Have you ever felt very discouraged after you experienced a failure in your Christian life? Perhaps you even asked yourself, “Why does God let me fail? Couldn’t He have prevented me from making this mistake? Doesn’t He want me to have a good Christian testimony?”
The Christian life is living Christ
To answer these questions, it’s helpful to first realize what happened when we were saved. We know we were forgiven of our sins and saved from eternal judgment; the Lord’s marvelous salvation took care of our past and assures our future. But more than that, we were also reborn with the divine life, which is for our life today.
When we were born again, the Spirit came to live in and be mingled with our human spirit. So 2 Timothy 4:22 tells us that the Lord is now with our spirit. Christ came to live in us so that His life could be our life and His living could be our living. When we live in oneness with Him, we express Him to everyone around us. This is the Christian life.
Since this is the Christian life, the Lord doesn’t focus on our successes or failures. He focuses on whether He can live in us and through us. We can see this in Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21:
“For to me, to live is Christ.”
Note 1 on this verse in the New Testament Recovery Version explains what this means:
“Christ was not only [Paul’s] life but also his living. He lived Christ because Christ lived in him (Gal. 2:20). He was one with Christ in both life and living. He and Christ had one life and one living. They lived together as one person. Christ lived within Paul as Paul’s life, and Paul lived Christ without as Christ’s living.”
With this in mind, we can see that God doesn’t want to build us up in the natural abilities and virtues we have in ourselves. He wants us to live Christ. If we don’t realize this, we’ll spend our time attempting to live a God-pleasing life by ourselves, by our own life, rather than by His life. We’ll try to serve Christ and do things for Him, all without knowing or experiencing Christ as our life.
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Failures actually help us
This is where failures come in. It’s not that God wants us to fail. But He knows our failures can help us by showing us our need for Him.
So for this reason, the Lord faithfully provides the perfect environment to uncover our inadequacies. We may think we’re spiritually strong, but He arranges just the right circumstances to show us how weak we really are. For instance, we might think we’re kind, loving, and patient. And perhaps to some extent we are. But then the Lord brings someone into our life that taxes our love, making it evident it’s really only skin deep. So given the right circumstances, we’re not so kind. And on top of it, this person also strains our patience; despite ourselves and before we know it, we blow up in anger.
Such difficulties show us we’re not the “good Christians” we thought we were. But this isn’t a negative thing! It helps us see that Jesus Christ is the only One who can live a proper Christian life, and He came into our spirit to live this life in, through, and for us.
Failures expose us, turn us, open us, and make us willing
Through our failures, the Lord is able to shine into our heart, exposing our real inner situation before Him. His light reduces us in our own eyes. He shines so we can recognize how short of Christ we are, causing us to turn to Him, to call on Him, and to even cry out to Him. It’s when we fall that we begin to grasp how much we need to experience Christ living in us.
Under the Lord’s light we’re humbled, our self-assurance is broken, and we become fearful of relying on ourselves. Consequently, we’re more open to Him than when we thought we were doing fine. And when we’re an open vessel, Christ can come in to fill us. For the Lord to grow in us, He needs this kind of openness.
Furthermore, when our shortcomings are laid bare by the Lord’s light, we become more willing to turn to Him and behold Him, to love Him, and to spend time with Him to enjoy His presence. We aren’t quite so self-reliant, trusting in our own ability or goodness, and we’re more willing to let Him live in us and through us.
Not being discouraged
None of this means we should deliberately fail or think it’s okay to be careless with sin. To maintain our relationship with the Lord, we need to care for the condition of our heart, and we need to heed the voice of our conscience. And when the Lord makes us aware of sins we’ve committed, we need to confess those sins to Him to receive His forgiveness and cleansing. These are all daily, healthy, and necessary spiritual practices for us to exercise if we want to have a normal Christian life.
We will have failures, however, and when we do, we can allow them to give Christ more opportunity to shine on us, turn us, and open us to Him. If we have this understanding, we won’t be overcome by discouragement and disappointment when we fail. Instead, we’ll turn more quickly to Christ and even thank Him for His wisdom in dealing with our independence from Him. We’ll open to Him in a deeper way so that He can live in us and we can live Him out.
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