I want to talk to you about success then I want to talk to you about failure today. You see, all successful people have two things in common. Number one, they’re successful. And number two, they have all failed their way to success. You see so often when we look at successful people, we think that they just make every right decision. And they do nothing wrong, and yet successful people have failed many, many times.
You know Colonel Sanders, Kentucky Fried Chicken, over a thousand times, tried to get people to accept his secret recipe before he finally had someone to buy it. Walt Disney, went to over a hundred banks asking them to kind of help him finance a theme park and he was rejected by each one of them, and he was also fired from a newspaper because he wasn’t creative enough. George Lucas spent over four years literally shopping his script to Star Wars to various studios before he finally had someone quote take a chance on him. Clarence Birdseye went bankrupt seven times while he was trying to find a way, the secret of flash freezing until he finally discovered that, which obviously became the wonderful thing for the entire frozen food industry and the Beatles, well the Decker Recording Company said to the Beatles that we really don’t like your sound and we think that guitar music is on its way out.
I think we all kind of feel like Lewis Tarkington in that great prose when he said “I wish there were some wonderful place in the land of beginning again where all of our mistakes and all of our heartaches and all of our poor selfish grief, could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door and never be put on again.” You see I know there’s something that we all have in common today at the Crystal Cathedral, people watching this program by television. I know there’s something we all have in common. We’ve all failed. Now maybe I need to take a poll to make sure. I mean I shouldn’t assume, should I? If you failed at least one time in your life, raise your hand, would you please? Today?
We all fail and with that failure comes a desire and that desire is to have another chance. All of us want what I call a do over. We do something, we make a wrong decision, we think oh I would like to have a do over. In golf, it’s a mulligan. It’s a way to have another chance to kind of redeem ourselves and every one of us in this Crystal Cathedral today, would have what I call second chance wishes. Well I wish that I could go back to that part of my life and do it over again. I wish that I would have made that decision at that part of my life and be able to do it over again. Every parent wishes they could have do over’s. Every relationship wishes that they could have some do over’s. Every decision that we make, there are some of those that we go back and say I would like to have a do over.
Jonah felt that way. You see our famous failure in the bible today is Jonah and basically Jonah would say to you and me God will give you a second chance. He’ll give you an opportunity to look at what you have done, back up, reverse, put a u-turn, and head in a different direction.
But the bible, the bible has amazing words for you and me about do over’s, second chances, another opportunity. The apostle Paul said “Therefore, if any person be in Christ, he or she is a new creation. Old things are passed away. Behold all things become new.” You see Moses, Moses who committed murder and became a life taker, after a confrontation with God, went from being a life taker to a life saver. Paul, who harassed Christians, after an encounter with God, began to bring healing to the body of Christ. John, in a moment of blind bigotry, who wanted to send fire down from heaven on the Samaritan’s because they weren’t quote like him, was privileged to see the new Jerusalem with all types of kindred’s and tribes and nations that would bow before God. Peter, who messed up three times, was going to be the preacher of Pentecost.
You see, when you look at the bible and I love God’s word, it doesn’t try to hide the failures. Let me read this to you. If you want to see the longest list of mess ups, don’t look in the mirror, look in the bible. Those people weren’t puritan perfect, either, and they got in the bible. Count the woman from Samaria, who had tried five husbands, and Gideon, who set up an idol on the very spot that he had received the call from God, and Sarah, who laughed at God, even though she had witnessed a lifetime of well kept promises. Add to David, the adulterer, Eve, the apple picker, Zacchaeus, the crooked tax guy. Before you tally up your sins, count theirs. Before you throw in the towel on yourself, read the list of every person mentioned above and you’ll be looking at nothing less than an amazing roster of divine come backs.
And Jonah, he was a divine come back. You know the story. God had wanted him to go to Nineveh to preach the gospel. Jonah said I don’t want to go to Nineveh. He went the whole opposite way. You talk about disobedience, he did everything that God didn’t want him to do. And while he was on the boat, God created the storm. You know the story and there are amazing words. There are 12 amazing words in the story of Jonah that I want to read to you. Here they are: “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.” God came back to Jonah and said I’m going to give you another chance. You’ve blown opportunity number one. Let me give you another opportunity to change things and make amends and do the right thing. Can you imagine how Jonah felt when he knew that he had been disobedient and he had major problems and he was truly over his head, can you imagine how Jonah felt when the word of the Lord came to him a second time. What does it mean that God gives us a second chance? It means five things.
Number one: It means the first time is lost. When we have a second opportunity, it means that we have lost the first opportunity. You see we are forgiven of our sins; we get a new lease on life. But there’s a difference between forgiveness of sins and the consequences of sin. Every one of us here today, being forgiven by God, can also say that there are consequences to the sin that we committed. So when God comes to us a second time and we have a second opportunity or a second chance, it’s a wonderful thing but what it does means is we lost the first opportunity.
The second thing it means for God to come and give us a second time, a second opportunity after our failure is that grace is needed. When you look at Jonah’s life, everything that God wanted him to do he did opposite. God said go to Nineveh and Jonah headed literally two thousand miles in the opposite direction. God said go by land, Jonah went by sea. God said go east, Jonah went west. God said arise and go to Nineveh and Jonah went down in the hull of the ship. God said preach and Jonah went to sleep. God said live for others and Jonah said I want to live for myself. Every one of us understand the attitude of Jonah, do we not? Have we not at times said I think I will control my own life and I think I will call my own shots? And God, I know that You’re a good God, but I think in this case I know a little more about this.
