The above statement, attributed to Winston Churchill, was quoted by Lorne Sanny. Although not scripture, he related that it had significant truth spiritually and said that perhaps it should be memorized and followed by a reference of “Churchill 2:22.” Some have modified the comment to read “Failure is seldom fatal.” Churchill used this in reference to what he had seen on a worldly level. Our own lives as well as many scriptures attest to its truth in a spiritual realm as well.
Success is never final. We never “arrive” spiritually in this world. Some years ago, people would wear pins with the following letters PBPGIFWMY. This was an acronym for “Please be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.” The apostle Paul expressed this in Philippians 3 where he stated “not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Paul realized that it was a journey to be traveled, not a destination at which he had arrived. The language of the New Testament emphasizes this in the use of the present progressive tense. II Timothy 1:6 stated as follows, “for this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,” means that Timothy not only is to fan once, but to fan and to keep on fanning. It implies the need for continued effort and diligence. Ephesians 5:18 also states “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” The filling is not one time only. It should be read as “be being continually filled,” or “be being continually controlled.” Ray Stedman once commented on the Hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour,” saying that is not often enough. He said it should be “I Need Thee Every Second!” We never will reach a plateau in the Christian life. Each day we draw nearer to the likeness of Christ, or we grow more distant from His reflection in our lives. Hebrews 2:1 reminds us that “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” These are the two alternatives. We are either paying more careful attention, or we are drifting away.
Failure is never (seldom) fatal. Most of us can identify more with failures in our lives than we can success. This is the history of the human race. It is the history of mankind as chronicled in the pages of the Bible. We read of failure in the lives of the priests (Aaron), the prophets (Jonah), and the kings (David). We ourselves continue to experience failure in terms of sins of omission and sins of commission. We look at the tasks which God has given us to complete in His world and very often find that we have taken one step forward and two steps backward. The reason that we can have hope in our failure is due to the great mercy of our Lord. A friend of mine recounted to me an event that happened in his family. His young son was struggling with a problem be couldn’t quite overcome. My friend had encouraged him saying that if he could be successful for only one week, there would be a significant reward at the end of the week. Only three days later the young boy came to where his father was reading the Bible early in the morning. With tears in his eyes, he said “Dad, I failed again, could we start all over again today?” His father was reading in Lamentations 3 and had just come to the verses 22 and 23. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” The father quickly granted the son his request, and was also reminded that his Heavenly Father extends His mercy to us in our failure as well.
Mark was a failure. He had joined Barnabas and Paul in a missionary journey and later deserted them in Pamphyllia and had not continued with them in the work. (Acts 15:38) His failure led to a division of the ministry of Paul and Barnabas. I am certain that the following thoughts must have been foremost on his mind. “I am a failure, I deserted my friends and deserted the ministry.” Yet the Lord restored Mark to a point that Paul later stated of him in II Timothy “he is useful to me in the ministry.” It is highly significant that when God wanted to write about the unfailing servant Christ, He chose the failing servant Mark to do so . Failure in our lives should teach us to immediately come to the unfailing Servant, Christ Jesus our Lord, whose mercy and grace overflow into our lives. I Corinthians 6:9-10 lists some significant failures that occur in our lives. The following verse, however, relates to us “And that is what some of your were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Our response to failure may be to retreat from others or from God, and to attempt to hide the fact of our failure. We may also try to work our way slowly back to God and others, hoping that altered behavior or good deeds may find grace in their sight. Hebrews 4:16 tells us the proper response to failure in our lives. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Leroy Eims once defined mercy as “God not giving us that which we have coming to us,” and grace as “God giving us that which we have no right to expect.”’ It is His Grace that spurs us on, knowing that success is never final, and His mercy that assures us that failure is never fatal.