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  • Writer's pictureLou Hernández





Alexander Dumas, the author of the 3 Musketeers, got into a heated dispute with a friend, the intensity so great that it led to the challenge of a duel. Both were expert marksmen, so fearing they both might die, in a brief moment of sanity, they instead decided to draw straws, the loser to take his life. Dumas drew the short straw and with a sigh, picked up a pistol then withdrew to his study as friends waited outside the door. A few moments later, there was a shot. His friends charged into the room hoping to render life-saving assistance, only to find Dumas standing there, his gun still smoking in his hand. Whereupon, Dumas smiled and with a shrug explained, ‘An amazing thing just happened – I missed!’

Which is to say, sometimes failure can be amazing not devastating. More gift than calamity. Obviously, as Dumas considered his actions, he must have thought how stupid he was to let the dispute escalate to almost certain death. The need to be right; the need to succeed, for what? Laughable, if the outcome weren’t so tragic. But we often allow our misses, our failures to take us to places where we give failure the power to be tragic - far greater than an event, we allow it to determine who we are, and who we’ll be as it determines the future of our life.

At its best, failure instructs and re-directs. At its worst, it paralyzes and destroys. But the truth is, that failure is something we can’t escape. Our question then, becomes ‘what do with failure?’ Does it defeat or shape? Is it something experienced or something that defines?

The Bible is incredibly realistic when it comes to the human condition as it shows people of great flaws and great failures – not just those we typically see as failures but also God-chosen, God-praised people the Bible gives us as examples of great faith. People like David, described as a man after God’s own heart or a Moses said to be more humble than anyone on—the face of the earth or a Sarah who laughed at God’s promise that she would give birth to a nation.

Victorious one moment, tragic failures, the next. Often those failures coming on the heels of great success. Moral failures, ethical failures, relationship failures. People who are self-indulgent, self-impressed, and self-deluded, their stories not hidden or made better than they were. Many of these, people who in their failure, reach out to God and are transformed. People are no longer defined by their past. As Christians, we would do well to remember to extend this same grace and stop defining people by past wrongs, past failures and past hurts. Our testimonies are more on what God has done and is doing than on the wreckage of the past.

That is the overwhelming message of the Bible that through Jesus Christ’s shed blood on the Cross there is no failure too great, no sin too big, that can’t be made new; no matter what we’ve done, no matter who we’ve been, made new. Failures who God wants to write a different ending for their lives. It’s the message God sends to the exhausted executive running on his hamster wheel to success and the same, God-sent message to the forgotten, deservedly-imprisoned inmate pacing in his cell. To the seemingly good and the undeniably bad.

People who have failed ‘small’ and who have failed ‘large’. And here’s the thing, we’ve all tasted it - the course not passed, the achievement not made, the promotion not — given, the moral pit fell into, the relationship in shatters. Where what we set out to do didn’t end as desired and where we’ve been “less than”. Places we don’t want to admit. At least, I don’t. Perish the thought, most of the time I want my failures to remain hidden. Oh I could go on in areas I’ve failed – books are written yet few read. Videos produced yet few seen. Hopes run after and is never caught. And those are the minor ones that I’m comfortable admitting.

Then there are the famous failures we’re directed to, to inspire and make us feel better than we do: like Walt Disney, fired because he ‘lacked imagination and had no good ideas’ or Thomas Edison, told by his grade school teachers he was ‘too stupid to learn anything.’ Or Einstein was considered mentally slow and expelled from school or Michael Jordan was not talented enough to make his grade 9 basketball team. Or a Van Gogh or a Handel or a Harper Lee ….

The lessons from these that they refused to let failure define them and instead they took those failures and allowed them to push them to something greater. Their attitudes shaped to be more than they had been, understanding what Benjamin Disraeli, a former British Prime Minister said, “All my successes have been built on my failures.” And yet, God wants to do far more with our failures than just correcting bad choices. But too often that’s what we want to do.

Covering over like I do with my construction failures and ‘mis cuts’, hiding them under DAP. The problem is life doesn’t come with DAP and Bondo. Even if it did, the covered over eventually gets stripped away. But as Scripture reminds us, there’s a failure greater than failing to achieve what we set out to get. And even if we have achieved, the letters after our name or the financial portfolio amassed - where we fail at life, the greatest failure, missing God. That’s what Jesus asked, What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul Mk 8:36. It was also what He was directing the woman He met at the community watering hole to see, she who’d spent years covering over the failures of a life that wasn’t working. Until she ran out of covers.

I’m certain she never imagined her life would go the way it had. Like everyone around her, looking for happiness but in the snapshot given us, not finding it. Probably when young, life was working for her. She didn’t have to go looking for relationship as most did, relationships came to her. One after another. Getting men? no problem - but relationships that came and relationships that stayed are very different and for her, and one after another, those relationships hadn’t stayed. For a time she found reasons to explain but after a time there were too many failures to hold up. She failing them or they failing her. But the result was the same – the life hoped for no closer than before. Just a revolving door of failures. Attracting but not keeping.

