When Failure is Turned to Victory

by Julie Zine Coleman

God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong . . . so that no man may boast before God. 1 Corinthians 1:27, 29 NASB

During the annual missions conference at Capital Bible Seminary, we had the pleasure of sitting under the teaching of Dr. Lewis Sutton. He told a great story about his college experience.

Dr. Sutton had committed himself to getting up early each morning to spend time in God’s Word as well as in prayer. Being a typical young adult, he was not very disciplined about getting to bed at a decent hour. So, the early risings were often difficult to manage. One morning, after too little sleep the previous night, Dr. Sutton sat at his desk, trying to focus on his Bible propped up in front of him. His brain too foggy to think clearly, he decided to spend the rest of his time in prayer before getting ready for class. With his roommate still asleep, Dr. Sutton rested his head on his folded hands on the desk, started to pray, and promptly fell asleep. Two hours later he awoke with a start to find himself late for class.

A few weeks later, Dr. Sutton and his roommate attended a Christian fellowship, and his roommate was asked how things were going. “Just great!” the roommate enthused. “I’ve been having great quiet times with the Lord.” When asked if something had happened to make that difference in his life, the roommate gave a ready answer: “The other day, Lewis spent two whole hours in prayer. I was so impressed I decided to do exactly what he was doing. And the Lord really turned my life around!”

Of course, Dr. Sutton later shared exactly what had gone on during that “prayer” session his roommate had observed, and together they had a good laugh. But he had discovered an interesting truth about God: He can use even our greatest weakness or failure in a good way in us and in the lives of others.

We worry about having it all together before we try to serve God. But God doesn’t tend to use people who have it all together. He wants people who again and again curl up at His feet, aware of their sin and begging for the grace to carry on.

When we blow it, we are suddenly aware of the ugliness that still exists inside us. The façade is shattered, and we come face to face with what really was true all along: We are too needy and unworthy to deserve to be used in the service of the King. Yet amazingly, God delights to work through those who are a big mess (like me). After a failure, we are aware once again that we need grace as much as ever. God’s response to this awareness is to compassionately wrap His arms around us. Psalm 34:18 assures us: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (NASB).

While the world considers things like self-sufficiency, confidence, and competence to be worthy and admirable, these are not what God desires for us. Instead, He wants us to be dependent on His strength, reliant on His power, and wholly leaning on Him for all aspects of our life. The more aware we are of our faults, the more we understand that if we were left to fend for ourselves, it would not end well.

That is what our weaknesses do for us. They keep us grounded in the truth, so that God can do His most mighty work through us. And in the end, His glory shines out through the cracks in the vessels He has chosen to use.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).


About the authorJulie Zine Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or crafting. More on Julie can be found at her new website JulieZineColeman.com and Facebook.

Many Christian women are torn between the church’s traditional teachings on gender roles and the liberty they experience in secular society. But what if the church’s conventional interpretations aren’t really biblical at all? Julie’s new book, On Purpose, is a careful study of the passages in the Bible often interpreted to limit women in the church, at home, or in the workplace. Each chapter reveals timeless biblical principles that actually teach freedom, not limitation.

Join the conversation: How dependent are you on God’s grace?


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