Robert Jeffress - Don't Mess Up For Free
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". The great American novelist, F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, "There are no second acts in American lives". Well, I'm please to inform you that Fitzgerald was wrong. We can experience a new beginning after a major failure. In fact, our mistakes can be a stepping stone to later success in life. As we continue our series, "Second Chance, Second Act," I'll show you that while failure may be painful, it can also be profitable. I've titled my message, "Don't Mess Up For Free," on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Everyday ordinary people make the choice to repeat their mistakes rather than learn from their mistakes. Remember failure is inevitable. We're all going to mess up big time at some point in our life. And even though the grace of God erases the eternal consequences of our sin, God's grace does not erase the temporary consequences of our sin. We have to pay a price for our failure. We're going to pay a price, we're gonna pay a price either in one lump sum or on the monthly installment basis. But failure has a price tag to it. That price tag may include a bankruptcy, a termination from a job, a divorce, or even imprisonment.
Even though we're gonna pay a price for our failure, we have a choice. We can learn from that failure or we can keep on repeating it. That's why the second principle for having a second act and second chance in life is this. Don't mess up for free. That's what we're going to talk about today, how to learn from your failures rather than repeat your failures. By the way, did you know the fact that God makes you suffer the temporary consequences of your mistake is a sign of God's love for you, not his hatred of you?
Think about it this way. Think about a rancher who puts up an electric fence or a barbed wire fence around his acreage. Why does he put that fence around his acreage? Because he hates the cattle? No, he cares about their well being. He wants to prevent them from wandering onto a busy highway or into the hands of a rustler. Every time a cow presses up against that boundary, he's gonna feel the sting or the shock of the fence. It's a reminder to that cow to stay within the boundaries.
In the same way, God has established boundaries in our lives and whenever we go past those boundaries, we're going to feel the pain of that action. Not because God hates us, but because he loves us. Nevertheless, feeling that sting, that shock in our life can be very, very painful. Although we don't have any choice about whether we pay a failure fee, we do have a choice about whether we're going to learn from it or not. And that leads to a different perspective about failure I want you to think about today. Instead of viewing the mistake you've made in your past and the painful consequences that follow, instead of viewing those things as unwelcome circumstances over which you have no control, I want you to start thinking about your mistake and the painful consequences as actually the fee you have paid to a consultant to help you improve your life.
You have probably already paid a very steep price for this big mistake in your life. It is a non-refundable fee you've paid. Why in the world would you not learn from that fee rather than ignoring the advice you're getting and continue in your failure? That leads to a very important word in the Bible I want us to talk about today. It's the word reproof. You'll find this word especially in the book of Proverbs. Jot this down on your notes. What is a reproof? Reproofs describe the lessons that failure provides. Reproofs describe the lessons that failure provides. Specifically, in the scripture, a reproof is a negative consequence that results from a mistake we've made.
Now, the Bible describes two different ways to respond to these negative consequences, these reproofs that come into our life when we make a mistake. The wise person is one who learns from his reproofs while the foolish person ignores reproofs. The wise person learns from these negative circumstances that come into his life while the foolish person ignores them. In his collection of Proverbs, Solomon contrasts the wise man and the fool and how they respond to reproofs, or sometimes the Bible uses the term discipline. Discipline is simply another word for reproofs. Just jot down some of these references in Proverbs.
Proverbs 10:17, "He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, but he who forsakes reproof goes astray".
Proverbs 12:1, "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid". You know my parents told me never to call people stupid, but Solomon does it! He says, "If you don't learn from the mistakes you make, you're stupid! You're a moron! Only a fool would continue to pay over and over again for mistakes he's already made".
Proverbs 13:18, "Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline, but he who regards," that is embraces, "Reproof will be honored".
Proverbs 15:10, "Stern discipline is for him who forsakes the way: he who hates reproof will die". Proverbs 29:1, "A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy".
How can you keep from falling into the same trap? Well, let's talk about how we can keep from messing up for free. That is how to profit from your first-act failures. And there are four biblical principles I want us to consider today that will help us do just that. First of all, properly assess your failure. When you're confronted with a failure in your life, it's important that you properly assess it. Remember what we said last time? Failure is not an event in your life, it's a judgment about an event in your life. That judgment may be accurate or it may be inaccurate. It's important to properly assess your failure. Romans 12:3 says we need to think so as to have sound judgment.
That leads to principle number two, learn on somebody else's nickel. Learn on someone else's nickel. You know it's good to learn from your failure, but you know what's better? To learn from somebody else's failure, to let somebody else pay the price for failure and you learn from what they did wrong. Sydney Frankenstein has written a book, "Why Smart Executives Fail," and in this book he interviewed 200 chief executives who had made bad mistakes. He said, "You know, most books deal with people's successes, I want to deal with their failures and see what lessons we can learn from people's failures".
As a result of this study, Sydney Frankenstein developed a five day course at the Dartmouth School of Business on why businesses fail and he said in his book, "Some of the best learning comes from studying the things that go wrong". Studying the things that go wrong. That's not only the way to build a great business, it's the way to build an effective life, as well. Turn to Proverbs 24 where Solomon makes that observation. Solomon, the wisest person who ever lived, illustrated the importance of learning from people's mistakes. Look at this, Proverbs 24, beginning with verse 30. "I passed by the field of a sluggard and by the vineyard of the man lacking sense. And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles. Its surface was covered with nettles, and the stone wall was broken down".
Apparently Solomon was taking a morning stroll and as he was walking around his neighborhood, he noticed one piece of property that had become an eyesore. The grass was overgrown, the fence was broken down, the paint was peeling from the house. What was his response to that? Did he get angry and say, "I can't believe my neighbor allowed this to happen? He is going to ruin my property value! I'm going to call the homeowner's association and lodge complaint". Or did he become prideful and say, "Look at that sluggard! I'm so glad I'm industrious, I would never let that happen to my piece of property". No, he didn't respond that way. Instead of becoming angry or prideful over somebody else's mistake, he decided to learn from that mistake.
