Personal and Spiritual Failure, Redemption and Usefulness.
In 1839, a young man entered West Point. The son of an abolitionist father, He spent the next 4 years training there and graduated, unremarkably 21st in his class of 39. He never took a love to military life, and through exceeding in the equestrian arts and Cavalry tactics, often sought respite from military duties by reading the works of James Fenimore Cooper and other novels. He was quiet in nature and had few friends.
Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in 1843, and despite excelling as a cavalry soldier, he was assigned a desk position in an Infantry unit. There he became engaged to be married and was wed in 1848. He tired quickly of military life and planned on resigning after 4 years and pursuing a career in education. It was not to be.
With a wife to support and soon 4 children, he decided to remain in the Army. At this time, tensions were rising with Mexico, war broke out in 1846. He proved an able officer during that war.
Afterwards, however, he was assigned to a post on the Pacific Coast. Separated from his pregnant wife, he speculated with cash and failed at several part-time business ventures with which he sought to supplement his income. This confirmed what his father had once said about him, he had no head for business. He became bored and depressed due to his separation by a continent from his wife and fell into drinking heavily. This forced him to resign from the army in disgrace.
He was unable to start a successful business. He was broke and had a family to support. He tried farming, failed. Had to pawn his gold watch to buy Christmas present for his children. He failed at Real Estate, he failed at securing a government position, and finally wound up working for his father in law selling horse saddles, boots and hats.
No one, outside of his family thought much of him, he had failed at the army, and business, at farming, he failed at life. Just about the only thing he hadn’t failed at was choosing a loyal and loving wife.
100 years later, another failure happened. This was not a personal failure, it was instead viewed as a catastrophe. For years missionary work had been proceeding at a fever pitch to reach the unreached Indian tribes in the Amazon Basin in Ecuador. Many hundreds had come to Christ, baptized and churches established. But one tribe, the Aucas, fiercely resisted any attempts to contact or reach them. Armed only with spears, they had kept the world at bay for over 4 decades.
5 young men, were determined to reach them. For months they planned, secured resources, and finally in 1955 began to drop gifts and prepare an airstrip in Auca territory. After months of preparation, they landed on a remote beach on the Curaray River on January 3rd. They made contact with the Indians on January 6th, and on the 8th, one of the men radioed his wife asking for prayer, that today was going to be the day when the door would be opened. It was not to be, the 5 were speared to death later that day.
5 men, husbands, fathers, leaders were gone. One had been one of two missionary pilots in the area, one a paratrooper who had survived combat in WWII, 3 were college friends. A plane and supplies were lost, and much of the missionary work in the area brought to a pause.
In the world’s eyes, it was a disaster.
The Apostle Peter failed, and badly. (John 13:37-38, John 18: 16-18, 25-27)
Now, this is the same Peter who years before was the first to realize that Jesus was the Christ! (Matthew 16:13-18). He had utterly failed, he had betrayed Christ, denied him, sinned greatly.
David failed miserably
Gideon failed and was racked with doubt
Even Paul failed, desperate to go to Jerusalem, he ignored all the warnings that God used others to tell him. He went anyway. He was caught and imprisoned for years.
Failure, personal sin, even catastrophe, our lives seem to be full of it. We can go through long seasons, years, even a decade or more where all it seems we do is fail. We fall into sin. We lose faith.
After a crash, we may become complacent, settle for something. Because we are too afraid of failing again. We dare not dream, and we are careful only to dip our toes in the water. We become comfortable in insignificance. Many become unwilling to use what God has gifted them with. I believe a fear of failure, or being found to be a hypocrite or fraud keeps many of us, on the couch. I’m guilty.
But this belief does not stand up to what is written by Paul in Romans 8:28. We’ve all heard this passage but let’s take a second to take another look. If we are in Christ, if we love Christ, if we love God, our mistakes, failures, even catastrophe, can be used by him. It is the ultimate redemption. This absolutely requires the first step of repentance on our part. But restoration and redemption, that is on Christ! And he can handle it!
God can sanctify us, which simply means to be put to the proper use. And he can use our past, as painful, sinful, or disastrous as it was. This does not mean we don’t look back on occasion and sigh in agony of those memories. But God uses those times of pain, suffering, failure, sin, and repentance, and puts us to work again. If, and only If we are willing to do so.
