Success often arises out of the ashes of failure! We avoid failure like the plague. It seems like a good idea. Yet, the avoidance of failure may keep us from taking risks. Risk taking is the fertile ground out of which success grows.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

In 1984, I boldly launched out into ministry. I moved to Miami from Indianapolis – a distance of 1,250 miles. From there I planned to do mission work in foreign nations. My greatest strengths in God were my faith, bible knowledge and prayer life. I had read of the great men and women of faith who had likewise left all behind to be missionaries in foreign lands.

My first year passed with little success. This did not deter me for every biography I had read described similar difficulties. I needed to merely press on for a long enough period and I would get my breakthrough.

One day, I decided to sunbathe. Sunbathing is a boring thing and my mind went into a “vegetative state” during which, I did not mentally process anything. Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, I heard the voice of God, as though audibly: “I am against your success in order that you may not fail!”

What?!?!? What had I heard? I abruptly sat up attempting to regain my mental balance. What had I heard? This statement went counter to all of my plans and thoughts. It did not come from within me, for it assailed all my efforts.

“Perhaps the devil is trying to trick me,” I thought. The more I pondered, the more I realized it sounded like God, not the devil. But what did it mean? Why would God not bless my plans to do something great for Him?

Disturbed, I arose and went into my apartment. I needed to do something different to shake this thought. So, I picked up my bible. I had left off reading in the middle of Mark 14, so I finished that chapter.

The second half of this chapter is about Jesus foretelling of Peter’s soon coming failure. Peter, like me, rejected the thought of failure. He proclaimed his loyalty and faithfulness. Peter mistook his zeal for a surrendered heart.

Just a few hours later, Peter denied Jesus three times. As I read, I did not make the parallel connection until the Spirit again spoke clearly, “I was against Peter’s success so that he would not fail!”

I sat stunned a second time. These thoughts did not originate from me. I did not like them but they could not be dismissed. Could I really be facing some sort of great failure in the coming months?

As I write this, it is the Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday (Easter). I think of the utter depression Peter felt on the Saturday between those two great days. How slowly the minutes must have passed. Misery and regret haunted his every waking moment. His single thought: “I failed completely and miserably!”

Failure and its emotional shadows of remorse, depression and shame are not enjoyable. No one signs up for failure. We all launch out in order to succeed. Yet, our greatest successes often arise from the ashes of our greatest failures.

After two years, I gave up my hope of a successful ministry and returned to work for my father in the real estate business. I discovered that God intended to fulfill His call in my life by being a successful businessman as well as a successful husband and father. Additionally, I discovered how to be successful as a faithful servant hidden from public view.

Then a second great failure happened. The economic crisis of 2008 centered on the real estate industry. We lost 99.5% of everything we owned. This catastrophe lasted 7 years (real estate is a slow moving business). Then the Voice unexpectedly came to me a second time saying, “I am against your failure that you may succeed!”

Just as my economic crisis ended, I began to do mission work in South America and Africa. The very thing I had launched out to do 30 years before began to happen with great success. God had sent me to the “backside of the desert” like Moses, to learn valuable life lessons. And just like Moses, He revived the call to go out in His name when I least expected it.

Today, I am enjoying a great harvest of success in both my mission work and my business. We have regained about 60% of what we lost. I paid a high tuition to gain wisdom. Risk is something I still take because success flourishes in the soil of risk. This wisdom allows me to be strategic in my risk taking. This is the perfect atmosphere for success.

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