When Men Fail
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
The problem is compounded in that there are so many things in which men can and do fail. For a preliminary list, here are a few (just a few) things in which men can and do fail - all the time - but for which we have clear direction from God.
Honesty (Prv. 12:22)
Integrity (Ps. 15:1-2, 4; Eph. 6:5-8)
Work Ethic (Prv. 6:6-11; 10:5)
Finances (Prv. 13:11, 22:7)
Generosity (Prv. 19:17, 21:13)
Provision for the family (Prv. 24:27; 1 Tim. 5:8)
Leadership in the household (Eph. 5:23, 6:4)
Participation in the church (1 Tim. 3:14-15)
Wisdom in government (Ex. 23:8; Prv. 21:15; Rom. 13:1-5)
Social, morally justifiable causes (Prv. 24:11; Acts 5:29)
Love (1 Pet. 4:8)
Joy (Jas. 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:8)
Peace (Rom. 8:6)
Patience (Rom. 8:25; Col. 3:12)
Kindness (Col. 3:12)
Goodness (Rom. 15:14; Philem 1:14)
Faithfulness (Heb. 6:11-12)
Gentleness (Gal. 6:1; Eph. 4:1-3; 1 Tim. 6:11)
Self-control (2 Tim. 1:7)
And this list only begins to scratch the surface...
What is more, there are a great deal of things that we must take into account when understanding men's failures. Men fail when they're weak, when they're hungry, when they're tired. But men also fail when they're strong, when they're well fed, and when they're full of energy.
Men fail physically, intellectually, politically.
Men fail emotionally, socially, psychologically.
Men fail spiritually.
In short, men fail - period.
I repeat: it is not, nor will it be, a question of whether a man will fail. It is, and continually will be, a question of what it is in which he fails, how often he fails, to what degree he fails, and what he then does after he fails.
And that is the question to which the Word of God gives our best hope and the greatest answer. What do we do when men fail?
Yet before we can answer that question we have to truly understand the first assertion. Men will fail.
For we are very prone to think any one of the following thoughts...
"Once I get on top, I won't need to lie..."
"As soon as I make just a little more money, I'll have no problems with finances..."
"When we get that new pastor, our church will thrive..."
"If we just get the [fill in the blank] party into office, our country will rise again..."
But we must remember that all men fail - not jut the ones who "still need to get ahead," the ones who don't have "enough" money, the ones who aren't in spiritual leadership positions, or the ones who are the "bad guys" politically.
All men fail - including the ones who are on top, or who have money, or who are spiritual leaders, or who have the most Biblically based political system known to man and are in a government role.
All men fail. And so with that as our starting point, let us answer the question, what do we then do when men fail?
When it's your husband.
Surely as women are assigned by God the more passive role when it comes to leading the family, I would think it would be very difficult for them when their husband continually fails - especially if he fails at a variety of things.
Yet wives, while certainly having a more passive role, you do still have a duty to hold your husband accountable to the Word of God. Like any believer in sin, you must exhort him and confront him (in gentleness) with the Word of God:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Make sure though to pay attention to this exhortation carefully. Paul says let the one who is "spiritual" be the one to restore the believer. This doesn't mean the one who is perfect in sanctification - for that that would be no one alive today (1 Jn. 1:8, 10); but it does mean that you need to make sure you don't have any unconfessed sin of your own at the time.
It is also important to remember that the person being restored is truly "caught" in a transgression. That is, you can't come to your husband every day with Bible in hand and start going over the sins he committed that day. But when restoring your husband with the Word of God it needs to be a sin in which he is truly caught - an ongoing sin for which at this point he is truly unrepentant.
The goal in this is to have repentance accomplished in your husband's life. But even amidst his sinful failures it is important to remember that there is a God-ordained way to accomplish his repentance.
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives - when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
Of course there are alternative ways to respond to his failures.(2) But the Biblical way is to approach him in a spirit of gentleness with the Word of God (Gal. 6:1). And even if he will not obey the Word at that point, you can still show him respect, which will win him over without a word (1 Pet. 3:1-3).
A few other things to keep in mind:
-You're not his savior
You won't be able to save him from his sinful failures, nor are you called to such a task. You're called to approach him with the Word of God and with a gentle, respectful, and submissive heart.
-He's not the savior; he's going to keep failing
He is a sinner, and sanctification is a life-long process. Praise God for your husband's repentance when it comes about; and pray daily for him that it would take root and blossom a hundredfold in fruitfulness. But realize, he will fail in other areas, for which he will need that same gentle, respectful, and submissive heart as God's Word works in his life.
-His only hope is Christ; his only helpmate is you
Pray, pray, pray for your husband. You cannot change his sinful nature, and you cannot perform the work of sanctification. Only the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can do such a miracle, but God can and will use the means of you to do so. At the same time, your husband most definitely needs you during his time of failing. You are always his helpmate; so when your husband fails and stumbles in sin - that is not the time to leave him to his own devices until he gets his act together.(3) Rather it is then that he needs you the most.
When it's you.
While I realize that not all "failure" is sin(4), I do believe that much of the time our failures are the result of some type of sin in our lives; and of course there is only one solution to that: Repent.
First of all, we have to realize the word is "repent" and not "rationalize." It is just too easy to think those "once this happens...if only...." statements above and decide that once you're in the "good zone" all is done and forgiven. Of course we'll be forgiven all our sins (1 Jn. 1:9); but rationalizing is not repentance. As a matter of fact, rationalizing just delays true repentance.
But what is true repentance? And what does it look like? Well, in one sense the first step is to stop everything and simply acknowledge the fact of your sin (Ps. 38:18).
