Standing Up In A Falling Down World #3: Failing Up
Text: Ezekiel 36:16-30
Key Verse: 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
Intro: Playing Golf With A Blind Man.
Charlie Boswell was blinded during World War II while rescuing his friend from a tank that was under fire. He was a great athlete before his accident and he after his blindness to try a sport he never imagined playing, even when he could see. He took up golf!
Through determination and a deep love for the game he became the National Blind Golf Champion! He won that title 13 times. One of his heroes was the great golfer Ben Hogan, and he had the honor win the Ben Hogan Award in 1958.
Upon meeting Ben Hogan, Charlie stated that he had one wish and it was to have one round of golf with the great Ben Hogan. Mr. Hogan agreed that playing a round together would be an honor for him as well, as he had heard about all of Charlie's accomplishments and truly admired his skills.
"Would you like to play for me for money, Mr. Hogan?" asked Charlie with a smile.
"I can't play you for money, it wouldn't be fair!" said Mr. Hogan.
"Aw, come on, Mr. Hogan. I tell you what how about $1,000 per hole!"
"I can't, what would people think of me, taking advantage of you and your circumstance," replied the sighted golfer.
"You aren’t chicken are you, Mr. Hogan?"
"Okay," blurted a frustrated Hogan, "but I am going to play my best!"
"I wouldn't expect anything else," said the confident Boswell.
"You're on Mr. Boswell, you name the time and the place!"
A very self-assured Boswell responded Let’s play at the local country club tomorrow.”
Okay, said Hogan, I’m free. What time do you want to tee off?
“Well how about 10 PM that night!"- By John Kanary, from A Cup of Chicken Soup for the Soul
Charlie Boswell was a man who had turned the failure of eyes to a success. This morning I want us to see how God can turn our failure into His glory.
In our series “Standing Up In a Falling Down World we are going through the books of the Bible that take place just before and during the Exile of Israel, which took place when Babylon invaded the country and began taking captives back to the land of Babylon.
Ezekiel served as the prophet of God during the exile and God used him to bring His people back to Himself, and then to prepare them for the day when they would return to their homeland. Ezekiel 36-37 is one of those prophesies. In it Israel learns that the preparation for their return begins with the understanding of the depth of their failure.
Past Failure - Ezekiel 36:16-21
Moreover, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman. Wherefore I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols wherewith they had polluted it: And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land. But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went.
Israel’s Failure, God’s Glory
They had rebelled, disobeyed and been punished. In the first part of this chapter God says, This was not their only failure, neither their first nor their last. In fact Israel had a history of failure to look back upon.
They had failed God in Egypt, they failed Him in the Exodus, they failed in crossing in to Canaan, they failed once they had conquered Canaan, they failed with the Judges, they failed with their Kings. Failed as a united kingdom, failed as a divided nation. They sinned, rebelled and worshipped idols. They failed their God, and continually broke their covenant with God, until God removed them from the land, The northern kingdom by Syria and the southern kingdom by Babylon. Yet despite all of their failings, still God intends to use Israel to bring the Messiah into the world.
Failure after failure and yet still God saves them and ultimately, uses them to be a channel for the greatest gift that the world has ever known, His own son would be born from these failures. Now that’s what you call failing up.
Our Failure, God’s Grace
What a lesson we can learn from Israel’s failure. That no matter how sinful I am, no matter how much I fail Him, deny His name or backslide, God can still use me. In fact part of that lesson is to realize that many times God can only use me if I fail, because only when I am in the throes of my defeat and the consequences of my sin will I turn my eyes toward God.
But how do I resolve my failure into God’s glory?
First: Realize Whom I have failed.
David's plea of forgiveness is Psalms 51:4 "against thee and thee only have I sinned." Yes he had sinned against Bathsheba, against Uriah, against his family and against his nation but first and foremost his sin was against God, as all sin is first and foremost against God.
Second: Realize that failure is not the end with God, but it may be the place where He begins.
Quote: A failure, within God's purpose, is no longer really a failure. Thus the cross, the supreme failure, is at the same time the supreme triumph of God, since it is the accomplishment of the purpose of salvation. -Paul Tournier (1898-1986)
Quote: Beware of succumbing to failure as inevitable; make it the stepping-stone to success. - Oswald Chambers (1874-1917)
Examples: The apostles after falling asleep in then fleeing from the mob in the Garden, leaving and forsaking their Lord. Peter denying Jesus even amplifying that denial with a curse. Phillip doubting the resurrection. Paul walking away from Barnabus and John Mark. Over and over God allows us to see the failure and weakness of our Biblical examples and over and over we also see God overcoming their failure to bring glory to His name.
Illustration: G W Truett after killing his best friend on a hunting trip.
