There are many people who fail. But there are two standards by which success and failure may be measured: there is the world’s standard, and there is God’s. Many persons who are recorded as having failed are successful in the higher sense, while many of earth’s vaunted successes are really complete and terrible failures.
If we are wise, we will seek to know life’s realities; and we will not be fooled by its appearances. True success must be something which will not perish in earth’s wreck or decay; something which will not be torn out of our hands in the hour of death; something which will last over into the eternal years. No folly can be so great as that which gives all life’s energies to the building up of something – however beautiful it may be – which must soon be torn down, and which cannot possibly be carried beyond the grave. The real failures in life are not those which are registered in commercial agencies and reported as bankruptcies. Nor are they those whose marks are the decay of earthly fortune, descent in the social scale, the breaking down of worldly prosperity, or any of those signs by which men value one another. A man may fail in these ways; and yet, as Heaven sees him, his path may still be like the shining light –growing in brightness all the time. His heart may remain pure, and his hands clean, through all his earthly misfortunes. He may be growing all the while in the elements of true manhood. In the autumn, the stripping of the leaves from the trees uncovers the nests of the birds; and for many a person, the stripping away of the leaves of earthly prosperity is the disclosing to him of the soul’s true nest and home in the heart of God! We cannot call that life a failure which – even though it may be losing money and outward splendor – is growing nobler, stronger, and more Christ-like every day. It matters little what becomes of one’s circumstances if the man himself is prospering in the meantime. Circumstances are only the scaffolding amongst which the building rises.
The real failures are those whose marks are in the life itself, and in the character. A man prospers in the world. He grows rich. He gathers luxuries and wealth around him, instead of the plain circumstances amidst which he spent his early days. The cottage is exchanged for a mansion; he is a millionaire; he has wide influence; men wait at his door to ask favors from him; he is sought and courted by the great; his name is known everywhere. But the heart which nestled in purity under the homemade jacket has not retained its purity under rich broadcloth; it has become the home of pride, ambition, unrest, unholy schemes, and of much that is corrupt and evil. His knee bends no more in prayer, as in childhood, when it was taught to bend at a mother’s knee. His life is stained with many sins; his character has lost its former innocence and loveliness. His circumstances have advanced from poverty to wealth, but the man himself who is dwelling within the circle of those circumstances has deteriorated. What could be sadder than such a picture?
There is a story of a man who built his enemy into the wall of the castle he was constructing; he made a tomb for him there, and buried him alive in the heart of the magnificent pile of stone that he was setting up. That is what many people do with their souls in their earthly prosperity; they bury them in the heart of their successes. It is a splendid monument which they set up; but when it is finished, it is the mausoleum of their manhood! Shall we call that a true success which builds a pile of earthly grandeur to dazzle men’s eyes, while it strangles a man’s spiritual life and forfeits him the Divine favor and a home in heaven?
God’s plan is not failure!
There is no doubt that God creates every human soul for a high destiny; He has a plan for every life, and that plan, in every case, is noble and beautiful. There is no blind fate which predestines any soul to failure and perdition. No one is born into this world who may not make his life a true success and attain at last to coronation in heaven. Every soul is endowed at creation for a noble career. It may not be for a brilliant career, with honor and fame and great power; but there is no one born who is not gifted with the necessary endowments to fill his own place and do his allotted work. And there can be no nobleness higher than this! To everyone comes the opportunities by which he may achieve the success for which he was born. No person can ever say that he had no chance to be noble; the trouble is with the person himself. Opportunities offer themselves, but he does not embrace them; and while he delays, they pass on and away, to return no more – for “lost chance comes not again.” Opportunities are doors opened to beauty and blessing, but they are not held open for laggards; and in a moment they are shut, never to be opened again.
No one is foredoomed to fail!
Both in original endowments and in opportunities, every life is furnished for success. “But,” you may object, “men are weak and sinful, and they are unable to make their lives noble.” True! But here comes in the blessed secret of Divine help! No one ever needs to fail, for God is with every person who does not thrust Him away; and He is ready to put His own strength under human infirmity, so that even the weakest may overcome and rise into beauty and strength! No man is foredoomed to failure; there is no man who may not make his life a true success. Those who fail do so because they will not build their life after the pattern shown to them by the Lord, because they do not use the endowments which God has bestowed upon them, because they reject the opportunities offered to them, or because they leave God out of their life and enter the battle only in their own strength.
What gifts has the Lord given you to fulfill the calling He has placed you in? What opportunities has He placed in your path – in your home and family – for you to serve Him in? Do you feel your utter inability to avoid failure and live up to the success which He calls each of us to accomplish? Remember that you do not have to resign yourself to failure, for God promises to give you His own Almighty help to overcome all obstacles and rise into true beauty and success! Don’t enter the battle in your own strength; take a moment to pray to the Lord and ask Him to bestow this help upon you now.
Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on this article! Feel free to leave your reflections and ask your questions in the Comments section below.
God bless you and your family, this day and always.
All for the King’s glory,
photo by Prixel Creative on Lightstock.com
This post is another installment of Miller’s Monday Musings, a weekly series that is published every Monday on our website. The series features selected writings that have been adapted from the works of James Russell Miller (1840-1912), a much-beloved Christian author and pastor who is well-remembered for his practical thoughts on Christian home and family life. Learn more about this weekly series by clicking here.