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Biblical/Doctrinal Studies:
Desert of Discipline Series

When Failure is A Step Toward Success
(Exodus 5:1-7:13)
by Ed Vasicek

Misunderstanding can lead to creativity. "Bell was inspired to start development of the telephone when he read an account, written in German, describing an invention which he thought had the function of a telephone. After demonstrating his first working telephone Bell learned that, because of the language barrier, he had misunderstood the report, and the German invention had an entirely different function." (Quantum Books: Creativity, Innovation and Problem Solving: Some Guidelines with Linked Historical Examples)

One big obstacle to inventing things is believing that a desired invention is possible. Since Bell believed the telephone was possible, his mind opened up.

Sometimes the best way to succeed is to fail.

The relationship between electricity and magnetism was first observed in 1820 by Oersted in a public lecture at which he was demonstrating the "well known fact" that electricity and magnetism were completely independent phenomena. This time the experiment failed! An electric current produced a magnetic effect. Oersted was observant enough to notice this effect, honest enough to admit it, and diligent enough to follow up and publish.

Moses was in that predicament. He tried his best to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt. But God intended Moses to fail until the ante was upped.

As a result, Moses failed, plague after plague, miracle after miracle, because God wanted something bigger than Moses wanted. And failure was the only way to get there.

Main Idea: Sometimes it must get worse before it gets better; short-term failures can be steps to long term and greater successes. We must aim toward a long term vision, not merely achieving short-term goals.

  1. Moses' First Attempt with Pharaoh Bombed. (5:1-23)

    1. Pharaoh laughed it off.

      1. An 80 year old man and an 83 year old slave stand before the most powerful man in the world at that time.

      2. The Pharaoh was visiting the Nile Delta.

      3. Pharaoh had probably heard of Yahweh, but the Pharaoh was thought to be a god himself, so he did not recognize Yahweh as a legitimate god.

      4. God wanted Pharaoh to laugh it off; success, remember, is not measured by immediate results, but by long term- and eternal- consequences!

    2. The Israelites were more miserable than ever.

    3. Moses lost what confidence he had. (5:23)

      Moses scolded God!

      John Davis writes, "We should not regard the response of Moses to his God as being irreverent or insubordinate, but these were words of a searching heart…"

      1. Nonsense. Such statements reflect an era of evangelicalism we have gladly left behind. The era of sterilizing the Scripture to make it fit the molds we want it to fit.

      2. The truth is that Moses was very human, and sometimes his attitude stank, but God worked with him anyway.

      3. You don't change reality with verbiage.

      4. We call this "armchair theology"

        And God does not fault him.

        Sometimes it must get worse before it gets better; short-term failures can be steps to long term and greater successes.

  2. God Reassured Moses: "We're On Track." (6:1-30)

    1. God's plan had been unwavering from the start.

      1. 6:1, "Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.'"

      2. It's like that game show, "Let's Make A Deal." God is after the big prize; He doesn't have to worry about playing it safe, because He knows what is behind every curtain.

    2. Guaranteed by God's good Name.

      The proper interpretation of 6:3, "And by my Name, Yahweh, did they not know me?"

    3. Deliverance would come only after judgment. (6:6)

      1. It was not enough for God to deliver the Hebrews.

      2. He wanted to vindicate His good Name and prove Himself superior to their gods.

      3. God wanted to show off!

      4. He wanted to punish the Egyptians.

      5. He also wanted the Hebrews to have wealth.

    Main Idea: Sometimes it must get worse before it gets better; short-term failures can be steps to long term and greater successes. We must aim toward a long term vision, not merely achieving short-term goals.

  3. God Worked a Miracle of Respect (7:1-13)

    Why didn't Pharaoh throw Moses and Aaron in jail or execute them? Nothing short of a miracle!

    1. Moses was afraid to approach Pharaoh again.

    2. God's miracle: Moses like God, Aaron like God's prophet.

    3. They approach Pharaoh with the rod.

      1. Rod turned to a serpent

      2. Egyptians able to do same. How? (paralyzed snake)

      3. Moses ate theirs up.

      4. Pharaoh is not impressed. Moses' presentation has failed again.

    Main Idea: Sometimes it must get worse before it gets better; short-term failures can be steps to long term and greater successes. We must aim toward a long term vision, not merely achieving short-term goals.

  4. Short-term Success Can Mean Long-Term Failure.

    1. God's goal: not a 3-day religious holiday, but freedom.

      By all human standards, Jesus was a failure.

      1. Own brothers did not believe.

      2. Own people group did not by and large believe.

      3. Ended up rejected and crucified.

      4. But that failure brought salvation to mankind.

    2. Only God sees the ultimate big picture.

      A pilot is flying over a mountainous terrain, and as he's flying, he looks down to see two vehicles driving down the highway.

      The first vehicle is a semi-trailer, pulling his load up and down that highway. The second vehicle is a sports car driven by a guy who's got better things to do than be stuck behind a semi that can't always maintain the speed limit up the mountain grades.

      Well, what the pilot can see that the drivers can't is that there is no traffic coming the other way. The car could easily pass the truck with no danger.

      The problem is that neither the truck nor the car driver can see that. They can only see what's immediately in front of them.

      They can't see the big picture.

      Sermon central Contributed by: Brian La Croix

    3. One of our greatest weaknesses: shortsightedness.

      1. If there is one thing that separates the mature from the immature, it is the matter of shortsightedness.

      2. If there is one thing that separates the wise Christian from the foolish Christian, it is shortsightedness.

      3. Tom doesn't want to bother with college; he wants a car and a girl, so he goes to work out of high school. Larry goes to college or trade school. Years later, Larry has a good wife, a nice home, and some wonderful children. Tom is between girlfriends and fending off the creditors.

      4. Doesn't always turn out this way, but often does. Difference: short-term or long-term perspective.

Main Idea: Sometimes it must get worse before it gets better; short-term failures can be steps to long term and greater successes. We must aim toward a long term vision, not merely achieving short-term goals.

Conclusion

I'll present the following scenarios. Tell me if they are good or bad.

  • A famous pastor who has been at a church for years and seen great growth retires, and a young, untrained man takes his place. Good or bad? Depends. John Gill and Charles Spurgeon.

  • A woman is widowed and remarries later in life. Martha Washington.

  • A man barely scrapes out a living as a shoe salesman and answers the call to ministry. D.L. Moody.

  • An aspiring student is accepted into Harvard but flunks out. Bill Gates.

Main Idea: Sometimes it must get worse before it gets better; short-term failures can be steps to long term and greater successes. We must aim toward a long term vision, not merely achieving short-term goals.

Pastor Ed

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Kokomo, Indiana, USA
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