On February 4, 1898, GW Truett, the young pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and his best friend, Dallas Police chief and fellow member of his church, James Arnold and Rev. G. W. Banner set out in a buggy to hunt birds near Cleburne. In the afternoon, Truett’s shotgun accidentally discharged, hitting Chief Arnold in the leg. Truett and Banner quickly tied off a tourniquet to stop the flow of blood. They were successful in getting him to local Dr. Harris who treated the wound. Satisfied that Chief Arnold could make the trip back to Dallas on the scheduled Santa Fe train, they brought Arnold to his home. At first, Arnold’s condition appeared to be stable, given the wounds, but they still called in a local doctor for a consultation. Arnold was given fluids to compensate for the loss of blood, but late on the afternoon of Feb. 5, he began to decline and he died at his home at about 8 PM that evening.
The official cause of death was listed as a heart attack, but Truett blamed himself for the accident and was deeply depressed at the loss of his close friend. Truett decided to leave the ministry, but was persuaded by friends and church members to continue, which he ultimately did. Truett would later reveal that he had also felt that Jesus had stood beside him saying “Be not afraid, George. You are my man from now on.” Truett would go on to serve as pastor of First Baptist for a total of 47 years and to become the most influential pastor in the United States during the 1920s and 30’s.
His failure could have destroyed him but he looked to God and God used him for His name’s sake and glory to pastor His church until 1944, 47 years of faithful service.
It is all of grace, grace, God's wonderful grace! I would this day rededicate my all to Christ, to go and to say and to do and to be, what he would have my hands for all the days ahead, whatever they may be: I do fervently hope and pray that my days ahead may be far better and more useful than the days that are gone. May God mercifully grant it, for His Great Name's Sake! – George W. Truett
Present Power - Ezekiel 36:22-24
22 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. 23 And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. 24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.
God’s Glory From Israel’s Failure
Why would God use Israel after all her failings? He tells them in vss. 21-23.
Ezekiel 36:22-23 I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD.
God says he will do it for his name’s sake, for His glory.
As God’s people, their failure reflected on Him and so he would restore His people and in doing this, He would glorify Himself through them, their success would be by His power and for His name’s sake.
Our Failure, God Glory
It seems and was incredible that God would continue to use Israel, but even more incredible is the truth that our failure Can Be God’s opportunity to glorify His name today.
This will be true only if you, like Israel, are His. God will help me despite my sin and failure for His name’s sake, but that is only true if I am under that name, if I belong to Him.
Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
Where God’s name is involved, where God's ownership is involved, God will act.
Paul's thorn in the flesh 2 Cor 12:7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Weakness becomes strength that the power of God may be seen. My failure may be God’s opportunity to bring glory to His name if I belong to Him and if I trust Him.
If you are God’s, He will act on your behalf even overcoming our worst failures to glorify through us to Himself. But if you are not His, your failures and sin will culminate into the greatest failure of all eternity, the failure to trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. Because you would not choose to belong to God then the torment, pain and suffering of Hell and eternal separation from God and all that is His blessing, awaits you. You will have eternity to suffer the consequences of your greatest failure, the failure to belong to God.
Listen To have God’s overcoming power we must belong to Him.
Illustration: Daddy, Why Do You Work? Because You are my Son.
Early on a cold dark morning a father opened the kitchen door and lunch in hand started to step out into the black chill of another winter workday. Down the hall he heard socked feet running on the wooden floor. His 3-yr. old son, fresh from a warm bed, with sleep still in his eyes and spikes in his hair ran into his dad's lowered arms. As he picked up his son and hugged him through his thick coat the small child asked, "Daddy why do have to go to work?"
The father looked down at the boy, his head pillowed on the coat's thick pile collar, his face protected by Dad's warm neck, his eyes already on their way back to dreams just let.
"I work," the dad said, now mostly to himself, "because this house is my home, because your mother is my wife and because you little one, you are my son."
Don’t you know that is how God feels toward us as His children. Don’t you know that in Him that feeling is multiplied by the universe around us and eternity that awaits us. God loves and acts for us because we are His.
Transition: Now God has a promise that He gives to Israel. One of the most anticipated and celebrated promises that has been given.
Promised Future - Ezekiel 36:25-30
Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen.
Israel's Future Covenant
The steps in the redemption of Israel are forgiveness, regeneration, and the gift of the Spirit of God. - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
This is the “New Covenant” which would replace the covenant of the “Law” or the Mosaic covenant which was begun at Mt. Sinai.
