3 Lessons I Can Learn From Failure
27 December 2017
Failure can happen to anyone. The Bible teaches us to learn from our failure. Here in Jeremiah 45:1-5, we see the story of a man named Baruch, who dictated the words of Jeremiah the prophet. We see in these verses lessons that you and I can learn from failure.
LESSONS I CAN LEARN FROM FAILING
LESSON 1: Failing doesn’t mean that I am a failure. (Jeremiah 45:1)
“This is the word that the prophet Jeremiah spoke to Baruch son of Neriah when he wrote these words on a scroll at Jeremiah’s dictation in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah:” (Jeremiah 45:1, CSB)
The first lesson that you can learn from failing is that just because you fail, that event doesn’t make you a failure. Failing doesn’t mean that I am a failure.
Baruch is at a point in his life when he thinks that he is a failure. He has written God’s word down for the king and the king has used it for kindling for his fireplace.
“In the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Take a scroll, and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah, and all the nations from the time I first spoke to you during Josiah’s reign until today.” (Jeremiah 36:1–2, CSB)
“After the king had burned the scroll and the words Baruch had written at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Take another scroll, and once again write on it the original words that were on the original scroll that King Jehoiakim of Judah burned.” (Jeremiah 36:27–28, CSB)
Even though Jeremiah 45 is about Baruch’s work as a scribe for Jeremiah, the events actually take place during Jeremiah 36. This is an enormous amount of work for Baruch to do. He’s having to write everything down on parchment. Then he takes it to the king who throws it in the fire. So all that work is for nothing.
Then God tells Jeremiah to do it again. So Jeremiah tells Baruch to write God’s words again on another scroll. You can see how Baruch could be discouraged from all this. His job is getting harder and he thinks that this work is not worth it. But just because the project fails, it doesn’t mean that you are a failure.
LESSON 2: God wants me to learn from my failure. (Jeremiah 45:2-4)
The second lesson one can learn from failure is that God wants me to learn from my failures. Each failure is a learning opportunity. You can learn from other people’s failures. But you can also learn from your failures too. The problem is that we usually take a detour when we fail. We like to go on our own path – whether that is the path of denial or the path of ambition, we try to go around our failures.
That is what Baruch was doing here. As we will see, he was thinking of how to ignore this giant problem and get out of the work that God had for him. Because when you fail, the first instinct can be to just get out.
THE DETOUR I TAKE WHEN GOD WANTS TO TEACH ME
1. I refuse to listen even when God speaks to me during my failures.
““This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch:” (Jeremiah 45:2, CSB)
The fact that it says that “The Lord says to you, Baruch,” it means that Baruch was not listening. The fact that Jeremiah had to come to speak to Baruch meant that Baruch wasn’t listening. Baruch didn’t want to listen. You see, Baruch had started making his own plans because of this failure. He started to set out his own path – this detour. Instead of listening to the whisper of God, Baruch had started to plan his own plan. We will see more of this ambition later. But the first step of this detour was to ignore God’s whisper.
I need to know that God is there even when I fail. Jesus restored Peter. Jesus shined the light on Paul. God spoke to Moses. God is always speaking to us even when we fail.
Every setback is an opportunity to learn. My attitude affects my altitude. Do I look at failure as an opportunity to learn, or as a way to complain? Baruch took failure as an opportunity to complain about his lot in life.
2. I can make failure seem worse when I complain.
“‘You have said, “Woe is me, because the Lord has added misery to my pain! I am worn out with groaning and have found no rest.” ’” (Jeremiah 45:3, CSB)
I can make my failures seem bigger than they really are when I complain.
“Woe is me”
“God has added misery to my pain”
“I am worn out with groaning”
“I have found no rest”
Four times Baruch complains about himself. See how many times he talks negatively about himself. The more you focus on yourself in words of negativity, the more you will blame God for failures.
Baruch was complaining since he was not listening. He made his failure seem worse than it really was. Baruch was so upset about his failure that he started to seek another path. Then he started complaining about his condition. Then he started to blame God for why he wasn’t working a better job. We will see this later in Jeremiah 45:5. But for right now, we see Baruch getting upset at God for his current working conditions.
3. God’s concerns are bigger than my complaints.
““This is what you are to say to him: ‘This is what the Lord says: “What I have built I am about to demolish, and what I have planted I am about to uproot—the whole land!” (Jeremiah 45:4, CSB)
After listening to Baruch’s complaints, God sets him straight. He puts Baruch’s complaints in perspective. God let Baruch into an insight of God’s plan for the people of Israel. Because God had built Israel as His people and now He would have to demolish that work. God had planted Israel in the land for them and now He would have to take them out and place them somewhere else.
Baruch’s job was just to dictate on paper what God said to Jeremiah to tell the people. In comparison, Baruch’s problems were very small. Baruch’s level of responsibility was very small in comparison to God’s responsibility in this situation.
When you feel like you want to complain about your problems, go look at what your boss has to deal with. Go ask what kind of problems people with more responsibility than yourself have to deal with. You will see that compared to other people’s problems, yours are probably pretty small. Since they are so small, they are not worth complaining.
My father-in-law used to say about people who complained about their problems: “A very tiny part of the world is upset.” It is also what God told Baruch.
Which brings us back to the learning opportunity. What was it that God wanted Baruch to learn from this seeming failure? Stop detouring and start trusting Me.
LESSON 3: Focus on what God wants me to do and not my failures because He will take care of me. (Jeremiah 45:5)
“But as for you, do you pursue great things for yourself? Stop pursuing! For I am about to bring disaster on everyone”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“but I will grant you your life like the spoils of war wherever you go.” ’ ”” (Jeremiah 45:5, CSB)
The third lesson to learn from failure is that you need to keep your focus on what God wants you to do because He will take care of you. In this case, God was reminding Baruch that he didn’t need another job. Baruch didn’t need to run from this responsibility. Instead, God wanted Baruch to learn that he needed to endure this setback and continue doing the work that God has set before him. In the meantime, God will continue to take care of him.
So if I would stay focused on what God wants me to do, and not set my eyes on my ambitions or my failures, God will take care of me. The reason this is important is that the world wants you to climb a ladder. The world teaches you that when you have worked for a certain amount of time, it is time to move up. But that is not always the case. Sometimes, God wants you to stay put. When He wants you to stay put, God will provide what you need to stay put. This lesson is true for your job, your family, and even for your church. You need to learn to be faithful. Setbacks and failures, not excuses to use on your part to move on.
When you focus on your failures, you start to look for greener pastures. You begin to think if there is another place to go or another work to do. You serve your own ambitions. But here we learn from this example that if God wants you somewhere else, He will bring people into your path who will show you.
God brought Jeremiah into Baruch’s life to show him that he should continue to do the work that God called him to do. When God wants you to shift gears, change locations, or do something different, He will make it very clear to you.