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Learn from Your Failures

Don’t give up if you lose a job, fail a test, or make a bad financial decision

Doug Britton, MFT

Page Summary
Summary: Bible study on learning from your failures. Don’t be crushed, and don’t let your sense of self-worth be determined by your failures (or your successes). The fact that God loves you is what really matters.

Part 4 of a 4-part series on “Overcoming Failure”

Part 1      Part 2      Part 3

You can fail without sinning

Our failures are often the result of sin—sometimes serious sin. In part 1 of this series on “Overcoming Failure,” you read lessons we can learn from David’s sins. In part 2, you read about Peter’s sin. In part 3, you read about Peter’s sins.

In this study we’ll look at a different type of failure, one that don’t necessarily involve sin. I’m thinking about failures such as getting laid off your job, failing a test, losing a friend, turning in your income tax too late, buying something that breaks down, making a bad investment, or losing a game of basketball.

Remember that God loves you

Don’t let your sense of self-worth be determined by your failures (or your successes). The fact that God loves you is what really counts.

A good way to enjoy God’s love is to think about, or meditate, on key verses from the Bible. Choose one of the following verses—or any other verse in the Bible about God’s love—and write it in your smartphone or on a piece of paper and carry it with you. Read it from time to time, each time asking God to help you more fully understand his love for you.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor de-mons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)

Make it personal

1. Can remembering God’s love help you when you have failed at something? Why or why not?

2. How can you remind yourself that God loves you?

Related: Are you sure God loves you?

Examine your priorities

It’s easy to get so caught up in an activity—school, your job, playing on a sports team, playing games on your smartphone—that you lose sight of what’s really important. I love the way Jesus reminded his followers of what matters:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

Paul took Jesus’ words to heart when he wrote:

I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:8)

Remember the greatest commandment.

One day a religious leader asked Jesus to tell him which was the greatest commandment in the Law (Matthew 22:36).

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Related: God’s two key commands

Keep an eternal perspective.

When you set your heart on things above, your priorities change. Things that seemed really important become secondary. Even if you never get the promotion you want, or your sports team loses, you are at peace.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

If you “fail” in everything else but you love God, love others, and keep an eternal perspective, you are doing great in the things that matter.

Make it personal

3. How have you been doing at loving God and loving others? Explain your answer.

4. How can keeping an eternal perspective help you deal with failure?

Get your satisfaction from your effort

When I play tennis, I am competitive. I throw myself into the game, and I enjoy winning. However, when I lose I am not crushed. I don’t walk off the court muttering to myself or slamming my racquet on the ground. Instead, I (usually) walk off happy, knowing I threw myself into the game. In other words, I get my satisfaction from my effort, not the results.

Think about soccer for a minute. There are hundreds of millions of soccer players in the world, and millions of soccer teams. Each team might dream of winning the World Cup, but only one team can win it each year. That means all the others teams—no matter how much they practice or how hard they try—will “fail” to win the World Cup.

Should all the players on all the “failing” teams in the world feel like failures? I hope they don’t, for there would be a lot of very depressed people in the world.

The Bible says to do everything with all your heart, as working for God. Give it your best shot, and you will have pleased God. He won’t be upset if you aren’t successful in the world. Try your best, but remember that God is mainly interested in how well you are loving him and loving others.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)

What do you think?

5. Should every soccer player in the world feel awful because his or her soccer team didn’t win the World Cup? Why or why not?

6. If you are a pastor and other pastors seem to give better sermons, even when you try to improve, should you give up being a pastor? Why or why not?

7. Can you see an area in your life where it would be helpful to get your satisfaction from your effort, not the result? Explain your answer.

Related: Depend on God’s power, not your own

Learn from your experiences

Remembering that God loves you, examining your priorities, and getting your satisfaction from your effort doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn from your experiences and try to do better. Take some time to evaluate your experiences. Ask God to help you learn. Ask trusted friends for their feedback.

An upright man gives thought to his ways. (Proverbs 21:29)

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. (Proverbs 24:3-4)

As you seek to learn from your experiences, ask yourself questions such as:

  • Did I think things through?
  • Did I get advice from people I trust?
  • Did I have realistic goals or was I too hopeful?
  • Did I pray enough?
  • Did I make a plan?
  • Did I work at it hard enough?
  • Did I work at it too hard and neglect what really matters?
  • Should I try something different?

Make it personal

8. Think about a fairly recent failure. Which of the previous questions could help you learn something useful? How would it help?

Don’t give up

Don’t give up even if you fail many times. Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back. Many successful people had major failures before they found success. Learn from your experiences, but then get on your feet. Make a new plan and ask God to help you move forward.

Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity. (Proverbs 24:16)

Discussion questions

9. What does it mean to “rise again” (Proverbs 24:16)?

10. Are you dealing with the results of a failure? If so, what should you do to “rise again”?

Memory verse

I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:8)

Personal application

1. What are some ways you have failed that didn’t necessarily involve sin?

2. How have these failures affected you?

3. Will remembering how much God loves you help you avoid getting overly-discouraged if you fail in the future? Why or why not?

4. How can examining your priorities help you deal with failure?

5. If a basketball team does not make the playoffs, should all the players give up basketball? Why or why not?

6. Briefly describe one failure that you would like to examine using the bulleted questions under “Learn from your experiences.”

7. Now choose three of the bulleted questions and describe how they will help you.

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About Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

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