Then of course you must move on from there. But how do you do that? How do you recover and keep from doing it again? It is here where we must realize this truth: you are the sinful failure, not the sinner's Savior.
What do I mean by that?
Well when I say that after a sinful failure we need to repent, in man-speak that generally and quickly gets interpreted as (once we've stopped the initial commitment of sin), "we need to try again but only this time do it right." And that is not at all what I'm saying. In all humble honesty, do you really think that something has changed innately in you between the first time and now that this time you'll get it right?
You're still the same sinner. Whether hungry or well-fed, whether on top or still climbing in your work, whether well-off or just scraping by financially, whether in a position of spiritual leadership or just a layman in the church - whatever the case, you still have a sin nature that wants only one thing - to rebel against God (Rom. 7:15-19). And yet it is at this very place where because of our sinful nature we're so prone to think, "Whoa! That was bad - let me try it again."
It is that very attitude from which we must repent!
Paul's form of repentance was not: this time do it the right way (as if you "forgot" the right way for some reason). You're a believer in Christ. You knew the right way all along: "[We] delight in the law of God in [our] inner being..." (Rom. 7:22).
Is Paul's solution to repent by just giving it another shot - only this time with more will-power?
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand....
Paul's solution is to repent from trying to do it yourself and in your own strength!
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand....
He goes on to say that it is by the person and power of the Spirit that you "put to death the deeds of the body" (Rom. 8:13). It is not done through your own self effort but through the power of the Spirit (Gal. 3:3).
Men, when we fail we must not think that we can simply try harder the next time and that that is legitimate repentance. True repentance (among stopping the initial commitment of sin - in the Spirit's power of course) is realizing our true nature (Rom. 7:15), and trusting in what Christ has done for us on the cross (Rom. 7:25, 8:1), what He is doing right now for us in the throne room of God (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25), and what He will one day do for us in the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:29-30)! Setting our mind on that is what will accomplish in us the ability to do it right the next time.
True repentance does not try harder in the same sinful nature. True repentance looks to the One who "in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15), the One who "is able to help those who are being tempted" (Heb. 2:18) and who will "help us in our time of need" (Heb. 4:16), the One who "is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25), and to the One who "by a single offering has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified" (Heb. 10:14).
While we certainly participate in the sanctification process (1 Jn. 3:6), it is God working in us as we look to Him to bring about our success (1 Thess. 5:23-24). Repentance will manifest itself in our lives, not by us trying harder in our own self-effort, but by us looking to Him as our only source of help and renewed life (2 Cor. 3:18).
If you're married, then as you repent it will only follow that you will apologize to your wife for your sinful failings and begin to fail less (because it is Christ working in you) in leading your marriage, being faithful to your wife, and all the rest that marriage entails (as well as in all your other Christian duties). But one thing to consider, and which I strongly recommend, thank your wife when God does bring you to repentance. Thank her for enduring your sinful failures and/or for maintaining such a pure and respectful attitude with you as she shared the Word of God with you in gentleness or simply won you over without a word.
Either way, whether married or not, sanctification is a long process. While we will fail less because of Christ's work in us, we will still fail, over and over again, because the flesh wages war against us (1 Pet. 2:11). But what a glorious gospel in that we can rest assured - even in our weaknesses Christ is glorified (2 Cor. 12:10). All the more we should look to Him for our renewed strength!
Yes! In all our sinful failures, our only hope is not in our own strength to do it right the next time. Our hope is that we must look to our Lord to be the One to raise us up - for only He can do it.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25)
(1) I realize every woman fails too. Much of what I say in this post can be applicable to women as well. But, being a man myself, it just makes more sense for me to write from the viewpoint of a man.
Also, obviously Jesus Christ is the sole exception here in the truth of every man (or woman) failing. I am not at all denying the orthodox belief that Christ was both fully God and fully man. I absolutely affirm that belief. I'm simply assuming the reader will grant me that understanding (kind of like we do with Solomon and Paul).
(2) There are a multitude of ways a spouse can react to another spouse's unrepentant sinful failures. Whether you are the husband or wife. As this is directed to the husband's sinful failures and his wife's response, it'll be written from that perspective; but husbands can obviously respond just as unbiblically when their wife is overtaken with a sinful failure.
Unbiblical alternatives wives do to respond to their husband's sinful failures (among others) are: Letting your husband's sinful failures bottle up inside and never speak of them to him (see Eph. 4:26 cf. Mt. 5:23-24). Ragging on him every time he fails (and remember - he will fail) so that he feels just that much smaller (see Prv. 21:9, 25:24). Doing husbandly things for yourself so that he doesn't have nearly as much opportunity to fail; thus effectively taking away his manhood (see Eph. 5:22, 33). Withholding sexual activity from him (see 1 Cor. 7:3-5). The list could go on I'm sure. There are probably just as many unbiblical responses to your husband's failures as there are ways in which your husband can fail.
(3) Obviously wives need to be in a safe environment. If the particular failure at the time is the husband being abusive, other considerations and alternative actions need to be taken.
(4) Certainly there is a lot to be said concerning failure that is sin (failure in any of the things listed above could qualify). But there are other types of failure that is not sin. For instance, perhaps you're trying to reach a specific weight goal that for some reason the current science and health regime is saying is your target ideal weight. While being a good steward of your body is truly commendable, there is no inspired direction on what your actual physical weight should be (1 Tim. 4:8). Gluttony is still a sin (Tit. 1:12). But if you're not gluttonous and you simply have a certain body make-up that keeps you leaning toward a certain weight, "failing" to reach that non-inspired target goal is not necessarily sin.