Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Four Steps to Facing Failure

woman-dropped-fail-failure

In my life time, I have heard many quotes on facing failure and learning from mistakes. Just listen to the wisdom of some people who have been successful. They can be quite inspiring.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
– Samuel Beckett (novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet)

“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.”
– Eloise Ristad (musician and author)

“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.”
– Robert T. Kiyosaki (businessman and founder of Rich Dad Company)

On the other hand, sayings like these can be very discouraging to someone who has just experienced the sting of failure. Their simplicity seems to delegitimize the pain of failing.

Can I be honest about this? It hurts to fail. I don’t want to put time, energy, and resources into planning and reaching a goal only to fail.

I’m certainly not successful like the people featured above, but I just have to say this. It’s okay not to like failing. Really.

Maybe you made a plan, put in lots of effort, and didn’t meet a goal. Maybe you studied hard and didn’t pass a test. Maybe you thoroughly researched an idea and it didn’t produce results. Maybe you made a commitment to a relationship and it didn’t last. It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to grieve. Failure is a type of loss, and loss is painful.

Eventually though, when you’ve properly experienced the loss, you need to get back up, learn from the mistakes, and try again. How can you face failure in a healthy way?

  1. Take time to experience the loss. I know I already said this, however, don’t skip over this step. Each situation will be different, but it is important not to minimize your emotions.
  2. Identify what you did well. All is not lost. Celebrate the positive elements and accomplishments. Ask others for their feedback. Their perspective is valuable.
  3. Examine what you need to improve. Think about how you could do things differently, and then determine to make the necessary changes. Again, ask for input from others. They may see things that you missed.
  4. Above all, remember that you are dearly loved by your heavenly Father. Your worth is not determined by your failures or your successes. He loves you. Period.

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you (Deuteronomy 31:6, NLT).

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Romans 5:3-5).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that my worth is not based on my accomplishments. Help me to answer Your call, give my all, and learn from my mistakes. Be my strength and encouragement. Be my teacher and guide. Please remind me that failure is never final when I keep my eyes on You and refuse to give up. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

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Posted in Character, Faith

Sometimes You Just Have to Push Through

obstacles

My niece, Morgan, is a clever little girl. As a five-year-old, she absorbs life lessons like a sponge. The other day, she was challenging my sister Sarah’s patience. After multiple times of addressing Morgan’s misbehavior, Sarah sternly warned, “Morgan, you need to stop!” Morgan looked up with all the innocence her blue eyes could hold and quipped, “But Mommy, I’m persevering.”

Perseverance. Morgan had the right idea, but the wrong setting.

Sometimes when life gets tough, you just have to push through.

As followers of Christ, our primary purpose is to glorify God. Some of us have a clear picture of what our specific calling looks like; some of us aren’t quite as certain. Glorifying God is something we are all called to do, and it requires perseverance.

Sometimes you just have to push through.

In order to persevere, it’s important we understand what types of obstacles we face.

There are external obstacles. Missed deadlines, failed goals, lack of resources, lack of moral support, broken dreams. They are really too numerous to mention. They are often outside of our control. However, external obstacles have no power in themselves. We determine their power by our response.

There are spiritual obstacles. There is an unseen enemy whose mission is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He is the master of deception and called the Father of lies (John 8:44). We are vulnerable to his schemes without the truth of God’s Word and the discernment of the Holy Spirit.

There are internal obstacles. Depression, fatigue, and other physical conditions wreak havoc with our minds. Being led by our feelings produces instability. Negative self-talk and the habit of giving up create barriers.

Obstacles can act in concert, exerting so much pressure that perseverance seems impossible. Everything within us demands that we quit. That’s the time to call out to the Lord, and keep moving forward. Sometimes you just have to push through.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).

Perseverance leads to character and hope.

Perseverance makes the difference between retreating and thriving.

It isn’t easy and comfortable.

It can be raw and painful.

It doesn’t guarantee that we will always win, but we can do our best without regrets.

And we will be further down the road than if we quit.

We don’t power through on our own strength. We persevere by the power of the Holy Spirit, as we yield to Him.