We must then repent. After repentance, this requires that we be willing. We have to be willing to go forward. Which in and of itself can be a very hard choice. We must be willing to move ahead with God. To be called up and out of the mud we are laying in. We must deal with our sin. This can be adultery, drunkenness, pornography, drugs, lies, laziness, and especially Idolatry. Anything we place above God is Idolatry. Football is an Idol to many. I know there are those I count as my friends who worship at the Church of the Arena and sacrifice time with their loved ones on the Alter of Sunday Afternoon or Monday Evening Football.
I’m as conservative as they come. Patriot, a gun owner. I love Old Glory. My ancestor landed at Plymouth Rock and have fought in every major American War. But even our love of country can surpass the love of God.
We worship ourselves. We indulge our flesh and spare ourselves nothing.
Pornography, Worship of Sports, and Narcissism are some of the biggest idols we have right now in America.
Lying, thieving, drunkenness, are all sins. Taking God’s, Jesus’ name in vain is a serious sin. There is no shortage of those who claim Christ who do this.
There must be repentance. A change of mind about these. There must be weeping, turning away from these things and a flinging of ourselves at the foot of the Cross. Beg Christ for victory in these areas, confess to a fellow believer if need be. Do whatever must be done to get this out of your life.
God promises if we cleanse ourselves of these things he will Sanctify us, again put us to use. (2 Timothy 2:19-22).
After we have decided to move ahead, after we have repented, God puts us to use if we let him.
I went to bible college. I learned how to study Scripture. I spent years in ministry, part time and full time. My education gave me a great overview of scripture. But I can tell you right now, what that education did to prepare me for ministering to young men.
It did Jack Diddly Squat.
We have this false belief here in the Church that you must have a 4-year degree and memorize Greek and Hebrew to serve God. It’s a lie.
My education did nothing to help me when a young man sat across from me and in tears told me how his mother raped him for over 4 years 3-4 times a week.
It did nothing when a young man I was mentoring was killed and his buddies were asking “why?”
It didn’t help me when a ministry I had poured 3 years of my life into collapsed under my feet.
Or when another young man I poured years into decided to marry a girl involved in witchcraft and to watch his young life be shattered as she became impregnated by another man after going from bed to bed to bed. To hear the sorrow in that young man’s voice as he told me of his divorce at the ripe old age of 21.
We don’t learn to follow Christ in the classroom. We learn to follow Christ in the desert. On the barren mountainside. We learn as our plans burn in front of us. As we learn just to trust, to know that the only way of the provision is coming from God himself.
Some of us learn after we sin so horrendously, after the sorrow of that sin. The humility that comes to us as we repent. We no longer look at ourselves as better than our neighbor. We begin to see how desperately we need the Blood of Christ to wash our sin away, and the resurrection of Christ to give us new life and hope for the future.
And in spite of all that. In spite of our failures, our sins, our personal catastrophe, we get up. We decide in spite of it all we will go forward and do what God has for us.
That’s where our education comes from, and God will use that. God will use those lessons learned.
That gentleman in the 1850s. In 1860, South Carolina succeeded, and the Civil War started a few months later. He first got a job building up new units for the Union army and finally was given a small field command.
He won a few small actions, but after he forced the Confederate surrender of Fort Donelson, he gained great attention from the Lincoln Administration. He went on to defeat the Confederates at Shiloh, took Vicksburg, then Chattanooga. He was then made the Union General in Chief and took over the entire war. In 1869, he became in 18th President of the United States. Who is he? Ulysses S. Grant
A few short months after the 5 missionaries were speared to death in Ecuador. The sister of one of the men and the wife of another went and lived among the tribe. Over the course of the next years, the tribe was won for Christ in one of the greatest missions success stories in History. Elizabeth Elliot, wife of Jim Elliot who was killed went onto become one of the greatest Christian Authors of the 20th Century.
Peter, who failed at the trial of Christ, went on to lead 5000 people to Christ a few short months later and became the leader of the Jerusalem Church and one of the leaders of the Church as a whole. He wrote 1 and 2 Peter.
Friends, our world is on fire. This nation is bitterly divided. Europe is in trouble. A madman threatens large parts of Asia. Rumors of wars are constant.
Our children are being lost. Many are being indoctrinated by a very evil group of People here who hate God, hate Christ. They are in our schools, colleges, and even our churches. Communism, once thought vanquished is rearing its ugly head on our own shores. The Left in this nation hates God, and anyone who dares follows him. From them, evil is only growing.
The weather seems out of control.
We are running out of time.
It is time right now to repent, move forward and prepare your hearts and your mind for service to the King. We must be all in, 100%.
We all have a past. But it is in the past. It is time to move forward.
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