Focus verse: Hebrews 11:6--Without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of those who seek him.

College football is big business in this country. Some of the one-game losses in the top five teams late in the season cost the team that lost as much as 9 million dollars because the loss changed the bowl bid they would receive. College football is a major industry, and that industry peaks every year during this week.

For years, college football also created a major national debate every year the first week in January. In years past, there was a big argument about which team was truly the national champion. Only occasionally was there consensus about the team that was the "true" national champion.

So in January, 1996, division one college football inaugurated a brand new system that would make that debate unnecessary. Through a coalition of bowl games, the number one team would play the number two team every year, and the winner would be the undisputed national champion. A tie breaker was even inaugurated to make it impossible for the game to end in a tie. When that game was over, there would be a winner; there would be a national champion.

I well remember when that game was played for the first time on January 2 of this year, 1996. I well remember the endless television hype, the promotions, the predictions, the days of pre-game analysis. This game was to be the dream game. A fast scoring, passing team (Florida) would play a powerful running team (Nebraska). We were told again and again that this would be the most exciting, interesting game of the year.

To the shock and amazement of the analysts and the poor TV announcers who covered the game, it was a real dud. It was a "no contest" game. Almost from beginning to end, it was a no contest game. Florida suffered a devastating defeat.

In this country, losing is powerfully associated with failure. In 1995 Florida had an exceptional football team. That year, they won every regular season game, and they broke a lot of records doing it. But they lost the national championship game in the Fiesta Bowl. So many regarded their year to be a failure.

To me, one of the worst interviews a person could be asked to give would be this interview: the losing coach's interview after a national championship defeat that many expected him to win. Steve Spurier gave that interview. This is what he said: Nebraska was the better team. The better team had beaten the Florida team and the Florida coaches in every aspect of the game. The Nebraska team was probably the best team he had seen in the six years that he had been the head coach at Florida. Nebraska was well prepared for the game and played hard on every single play.

Spurier had a great team. His great team lost. Without hesitation, he respectfully acknowledged that he, his coaches, and his team had been thoroughly defeated.

It is easy to enjoy victory. It is hard to deal with defeat. It is easy to enjoy success. It is hard to deal with failure.

  1. I have always had a profound respect and admiration for any person who refused to surrender his or her life to failure.
    1. I have great respect for a marriage that never experienced a serious marriage crisis.
      1. That kind of marriage does not happen by accident.
        1. It is no accident that Jesse and Mary Huff celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last Sunday.
        2. It is no accident that Hazel and John Richards celebrated their 50 years of marriage yesterday.
        3. It is no accident that Tom and Lou Porter just celebrated 51 years of successful marriage.
      2. It takes commitment, hard work, love, sensitivity, and attentiveness to sustain a successful marriage.
    2. But I have even greater respect for a married couple who suffers a devastating crisis in their marriage and successfully puts their marriage back together.
      1. To do that takes incredible courage and sacrifice.
      2. No one understands how hard it is to do that except the couples who have done it.
      3. It is much easier to sustain a good marriage than it is to successfully rebuild a troubled marriage.
    3. I have great respect for a person who has never been married who builds a positive, productive life that is filled with faith and involvement.
      1. Building a positive, productive life that is focused on God when you live alone is a significant accomplishment.
      2. Having the support and encouragement of a mate who believes in you and encourages you is a powerful asset in building a godly life.
      3. Building a godly, involved life without that support and encouragement is a major accomplishment.
    4. But I have even greater respect for a person who has experienced a devastating divorce and still builds a positive, productive life that is focused on God.
      1. A failed marriage can easily create a bitterness that will devour your heart and soul.
      2. It is common for a failed marriage to destroy your confidence, to murder your self esteem, and to strip you of any vestige of dignity or worth.
      3. Building a faith-focused life while refusing to surrender to some of life's most powerful negative forces is an incredible accomplishment.
    5. I have great respect for any person who through integrity, honesty, faith, and hard work succeeds in any career or business.
      1. True success never comes easily.
      2. It is not easy to succeed in any form in enterprise.
      3. Success in anything takes sacrifice, commitment, and lots of hard work.
    6. I have even greater respect for any person who through integrity, honesty, faith, and hard work succeeds in a career or business after experiencing a career or business failure.
      1. After such failure, it is hard to trust God.
      2. It is hard to find any confidence in your ability.
      3. It is awfully hard to continue to hold to your integrity, your honesty, and your faith.
      4. Having failed once, it is hard to set aside your fears, restore your confidence, and rebuild your dreams.

  2. As Christians, we struggle to develop faith in God--it is never easy to learn to trust God.
    1. Perhaps the most difficult faith to develop is the faith that trusts God to help us overcome our failures.
      1. We all experience failures--many, many failures.
      2. Every single failure we experience begins in our hearts and minds.
      3. The most difficult faith to develop is the faith that allows God to help us discover and address the failures that are within us.
    2. A Christian must learn to trust that:
      1. God can still the storms that rage "in here."
      2. God can strengthen me to endure in the trying, demanding moments of my life "in here."
      3. God can heal what is broken "in here."
      4. God can help me understand what I do not grasp, help me see what I am blind to, help me face what I have always run from.
    3. That is the faith every one of us must develop! Spiritual survival is dependent on that faith.
      1. Every one of us have storms "in here."
      2. Every one of us must deal with trying, demanding moments "in here."
      3. Every one of us has something broken "in here" that desperately needs to be healed, that only God can heal.
      4. Every one of us has things that we do not grasp, blind spots, and things that we run from.

  3. In the gospel of Matthew, we are told that Jesus told people that they had little faith four times.
    1. In Matthew 6:30, he told those who were filled with anxiety about their physical needs that they were people of little faith.
    2. In Matthew 8:26, Jesus' disciples were filled with fear as a storm was swamping their boat, and Jesus said that they had little faith.
    3. In Matthew 14:31, Peter was walking to Jesus on a stormy sea at night.
      1. When he was within reach of Jesus, he suddenly became afraid and began to sink.
      2. Jesus said that he had little faith.
    4. In Matthew 16:8, the disciples misunderstood a statement Jesus made.
      1. They though Jesus was criticizing them.
      2. Jesus said they had little faith.
    5. People had little faith when:
      1. Physical needs created a controlling anxiety.
      2. They feared for survival in the presence of Jesus.
      3. They were distracted from Jesus and became afraid.
      4. They misunderstood Jesus.

In every area of life, we need great faith. In every dimension of our lives, we need faith. We urgently need to learn how to trust God in all areas of human existence.

But in no area of life do we need faith more, do we need to trust God more, than in the areas of our failures. Without faith, failure will defeat us. With faith, God can always help us rebuild our lives through a living relationship with Jesus Christ.

We live in the presence of a God who forgives. We live in the family of a God who powerfully works within us.

Even in your failures, you can glorify God. You can glorify him by accepting His forgiveness and allowing Him to work in you.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 29 December 1996

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