When God Says ‘You Have Not Failed Me

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

And then, in what was 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, ‘Cheer up, Paul, for as you have testified about me at Jerusalem, so you must testify also at Rome.’

Acts 23:11 WEB

“Finally!” I would have thought. “Thank you Lord, now you’ll get me out of this mess!” But Paul? Probably not. He knew how to rest in God. And no doubt, as in other jails, he probably praised God.

But if we jump ahead we see that Paul did get out of that prison. Only to be threatened by Jewish authorities, thirsting for his blood and vowing to neither eat or 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.

After our first two years here, things weren’t working out. Our meager support went mostly for rent. Food was scarce. Our children needed shoes and clothing. And a monthly payment (because we had been foolish with debt before the mission field) delivered the last blow. So we were heading home. Full of questions. Hadn’t we been faithful enough? Was our faith too small? Why, God, why?

The greatest burden was leaving a town with no gospel witness. We and our two children had been the only four born-again believers there. With our departure, it left none. That still tolls in our heads today.

Failures, failures, failures.

This knell followed our every footstep, entered every thought, ruined our sleep. We’d gone out enthused. Determined to serve faithfully. And we were going home failures. Failures.

But Hubby, as a national here, had to pick up paperwork in the capital to immigrate back to the USA. And with time on his hands before the returning train, he popped in on friends. And right into the middle of a prayer meeting.

“I didn’t feel like going to 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 just sit unobserved. But they had a guest speaker, whom the Lord happened to use encourage others.

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

“Oh great,” he thought. “Just what I need. Some rah-rah message about how the Lord is going to bless our ministry and use us greatly.” We’d 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 just kept repeating that. That was it. No great revelation. No big promises. No great future. Just a calm reassurance from a loving heavenly Father. Of a truth we should have known, but couldn’t seem to grab a hold of. He said that made him cry, and so did I when he brought the word home to me.

And that night marked the beginning of a change in us. Because it brought us into a deeper rest in God.We started seeing just how greatly God’s vision differs from ours. And what the Lord showed us in the following days, are lessons that have stuck with us all through the years.

We often measure success and failure by this world’s standards.

And this often keeps us from entering fully into God’s rest.

1. To the Lord obedience is success.

The world says success results in things that we can count or measure. God says, “Obedience is success. Disobedience is failure.” And obedience is not always measurable.

2. In God’s eyes, success is 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. Success is not doing great things.

This world values achievement, goals, results. People want to do great things. But God values our heart. He wants us to become humble and Christlike.

He knows doing great things 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 said, “I AM the only one who can do the great things.”

God’s success is vastly different from ours. And as with Paul, it may even include a prison cell reserved in our name.

But even a prison cell, when in God’s plan, has success written all over it!

IMAGES: Prison by martex5. | Sad man by Fotorech. | Great things graphic made on Canva. | Grated window is my own.

By Signora Sheila

Missionary blogger, wife, mom, nonna. Join my journey of Intentional Faith Living from my small town in southern Italy!

12 replies on “When God Says ‘You Have Not Failed Me”

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!


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. 🙂


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

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.


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.


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


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

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!


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!

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