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Learning from Failure


According to The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird, failure is a key to effectiveness. The authors explain that we learn from our missteps. “Failure is a critical element of effective learning, teaching, and creative problem solving. Mistakes teach us to focus on the specific task of determining why the attempt at hand failed. Effective failure is an important, positive . . . step toward success.”

In today’s reading, we see that Moses obediently did what God called him to do. And the Israelites’ initial response had been positive: They believed and worshiped (4:29–31). But Pharaoh apparently hadn’t gotten the memo. He refused to grant Moses’ request and responded by accusing the Israelites of laziness and doubling down on their harsh treatment (5:6–9). His intent was to crush their spirits and turn them against Moses and Aaron (5:21; 6:9).

Had Moses failed? Yes, from a human perspective, this outcome appeared to be a total face plant. But God had already said this was how Pharaoh would respond, so (from God’s perspective) events were proceeding precisely according to His plan (4:21–23). Perhaps God’s purpose in this seeming misstep was to impress upon Moses the enormity of the task, giving him all the more reason to depend on the Lord. It would not simply be a matter of marching into the palace and demanding, “Let my people go!” It seems that God also wanted Moses to see the fickleness of the Israelites and how difficult his job of leading them would be. Ultimately, in the course of these confrontations Moses’ faith and bold trust in the Lord would grow, leading to even more glory for God when all was said and done.

Apply the Word

Being obedient to our calling is not a guarantee that we will never fail. In fact, it is just the opposite. Jesus already prayed for us in this regard (John 15:18–21). If you find yourself in a position where it feels like you’re swimming upstream to do the right thing, we encourage you to persevere and by God’s grace to count it all joy (James 1:2–4).

BY Brad Baurain

Dr. Brad Baurain has worked as a writer and editor for Today in the Word since 1993. Currently, he serves as associate professor and TESOL program head at Moody Bible Institute. Brad has the unique privilege of holding a degree from four different universities (including Moody). He has also taught in China, Vietnam, the United States, and Canada. Brad and his wife, Julia, have four children and reside in Munster, Indiana.

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