Learning Through Failure


The very nature of discipleship will involve failure – and that’s where we find it hard. Few of us like to fail, even fewer like to admit it!

‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ (Luke 22:31-32)

There are few worthwhile things in life that we do, or at least do well, at the first attempt. Even such basics as eating, speaking, and writing took lots of attempts (and lots of failures!) before we mastered them. And think of more challenging things, like learning to drive. Those of us who have done this will know what a challenge that was to coordinate hands and feet and eyes to do quite different things at the same time.

Being a Christian is no different. The Bible describes becoming a Christian as being ‘born again’ (John 3:3). As such, we are new babies who need to learn lots of new skills for our new life – and it doesn’t come easily. Jesus’ programme for our learning all this is ‘discipleship’; and, just as in everything else in life, this learning never stops. In fact, the day we stop, we die! Discipleship is for life.

Discipleship, by its very nature, will involve failure – and that’s where we find it hard! For few of us like to fail; and even fewer like to admit our failure. Our whole society is geared to ‘success’ not ‘failure’, and those who do fail are often dealt with mercilessly. So to find we have failed as Christians can sometimes be hard for us. But when we look at the New Testament, we find that Jesus’ twelve disciples failed often! They failed to trust him, to obey him, to believe in him, to love him – the list could go on.  But this is the very heart of discipleship: learning through failure. The issue is not have we failed, but have we learned?

Remember: no matter how many times his disciples failed him, Jesus never gave up on them, never sent them back home, never said, ‘Let’s find a better bunch of people to work with’. Rather, he lovingly and patiently kept working with them until they had learned, until they got it right. And that is his commitment to each of us today.

I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw. (Proverbs 24:32)

Copyright © 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont

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