One of my favorite books is Failing Forward by John Maxwell, one of my mentors. John is a New York Times bestselling author who, as the book cover attests, addresses everyone’s greatest need in this volume. The book’s subtitle is “turning mistakes into stepping stones for success.”
Over and over again, John makes the case that the difference between average people and achieving people is their perspective of and response to failure. The sixteen chapters are grouped in four segments covering topics concerning 1) redefining success and failure, 2) do you mind changing your mind? 3) embracing failure as a friend, and 4) increasing your odds for success.
The reality is that we all make mistakes. I learned that the mistakes I make are not really what counts. The key is what we learn from them. Here are five mistakes that I have benefitted from.
First is believing good looks and popularity equates with happiness. Joni Eareckson had everything seemingly in perfect order: she was attractive, made good grades, had a good job, and a boyfriend. She was then hurt in a swimming accident that resulted in a broken neck and being confined to a wheelchair. She grew bitter against God for allowing it to happen. Many of her friends abandoned her when she needed them most. Yet in time she was able to find joy and contentment in knowing and serving God through painting and drawing. The truth of Proverbs 3:5-6 emerged as the bitterness withered and the love of God flowed in as she dealt with the tragedy with the help of God and others.
Second is thinking your future is light years away. James 4:14 says our lives are like a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow. I’ve talked to a lot of college students who told me they would get right with God after they graduated, got older, settled down, and they have job and financial security. We often talk about the future while the present slips away.
Third is falling into the sex trap. Many say God is number one in their lives, that they go to church, pray, read their Bible, give of their resources, and even have s stand on sex. Yet it is so easy to compromise our stand for a little self-indulgence now and then. How ironic it is to assume we can fool God while we satisfy our own fleshly desires. We say it is “our” body, we know what is best, and we can do whatever we want with it. Learn from Joseph in Genesis 39 how to flee from temptation and from Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 how to honor God with your body. God’s forgiveness is always accessible and addresses our guilt and shame, but it doesn’t always erase the consequences of our choices (see King David in 2nd Samuel 11 and 12).
Fourth is letting peer pressure control you. I remember a college friend who wanted to be a “regular guy.” He succumbed to smoking, drinking, and partying. His grades floundered, he got bounced out of school, and he died at an early age due to his lifestyle choices. Sadly, he never came to his senses, listened to his parents cries to get “cleaned up” and ignored the truth of Romans 12:2. When I think of peer pressure and its’ effects, this story angers me.
Fifth is neglecting God. I believe that his resurrection from the dead gives Jesus the most authority and credibility to speak into and shape my life. Colossians 2:6-7 takes on meaning for me as I seek to know God, honor Him in my life and marriage, and make Him known.
Walk wisely. What you feed grows. Learn to lead yourself well and profit from your mistakes.
Love is a verb,
©2017 by Mike Olejarz