Failure is an inevitable part of the human experience. Everyone fails: in small things and even in the biggest things. Some of these failures are inconsequential and easily forgotten, but failures in the spiritual life are not so simple. As we deal with these spiritual failures, understand that God is dealing with them too.
What are the consequences of failing God?
If we do fail, God disciplines us. Like an earthly father disciplines his children, so God disciples his children. Hebrews 12:5-8:
“And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.’ If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.”
Discipline from God is not punishment for sin, but rather a designed effort to redirect our faith and faithfulness. How might he accomplish this? He gets our attention. He doesn’t answer our prayers. He allows us to suffer He lets us feel lost. He purposefully humbles us. Matthew 23:12, “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
If we won’t respond to God’s disciple, what then? God retracts his Spirit and his influence. When we consistently and willing disobey God, he will eventually let us go. Romans 1:27-28provides an example of this in the context one particular sin:
“Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting…”
This separation from God is a dark path. Our mind becomes weak. Our heart becomes hard. Eventually, we become numb and blind. Any residual feeling of fear or disappoint evolves into apathy and willful ignorance. Paul explains this condition in Ephesians 4:17-19:
“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”
Even in this dark state, life goes on. But not forever. Hebrews 9:27,“…it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” There are only two destinations in eternity. They are real and absolute. 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”A life of willful failing has a predictable outcome.
The eternal consequences of failure shouldn’t be overlooked, but nor should they undercut our confidence in God. 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
God wants us to have complete confidence. How is this possible? 1 John 3:18-21:
“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.”
When our heart feels conquered by our failures, God knows better. When we feel defeated, God preserves hope. When a life of love and faithfulness is infused with God’s grace and mercy, our failures are wiped away. No failure is too great for God.
This is the plan of salvation! Not that we live without failure, but God can make us alive despite our failures. Romans 5:6-9:
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”