Friday, October 8, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: Failure

The Remedy for Failure
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson

“And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.”
–Mark 9:18 (KJV)

There are some people in this world who do not or rarely fail at anything. I am not one of them. Failure is humbling and humiliating. It is embarrassing to the one who failed as well as those who had great expectations.

In Mark chapter nine, Jesus Christ enters a scene where a crowd had gathered around His disciples. They were contending with them because they had publicly failed to exorcise a suicidal demon from a young man. Can you imagine, or remember when you approached a task with confidence and through no fault of your own, failed? It can be frustrating and demoralizing.

I spent 20 years in the Navy as a chaplain. My first three years were with the Marine Corps. I did a great job and loved the challenge. The Chief of Chaplains personally selected me for my next assignment in Washington, D.C. I excelled in that job too. While in the second job, I became eligible for promotion to Lieutenant Commander. I thought that I would be a “shoo-in”, even though it was a competitive process. I was not selected. It happened again the next year. Just like He did in this story, Jesus showed up for me.

When He approached the crowd and asked what was happening, the crowd gave a negative report. They said that Christ’s disciples failed! In a stroke of masterful leadership, Jesus, without condemning the failure, stepped into the gap of expectation. He shifted the focus from the disciple’s failure to the faith of the father whose child was possessed.

Once the father articulated his faith filled doubt, Jesus rebuked the demon. In so doing, He demonstrated three spiritual leadership lessons:

Lesson #1:
He turned a public failure into a teachable moment.

Lesson #2: He met the needs of the father, the boy, the crowd and the disciples. Everyone left the scene, whole, with restored confidence in the power and grace of Christ.

Lesson #3: He raised the level of spiritual preparation that the disciples would have to pursue to meet future challenges.

Failure often teaches more indelible lessons than success. Easy, immediate, and frequent success can lead to an inflated sense of capability and arrogance. In this story, after Jesus healed the boy, the crowd dissipated, and Jesus came into the room where the disciples had retreated. They asked Him why they had failed. They had done what they had seen him do. What made the difference?

His answer gives a key to the ascending levels of spiritual power. The disciples were learning the basic math of spiritual leadership and power. Now, Jesus was introducing them to Algebra in preparation for the Calculus that would be required to lead His church into the geometric impact that they would have on the world.

From day one, Jesus had shown them the power of plenty that lay just beyond the surface of their efforts. Miraculous demonstrations of God’s provisions won their trust and allegiance. They gained power through their proximity to Him. Now, He was preparing them to suffer the cost of leadership and power.

Isolation, intense expectation, and condemnation often typify the atmosphere that surrounds top tier leaders. Athletes, tycoons, evangelists and other apex leaders graduate into an accelerating vortex of ever-increasing challenges and expectations. 

Fasting and prayer were the spiritual disciplines that would prepare the disciples for their future trials and victories. Fasting and prayer are the antidotes for arrogance, the fear of failure as well as the corresponding highs and lows of leadership. Lessons learned in the trenches and valleys are the vehicles that transport us to our peak performances.

Fasting and prayer drive us back to the foundries of faith where once again we are tried and purified in the fires of failure. It is there that our characters are refined and displayed. It is through increasing expectation and fatigue that strength is formed.

Fasting and prayer is where divinity introduces us to vision, providence, and possibility. Faith is the key that opens the transparent veil between what we envision and what we can grasp. Fasting and prayer is not simply deprivation, it is preparation.

Getting ready for your greatness? Do what Jesus taught his disciples to do: fast and pray.

Let’s Pray: Dear God, if we have failed, help us to learn. Strengthen us so that we can fast and pray. When we do, speak to us through our hopes and dreams. Open our eyes so that we can see what lies ahead and face it without fear. Bless us with Your guidance, wisdom, faith, and fortitude, as you did for the disciples with whom you lived. Live similarly within us. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Author Bio:

Chaplain Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps.

Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md.

He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees: a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.

You may connect with Chaplain Anderson via email at this address,

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