As an associate pastor, I oversee our church’s Job Transition Ministry, which helps unemployed people find work. I prepared this devotional, in part from this blog post, for tonight’s meeting. I hope it provides some encouragement!
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, Philippians 3:7-14
Did you watch the Olympics? There were many Olympic athletes who are Christians, and who publicly prayed and expressed gratitude to God before, during, or after their competitions. A couple of these athletes, like Usain Bolt and Gabby Douglas were huge winners at the Games. And we may think to ourselves, “It’s easy for them to be thankful! They won multiple gold medals! They’re on top of the world right now! Of course they’re grateful to God!”
But not so fast… Gabby Douglas fell off the balance beam in the individual competition. Even Usain Bolt has lost a race or two in his life. Then there was Christian athlete Lolo Jones, who failed—you know, by merely being the fourth fastest hurdler in the world. My point is that the path to Olympic success is paved with failure. Failure is often our best teacher. These Christian athletes know that. None of them abandoned their faith in Jesus when they experienced failure. They wouldn’t still be Christians if they did. In fact, all of them would tell you that failure comes with the territory—whether you’re an Olympic athlete or a mere mortal.
No one knows about failure better than the Apostle Paul. In one of his letters in the New Testament, he dusts off his résumé or pulls up his LinkedIn profile and shares some of his many accomplishments. Are you ready for these? He says that he was thrown in prison many times. He was beaten more times that he could count. He faced death many times. On five occasions, he was whipped “40 lashes minus one.” He was beaten with rods three times. He was stoned once and left for dead. He was shipwrecked three times. He spent a day and night on the open sea. He faced dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, and dangers from all kinds of different people—dangers in the city, dangers in the desert, and dangers on the sea. He experienced many sleepless nights. He was hungry and thirsty, often without food—and cold, without enough clothes.
Paul was a pastor like me. But you know what one difference is between me and him? If I experienced just one or two of these horrible events, I would probably think about changing careers! I mean, how many times do you have to be beaten up or go hungry or get sent to jail before you say, “Maybe I should be doing something else”?
Not Paul. He experienced more failures, setbacks, disappointments, and heartaches than anyone else I’ve ever heard about! And, yet, God redeemed each and every one. We’re here in this church today because Paul and other faithful saints like him didn’t call it quits when they failed.
While he was languishing in prison one time, facing what he imagined might be the end of his life, he said that while he had lost everything—at least in terms of what the world values—he considered all that he lost nothing more than “sewer trash” compared to what he had gained through his saving faith in Jesus Christ.
That’s the kind of perspective I want the Lord to teach me to have when I experience failures, setbacks, disappointments, and heartaches. How about you?