Are you determined to glorify the Lord with your life? Don’t let the obstacles stop you. Sometimes you just have to push through.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9)

I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken (Psalm 16:8).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for calling me as Your child and for designing me with purpose. Teach me how to persevere in the face of obstacles. Teach me to keep my eyes on You and surrender to Your power. Help me thrive in adversity and glorify You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

Grandma Chin and the Secret of Her Strength

poa-poa-1951

Rose Lee Chin is my hero. When I think of someone who epitomizes strength and unwavering commitment to family, her example rises to the top. A woman less than five feet tall, she made up for her stature in fierce determination.

My grandmother on my father’s side, Grandma Chin emigrated from China to Canada as a teenager in order to wed a man she had never met. They built a life together, had 14 children, and owned a restaurant as the only Chinese family in a small Caucasian town. You can imagine some of the hardships and challenges they faced. It is said that Grandfather Chin enjoyed gambling. Grandma Chin was known for disrupting card games played in the restaurant basement and sending all the men home.

When my father (the youngest) was eight years old, Grandfather Chin died of a stroke. I don’t know many of the details, but Grandma Chin held the family together. Every child was raised and launched successfully into adulthood. Family was central in their lives.

I remember as a young girl, shortly after my parents’ divorce. Grandma Chin asked with sorrow, “Why did your mother leave your father?”

I repeated the explanation I had heard many times before. “Because she didn’t love him anymore.”

Grandma Chin shook her head vigorously and shot back, “What does love have to do with it? It’s family.” Seeing my confusion, she continued with conviction. “I didn’t know your grandfather loved me until the end of his life.”

I knew that Grandfather Chin was unable to speak after his stroke, so I asked timidly, “How did he tell you?”

She fell silent as if she were revisiting that special moment, and then tenderly whispered. “I could see it…I could see it in his eyes.”

poa-poa-304-dec-1978

“What does love have to do with it?” Grandma Chin’s words had a profound impact on me. Her words provided the knowledge that there was something more than love, so erratic and easily lost. Her words planted the foundation of commitment deep within me. Her life demonstrated the power of commitment to keep a family together. This commitment was greater than the feelings of love. It sustained her through 30 years of marriage.

Later, when I became a Christ follower, I came to understand that true love—the God kind of love—is expressed as commitment.

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NLT).

Lovey-dovey feelings come and go. Parental tenderness felt for one’s children wears thin sometimes. Every relationship that matters will go through desert experiences. During those seasons, it is commitment that carries us through.

I also came to understand that being obedient to God’s call must go beyond feelings. It is commitment that gives the will to be faithful on the job. It is commitment that continues to strive toward reaching a goal even when it gets difficult. It is commitment that serves and cares for others when they do not deserve it.

I am not suggesting that we live like a bunch of non-feeling robots. I am also not condoning that people stay in abusive relationships. Nevertheless, when we commit our lives to the Lord, we no longer live only for ourselves. We must not base our choices on emotions or our own personal happiness.

Commitment helps us stay the course when it gets tough. Commitment helps us persevere for the good of others. Commitment helps us practice sacrifice to glorify God.

And when we no longer have strength to carry on, the Holy Spirit empowers us to do what we cannot do on our own.

“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3).

I am so grateful that Grandma Chin shared the secret of her strength with me forty years ago. Today her words still inspire me to demonstrate God’s love through commitment. What about you?

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I confess that it’s easy to pay attention to my feelings. There are times I want to give up. Empower me to keep loving and serving others when it is difficult. Strengthen me to commit to the relationships in my life, and to persevere with the tasks you have set before me. Help me live a life of true love and commitment. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Take Time to Examine Your Motives

Motive-of-the-Heart

 

I don’t want recognition; I only want to make a difference.

 

Several years ago I woke up from a sound sleep with these words swirling around in my mind. It expressed the philosophy I really try to live by, and I wrote it down right away. To the core of my being I want to be an excellent servant leader, emulating the example of my Lord Jesus Christ. I yearn to serve others, free from the entrapment of being recognized for my efforts.

I truly believe in the “rightness” of servant leadership, and have dedicated myself to studying it. If I ever have the opportunity to enroll in a doctoral program, my dissertation will include some aspect of servant leadership.

Unfortunately, I am painfully aware that there is also the sinful nature to contend with. The sinful nature wants to be recognized, to fight its way to the top of the heap. It wants to ignore others and emerge as the winner. It reminds me of a class of kindergarteners, hands waving high in the air, crying in desperate tones, “Oh, oh, oh, pick me! Pick me!”