When we meet her, now an outcast. A failure. As a Samaritan rejection was in her DNA. The Jews considering them failures in faith, failures in following God. And here she was, living as an outcast among outcasts. It was likely that which brought her to the well at this time of day, when others wouldn’t be around. A time she wouldn’t have to see the looks of the women who once envied her for the attention that came so easily to her —Coming to the well at midday meant avoiding the shunning from her people. At least at this time, failure didn’t shout so loud.

But it was in her failure and emptiness Jesus came to her and offered her something that would fill. Offered to one who, if she were willing to admit that her resources had come up empty, could receive something far greater than anything she could imagine. And when she did, she met then introduced a village to Jesus. Lives transformed on the other side of failure.

She didn’t go there at first. At the beginning hiding in a pointless diversion about the religious – where should we worship? and Jesus cutting right through the religious talk, uncovering the emptiness and failure she was hiding in. Uncovering who she was. And in the uncovering, she had a choice – to return to her place of hiding or admit the emptiness of who she was.

It’s a choice Jesus gives to everyone to whom He comes. Like the Pharisees who spent a lifetime hiding under their thick layers. Hypocrisy covered. Failures covered. Sins covered. Hiding just like us so no one sees our failures brought about by sin and our choice to reject God’s truth. Our sinful failures because of neglect and inaction and sinful failures because of our demand to be the ruler of our own life. God tells us that each of us is guilty of that, which is why Jesus came – to forgive us and make us new through the Cross of Christ.

That’s one side of failure but there is a failure that happens not because of wrong choices made but because of experiences that just happen and we aren’t certain why.

I’m reminded of an experiment, researchers conduced where monkeys were placed in a—cage where in the center of the room extended high on a pole was a huge supply of bananas. But when the monkeys climbed for their feast, they were hit with a torrent of water. At first defeated, they remained undeterred, waiting awhile before trying again only to suffer the same fate.

Before long they gave up, making no attempt to climb. Researchers then replaced 1 monkey at a time. When the newest entry started for the top, the others dragged the adventurer down. Again and again, until he gave up. 1 by 1 each of the original monkeys was replaced. Eventually, every monkey was new and yet none of the newcomers would climb, not one knowing why. And at the bottom of the pole, a collection of defeated monkeys, no longer even looking at the —the banana bonanza above. Subjects of failure robbed of adventure; kept from discovery. Their identity determined by things they didn’t even know were operating. Failure wired into their world long before, that imprisoned. Just like what’s been wired into our world to defeat and imprison but the good news is this – given over to God our failures can be transformed, where failure isn’t given last word.

Like in the case of another – a man tucked away in the book of Judges. His name was Jephthah Judg 11. In :1 we are given a snapshot of who he became – a valiant warrior and then a picture of how he got there. :2 gives us a window on his life since birth. In short, his life was tough, long before his first step. At first glance it shouldn’t have been that way. After all, he was the son of a heroic dad, Gilead, and yet that’s not what defined him.

What defined him was that he wasn’t the son of Gilead’s wife; instead, he was the son of

a prostitute (Gilead’s failure not his) and as :2 tells us, his brothers let him know it every time they could. That he was not one of them, not worthy of them and certainly, not accepted by them. Made clear in the harshest of ways as early as he was able to understand. Imagine what life would have been like. As a young boy, hated. The bullseye of his brothers’ arrows. Based on what we know, in their pack mentality, he was the piñata for their physical and verbal blows. Doing life alone – answering with whatever fight he could bring – no mother to turn to and no dad stepping in to defend. That meant Jephthah had no place of safety. In short, his life had all the markings of failure isn’t given last word.

:2 tells us that his brothers drove him from their home, letting him take nothing with him. No resource. No name. No future. :3 states, he fled suggesting his brothers had blood in mind.

And where did that take him? Right where you’d expect – to the ‘streets’ in the place of the ‘down and outs’. In some way, this had been his life as long as he could remember only before, he at least had the appearance of being part of something – at least part that came with a roof over his head and some food on the table but not now. Now life on the streets took him to a different place, a place where the less than stellar lived, space shared with outcasts who for one reason or another also didn’t fit. Survivors. In :3 we are told that he and a bunch of worthless fellows gathered together and went out. The expression, ‘they went out with him’ is not suggesting they went out for a good meal or a great concert. What’s in mind, is that they went out in raiding parties, to battle, do damage and meet needs. Jud 11:1-3

By all accounts, Jephthah was living out the life his brothers saw for him – just a failure, just a screw up. A worthless fellow, living with worthless fellows doing worthless things. That same identity is also what the enemy wants you to believe for your life as well. It’s what he whispers to you – when you sin, when you fail. That’s there no return. No forgiveness. No new.

Whispers turned to shouts that’s it’s done, it’s over. Your chances used up. That’s what failure wants us to believe. It’s likely what the woman at the well had come to believe. That the life she hoped for was so far gone with no better ahead.

