James was a grocery clerk who started, with capital of $65, to peddle cheese from a one-horse wagon. To say he was a dismal failure would be kind. James continued to push himself but grew deeper in debt. He was young and inexperienced, so he sought the advice of a wise Christian friend. “You haven’t included God in your business,” his friend observed. “You haven’t let Him take over the work – you’ve only asked Him to be a part of it. That’s not how God works.” This sent the young clerk into a tailspin. James was gripped with mixed emotions. He was offended that such a judgment be laid on him. At the same time he was struck by his friend’s blunt honesty. It was a pivotal moment for him. Days passed as the young clerk prayed and pondered. His business was failing but he decided to look past his shortcomings and stare into his future. Finally, he crossed a line in the sand. He wrote his friend, saying, “If God wants to run this cheese business, He can do it. I’ll work for Him.” And this is what he prayed. James' pity party had come to an end. From that moment on, God became the senior partner in his business, the Chief Person consulted in every decision. A chair was left open in meetings, reminding key staff of His presence. Over the months the business grew and prospered. It eventually became the largest cheese company in the world. James L. Kraft’s failures didn’t keep him from succeeding. James' determination and unwillingness to give up made all the difference in the Kraft Cheese Company. I have three tips that will help you to fail forward.
1. Reject rejection.
We all fail, but not everyone fails forward. Just because you failed once it doesn’t mean that you will be a failure every time you try. The hardest step to take is the one that gets you back on your feet again. On one occasion Jesus sent a group of his disciples ahead to make plans for him in a city. Instead of being welcomed, the men were beaten and ran out of town. Jesus didn’t quit ministry just because a group of people rejected him, he refused to be rejected and moved on. He could have given up because at times it may have felt as if the world was against him, but he didn’t. Jesus didn’t fail because he rejected rejection. You need to reject rejection too. When you refuse to be rejected, you will be willing to try again.
2. Create realistic expectations for yourself. You can expect to take a walk around your neighborhood with few problems. But if you expect to climb Mount Everest without any problems, clearly you have not set realistic expectations. I do a lot of pre-marital counseling. The one thing I try and communicate to every couple is that in your marriage relationship you will have problems. But how you deal with them is what counts. Life involves both success and failure. Be sure to set realistic expectations for yourself.
Jesus said: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
3. Learn how to bounce back. Everybody fails, that’s a fact. You and I have to learn how to fail forward. It’s called bouncing back. In 2 Corinthians 11 the Apostle Paul lists off about a dozen of his problems to illustrate how he felt. This is a summary of what he said: “I was beaten and abandoned, I was left for dead, I was shipwrecked and spend the better part of three days in the open water. My friends abandoned me in my time of need. I have a serious physical illness that hurts constantly.” (my paraphrase) You know that failure crossed Paul’s mind on several occasions. Even after all his problems Paul said:
“…for Christ’s sake, I delight in my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV)
Joseph failed forward and ultimately saved a nation. David failed forward and became a great king. Peter failed forward and was restored in his relationship with Jesus. Failure doesn’t have to be final, keep your eyes on Jesus, learn from your mistakes, and get back on your feet again. God is with you and for you so even if you have failed, you can still make progress. Stay strong my friend and when you fail, fail forward.