How many of you have maybe at one time in your life, had a little tug of war with God. Can I see your hand? Happens almost daily, does it not? Grace is needed in those times. You know justice is when we get what we deserve and mercy is when we get what we don’t deserve. But grace is when we get what we don’t deserve at any time in our life. And grace is needed, grace is needed during our failures and mistakes. Brother Lawrence, that I love to read. That great Christian, that great mystic, Brother Lawrence said that when he made a mistake, he didn’t spend any time thinking on it. He just confessed it and moved on and he reminded God each time he failed that it was natural to fail without God. He said I always fall. Grace is needed.
I love the story of St. Peter who was at the gate, the pearly gate and a man came to enter in and St. Peter said do you need a thousand points to get in? And we’ll look at your life and your works and we’ll judge your life by the points and so the man said well I went to church every Sunday, and Peter said that’s 50 points. He said well I tithed, I gave 10% of my money to the church, he said well that’s 25 points. Now the guy is starting to get desperate because he needs a thousand, and he only has 75. He gets to thinking a little bit, no he said, well he said I also taught a Sunday school class and Peter said well that’s another 25. Now the guy is in a panic. He said my goodness, he says I only have a hundred points, I need a thousand points. I’m not going to get into heaven but by the grace of God and Peter smiled and said come on in. We all need the grace of God in our life and in our failures, we are reminded not only of who we are in our feet of clay and our humanity, but we’re reminded of who God is and the grace that He supplies.
When God gives you and I a second chance after our failure, it thirdly means that God has a purpose for our life. In other words, God isn’t done with you yet. He still had a purpose and by the way, check your pulse. Go ahead and check it. Check your pulse. I’m going to assume that you’re living. Would you validate that? You see if you still have a pulse and you’re here listening today, can I tell you something? There’s a reason why you’re still alive. God isn’t finished with you yet. He still has plans for you. He still has a future for you. He still has a mission and a purpose for you. It’s a wonderful, wonderful thought to realize that you and I breathe today because God still has a purpose, and so in spite of our failures and mistakes, we get a do over, and we get a do over because of grace over. And we get grace over because God still has a purpose for our life.
Number four: when we have a second opportunity or chance to come back from failure, it gives us an opportunity to make a better choice. It gives us an opportunity the second time make the right choice, because the first time, perhaps we made the wrong choice. And boy, don’t we like to have an opportunity to do it over?
I love this: it’s the parable of the fox, wolf and bear. One day they went hunting together and each one of them caught a deer and they discussed how to divide the spoils. The bear asked the wolf how he thought it should be done. The wolf said everyone should get one deer. Suddenly the bear ate the wolf. Then the bear asked the fox how he proposed to divvy things up. The fox offered the bear his deer, and then said the bear should have the wolf’s deer as well. Where did you get such wisdom, asked the bear? From the wolf, replied the fox. I just watched him. Just by experience. I saw how he did it.
And when we have a second opportunity, it gives us a chance to make the choice; it gives us a chance to make the right choice. It gives us a chance to be obedient.
Two boys, two kids were walking to their elementary school and one kid said to his buddy, I figured out a system of getting along with my mom. She tells me what to do and I do it. It works. It’s the same system of getting along with God. Obedience. Probably the two most important words that can change your life or my life are the words, yes Lord. Yes Lord.
And finally, when we get another opportunity to do it over again and come back from our failure, the fifth thing I would say to you is it gives us an opportunity to be different. It gives us an opportunity to stand when we fell. It gives us an opportunity to sing, when we cry. It gives us hope instead of despair. It allows us to have an opportunity to be different. It’s what happened in Jonah’s life. He went to the city of Nineveh, 120,000 people and he preached the gospel. Some amazing things happened in his life. It gave him a chance to be different. It gave him a chance to see God and what God could do in his life. It gave him a chance to see what would happen when he was obedient to God. Isn’t it true? Some of the best lessons we’ve ever received, some of the most important lessons we’ve ever learned, we learned in difficult times.
One day I sat down and I wrote this to myself. My best lessons were birthed in bad times. I learned people skills by dealing with difficult people. Did you ever have to do that? I learned to listen when a good friend told me I didn’t. I learned leadership when I realized that others weren’t following me. I learned about forgiveness when I needed someone to forgive me. I learned to ask questions when I ran out of answers. I learned not to take myself seriously when I understood no one else did.
Think back in your past. Is it not true, some of the greatest lessons that you ever learned, some of the greatest lessons that have ever been applied to your life were applied after you had a second opportunity. We all grew up with a nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses, all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again. That’s true. The king’s horses and the king’s men couldn’t do anything for Humpty Dumpty, but we serve a God of restoration. We serve a God of healing. We serve a God of forgiveness. We serve a God that gives us hope. What does that mean? That when we fall, when we’re broken, when everyone else around us would look at us and say I don’t think there’s any hope. I don’t think there’s any chance of redemption in this person’s life. What it means is we get a second chance.
In my book Failing Forward, I have a chapter and the chapter is very simple. It says “say goodbye to yesterday.” Sometimes that’s not easy. In fact sometimes we take the book of life and no matter what chapter we’re on, we want to go back and kind of rehearse the problems and the failures and the mistakes and the disobediences in our life.
I have a sign in my office that kind of helps me get perspective. The sign just reads “yesterday ended last night.” And for you, my friend, it ended last night. And coming to the Crystal Cathedral and hearing the message of salvation, is an opportunity for you and me to realize that God is the God of a second chance. And the do over’s that you want in your life, and the do over’s that I want in my life, the second chance opportunities that we covet, they’re yours. They’re mine. And so take advantage of the second chance. Do what Jonah did. Do what all of the famous failures did. They all failed but they failed their way to success. They learned from their failure. In fact, here’s what they discovered. Are you ready? They discovered that sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. Make your failures and mistakes a learning experience and God will give you a second chance. Thank you very much.