Just resignation that this is what life was to be. A life with a ton of regrets. I mean, she had no one else to blame but herself. She had made the mistakes. She had chosen her path. She had made the choices. And every turn had been a misdirection.

So too, it’s what Jephthah had every right to believe, the main difference is that had done little to end up in the place he had. He hadn’t chosen the immorality of his dad. He hadn’t chosen brothers who hated. He hadn’t set out to find a new life. It was all done to him. But in both cases where they came to was failure.

Two people – two different paths but both paths leading to the same end – the story’s written, the die’s cast. Until God changed how the ending would be written.

So what can we learn from failure and how do we allow it to take us into lives that are stronger and better lived?


Our God and Savior doesn’t define His people by their failures but by their faith. That’s why Jesus is called Saviour. He doesn’t leave us as we are. He came to rescue. Because He knew we needed rescue. He came to save. Not one time back then but now in the guilt you’re holding today. Always coming to make us new. One look at Scripture tells us that. God’s Hall of Faith Heb 11 tells us that; God’s heroes of faith – flawed yet praised. Why? For their faith. And in this – not a word of failure spoken, not a stumble said. Instead redemption.

Which brings me back to a woman who Jesus offers living water where she will never thirst again. Water that will wash away her failure.

Wash away all the false, all the pretence she’s wrapped herself in – in her search to find meaning and purpose. Water that will make her new.

And then there’s Jephthah, knee deep in the castoffs and the worthless. A failure who’s been failed greatly in life; failed by a father who hadn’t stepped in. Failed by brothers who were allowed to vent their hate. Failed by a community that remained silent as they witnessed injustice. Watching as a young man was forced to flee and live as a failure among failures. Yet it’s in the cauldron of those failures, God forged something new. Despised and driven out, God would use those things to turn him into :6 God’s valiant warrior. The brothers’ outcast who would be God’s ‘forth’cast – God shaped and sent one to fulfill His purposes to first deliver a person who would then deliver a nation. The Holy Spirit is still doing that today – wanting to first begin that with you and me.

This generation hears a lot about identity – our sexual identity, our success identity, our impact identity.

All of those things promising to deliver something better and so we chase after these with money, with time, with appearance, with medical interventions. The problem is they can’t deliver – which we soon discover after a few months or years pass. Where the identity promised – fails. Because our identity can’t be found in these places because it’s been created to be found in God – in His love, in His forgiveness – in the identity He wants to give – a new creation in Christ as 2 Cor 5:17 tells us. If anyone be in Christ, he/she is a new creation, the old is passed away behold all things have become new. New identities Jephthah and the woman at the well found. But far more importantly, is the promise that He wants to do the same in you.


Who could have imagined that what they endured would be something God would shape for something great. Henry Ford said, The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing

Failure isn’t wasted if we learn the lessons it can teach. Lessons in humility, perseverance, compassion, strength and the greatest of all, that we have a Saviour who redeems every failure we have ever known. But better than new lessons, a new identity our life centered on Jesus, our dependence on Him. Our prayer to be, Lord, as much as this failure hurts, what am I to learn about You? about me? Help me to listen. Help me to learn! Most of all, help me believe and walk in that truth.

Soccer player Kyle Rote said, There is no doubt in my mind that there are many ways to be a winner, but there is only one way to be a loser and that is to fail and not look beyond the failure. God taking us into the difficult places to look beyond the failure and see Jesus, God’s Redeemer.


Failure either breaks or makes. Success rarely occurs without setbacks and failures. But it’s in those times we need to re-examine what we live for and to Whom we listen. What are we chasing after – the things that glorify me or that glorify God? Is my time consumed chasing my goals and my wants at the expense of what really matters? Understand, the dreams that -seemed to have evaporated in the light of day may be God given and God blessed. The wealth that may come from these – again God given but perhaps the power isn’t in the outcome assumed, it’s in the path walked. The question is not how much my heart’s passion may earn, the question is who earns the passion of my heart. It’s again coming back to what Jesus spoke of when he asked, For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

Mk 8:36 And it’s what is said to the church in Ephesus in Rev 2:4, I have this against you, that you have left your first love. In other words it’s coming to You not to any outcome sought.


He did it with Moses and Jonah, with David and Elijah, with Paul and Peter. With me and with you. Because the truth with our failure, is that God doesn’t intend it to be the last word.

So as James writes:

“When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing”

Jam 1:2-4.

And Oh yes, one more:

Porque yo sé los planes que tengo para vosotros, declara el Señor, planes de bienestar y no de mal, para daros un futuro y una esperanza

Jeremías 29:11.

Firmado: Señor de Señores y Rey de Reyes.

Failure – an amazing thing just happened – it brought me new life in Christ!

(Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. 2 And Gilead's wife also bore him sons. And when his wife's sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father's house, for you are the son of another woman.” 3 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him. ) ESV.

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