Look at verses 32 to 34. "When I saw, I reflected upon it. I looked, and I received instruction". And this is the instruction he received. "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, then your poverty will come as a robber and your want like an armed man". Exactly what is it that Solomon learned from his neighbor's failure? The Old Testament scholar, Derek Kidner sums it up this way. "The wise man will learn while there is time. He knows that the sluggard, the lazy person, is no freak, but as often as not, an ordinary man who has made too many excuses, too many refusals, and too many postponements". "It has been as imperceptible and as pleasant as falling asleep".
When you see somebody who has failed in his business, in his marriage, in his relationship with God, don't gloat over another person's failure. You know all of us have this tendency inside when we see somebody else fail to kind of rejoice in it. It makes us feel better about ourselves to say, "Look at what happened to him or her"! Did you know the Bible says you better never rejoice in somebody else's failure. In fact, Proverbs 17:5 says, "Those who rejoice at the misfortune of others will be punished". Don't gloat when somebody else fails and whatever you do, don't become prideful over it. Don't say, "Oh, I would never make that mistake"! Remember the warning of Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:12? "If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall". Don't gloat, don't become prideful: instead, Solomon says, learn from the failures of other people.
In fact, let me give you three questions you oughta ask yourself when you see somebody else fail. By the way, parents, grandparents, you need to teach your children to do this as well. You need to, when they see when somebody else fails, maybe it's somebody they know, maybe it's somebody in the entertainment world or the political world, you need to use other people's failures as a way to instruct your children. When you see people fail, here are three questions you ought to ask.
Number one, what wrong assumptions, attitudes, or habits led to that person's downfall? What wrong assumptions, attitudes, or habits led to his downfall?
Number two, have I adopted some of those same assumptions, attitudes, and habits in my life? Have I adopted some of those same assumptions, attitudes, and habits in my life?
And number three, what can I do differently to avoid the same pitfall? That leads to principle number three. Instead of churning over your failure, start learning from your failure. That is, instead of lamenting and having a pity party for yourself about the painful consequences you continue to experience from your first-act failure, why not start learning from those mistakes? Proverbs 13:18 says, "Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline, but he who regards reproof will be honored".
You say, "Well how do you learn from your mistakes"? There are three people you oughta consult after your failure so that you can learn from your failure. First of all, there are some questions you oughta ask other people. Hopefully, you have one or two people in your life who care about you deeply and want to see you succeed who will tell you the truth about your life. When you fail big time in your life, hopefully there are one or two people you can go to to ask some very pointed questions. Proverbs 12:15 says, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel".
Secondly, you oughta schedule an appointment with yourself, to ask yourself some important questions after a first-act failure. And that leads to the third person, and perhaps the most important person to consult with after your first-act failure and that's God himself. Nobody knows you better, nobody wants to see you succeed more than your Creator. That's why it's important that we ask him for guidance especially after we fail. James 1:5 says, "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it shall be given to him".
You know we all say, "Oh, we need to pray for wisdom". Well what does that mean? Wisdom isn't just some abstract commodity. We're asking for God's point of view in specific circumstances, especially after we have failed. We need God's perspective on our failure. We need to have a consultation with ourself, with other people, and certainly with God. That leads to a fourth way to learn from your failure. Use your advance warning system to avoid failure. Hopefully you have surrounded yourself with some people who will warn you when you're about to crash and burn. Some people can alert you to the possibility of failure and shout out, "Watch out, watch out, watch out"! The fact is you and I need people in our life who will tell us the truth.
You know this piece of advice is worth the price of the message this morning. I would encourage you this week to find one or two people, close friends, who love you enough to tell you when you're getting ready to make a big mistake. Say to them, "I value your counsel so much that if you see me about to make a mistake in my marriage, in my work, in my relationship with God, in any part of my life, I want you to know you have complete freedom to tell me about that. And I promise if you tell me, I won't resent you for doing so". Now if you make that pledge to somebody and institute your own advance warning system, it's important that when they give you that counsel, you receive it. You may not always agree with it, but to receive it and thank them for it instead of resenting them. It is important that we all have that kind of advance warning system to avoid failure.
Many of you know the name of Dale Carnegie. He's recognized as one of the most successful motivational speakers of all time. His book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," has sold over 15 million copies. His Carnegie Institute for effective speaking has trained thousands of people in the art of communication. But what you may not know is Dale Carnegie was not always a success. His early life was marked by consistent failure. Born into poverty, he determined that he wanted to be a successful speaker. In college, he entered a number of speaking tournaments. He didn't win one. In fact, he failed to graduate from college 'cause he couldn't pass Latin.
After dropping out of college, he went to New York city trying to become an actor. He failed there, as well. With no way to make a living, he went to the local YMCA and offered to teach speech courses there, public speaking courses. The YMCA said they didn't have the money to pay him his usual $2 per class fee so he agreed to teach for free if they would give him his fee if the students would remain in the class. They agreed to do so. And so for the next years, Dale Carnegie earned a meager salary teaching these classes at the YMCA, but in his off time, he was writing pamphlets for his students on effective speaking, doing so free of charge. Later, those free pamphlets would become the basis for his mega best-selling books.
What was the key to Dale Carnegie's success during his second-act in life? His biographer summarizes it this way, "Carnegie rose to fame as one of the most effective trainers of speakers and one of the best-selling authors of all time. Two keys enabled him to turn his failure into success. Number one, his unwillingness to be stopped by failure. And number two, his willingness to learn from his failure". Simply put, Dale Carnegie refused to mess up for free. And so should you.