When God Says: You Have Not Failed Me

The apostle Paul was sitting in a prison cell. The city in an uproar over this man who stirred things up wherever he went. I, in his place, would have asked, “Why Lord? I was only obeying you and preaching your word. So please get me out of this fix! I’ve done nothing to deserve jail!” 

And then, in perhaps the darkest hour of the night, the Lord came to Paul with a promise!

The following night, the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Have courage! For as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so it is necessary for you to testify in Rome.’

Acts 23:11 CSB

“Finally!” I would have thought. “Thank you Lord, now you’ll get me out of this mess!” But Paul? I doubt he would have reacted in that way. He knew to rest in God. And as in other jails, he no doubt praised God.

But if we jump ahead we see that Paul was freed from that prison. Only to be threatened by Jewish authorities, thirsting for his blood and vowing to neither eat nor drink until he was dead. And he wound up in another prison for 2 years!

We all find ourselves in difficult situations at times. And that’s when, like Paul, we need to remember that God is working.

God works in difficult times

After our first two years here in Italy, things weren’t going well. Most of our minimal support went for rent. Food was limited. Our children needed shoes and clothing. And we were also burdened with the monthly payment on an old debt.

So we decided to return home, full of questions. Hadn’t we been faithful enough? Was our faith too small? Why, God, why?

Our greatest sorrow was leaving a town with no gospel witness. We and our two children had been the only four born-again believers. Our departure left it with no gospel witness. “No gospel eitness.” That still reverberates in our minds and hearts today.

“Failures, failures, failures.”

This thought dogged our every step, entered every thought, ruined our sleep. We had started out enthused. Determined to serve faithfully. And we were heading home failures. Nothing but failures.

But Hubby, as an Italian national, had to travel to Rome for paperwork so he could immigrate to the USA. With extra time before his return train, he popped in on friends. And right into the middle of a prayer meeting.

“I didn’t feel like attending a prayer meeting,” he told me later. “All I wanted was a cup of tea and someone to commiserate with me.” But not wanting to seem rude, he took his seat, hoping to sit unobserved. But they had a guest that evening, whom the Lord often used to encourage others.

“I have a word from the Lord for you,” she told him in decisive tones.

“Oh great,” he thought. “The last thing I need to hear is how the Lord is planning to bless our ministry and use us greatly.” We had heard enough supposed ‘words from the Lord’ to know that many are fabrications of well intentioned imagination.

But not that time. She got close, looked him straight in the eye and said, “You have not failed me.”

That’s all. And she repeated it many times. No amazing revelation. No big promises. No rosy future. Just a calm reassurance from our loving heavenly Father. A reminder of a truth we knew in our heads, but couldn’t seem to grasp with our hearts. Hubby said that it made him cry, and it did me too when he told me.

That night marked the beginning of a change, because it brought us into a deeper rest in God. We started realizing how God’s vision differs from ours. And what the Lord showed us in the days that followed are lessons that have stuck with us all these years.

We often measure success and failure by this world’s standards. And this often keeps us from entering fully into God’s rest.

God’s measure of success

1. To the Lord obedience is success.

The world says success is quantitative. That it results in things that we can count or measure. God says, “Obedience is success. Disobedience is failure.” And obedience (especially in God’s kingdom) is not always tangible, except to God.

2. In God’s eyes, success means depending on him.

This world says, “YOU can do it!” God says, “You are human. You will fail, make mistakes, and even fall at times. But my work does not depend on you anyway.”

3. God says that success does not mean doing exceptional things.

This world says that success is a synonym for accomplishments, achievements, or extraordinary triumphs. But for God success is qualitative, not quantitative. God values our hearts. He wants us to become humble and Christ-like. He looks for obedience.

He knows that doing great things for his kingdom is beyond our abilities, knowledge, and power. And what a danger they also present to our pride. “All I ask is your willingness and obedience,” he says. “I AM the only one who can complete my work. You can do great things in my kingdom only through me.”