The Past Covenants of God
1.The Edenic Covenant – Gen. 1:28-30; 2:16-17
2.The Adamic Covenant Genesis 3
3.The Noahic Covenant. - Gen. 8:21-9:17
4.The Abrahamic Covenant - Gen. 13:14-17; 15:1-21; 22:15-18
5.The Mosaic Covenant - Exodus 19:3-6
6.The Palestinian Covenant - Deut. 30, Amos 9:9-15
7.The Davidic Covenant - 2 Sam. 7:8-16; Psalm 89:1-4, 19-37; Jer 23:5
8.The New Covenant - Jer. 31 - Heb. 8:8-13
Under God's “New Covenant” by His power and plan, He would…
God washing away the sin of Israel. vs. 25, a picture of forgiveness
Give them a new heart, a picture of regeneration, salvation. vs. 26
Give them a new spirit, and finally the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. vs. 27
They would have a new Relationship with God vs. 28
And they would now Rest in God's Provision vs. 29-30
Our Failure, God’s Gift
The New Covenant, or the Covenant of Grace, began when Christ came but was rejected by Israel because they rejected Christ.
Yet another failure of Israel, God’s nation, but still God, for His name’s sake, will bring them this new covenant when Jesus returns as Lord of Lords and King of Kings, to claim His people, His nation and His world at the end of the time of Jacob’s sorrow, the Tribulation.
Yet, Israel’s failure would be God’s opportunity yet again and this time failing up would mean the salvation of the Gentiles, our salvation.
Hebrews 8:6 But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
Hebrews 9:15 And for this cause He is the mediator of the new testament (covenant), that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
Heb 12:24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
Those verses speak of the failure of the old covenant and the gift of the new covenant though Jesus Christ. We who have accepted the gift of salvation bought for us by the death of Jesus Christi, have entered by faith into that new covenant with God.
We have been cleansed, through the renewing of forgiveness. We have been given a new heart, replacing our hearts of stone. We have a new spirit, one that has been quickened, made alive. We have been given the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In the new covenant we have a new relationship with God built on grace and faith. In the new covenant we have rest for our souls in God's provision for every step of our lives today and into eternity beyond.
Talk about failing up! Israel’s failure, my failure, their sin, my sin could not be greater than the gift of God. It could not shut God’s open door of opportunity and the grace and forgiveness that poured through that door opened on Calvary mount to me.
When the relationship I have with God is real to me, then failure, no matter how terrible, will never anything more than God’s opportunity to act in my life and bring victory and glory for His names sake, for those who are under than name, who those who belong to him.
Illustration: Eric Liddell’s stumble and rise.
Many of you saw the movie Chariots of Fire back many years ago. It was the story of Eric Liddell, a man who ran for Scotland and the United Kingdom, then went on to become a missionary. He was famous because he refused the time trials for the 100-yard dash on the Sunday, choosing instead to attend church. Resisting great pressure, even from the prince of wales, he stood for his convictions and in honor of his God. Ultimately, he did run the 400 yard dash, a race he had not trained for but won the gold and set a new Olympic record.
Eric Liddell once said, “I believe God made for me for a purpose and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” Eric Liddell believed he was God’s even down to the races he ran.
One year before the pivotal event in the movie, Eric Liddell ran in a meet between England, Ireland and Scotland. He ran the 100-, 220-, and 440-yard events.
In the 440, he got off to a bad start. When that gun sounded, there was a lot of shoving to get in front to the inside lane, the advantageous position.
Liddell tangled feet with J. J. Gillies of England and tumbled to the track. He sat there dazed for a moment, not knowing whether he could get up, when the official screamed, "Get up and run!"
He jumped to his feet and took off after the pack, which was now a full twenty yards ahead of him. In a quarter mile, that's a big distance to try to make up. In his unorthodox style of running he took off after the pack. He pulled into fourth place ten yards behind the leader, J. J. Gillies.
With forty yards to go, he pulled into third place, then second. Right at the tape he passed Gillies, stuck his chest out, won the race, and collapsed to the track in total exhaustion. Medical personnel had to assist him off the track that day.
Eric Liddell failed that day, he fell down and should have been out of the race, but he got back up, continued to run and in the end he won. Eric Liddell ran for the glory of God.
Later in life he went to China, as a missionary to run the race of the Gospel, for the glory of God. When the Japanese invaded China in the late 1930s and he was told to leave by his government, he refused, he chose to stay for the glory of God. He was thrown into a concentration camp by the invading army, there he preached and helped care for the Chinese people he had won to the Lord. He died in that camp and ran his last race to the finish line of heaven, for the glory of God.
What failure do you need to turn over to God this morning, that he might use it to bring victory.
Have you failed in trying to be good enough? Have you failed in pretending that you don’t need God? Then turn that failure over to God this morning.
Have you failed as a child of God? Have you failed as church member? Have you failed as a parent? Have I have failed as a missionary or as a pastor? Oh yes, we have, many times over, but we belong to God and for His names sake, He will act on our behalf and we will show the glory of God in our lives. Yes, we have failed but with God that failure can be turned upward to His power, His glory and His grace.