How Jesus handled failure in ministry
HE HAD TO BE DISAPPOINTED…
Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away. - Mark 14:50
In Jesus’ darkest hour, not only was He surrounded by His enemies, but He was forsaken by His disciples. The same disciples He poured a precious percentage of His three year ministry into. He taught them, answered their questions, walked with them them through hard times, corrected them when they struggled, went out to eat with them, and even ministered alongside them. Yet in the hour of testing, they all failed and fled.
It’s an even sadder picture when you consider that, though Jesus was perfect, He still very much wanted their company and support. In Matthew, it is shown that Jesus asked three of His closest disciples to pray with and for Him as He wrestled with God.
He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” -Matthew 26:38
And yet two verses later, once Jesus opens His eyes from crying out to His father, He finds His disciples sleeping.
Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? - Matthew 26:40
After three years of perfectly discipling & investing into these twelve men, one betrays Him and the eleven others forsake Him. This would cause most leaders to write off these disciples as failures. Others would be discouraged about their own ministry and considered themselves a failure by the looks of it. Yet, after Jesus is risen He goes back to these very same men to reappear to them. He even tells them to calls to see Peter by name.
On this Good Friday, Jesus gives us a perfect example to follow in how to disciple. Jesus remained sinless, because He is holy. He wouldn’t let their sin lead him into a reactionary sin of frustration, gossip, or exasperation. Jesus remained faithful, because He is faithful, even after they ran away from Him, He still died for them and would pursue them by reappearing to them. Jesus remained loving, because He is love. Even when the disciple’s love faltered, Jesus kept loving them with His words, actions, and plans. We should never waiver from who God has called us to be as leaders, even when those we are leading are not becoming who God has called them to be
HOW DID HE DO IT?!
The key to this kind of living is found in the words Jesus said:
“So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” - John 5:19
The principle is simple, Jesus did not react to what the disciples did or didn’t do, He responded to them according to what His Father’s response would be to do. Don’t let a student’s success or shortcomings, consistency or inconsistency, faithfulness or unfaithfulness determine how you care for them, ask Jesus. Pray often for them, and for wisdom. Sometimes our initial thought may not be the same as our Father’s. May our relationship with Jesus be our resource of love, guidance, wisdom, and faithfulness upon which we pour upon the students we serve.
HOW THIS HAS PLAYED OUT IN MY MINISTRY
The way God has used me to impact the students who I’ve discipled has been primarily by how I’ve treated them over the course of a good period of time, and not how I’ve talked to them from time to time. There have been a couple key conversations that God has used me to be apart of, but I wouldn’t be allowed into those conversations with the kids if I had not treated them as God wanted me to before then. In the end, the kids don’t always remember the times I’ve texted them out of the blue, taken them out after church or doing the week, stayed late to pray with them after church, or even go over to their house…but in the end they remember that I really love them, and so does Jesus.
These disciples would later be the very foundation in which Jesus would build His church on. They loved God with all their lives and to their deaths. But, they could have easily be written off as “failures” much earlier in their stories, but because Jesus loved them with a love that never failed, they became the very foundation on which the church is built upon.
Closing thought to consider: we’re not perfect like Jesus.
Unlike Jesus, who did not have need to examine His ministry methods, because He was perfect. We are imperfect, so one thing we must do that Bible does not specifically show Jesus doing is to examine our ministry to be open to grow. This means asking for others who may be more or less experienced for advice, being aware that you’re not perfect and examine your own ministry, and observing others minister and to learn and try new things.