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Proverbs 24:16 “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.’

Extra Reading: Proverbs 24:1-21.

My history subject teacher used to say to us, “No one is immune to failure.” She was so true. At one month before we wrote our final matric exams, she set for us a tough trial exam we all failed. Human weakness, ignorance and the effects of sin promise that failure will be a familiar companion, even to people who walk with God. The Bible accepts the idea of failure as a part of life. Solomon observed, “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again” (Proverbs 24:16). Famous Bible failures who rose again include Moses, Samson, David, Peter, John Mark and Jesus Christ. In modern Western culture, success is often judged on the basis of the visible accomplishment of such things as wealth and security, public appearance and notoriety, power and influence, physical beauty and talent. Accordingly, failure is judged on the basis of the lack of these things. Even Christians, reflecting the culture, tend to evaluate persons and work on these cultural grounds. A closer look at Scripture, however, reveals that God’s view of success and failure is quite different.

Neither the Old nor New Testament uses words that coincide exactly with success or failure as we understand the terms. In the languages of the Bible the words that most nearly approximate the concept of success are the ones that mean “blessed”. In Hebrew the word is ‘barak’; in Greek the word is ‘makarios’. Both convey ideas of success, prosperity, happiness and enviably abundant life. In the Old Testament the word that stands opposite “blessed” and most closely approximates “failure” is the word ‘cursed’ (Deut. 11:26-28). To fail is to have God’s blessing withdrawn, lose the esteem of God, shrivel up spiritually, and become small-souled. Obedience to the commandments of the Lord is the secret of success, and disobedience is the pathway to the withdrawal of God’s blessing, reduced position, reduced power, reduced wealth, reduced honour and a broken relationship with God, which is the substance of failure. To fail is to exist in a state of separation from God; to try to live without God is to die (Deut. 30:19). The ultimate failure is to fail to be recognized as belonging to Christ (Matthew 7:21-23).

Prayer: O Lord, help us to clearly understand the meaning of success and failure. In Jesus Christ’s name we pray, Amen!

Rev. Samuel N. Modise    

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