Success Is Not In Never Falling, But In Always Rising Again

Some of the Bible’s greatest heroes experienced huge failures.

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

I forget who first spoke those words … but I remember them being used frequently by a former associate, Chuck Coonradt. (He once mentioned my name in a book he had written, so I guess now I’ve returned the favor.)

Anyway, I’ve been thinking lately about great men in the Bible, and it came as a surprise to me how many times that quote applies. It seems that most Biblical figures experienced great, almost unimaginable, failures at one time or another. (The same is true of men in other fields as well, but that’s another article.)

There are some notable exceptions, of course.

First, there are those who fell never to rise again: Adam, Cain, and Noah to name a few.

And there are two about whom nothing bad is ever said … Joseph (remember the many-colored coat) and Daniel of lion’s den fame.

Most, however, endured some huge failure, and by the grace of God were restored and went on to serve Him well.


Abraham took a surrogate wife (Hagar) when he thought God was taking too long in fulfilling a promise to give him a son. So the first person in the Bible to be called a Hebrew produced the first Arab (Ishmael) and there’s been trouble ever since. But Abraham’s faithfulness in agreeing to sacrifice Isaac, his second child and the son of the promise, became a model for what God would do for us on Calvary. The account in Genesis 22 is often called “the Gospel in Genesis.” Centuries later Paul wrote “Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness,” the highest quality man can gain in God’s view. To this day, he is called “the father of the faithful.”


Moses, learning from his mother’s visions that he was to redeem God’s people from Egypt, took matters into his own hands and murdered an Egyptian guard for oppressing a Hebrew slave. God “put him in the penalty box” for 40 years before sending him back for His people. Later Moses took credit for one of God’s miracles and disqualified himself from the chance to lead the people into the Promised Land. But he spoke to God “face to face” and when Moses died, God Himself buried him. He is still revered among Jews as a great leader and the giver of the Law.


Elijah, after successfully staging one of the Lord’s great grandstand plays on Mt. Carmel, became so afraid of the threats of Queen Jezebel that he ran all the way from Israel into Saudi Arabia to hide. Yet God rescued him and took him alive into heaven. He is often called Israel’s greatest prophet.


David, after slaying Goliath, defeating the Philistines, and consolidating Israel into one kingdom, saw a married woman bathing, got her pregnant, and had her soldier husband killed so he could marry her. Yet God called him “a man after my own heart.” David’s love letters to God (Psalms) have been an inspiration for 3000 years.

The list goes on and on even into the New Testament. The disciples aren’t very impressive until the Holy Spirit entered them and made them paragons of faith under persecution.


Paul, that fearless planter of churches and dean of new testament theology, began as a religious terrorist, intent on destroying those who followed Jesus. After meeting Him personally, Paul even ignored everyone’s advice, (including visions from God) went to Jerusalem, and got himself arrested at the height of his career, never to be free again. But God used the prison time well. Paul wrote most of the Epistles while incarcerated, and countless millions have been saved through his disobedience.


Perhaps the most glaring example is Peter. Known for his bravery in the face of overwhelming odds, part of the Lord’s “inner circle,” Peter was intimidated by a servant girl and denied ever knowing the Lord, even after being warned this would happen. Imagine his agony at the moment and his shame every time thereafter upon being reminded. But the Lord restored him, and Peter was a prominent leader of the Apostolic period. The Book of Acts recounts almost as much of Peter’s ministry as that of Paul’s, and the Gospel of Mark is really Peter’s account.

I guess from this we can say that the Bible promotes the second chance.

If you’ve experienced a great setback recently, recall that quote I began with. In the game of life, the score is never final until you stop playing. Get up, brush yourself off, and begin again. It’s not too late. And remember that even though friends misunderstand you, there is ONE who has promised never to leave or forsake you even to the end to the age. Count on Him.