Failure

There would be no failure if Adam hadn't sinned. That first great failure of man to pass the test was in the garden. Adam's failure of stewardship over the world, and your failure in Adam, is the root of all subsequent failure in the human race and in your life. Man's nature was corrupted by the fall-totally. By totally, I do not mean that every man is as bad as he might possibly become; the common grace of God restrains human sin so that does not happen. But what I mean is that every aspect of man has been affected adversely by sin. The material and the non-material side of man are equally corrupted. One must not suppose the mind is left intact while the body alone is affected, or the other way around. No, the entire man is imperfect, and all of his actions and works are affected by that imperfection.

Failure, then, may stem from the deformities of the body that are part of the curse, as, for instance, when nearsightedness leads one to fail a driver's test without glasses. The sickness of the body may lead to failure to pursue an occupation and to the subsequent loss of one's livelihood, etc. Failure of the body is often quite apparent. Its ultimate failure, of course, is that it wears out, falls apart, and must be laid in the grave.

The failure of the mind or heart is equally important. When God declares, "My thoughts are not your thoughts" (Isa. 55:8), He is making it clear that human beings do not think as they ought. This is not the fault of our humanness; man by creation was good. It is the result of sin and its effects. When we read, "Every imagination of man's heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5), "The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked" (Jer. 17:9), and men's minds have been "darkened" (Rom. 1:21), we get a picture of the effect of sin on the non-material man. Indeed, the heart is the source of one's life (Prov. 4:23). If the heart is corrupt, as in fact it is, then all of one's ways will be tainted by it.

Failure, then, is the result of sin-distorted thinking and acting in a sin-deformed body (all of us are in one way or another deformed, no matter how obvious or invisible those deformities may be). Sin has stacked the cards against us.

What has Christ done for the sinner by saving Him? He has forgiven him, of course, but has He done anything to overcome this failure factor? Yes. Christ does not give us new bodies now; the effects of sin on the body will never be erased in this life, although when we follow Christ's ways we will begin to use our bodies more effectively because we will do less harm to them. So these bodies ought to last longer, stay healthier, and therefore, be less error prone. This is obvious in such gross examples as whether or not we take LSD into our system. LSD promotes erroneous thinking that can lead to such misjudgments as thinking the body can fly out a window; and some who have ingested it have tried to do so, to their deaths. This was due to a perceptual, i.e., a bodily failure. Such an example is obvious: Sinful ways led to further bodily distortion, which in turn led ultimately to bodily destruction. But in thousands of little things, the same dynamic is also at work. In ways that are neither obvious nor conscious to him, when the Christian follows Christian thinking and behavior, these ways prevent further deterioration of the body and promote its health and happiness.

But because Christians in this life are not perfect, they too will often worry as unbelievers do, though there is absolutely nothing for them to worry about (cf. Matt. 6), thereby subjecting the body to unnecessary stresses and strains that make it more failure prone. They will get angry, hold in guilt, etc., as unbelievers do, to the detriment of the body (thereby further inclining it to failure). They too, then, will fail. Moreover, though the thinking of the believer is being transformed by the Holy Spirit as He enables him to understand the biblical revelation, that never takes place fully or perfectly in this life. Thus there will continue to be error, sin, and subsequent failure in the believer's life too. But to the extent that he begins to think and act in accord with the Scriptures and in the power of the Spirit, rather than in his own strength, he will avoid failure.

Of course, failure must be defined; what is one person's failure is another's success. When Wayne Alderson turned down a lucrative position with Bucyrus-Erie out of principle, many called this failure. What did God call it? The basis for judging success or failure is not whether we reach the goals that we have set for ourselves or that the world determines are important for us; it is whether we attain those goals God has set in His Word. Because our thoughts are not like His, those goals and objectives will frequently be at odds with the world's.

Are you a success in the eyes of the world? Whether you are or not means nothing. Are you a success in the eyes of God? That means everything.

Jay E Adams

Institute for Nouthetic Studies

100 White Meadow Ct
Simpsonville, SC 29681

(864) 399-9583

 

         

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