It’s not over: The end is only the beginning

Failure is a favorite tool that Satan uses to keep Christians from becoming all they can be and from focusing on their calling.

Our society trains us to expect success overnight. Place your dream in the oven at bedtime, get a good night’s sleep, and it’ll be ready by the light of morning. Instead of seeking to learn from failure and setbacks, we concentrate on teaching that failure is tantamount to being a loser. Then, we cast aside the loser.

As Richard Nixon stood before his White House staff to deliver his farewell address — a moment of indignity and disgrace the day he became the first president in Amerian history to resign the office — he said, “Defeat is never the end; it is always the beginning.”

He should have known. As a cat is said to have nine lives, so Nixon returned from oblivion after rebounding from failure time and time again.

Failure litters the road to success. Disappointment is the seed that grows victory.

Failure and disappointment are guaranteed in life, and they are essential elements of our growth and maturity. They are character builders. They are part of the learning curve. You’ve heard it said before: You can get bitter or you can get better. “Good people are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure,” says William Saroyan.

James Whistler, one of history’s most renowned artists, said “As a painter, I shall never signify anything of importance. I feel it absolutely.”

During his lifetime, Whistler sold only one painting and that one to his brother. All the while, what would become his most famous work — Whistler’s Mother — lay in the basement.

Walt Disney struggled through three failed ventures and went bankrupt. He was counseled to give it up. His dreams were just fantasies, he was told. Then, Mickey Mouse was born and, you know the rest of the story.

Theodore Seuss Geisell hardly seemed destined for greatness. His high school art teacher discouraged him, saying “You will never learn to draw.” His Dartmouth College fraternity voted him least likely to succeed, and he dropped out of Oxford, bored and restless. Geisell’s first job as a cartoonist was for a magazine so close to bankruptcy that he got paid in cases of shaving cream and soft drinks. Twenty-seven publishers rejected his manuscripts. They called his stories silly and his rhymes nonsensical.

Well, you know Theodore Seuss Geisell as Dr. Seuss, the most legendary children’s writer of this century.

“Many people dream of success. Success can be achieved only through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents only one percent of your work that results from 90 percent of that which is called failure. Very few unacquainted with failure will know the joy of true success.” ~Soichiro Honda, founder of Honda Motors.

Failure should never lead us to quit or give up. It must serve as the fertilizer for the next step.

Consider this:

I once set out to find how a certain man became successful. I began where he began and followed his tracks down the road. After a day’s journey, I still had not come upon this success of a man. Tomorrow, I said, I shall find him. When the morning came, I set out on my journey, but the second day was more curious and dangerous. There were detours and potholes in the road; I saw warning signs. I covered only half as much ground as the first day.
  On day three, I followed his footprints down a side road and back to the main road again. Where is he going? I wondered. Is he lost?
  On day four, I stumbled upon his campsite. On a rock next to where he had built a fire, there were droplets of blood.
  On day five, I ran into a group of people on the road and asked if they had seen a man walking in my direction. “Oh, yes. He’s filthy, his hands are calloused, he has holes in the knees of his jeans where he had crawled at one point, and the soles of his shoes were worn through.” No, I thought, this cannot be him. He is following his dream, his vision.
  On day six, I continued my journey, searching for the man who had become successful. On a certain tree near the road was tacked a note, as if it were left for someone who would be following. It was from him! “If you are reading this,” the note said, “please heed my warning. Know that my journey has become treacherous. At times I thought I had failed, that could never reach my goal. I have been at much risk. Watch for the danger signs, the potholes, and the detours. I have marked them for your safety and for your benefit, but follow me at your own risk. I have been beaten, I have taken the wrong roads, my body is racked with pain, and I haven’t slept in days. Still, I know the prize lies ahead and I must go on.”
  On day seven, I, too, chose to go on.”

Failures and setbacks are part of the process of reaching God’s goal for your life. They are the iron that sharpens the iron, the polish that perfects the rough diamond.

What is success? Very simply, it is becoming all that God has called you to be. It is not a destination. It is not performing better or producing more than your friends or neighbors and getting ahead of the Joneses.

Keep the journey in perspective. You won’t win every battle, but what you learn from those battles will help you win the war.

The oft-quoted words of Paul remind us of the road to success:

“Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching for to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:12-14 NASB).

In 1970, when the lives of three Apollo 13 astronauts were threatened by an explosion on their spaceship, the men and women at Mission Control in Houston were charged with the challenging task of securing their safe return to earth. In a late night meeting with tired, unsettled, and bewildered personnel, Flight Director Gene Kranz demanded answers and solutions.

As he left the room, he bellowed, “Failure is not an option!”

It God has placed your future in your heart — and He has — remember that failure is not an option. Your so-called end is only your beginning.

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