Six Temptations of Failure – Entire Series in One Article

Failure. It’s such an “ending word.” At least it sounds that way to me. In God’s economy, though, it is anything but an ending word. It is the beginning of something great that God wants to make out of the situation and those involved in it. God’s Word says:

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 (NRSV)

If you love God and are pursuing His purposes for your life, when you experience failure you can know that God is going to begin to make something good out of the situation. Failure isn’t necessarily from Satan – God allows us to fail to bring about growth in our lives. He uses our failures to teach us things, to conform us to the image of Christ, and to show forth His glory. That’s part of the “good” that God works in our lives.

But when God begins to make something good, we can also know that Satan tries to foil His plans. One of his favorite tactics, especially in failure, is to misdirect God’s people with enticing alternatives. Failure carries with it many temptations, all of which have the potential to stop us in our tracks if we don’t resist them.

Bringing goodness – or even greatness – out of failure is God’s specialty. Bringing defeat and death is Satan’s specialty. Whether we embrace the greatness or the defeat is up to us. In this blog, I hope to debunk many of the temptations the enemy uses to entice us away from God’s plan when we experience failure.

Temptation #1: Believing That You are a Failure
I hope all of you have heard the phrase “failure is an event, not a person.” I’ve heard it from many people, but I think the first was Christian motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. Failure is the event that didn’t go as planned; it is not the person who planned, implemented or participated in the event.

One of the first things Satan throws in our face when we experience a failure is the lie that we are the failure. On the surface it would seem like a hard sell for Satan – after all, who wants to think of themselves as a failure? The truth, though, is that for many of us it’s easier to believe the lie that we are a failure than to hold on to the hope of success. Scripture says “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). When we experience a failure, it’s easy to lose hope. If we allow the failure to define us instead of applying the word “failure” only to the event, it’s easier to believe that we are the failure instead of holding onto the promise that God has something better for us.

The truth is that God made us uniquely for His purposes. Holding on to His truth requires actively engaging our faith. Believing the lie that we are a failure doesn’t require much of anything from us. Experiencing a failure takes the wind out of our sails and lowers our resistance to temptation. Although it is debilitating and painful, believing the lie can be the path of least resistance. Believing the lie is easier than holding steadfastly to the truth that God has something greater for us. Believing the truth requires that we expend the emotional and spiritual energy to actively engage our faith – to say “God will prevail on my behalf.”

Six Temptations of Failure, Day 2 of 6

Yesterday I started a 6-part blog about the temptations of failure. The first temptation we looked at was the temptation to believe that you are a failure. It’s a lie. Don’t believe it. Believing it leads to the second temptation.

Temptation #2: Allowing a Failure to Spread Its Branches
Once you start to buy into the lie that you yourself are a failure (instead of seeing the truth that you are loved by God who continues to delight in you, despite the fact that you have experienced some things that didn’t work the way you intended), the next step for many is believing that you “can’t do anything right.” The first lie has taken root and has begun to spread its branches into every area of your thinking.

This one always shocks me when someone says it, simply because it’s such a blatant and bogus lie! Of course you can do MANY things right! You probably did a pretty good job at taking a shower and getting dressed this morning! This week you may have cooked some good meals or balanced the checkbook or made a sale or made a good decision. You probably did LOTS of those things and many others very well.

Every professional athlete experiences a “slump” from time to time. Home run king Babe Ruth also held another record — the one for most strike-outs. Thomas Edison tried 5,000 different ideas before he invented a workable light bulb. The prophets Elijah and Jeremiah both despaired that all of their efforts and all of their ministry didn’t produce any change in the lives of those they preached to. Each of these great people, when they were in their slump, could have bought into the lie that they can’t do anything right, but history shows it isn’t true.

If you’re ever tempted to believe this lie, step back and say as Jesus did, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” Then sit down and make a list of ALL the things you did right today. Did you ask for God’s help at all? That’s doing something right. Did you pray or read your Bible? Those are things you did right. Did you call a friend when you were overwhelmed? That was a good decision. The list could go on, of course, but make your own list. Walk through your day in your mind and list everything you did right, even the small things.

I’m serious! Do it! You’ll begin to see that the sentence “I can’t do anything right” is a foolish one.

Six Temptations of Failure, Day 3 of 6

So far we’ve looked at two temptations we often face when we experience failure: The temptation to believe that we are the failure instead of properly identifying the event or situation as a failure, and the temptation to allow the sense of failure to grow until we believe that we can’t do anything right. Both temptations can have debilitating affects on our lives. Let’s look at a third that can also impact our lives for years beyond the failure.

Temptation #3: Making Inappropriate Vows
Sometimes when we fail, we are so intent on not having it happen again that we make inappropriate vows. Those inappropriate vows can take on a life of their own and begin to define us in ways that we don’t want to be defined. Let me give you two examples:

  • Perhaps your marriage failed and you were so devastated by it that you said in your heart, “I’ll never let anyone be able to hurt me like this again.” That’s a vow and God honors our vows. Years later you may wonder why you are so unhappy in your next marriage. The answer may be because you are not making yourself vulnerable to your spouse – after all, if you allow yourself to be vulnerable again, you may be hurt again.
  • Perhaps you have a business that failed and in the aftermath of the failure you vow that you will never take a financial risk again. Years later you may wonder why you find yourself in a position that gives you no fulfillment and brings little income. Perhaps it’s because you resisted trusting God when He made another position available that required you to take a reasonable risk.

