Many think the Apostle Paul was successful. Because of his work, the gospel spread rapidly throughout the Roman Empire. Within 100 years of his death, strong churches existed everywhere he had been. But few in Paul’s day, including Paul, would call him a success. Paul evidently was not much to look at or listen to. By his own admission, at best he was a so-so speaker. His work often got him in trouble, which led to beatings, imprisonment, and getting thrown out of town.
Then-prevailing standards of success or failure didn’t much matter to Paul; he didn’t use them to measure his personal worth or his work. Interestingly, Paul still says that he had to learn to be content with his circumstances. He didn’t start out with that attitude. It’s not human nature to be happy despite our circumstances; we want to be happy because of our circumstances
But as a result of Christ’s transforming presence in our lives, we can learn to shift the source of contentment (and discontentment) from circumstances to God. We are His beloved sons and daughters—loved for our place in Christ, not because we succeed or fail. That is our truest source of joy.
In his book, Winning Smart After Losing Big, entrepreneur Rob Stearns echoes this perspective regarding his own failures. Stearns writes that there’s a big difference between experiencing a failure and being a failure: “You are the same person after your loss as you were before your loss.” It is strength of character that enables us to get up and keep moving when we’ve failed.
But where do we find strength to move forward? Paul freely acknowledged that such strength is not native to his soul. It came to him from Christ. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NIV). Hardships and failures taught the apostle to ask for strength. He learned to “fail forward” into the everlasting arms of God.
God, as I face failure, I pray that I would find my value in who you say I am. Help me draw strength and joy from your everlasting arms. Thank you for your unchanging love. Amen.
From my YouBible devotions today.