Our culture feeds into this yearning for recognition too. It’s easier than ever to publish a book or increase visibility. Social media, blogs, and YouTube exist to get the message out to the masses.

Anyone can become famous. It should be me. If I’m just at the right place at the right time and do the right things I can be the next big time speaker, blogger, author, pastor, you fill in the blank. The problems is I end up spending more energy on marketing, promotion, and advancement opportunities than serving. I may tell myself that I am serving others by getting the message out. However, when less than the masses are blessed by my work, I become discouraged and begin to second guess God’s call.

It is wonderful to step out in faith to do great things for Jesus. We must be about His business, to build His Kingdom for His glory. We must be passionate about what we do. Because of this we must frequently step back and evaluate our own motives. Who is in control of the why behind what we do—the Holy Spirit or the sinful nature?

I have been guilty of doing my Father’s business, with part of me looking over my shoulder, hoping that somebody “important” notices. When nobody sees (or at least acknowledges my noble efforts) the rejection stings. I get angry when I feel ignored. Or the lack of human validation takes the wind out of my sails.

Over the years I have learned that as I lick my wounds, I need to take pause and examine my own heart.

Am I doing what the Lord has asked?
Am I doing it to the best of my ability?
Am I aware of others and doing what I can to serve them?
Do I trust that Jesus opens the doors that He wants me to walk through?

I ask the Lord to help me make the adjustments so that I can truly say “yes” to each of these questions. I certainly can’t put the sinful nature to death on my own, but with His power I can get back on track. I live for and serve an audience of One. When He is pleased, then all is well.

Matthew 6:1 NLT
Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.

Philippians 2:3-5
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, You see me and You know where I am weak. I desire to serve You and others with pure motives. But sometimes my attention gets turned away to myself. Help me to do what You’ve called me to do, to lead where You’ve called me to lead, without the need for human praise. Bring me back to a place of trust in You and love for You, untainted by the ways of this world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Uncategorized

A Reminder When Life Seems Useless

How do you measure success? Especially in the Western world, we measure success using statistics.

We like to look at…

  • Increased church attendance
  • High Grade Point Average
  • Financial growth
  • Profitable return on investment
  • Exceeding the goal of people served
  • The number of people saved (the higher number the better)

Even the weight on our scale speaks loudly about our “success.”

So what happens when…

  • The vision you have does not match current realities?
  • Your plans do not yield the intended results?
  • The numbers decline?
  • You do not meet your goals?
  • You end the quarter with a financial loss?
  • Your relationships remain stressful?

It’s human nature to get discouraged and think—All this hard work, prayer, sacrifice (you fill in the blank) is doing no good. It’s useless!

My friend, if this describes your current situation, take courage. God measures success much differently than we do.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Corinthians 15:58 NLT)

Statistics are important in assessing progress and adjusting direction, but they do not paint the entire picture.

When all is said and done, the Lord looks beyond measurement tools and evaluates your heart.

  • Do you serve God and His people with enthusiasm?
  • Are you faithful and obedient to God’s call, regardless of the outcome?
  • Are you committed to love others no matter how difficult?
  • Do you desire to build God’s kingdom instead of your own?
  • Do you endeavor to represent Jesus every where you are?

If you answer “yes” to these questions, you can hold your head high. You can resist shame and be confident that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. He will use your service to glorify Himself in His time and in His way.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, help me to see through your eyes. Remind me that, regardless what it may look like, nothing I have done for You is useless. Continue to use me to make a difference in the lives of others. May I work faithfully for You, confident that You indeed are accomplishing your plans and purposes.

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Know Who You Are

Insecurity can wreak havoc on a leader’s effectiveness. After all, it’s tough to love followers and put their best interests in mind when you’re looking over your shoulder in self-protection mode. Nagging self-doubts grow into attempts for affirmation. The search for validation interferes with equipping others to succeed.

Next to knowledge of God, a knowledge of who you are—especially who you are in Christ—is by far the most important truth you can possess.

There is great freedom in knowing and appreciating your identity!

Do you know who you are in Christ? Study what the New Testament says about your position an Christ.

[F]or you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9, NLT).

