Overcoming the Fear of Failure: Part 3

This message transcript records a message by Wayne Cordeiro. We posted parts 1 and 2 of how to overcome the fear of failure earlier this week

How to overcome the fear of failure part 3: Recognize that there are benefits to failure.

Take a look at Psalm 119:67: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.”

How many people have come to know Christ after a failure? At first we think we can do it on our own and we struggle, and then we are driven to our knees. Someone once told me, “Wayne, never despise anything that takes you to your knees.” Sometimes failure is what brings us to the Lord. So, there are benefits to failure. Let’s take a look at three benefits of failure.

Failure educates us. Thomas Edison had 10,000 failures before he perfected the incandescent lightbulb. At 10,000 failures someone asked him, “Aren’t you discouraged? Don’t you feel like a failure?”

Do you know what Thomas Edison’s reply was? “I don’t call it a failure,” he said. “I call it an education. Now I know 10,000 things that do not work very well.”

He was trying to develop a filament that electricity could run through. His filaments would glow, but they kept burning out because anything that burns eats itself up as fuel. He tried different wire filaments, different chemical compounds, and different coatings, again and again. He tried 10,000 different ways to keep that thing from burning up, but as soon as the filament would light up it would go poof! The shelf life of this burning filament was short. He had to find a way of keeping it burning longer.

Then he remembered what fire requires to keep burning. Oxygen. If you remove oxygen from a flame what happens? It goes out.

So he said, “I have to take the oxygen away from this lit filament that electricity is running through.” He put like a test tube over it, sealed it at the bottom, and sucked out all the oxygen. Then he put electricity to it and— voilà. The thing burned and burned. Why? Because there was no oxygen in that test tube to cause that thing to burn itself out.

Our lightbulbs today are basically the same thing—a test tube over a filament with the air sucked out of it. That’s what Thomas Edison figured out. That is why when you break a light bulb, it goes poof! The breaking of the light bulb generates a funny sound because of the vacuum. And you all know the benefits of the incandescent light bulb – all thanks to Thomas Edison, who refused to give up after 10,000 tries. He’s the perfect example of how failure can educate us.

Some things in life are learned only through failure. We all learned to ride a bike through failure. Skateboarding, singing a song, playing an instrument, walking—everybody will learn certain things through failure because without failure you have no growth, you have no creativity, and you have no progress.

At New Hope Christian Fellowship we probably have made more mistakes than successes. We messed up all kinds of stuff. But do you know what? We chalk it up as an education. We try something, and if it doesn’t work, we scrap it and try again. But at least we are erring on the side of righteousness. When God sees that you are doing that, He says, “Go for it. I will work out all the mistakes out for good. Keep your heart desirous to serve Me with your life, and I will take all the mistakes and turn them around for blessings.”

Failure helps us to discover our true talents. Nathaniel Hawthorne was probably one of America’s greatest writers. He was once a customs clerk, but he disliked his job. He wanted to write, but he didn’t have any time. One day he was fired from his job. Despondent, he went home and sat at the kitchen table with his head in his hands and said to his wife, “I cannot even provide for my own family. I am such a failure.” Being the loving wife she was, she did not say a thing. She just got a ream of paper, an inkwell, and a quill pen, and then put them in front of him and said, “You always wanted to write, Nathaniel, but you did not have the time. Well, now you have the time.” And Nathaniel Hawthorne penned many books, among them The Scarlet Letter, one of the greatest books of American literature.

How many people do you know who failed at one thing, only to discover something else that made them successful?

I think of Raymond Kroc. Raymond Kroc failed at real estate. So he finally tried something different. He bought a hamburger stand from two brothers, whose last names happened to be McDonald. Kroc later spun that hamburger stand into a world-renowned fast-food chain.

Colonel Sanders also failed at a lot of things. He tried and tried and failed and failed. At age 67, he finally began to do what he always wanted to do, which was to cook chicken under pressure. Not too many people can do any thing well under pressure. But Colonel Sanders could cook chicken well, and he later started Kentucky Fried Chicken.

When God is trying to tell us something, we often find ourselves fighting against His voice. We call it a failure, but He says, “This is simply schooling in your life, and I am going to cause you to graduate. I’m going to help you discover your true talents.”

Failure makes us less judgmental. When you fail, you become a lot more sympathetic, sensitive, and kind to others. When you fail, your arrogance is restrained.

I remember when I was a softball player–coach in Hilo, we were playing the first place team. We just had to beat them. Because I knew they had big hitters, I put a guy named John in left field. He was a pretty good player. I said, “John, you have to wrap it up. You have to sew up left field because they are going to be aiming that way. They are going to blast away. They are going to let their cannons fly. You have to stop them.”

“No problem. No problem.” So he runs out there.

First inning, first hit— ka-boom! John runs in for it, but the ball goes over his head. By the time he gets to the ball, a home run has scored. This is the first guy up to bat. We are demoralized.

Second guy gets up— ka-boom! He hits it to left field again. John goes down for the grounder, but somehow the ball skips between his legs. Home run again. This happened over and over and over. He kept missing this one and that one. Balls bounced out of his glove.

After the third inning I had had enough of this fiasco. I felt we needed to put in the best fielder we had in left field…so I went out there. You sometimes have to make decisions like this, you know.

I remember so clearly whispering to myself, “We’re going to sew this up now. Go ahead and hit one to me. Go ahead. Come on, enough of this. I’ll take care of you guys.” Ka-boom! They hit one. I don’t know what happened. The wind blew it over my head. It was not my fault. That thing was gone. Home run! I was so mad. I said, “Hit another one! Go ahead.” Ka-boom! I looked over to my left, and I was sure the center fielder would get it. Instead the ball fell right between us.

“Oh, come on!” I picked up the ball and threw it in. But the runner was safe at third with a triple. The third hit of the inning came to me. Ka-bam! It was a grounder. “I can get this one!” I bent down.Whoosh! It went right between my legs. I threw my glove down because that made it a two-run home run. I thought, What is going on? This is humiliating. This is exasperating. This is so terrible. I can’t believe it!

Just then, the Lord whispered, “Wayne, are you doing the best you can?”

“Well, obviously, I’m not trying to do the worst I can. Sure I’m trying the best I can.”

And I remember the Lord so clearly speaking to my heart. He said, “So was John. Look at all the people on the team. They are all doing the best they can. So are you. Everybody is trying his best. Cool your jets.”

Failure will restrain your arrogance. It will cause you to be less judgmental. And, if there is no other reason for failing except that we learn to be a little more merciful to others when they fail, that is a great reason. We can learn a lot from failure. There are a lot of benefits to it.
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