What Failure Teaches Us (Mark 9:14-29)


A while back, I took golf lessons. The instructor told us that anybody can golf if they learn the fundamentals. I believed him too!

He would give us something to practice and then walk around and watch him. I still remember him when we came to watch me. He didn't say a word, but he walked away slowly shaking his head. I think I may have changed his mind about anyone being able to play golf.

A golf club may look like part of a hobby to you, but to me it looks like an instrument of torture.

I want to talk to you about failures. I failed at golf, but a lot of times our failures are a lot more significant than that. Where is it right now that you feel like a failure in your life? Is there a relationship you can't fix? A habit you can't break? A sin that you can't conquer? Could it be that God is trying to teach us something in our failures?

There's a story in the Bible about the disciples failing. Jesus had just been transfigured on the mountain. He was revealed in all his glory. When he returned to his disciples he found them fighting. Listen to what happened:

When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” (Mark 9:14-29)

The disciples failed, and Jesus is annoyed. I'm struck with a question as I read this story. What is the problem? What did the disciples do wrong?

We find out later in the story. Jesus heals the boy. Later, the disciples are alone with Jesus and they ask him why they couldn't heal the boy:

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” (Mark 9:28-29)

It seems that the disciples did something that we do all the time. They forgot to pray. They took God's power for granted and tried to handle things on their own. And they failed.

So here's the question: What failures are you and I facing because we're not tapping into God's power?

I don't know what failures you're facing in your life. I know that my tendency is to try to handle things on my own. We default into trying harder and trying to handle things on our own.

The end result is that we fail. We can't pull it off. As with the disciples, we experience consequences – not just ourselves, but in our ability to minister to others.

The alternative, Jesus says, is to return to God and to tap into his power. It's to return to God and rely on him for what he alone can do. Which is exactly why we need prayer, and why we also need communion.

The failures and sins in our lives won't be conquered by trying harder. I'm not saying that we don't play a role. But we will never be able to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We can only overcome failure in our lives by what Jesus did on the cross.

Our sins and failures often make us want to run the other away from God and the cross. This story teaches us that our failures and sins should drive us back to God and his power, back to the cross.

So as we come to the communion table this morning, I want to ask you. Where are you failing in your life? Your marriage, a relationship, a sin that you can't conquer? What is that area of failure? Bring it to the cross this morning. Why did you think you could handle it on your own? This type can only come out through prayer. This type can only be handled by what Jesus has done at the cross. So let's come to the cross this morning, not just for forgiveness, but to receive all that we need to live.

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada