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Can You Be Faithful and Still Fail?

Can You Be Faithful and Still Fail?

Failure’s such an ugly word. Which is, as I talked about here, why we all gravitate toward success.

Who doesn’t want to be successful?

But here’s the truth. Most of us are not as successful as we hoped to be.

We dream of more

We dream of bigger

We dream of better

We dream

Which is good.

But what happens if it just doesn’t work out the way we’d hoped? What happens if, despite our very best efforts

The ministry never realizes the potential we see?

Our family never becomes quite what we imagined it would?

It just never goes where we hoped it would go?

Is success an indicator of God’s favour? (Which would mean those of us who are less successful are not, by implication, as faithful as those who are.)

Can you be faithful to God and still not ‘succeed’?

Well, sometimes, yes. (How’s that for clarity? Hang in there…)

Ten years ago I might not have even written this post.

Here’s why. Too often seen leaders who use faithfulness to justify their


lack of strategy




indifference toward people or the mission

If that’s you, this post isn’t about you. Get on your knees, go get help, grow up, and then get to work.

Faithful does not equal lazy. It doesn’t equal stupid. And it doesn’t equal unstrategic.

But it just doesn’t always work out the way you hoped.

Paul wanted a mission to the Jews. They resisted. He finally gave up and turned to the Gentiles.

Jonah was a failure on many levels. (He fled, he resisted and yes, he submitted. But the story ends leaving him angry and leaving the tension unresolved)

Sosthenes actually wrote the very famous New Testament book of 1 Corinthians, but you don’t even know his name, do you? (check it out)

Faithfulness does not always equal fame.

Excellence does not always yield “results.”

And doing your best doesn’t necessarily mean you will always be successful.

There are subway musicians who are more gifted than the guys burning up the iTunes charts.

There are faithful, excellent preachers who have 12 people signed up for their podcast.

There are leaders who sincerely pray every day but wonder if they will ever see their prayers answered.

So here’s are a few character questions:

Would you be content to work in obscurity?

Would you be content to serve in a context where someone else got the credit?

Would you be content to know you were 100% faithful with the gifts you had been given regardless of the outcome?

I’m not talking about being lazy.

I’m not talking about being ineffective or unstrategic.

I am talking about you doing everything you can within your power to work toward a better tomorrow.

But you need to know, it doesn’t always work out the way you hoped.

Just don’t get discouraged.

How should you (and I) live?

Do everything you possibly can to be faithful, strategic, diligent and innovative.

Get all the help and counsel you need to improve yourself, others and the situation around you.

And leave the outcome to God.

That’s where trust comes in.

That’s why you need faith.

And that’s why success is sometimes measured by God differently than it is by us.


Be faithful

Be diligent

Be obedient

Be strategic

Be passionate

Be loving


God is writing a bigger story. You get to play a part.

Play it.

And leave the outcome to God.

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  • SMV

    Carey, I don’t feel I can go into detail here on this topic. However, I find it surprising to see a post like this. I’ve struggled all my life with this dichotomy. It’s like I’ve been pigeon holed by society, by events, and I can’t seem to break the pattern; make it work. Leave it to God. Well, ok. that’s fine, right up until urgency dictates someone had better “make it happen” because the creditors aren’t on God’s schedule.

    I find it very difficult to live in this society and be a christian. 4 days ago, I was spending some time with a friend, discussing the challenges his oldest son is going through. I mentioned how I enjoy his son’s questions on religion, on school subjects, on girls, etc. He knows I’m a christian, and commented how it didn’t bother him that I talk to his son, so long as I don’t convert him into a christian!

    Being a failure, or rather, being a “not success” provides credibility to those around you. If you are not successful , then you must have nothing to offer. I know I’m very capable in many arenas. But, that doesn’t matter. I can’t be any good because I’m not successful.

    Even exposing myself here on this post, places me in a category of “non success”. This is dangerous because no one wants to be labelled a “non success” so they won’t admit they identify. It helps them to compare.

    I understand we are to keep the faith in God, that his schedule is not ours. We are to be content with His plans for us. If we want different results, then we must change the formula of the way we live. The “non success” wears a person out, I tell you.

    I guess I haven’t figured it out yet. So, all I have is faith in God.

  • Rev GKG

    Carey, I liked that you asked those 3 bolded questions in bold. I want to humbly say I have lived there the last 5 years.And I want to share a short window of testimony for anyone who thinks this is too hard, or you are there and want to give up. God IS in Control! Nothing goes unnoticed in God’s eyes. I retired from a 30yr 8a-5p M-F job and was the go to person people depended upon. Upon retirement I became ordained and I quickly realized even tho God put that calling on me for my retirement years, another minister wasnt necessarily what family and community wanted around them. I didnt even want to be paid because of the slander. It was the silent title that bother them, it was the annointing that bothered them, I was not ‘preachy’. I have a volunteer Chaplain position which serves greater blessings than going to my home church. I receive greater blessings praying in private with someone and watching them receive a divine healing than trying to teach a series to a congregation who has no intentions of conforming to God’s biblical ways. I simply pray each time I go out ‘Lord please show up when I annoint someone with oil cuz it’s all about You, not me.’ An elder told me after my ordination that I would annoint people with oil and they would walk out of the Dr offices without seeing the doctors, they would cancel appointments. I had forgotten that prophesy until I read your article 🙂 I recall 2wks ago praying for a patient who was waiting for the doctor. Last week there was a note left a the front desk for me. This patient did not see the dr 2 wks ago, she left shortly after I prayed with her~she felt healed and left. She came in the next week to leave me a note to pray for her broken marriage. Reading your article today made me recall the foundation of my ordination, and confirm the blessings of walking in humility. It is my prayer every Christian can find this level of peace in a world where “Identity Crisis” has peaked. Rev GKG

    • Rev GKG

      Questions You Posted I was referring to:

      Would you be content to work in obscurity?

      Would you be content to serve in a context where someone else got the credit?

      Would you be content to know you were 100% faithful with the gifts you had been given regardless of the outcome?

  • Faith is all about things unseen

  • Greg Baird

    Great post, Carey! Thanks!