The Shame of Failure – Final Stretch

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When I was in high school, I played for the football team during my junior and senior years. We never won a game; rather, we were beaten miserably in most of those games. In fact, during one game, we lost so badly that almost 50 years later the score still stands as the worst defeat in conference history. Sometimes, I still feel the shame of this physical ineptitude and failure. I have been unable to put this in the past and completely forget it. I am ashamed to admit that I have attended games and actually rooted for the record to be broken so I no longer have it hanging over my head. My emotional life would be so much better if I would just put it to rest as something in my past.

This is what God wants us to do with the failures in our past. While my example of a sporting event may be trivial, we all have things we’ve done that we’re not proud of. Our failures may lead us to believe that God may not have a place for us on his “team.”

This is not true.

God desires for us to have what Lead Pastor Ben Snyder coined “spiritual amnesia.” God not only wants us to forget our past wrongs, but he also wants us to forgive ourselves—as he forgives us. This process allows us to move forward and be receptive to what he has in store for us in the future.

Before he met Jesus, Paul’s job was to oversee the capture and public execution of Christians. After meeting Jesus, he became the greatest voice for Jesus’s saving grace. He could have let the shame of what he had done, stop him from making a difference for God, but he didn’t.

1 Timothy 1:12-13 (NIV)
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.

Philippians 3: 13-14
 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

We need to forget the labels that we put on ourselves. The truth is, God knows what you have done, but he is focused on who you can become with him.

Don’t let your past define you; instead, define your past as exactly that … the past.

What failure(s) might you still be hanging on to?

What is keeping you from exercising spiritual amnesia?

Next Steps:
Make a conscious effort to leave behind whatever past discretion is holding you back from true spiritual freedom.

Embrace Paul’s example of accepting God’s mercy for our failures. Focus on what lies ahead, and apply it to your life.

Father God, thank you for showing us such love and mercy and grace. Help us to realize that you want us to experience the joy of spiritual freedom that can only come from forgetting and letting go of the shame of our past failures and not allowing them to define us. Help us, instead, to focus on what you have in store for us from this point on, embracing the amazing journey that can only come from wholehearted service to you. Amen.

This post was written by Ned Miller, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.

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2 replies
  1. Martha Smith
    Martha Smith says:

    Thank you Ned! The example of Paul choosing to leave behind the cruelty of his past and, instead, focus on serving Christ is so freeing!

  2. Jaron Camp
    Jaron Camp says:

    Forgiving others is something I have a handle on, but forgiving myself is where I fall short. Thanks for reminding me that God envisions my future with him instead of focusing on my past that ignored his love.

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