"A 7-MINUTE SERMON: OVERCOMING FAILURE", PASTOR ALEX TYCHKIN
November 22, 2020
Aloha Church Family and Friends,
When I was in school in St. Louis, I got sick and tired of riding the lame city bus because it stopped by every lamppost and, call me crazy, I never felt safe during the bumpy ride. I really liked the idea of driving a car, but I had no car and no driver’s license, and so I spent about 2 weeks getting ready for the test. I studied the test book and memorized the rules; I knew how to drive in theory, but I lacked the actual driving experience. The night before the road test, I borrowed an old clunker with a stick shift, and drove around in first gear on a parking lot, my car screeching and stalling and the smoke coming from beneath. Something was burning and going up in smoke. It wasn’t just my clutch-it was also my hope because the next day was a miserable failure …during the road test, I couldn’t get out of the first gear, my car stalled a couple times at busy intersections, and no matter how hard I tried, parallel parking wasn’t meant to happen that day. I failed and was ashamed, disgusted and angry, all at the same time.
There’s no way around it: at one point or another, we all experience failure, setbacks and disappointments; sometimes we fail to get the driver’s license and sometimes we fail to keep it. We hope for a positive outcome but instead something horrible happens to us; we hold on to high expectations yet the results we end up with simply don’t measure up. No one is exempt from failure, and if we are alive, we all are going to experience its crushing impact and the wide range of negative emotions that it entails. The reasons for failure are many: sometimes its our own lack of preparation and focus; perhaps it is some sin or weakness that we carry within, often it is adverse circumstances beyond our control. Yet there’s another major reason why we fail, and it happens when we buy into the lie of our modern culture that insists that for all of us “the sky is the limit” and “we all can become whatever we want to be”. While all of us, short of very rare exceptions, can learn to drive a car and get the driver’s license, only very few can become major league athletes, prominent public figures or big screen actors. As human beings, we all have natural limitations and also, specific God given talents and gifts. In order for our lives to fulfill their potential, we all face a tremendous challenge to discover our unique calling, and also, see clearly and then respect our personal limits. The only way to find our purpose in life, is to step out of our comfort zone, to try and to fail, because failure is indeed the only path to success.
Failure is inevitable but it is our response that determines if it is going to be a soul-crushing experience and the death of our dreams or an opportunity to learn our lessons, become wiser and move forward towards becoming what God wants us to be. Our failures are not accidental and have a purpose: they teach us what no textbooks can ever teach; they draw us closer to God and sharpen our faith. As we go beyond our own strength and learn to lean on God, they shape our character through God’s presence in the midst of hard times and ultimately, they are an opportunity to bounce back for a break-through towards fulfilling our destiny.
No matter what kind of failure-professional, relational or moral- we may experience in our journey of life, we start with allowing our emotions to be expressed and brought into the open. In order to move forward, our pain, anger, confusion, disappointment and whatever else we may feel- they all need to be released and shared with God and those close to us. When our initial surge of emotions settles down, we commit to honestly examine the root cause of our failure. This step is crucially important and also is the hardest of them all because it requires us to be brutally transparent and objective; rather than shifting responsibility, coming up with convenient excuses and assigning blame to third parties, we take off our rose-colored glasses, dissect and analyze the situation- and that’s how we learn the hard lessons that become the foundation of our future. If our failure was caused by sin and rebellion against God, we ask for God’s forgiveness and also, forgive ourselves. While it is true that our lack of repentance before God may lead to our separation and estrangement from Him, our unforgiving spirit towards ourselves often leads to chronic discouragement, depression, a sense of low self-worth and ultimately, our giving up on life altogether and seeing it as one colossal failure. Instead of treating a failure as one isolated incident, an opportunity to learn about ourselves and discover a path forward, we are often tempted to generalize and give in to the toxic spirit of despair, apathy and resignation. We are reminded that the most successful people in the world are also the ones who failed the most, yet never gave up or lost their faith, resilience and momentum. While our failure may cause some people to become disappointed with us, the good news is that God’s love is unconditional and is not measured by either our successes or failures. In the book of Romans, we read, “Who shall separate us from
the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:25)
In the end, we make a God inspired plan of action and move forward in trust that God is in total control of all outcomes.
The Bible says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28) If you haven’t done so just yet, I invite you to trust God with your life and make him the Lord of both your failures and your victories!
As always, keeping you and your loved ones in my thoughts and prayers. May God bless us all!
Pastor Alex Tychkin, Lihue United Church