God’s idea of success is vastly different from ours. And as with Paul, it could even include a prison cell reserved in our name. But even a prison cell, when in God’s plan, can have success written all over it!

Images: Prison by martex5 | Man by Fotorech | Prison window by Mariam S.

20 thoughts on “When God Says: You Have Not Failed Me

    1. I’m so glad it blessed you Karen. God is so good. And it’s so wonderful that he doesn’t see things like we do. I often tell Mario before he gets up to preach to just look up. Look up for the Father’s smile. He’s looking for obedience, not some great orator. If he wants a mighty orator God himself will make him that. It’s all in his hands. I truly believe he smiles down at obedience 🙂🥰

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The world is so quick to judge us for what we do or don’t do, how we show up or don’t show up. But God. He really is our enough. I love how you were all encouraged that you hadn’t failed Him. That your efforts were seen by Him and that your worth is so much more than what you do. We all need that reminder–we’re more than the sum total of our efforts and successes. Thanks for this, my friend.


    1. Ah, my friend. How desperately we need to see through God’s eyes. I love how you put that: we are more than the sum total of our efforts and successes. So true!!


  2. I love testimonies like this. They point to God’s love for his children. He’s always right on time with his comfort and encouragement. Great post, Sheila.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I puddled up too as I read this touching post, Sheila. Such important truths you’ve shared here, bringing our focus back to obedience and away from success as the world defines it. (Beautifully written also, my friend!)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Failures and yet… I know that it was not the end of your time of God’s using you in Italy. Though I do not know the chapters in between then and now, I know He was the author. Thank you so much for sharing, this encouraging and comforting message.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This made me cry. How loving of God to reassure you when you needed it most, and that word will carry you far beyond the moment you received it! Thank you for sharing!


  6. I absolutely love this post. It spoke to me and encouraged me. 🙂

    I’ve had a pastor give me a word before, and it can be powerful. I too broke down in tears. I wrote about it too so I wouldn’t forget. They can be amazing testimonies. ❤ Praise the Lord. One thing that stirs in my heart is if I feel like I don't want to go to church because of reason x, y, or z that's usually when I feel I need to go the most. God will speak to me if I go, and He always has. 🙂


    1. Thank you so much TR. It was such a special time for us. Mostly because it assured us that the Lord saw us, heard our cry, and understood our hearts. As you said, it is amazing how the Lord works. And how his word always comes at just the right time!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Inspired and inspiring – thank you! Actually, a confirmation of this morning’s talk with the Lord when I “realized” – once again – that we are not successful when we use the gifts God has given us – only when we use them for His glory and praise Him for allowing us to follow as He leads. Thank you again for sharing the lesson(s) God continues to teach you.


    1. So grateful this post inspired you Doris. We can tend to get side-tracked by what the world says is true or important. And often even without realizing we’re doing it. Thankfully the Lord keeps bringing us back on track. I’m so grateful for all the lessons he’s taken me through, even the tough ones. They’ve helped me know him more. All he really asks is obedience.


  8. This is a great post! I have to tell myself this a lot. It is so easy to think I failed God when things don’t seem to work out right. Yet it is all about obedience, that is true success. Thanks for sharing


    1. Thank you Tom! I still have to tell myself that a lot. Many lessons we keep learning all our lives. I guess it’s because we are surrounded by so many false ideas about what success is. We start measuring ourselves by those and of course seem to fall short. When it’s really all about pleasing God through obedience!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow Sheila, I understand the reality of that moment when God told you that you had not failed. I understand why you both cried, I would have too. That’s one of those beautiful things about God where he reaches out to our heart of hearts and answers us as only He can. Thank you so much for sharing! Grace and blessings to you both!


    1. Thanks Bruce for your ever encouraging words. Those simple words melted our hearts. God melted them with his grace and goodness. He sees, he knows, and he stays by our side. I’m grateful it touched your heart and hope it will help others to see his greatness too!

      Liked by 1 person

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