Anyone familiar with the renowned apologist, Dr William Lane Craig, will be accustomed to his wit, tact, and handling of philosophy and theology. Fewer may be familiar with his failure to receive a Doctorate in Theology.
It is an astounding thought, yet true. Dr Craig, having failed in obtaining his Doctorate, later went on and succeeded in his second attempt. Yet, few would question the contribution Dr Craig has made to apologetics and his efforts towards furthering the truth of the Gospel.
So why did he fail? This may appear a simple question, pinned down to some combination of human failure and God’s timing. We could discuss the merits of God’s unknowable timing and the purpose of character growth in failure – equally worthy of its own article.
However, to only reduce Christian failure to a matter of character or some vague notion of God’s timing, does injustice to the beauty of God’s glory in the failure of a Christian.
A critical eye may read Peter’s words and label him a hypocrite. Peter, the disciple who rebuked Jesus when He foretold his crucifixion (Matthew chapter 16, verse 22) and who denied Jesus three times (Matthew chapter 26, verse 69-75).
This same disciple also declared in 1 Peter chapter 5, verse 7, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
The disciple who so immensely failed is the same disciple who so succinctly reminds us that God cares for us. This is made possible because Peter, of all the disciples, understands this truth so well.
Writing about this phenomenon, Puritan Richard Sibbes comments, “Christ chose those to preach mercy who had felt most mercy, as Peter and Paul, that they might be examples of what they taught.”
Jesus, too, taught this, after His head had been anointed by someone deemed sinful, when He said, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke chapter 7, verse 47).
The initial application of this is the magnificently confusing year we have all experience in 2020. A year rife with confusion, unemployment, uncertainty, ill health, and the list goes on.
To say that some of us may feel a sense of failure, in our inability to achieve what we may have set out to do this year, would be an understatement. Many people have had to face the harsh reality of lost income, sudden upheavals of life plans, separation from families, and the loss of loved ones.
This is real, and the pain is real. We may be able to logically accept that God is sovereign and that none of this is within our control, but to live that out is far more difficult.
Rather, we may be tempted to think we behold an iota of control, and that we have failed. That we would be better off, had we made other life choices, and yet we have failed in some respect.
However, our lives are not limited to 2020. Though this year has been immensely difficult, the Christian life as a whole, is not a stranger to suffering. The temptation to think we have failed will no disappear come midnight on 31 December.
Yet to claim some sense of control not only renders us attempted thieves of God’s sovereignty, it hinders us from embracing the comforting words of 1 Peter chapter 5, verse 7 quoted above.
Great is thy faithfulness
When we lay to rest our sense of failure and embrace Him who is eternally and radically sovereign, we can be assured of the truth found in 2 Timothy chapter 2, verse 13,
“if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
Though we may stumble again and be tempted to wrestle control from God time and again, ultimately only to find failure, we can be assured that He will always remain faithful.
Blake Gardiner is from Auckland, sounds American, looks Swedish, but grew up in Laos. As an introvert, Blake lives life on the edge by socialising. When he isn’t putting his life at such risk, he enjoys reading theology and debating whether Interstellar is truly the greatest movie of all time.