States. During a trip to the Philippines I learned about Jose Rizal and saw the place in Manila where he was martyred by the Spanish. The Bible also has many famous people. It even has a “Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11.

Both national heroes and the Bible's great men can teach us valuable lessons. One of the most valuable is about how to handle failure.

Three New Testament teachers are Peter, Paul and Judas.

Peter was one of the apostles closest to Jesus. He was willing to fight for and die with Jesus. Yet when Jesus needed him the most, Peter denied him.

Paul, a renowned Jewish scholar and zealous Pharisee, was so committed to following God that he actively persecuted Christians as heretics. Jesus had to appear to Paul on the Damascus road before he realized his mistake.

Judas traveled with Jesus for three years, saw his miracles and listened to his teachings. In the end, he sold Jesus to his enemies for thirty pieces of silver.

How did each man respond when he realized that he'd failed? Peter wept bitterly. (Matt 26:75) Paul fasted for three days and prayed. (Acts 9:9-11) Judas, seized with remorse, returned the money to the Jewish leaders then went out and hanged himself. (Matt 27:3-5)

These three men show two opposite responses. Peter and Paul humbled themselves before God and waited for him to tell them what to do. Because they let God take charge, Peter's relationship with Jesus was restored and deepened and Paul became God's apostle to the Gentiles, telling them who Jesus really was.

When Judas failed, he still kept control of his life. He tried to undo the harm he'd done by returning the money. That failed. He confessed his sin to the uncaring priests. They neither could nor were they interested in granting forgiveness. His solution was to hang himself. His success in that was his final eternal failure.

If only he had waited a few days, he could have received forgiveness from a risen Lord. What a testimony his life would have been had he only handed it over to God's control. But, from start to finish, Judas insisted on doing things his way.

How do we respond when we experience failure?

Do we immediately make a new plan? Or do we ask God if he has a different plan and then wait patiently for his answer?

Do we blame others for our failure? Or do we ask God if some of the fault lies with us?

Do we blame God for not insuring that our plan succeeds? Or do we allow him to use our failure to teach us something we need to learn?

Do our failures lead us to God or lead us to death? (2 Cor 7:10)   

It all depends on who controls our lives.

KAREN REES, with her second-generation missionary husband Benjamin, has served in Hong Kong since 1975. Besides her involvement in the mission work, Karen loves history, quilting and writing. They have two children, Matthew and Megan, and two grand-children, Hadessah and Arthur Aaron.

Her historical fiction novel, The Ruby Ring, was a Finalist Award in the 2014 National Indie Excellence Awards in the Religious Fiction category. It can be purchased in paperback or eBook from and other online bookstores.

Visit Karen on her author page on FacebookWatch her book trailer, The Ruby Ring Trailer.


  1. Karen, thanks for your challenging post.

  2. Oh, how God has used your insightful words to encourage me this morning. Thank you, Karen.