Success and Failure

Success and Failure

In reading through the Exodus accounts recently and more particularly, the call of God on Moses’ life, I realized a very important principle that I’ve often thought to be true, but never really had it confirmed quite like this until now.

In Exodus 5, just after things began getting hard for the Israelites upon Moses’ reluctant obedience, Moses has this conversation with God.

22 So Moses went back to the LORD and asked, “Lord, why have You caused trouble for this people? And why did You ever send me? 23 Ever since I went in to Pharaoh to speak in Your name he has caused trouble for this people, and You haven’t delivered Your people at all.”

What we see here is the human heart in all its disgusting glory. The very moment that things started getting hard for Moses and the Hebrews, Moses began blaming God, even though God made it clear that Pharaoh would not listen … at least not at first. God made it clear to Moses that Pharaoh would harden his heart (or, more accurately, God would harden Pharaoh’s heart) and that getting through to him would be literally impossible for quite some time. Yet, in spite of knowing this, Moses still blamed God. He blamed God for giving him a task that was destined to fail the first eleven times (10 plagues, plus the “staff-becoming-snake-then-gobbling-the-other-staff-become-snakes” sign) before he would finally see victory.

While processing this story, I became aware of the following principle:

PRINCIPLE: Failure in a task does not necessarily mean that you have missed God’s voice. God may actually be the One setting you up for failure until He’s ready to give you the victory … in His timing.

In our results-based Christian subculture, we often equate failure with missing God’s will or not hearing God’s voice. But that just isn’t always the case. (i.e. If a church-plant “fails”, did the pastor and leaders miss God’s voice? Or did God want it to “fail” so that something greater could take place later on?)

To repeat this principle another way:

What looks like failure by the world’s definition, may not actually be failure.

And the reverse can likewise be true: What looks like success by the world’s definition, may not be success at all.

Moses’ situation certainly does not give us the right to justify our sin-soaked failures and the times that we definitely did miss God’s voice. But it certainly helps to clarify the issue of what success and failure really look like in God’s economy; namely, that they are often in utter contradistinction to our own.