  • You belong to a family distinct from the common world, selected with kindness, favor, and love.
  • You are granted the highest position and possess the dignity of showing the Lord’s majesty to the world.
  • You are like God in character.
  • You belong to God, and He’s given you His name.

And that’s just the beginning!

Take time to know who you are in Christ. “Knowing” means having an intimate personal connection, not merely being aware of facts and circumstances. When you know who you are in Christ, it is a powerful game-changer in life and as you lead.

When you know who you are, you know what to do.

If you follow the story of the British royal family, you know that William and Kate recently gave birth to Charlotte Elizabeth Diane Mount Batten-Windsor. This little girl will be trained as early as possible to live up to her name, so by the time she is in the public eye her actions will be automatic. She will know that she is a princess and she will know what she is supposed to do.

Kate, officially called “Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge” was not born into royalty. She had to take lessons, and I’m sure she is still learning how to behave. But she knows who she is and that there is a proper way befitting of royalty to do things.

Who are you? A royal, holy child deeply loved by God with all the rights and privileges.

You know what to do. Live like Jesus in this world; worship God and do His will. Show others the goodness of God, because He called us out of the darkness into His wonderful light.

Perhaps like the Duchess of Cambridge you’re still learning. Thankfully when you’re not sure what royalty looks like, there’s the Royal Manual—God’s Word—to consult.

When you know who you are, you have what it takes.

We may be royalty, but we live in a world in which we are not citizens. One day we’ll return to our heavenly home which is perfect, without sorrow, pain, sickness, or difficulties. But until then there are challenges around us. However, when you know that you know that you know that you a royal, holy child deeply loved by God with all the rights and privileges, you have a confidence that cannot be moved. You cannot be shaken when life gets hard.

Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).

Knowing who we are does not mean we are superior to others. On the contrary, we are like Jesus who said that the greatest is to be servant of all. We use our position to serve and love others, to reveal God’s glory wherever we are.

When we know who we are, we live in God’s strength.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3).

Know who you are. Live, love, and lead as a favored child of the Most High God!

Posted in Character, Faith

Help My Unbelief!

One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. And whenever the spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grind his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth.

“How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father.

He replied, “Since he was a little boy. The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”

“What do you mean, ‘if I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:17-18, 20-24 NLT)

Sometimes it seems like the longer we follow Jesus the more questions arise. We may face heart wrenching problems, and our prayers go answered. As we are surrounded by trouble, we have a choice to make.

  • We can isolate ourselves from God and others, and try to power through on our own. After awhile this approach leads to discouragement and giving up.
  • We can push beyond our pain and seek the Lord. As we declare our trust in God, we also acknowledge the areas in which we struggle with unbelief.

I love the authenticity of this story. The father had endured years of heartache, as his son suffered with an incurable condition. Despite his attempts to find a cure, his son grew worse. When he heard that the Healer was in town, he rallied courage to seek help one more time. Jesus wasn’t available, but perhaps the disciples would have the answer. However, once again the son found no relief, and disappointment set in.

And then Jesus entered the scene. The father had heard hundreds of accounts of the miracles worked through Jesus. He knew the Son of Man could heal his son. And then, the boy started convulsing in the presence of Jesus! Doubts crept in as the dad reached out.

The man cried out, “Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”

Jesus gently guided him, challenging him to look beyond the circumstances to believe in His power to save.

The man, beaten down by years of disappointments, acknowledged that he did believe. Asking Jesus for help was an act of faith. At the same time, he was acutely aware that his faith was battered and bruised.

In desperation the man cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

I often find myself in a similar place, although the circumstances are vastly different.

I believe that nothing is impossible with God, however, my experience is filled with unanswered prayers and undelivered miracles. If ever there were a time for God to intervene, it should have been then. But then it didn’t happen.

I join the man in honest confession, “Help me, O Lord, to overcome the barriers that keep me from trusting you more fully.”

Are you aware of the belief barriers you face? If not, ask the Lord to reveal them to you. If so, ask the Lord to walk you to freedom.

The humble acknowledgement of our struggles is an invitation to Jesus to show up in our lives. He is the answer we desperately need.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. I have placed my trust in You, and You have shown Yourself faithful to save and deliver me. Yet I continue to have doubts that plague me, areas in my life filled with unbelief. I do believe, Lord Jesus, but help me overcome my unbelief!