In the midst of a failure, guard against the temptation to make rash statement and inappropriate vows. Our words mean things. Don’t let rash words that you have spoken define your life. If you find that you have made inappropriate vows, specifically renounce them before God in the name of Jesus.

Six Temptations of Failure, Day 4 of 6

Temptation #4: Blame Others

Taking responsibility for our actions is an important step in our emotional and spiritual maturity. Guard yourself against placing the bulk of the blame on someone else for everything that is wrong in your life. Doing so has several consequences:

  • It changes the way you think, eventually causing to think of yourself (consciously or subconsciously) as a victim.
  • It stunts your emotional and spiritual growth because it cheats you from learning what God wants you to learn from the experience.
  • At some level, you are lying to yourself and others. God does not honor dishonesty.
  • On a practical level, you’re not fooling others and you will develop a reputation as a blame-shifter and someone who lacks integrity.

It’s no fun shouldering the responsibility for a failure, but when it is appropriate, don’t hesitate to do so. Remember, don’t let the failure define you or spread it’s branches, but do accept the responsibility for your mistakes. Then take these actions:

  • Ask God to forgive you if there was any sin involved.
  • Ask others to forgive you if you committed any wrong against them.
  • Ask God (and perhaps others) for His leading in the current situation and future situations.
  • Let it go. Don’t carry the failure with you into the future. Leave it in the past.

Six Temptations of Failure, Day 5 of 6

Temptation #5: Avoiding Others

In the midst of a failure, you may be quite tempted to avoid others because of feelings of humiliation.

First, know that the feelings of humiliation are probably totally inappropriate. Humility is a good thing; humiliation is a bad thing. Experiencing a failure very well may be humbling, but it should never be humiliating.

Repeat after me: “Everyone fails.” It’s a part of life. There’s no reason for you to feel humiliated. And everyone makes mistakes. If a mistake on your part lead to the failure, it wasn’t your first mistake and it undoubtedly won’t be your last. Learn to live with not being perfect. Only God is perfect and you’re not God.

So resist the temptation to avoid others – you need them to love you as you recover from the failure. You need people around you who will regularly remind you about the great talents and gifts God has given you, and about how special you are to God and to them. You need people to love you. Trust me, avoiding friends is debilitating and will prolong your recovery process.

And perhaps most importantly of all, the world needs to see how a confessing Christian deals with failures and setbacks in their lives. This might be the most important message that your life could ever deliver to the watching world around us. Hiding your failure and avoiding the world will never get that message across. It’s like burying your talent in the sand.

Six Temptations of Failure, Day 6 of 6

Temptation # 6: To Live in Fear of Failure

Sometimes we overreact to failure and build walls around ourselves and our habits so that we eventually wall ourselves in and no longer live in the freedom God has given us. Instead, we live in fear that we will fail again. So we essentially stop living. Sure, we’re still breathing and walking and talking, but the life has gone out of our life. Failure is a part of life, friends. We cannot build ourselves into such a safe place that we will not experience it, and to try to do so places limits around us that diminish our lives.

Fear ultimately leads to living a life characterized by legalism. We make rules and regulations to govern our lives and build a hedge of protection around ourselves to keep from ever being hurt again. Most of these new rules aren’t biblical. God never tells His people to stop stepping out in faith. These barriers you erect to prevent future failures all too often separates you God and His best will for your life.

Fear is the antithesis of faith. Fear is believing that Satan will win instead of believing that the outcome will be what God has said it will be. Choose to believe God, friends. Engage your faith and live life to the fullest.

It occurs to me that perhaps I seem uncompassionate in this blog. Trust me, friends, I have compassion. Been there —done that. Refused to buy the T-shirt and don’t want to go back to have another opportunity to do so. But I also know that the temptations listed here are Satan’s way of binding us to the failure and blinding us to the plans God has for us.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

God desires to give us freedom. God desires for us to be whole. God desires to make something great out of your failure and mine. Let’s resist Satan’s bait and trust God for the good stuff!

3 Responses to “Six Temptations of Failure – Entire Series in One Article”
  1. Gretchen says:

    Beautifully written. It is amazing how quickly distorted thinking can ‘bind us to failure’. Thank you so much for your words of encouragement.

  2. Em. says:

    wow. this is exactly what i needed to read. i’ve messed up bigtime over the last few months, and just yesterday i felt convicted to tell the truth to those closest to me about what i had done. the aftermath so far has been absolutely horrific…i cannot tell you how low i am feeling right now. amidst everything though, i honestly believe that God is going to use all the pain for a greater purpose. thanks so much for writing this article.x

  3. Sandy says:

    Hey, Emma – Sorry I didn’t see your comment sooner or I would have responded sooner. First, thank you – THANK YOU – for leaving a comment. I so appreciate it and so appreciate your honesty.

    God is faithful, friend, and you are absolutely right – He will use all the pain for a greater purpose. He promises that in one of my very favorite verses: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28, NLT) Notice it says “WE KNOW” – we have the confidence and faith that it will all work together for good…and notice the last phrase for those who love God and called according to His purpose – stay with God. Continue to purpose His purpose for your life. You are a valuable part of His plan and this pain will be used for your good (how can that possibly be we sometimes wonder, but God makes it possible), for the good of others, and for His glory!

    Blessings, blessings, friend, as you stay close to Jesus.

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