Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. –Hebrews 12:1-2
Do you ever feel like a failure? Some people look at the life of Jesus and say that He failed. He was born in obscurity. For most of His life He was a lonely carpenter. For three years He traveled as an itinerant preacher, and for those three years of effort He really didn’t have many disciples and no substantial following to speak of. He died in shame with two common prisoners alongside Him. If the story stopped here, all would consider Him a failure. But the story continues, because three days later He rose from the dead, ascending into heaven and now sitting at the right hand of our Father!
If you feel like a failure, you’re in good company. Abraham Lincoln had more failures than victories, yet many count him among the greatest presidents the United States has ever had. Look at his life for a moment. He grew up on an isolated farm with only one year of formal education. In his early years he was exposed to barely half-a-dozen books. In 1832 he lost his job and was defeated in the race for the Illinois legislature. In 1833 he failed in business. In 1834 he was elected to the state legislature, but in 1835 his sweetheart died, and in 1836 he had a nervous breakdown. In 1838 he was defeated for Speaker of the House, and in 1843 he was defeated for nomination for Congress. In 1846 he was elected to Congress but in 1848 lost the re-nomination. In 1849 he was rejected for a federal land officer appointment, and in 1854 he was defeated for the Senate. In 1856 he was defeated for the nomination of Vice President, and in 1858 was again defeated for the Senate.1
Was Lincoln a failure? Absolutely not! Stephen Spielberg, the director and producer of the movie, Lincoln, said of the 16th President, that he was, “arguably the greatest working president in American history doing some of the greatest work for the world.”2
There is one word that comes to mind when I think of failure: perseverance. To persevere means to hang on, to stick with it, to press forward! The call of the Christian is to keep on looking to Jesus and moving in His direction. You can rest assured that the Bible is right when it says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). So hang on – there is light at the end of the tunnel – and the light is the love of Christ.
1. Take a deeper look at Hebrews 12:1-2. The verse tells us to throw off everything that hinders and to run with perseverance. According to these verses what or who are we to set our eyes on?
2. How does setting our eyes on Jesus help us avoid mistakes and persevere through failures?
1 Corinthians 9:24, Hebrews 10:36, Philippians 2:8-9
1 Ted W. Engstrom, The Pursuit of Excellence (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), p. 57.