Bible Characters Who Failed: Lessons on Failure in the Bible
The Bible is filled with stories of triumph, redemption, and faith. Those are the kind we love to read. But it’s also full of tales of people who failed miserably. We often think of biblical characters as heroes, but the truth is that they were just like us – flawed and imperfect human beings. From Adam and Eve to Peter and Judas Iscariot, the failure in the Bible shows us that even the most faithful can fall, but God can redeem and restore, no matter the circumstances.
What Does the Bible Say About Failure?
The Bible is very clear that none of us are perfect. We’re born with failure in our DNA. The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”
Because every one of us is born imperfect, we need a Savior. And because of our sins and imperfections, God sent His Son, who lived a perfect life as the ultimate atonement for sin.
God’s Word is filled with stories of people who failed spectacularly. But the Bible also shows us that God is loving and forgiving and He can use even the worst failures for good. The Bible says that failure is not the end.
Through Jesus Christ, our failures are opportunities for growth and redemption.
We can learn from our mistakes, ask for God’s forgiveness, and move forward in the strength of the Lord!
The Bible encourages us to persevere even through our failures. James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. ”
In other words, God wants to use our failures to teach us patience and perseverance. Failure may be painful in the moment, but the Bible reminds us that it’s not the end of the story.
It doesn’t matter how many times you fall.
The important thing is that you rely on God to get up and press on in His name. “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” Proverbs 24:16
Bible Characters Who Failed: Examples of Failure in the Bible
We like to read stories of people who did mighty things for God. But when it comes to the ones where people mess up…we’d rather skip right over those Bible verses.
The failure stories are just as important as the rest of the Scriptures. Those are the stories that teach us important lessons. These powerful stories are wonderful examples of Bible characters who failed, and of how God can use failure to teach a lesson.
Adam and Eve
Can you imagine what it must have been like for the first man and woman to walk with God Himself in the perfect Garden of Eden? Yet, given free will, they let their curiosity get the best of them and they strayed from God.
As a result of their failure and disobedience, sin entered the world and separated mankind from their Creator. Yet instead of God turning His back completely on mankind, He sent Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of His wayward children.
Moses is one of the most prominent Bible characters in the Old Testament. God spoke to Him through the burning bush, and God entrusted Moses’ leadership skills with a daunting task.
Moses, along with his brother Aaron, led the people of Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Even though the Bible tells us that Moses was the meekest man who ever lived, he failed in a big way.
When the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they complained because they had no water. God told Moses to speak to the rock and water would come out. However, Moses chose to smite the rock instead.
Because of his disobedience, Moses was not allowed to enter the land of Canaan. Moses’ life teaches us that God is serious about obedience. When He tells you to do something, the only response is to obey and follow God’s will.
Abraham’s faith is one of the great themes of the Old Testament. In fact, his descendants were still talking about it generations later. While Abraham is referred to as the friend of God, he had his own great failure.
Abraham always trusted God to keep His promise. But somewhere along the way he took things into his own hands. Abraham had a relationship with his wife’s maid and they had a son together. The birth of Ishmael caused nothing but heartache for Abraham and Sarah for generations to come.
God went on to test Abraham and told him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Yet God provided a sacrifice in Isaac’s place and it was the ultimate lesson in trusting God’s provision.
Noah is another prime example of a man who did great things for God but also had an epic failure in his life.
Years after Noah saved his family from the floodwaters, he committed the sin of drunkenness. The Bible doesn’t give a lot of details about the situation, only that Noah was drunk and naked in his tent.
His son Ham went into the tent and saw Noah’s nakedness. Because of this, Ham and his family were cursed for generations. Enmity ravaged Noah’s family members for years to come as a result.
Noah’s life is a powerful example that even someone who in a spiritual leadership position can stumble and stray from God. No one is immune to sin and failure!
Jonah might be the one Bible character who is known for his failure. When he refused to do what the Lord told him to do, he ran away to Joppa. Jonah was awakened from a deep sleep while on board a ship.
He informed the sailors God was punishing him for his disobedience. They threw him into the sea, and the storm stopped. God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah, and he spent the next three days in the belly of a whale.
But we see that Jonah used his time in that fish belly for good! He repented that he ran from God, and went to Nineveh as God commanded him. Jonah showed us that God is merciful and forgives our failures when we ask Him.
Jacob was a man who made a lot of mistakes in his life. He was headstrong, stubborn, and a liar from a young age. He deceived his father and stole the blessing of the firstborn from his brother, Esau.
Jacob’s father, Isaac, sent him away to find a wife, and escape the wrath of Esau. Jacob rested overnight at a place called Bethel, and God met him there. Many years later, he would return to Canaan and meet God again. Jacob wrestled all night with an angel. As the new day broke, Jacob asked the angel to bless him.
From that moment, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, and he became a new man. Although Jacob was never perfect, he tried to make amends for the wrong he had done. He became one of the patriarchs–the father of God’s people.
The Bible tells us David was a man after God’s own heart. His Psalms are beautiful and inspiring and fill us with hope. But David, too, had his own failure to answer for.
In fact, he had several.
The one we remember the most is his affair with a married woman, Bathsheba. When Bathsheba informed David she was carrying his child, he murdered her husband. Bathsheba became David’s wife, and they had a baby boy together.
But God sent the prophet Nathan to warn David that he had sinned and God would punish him. David and Bathsheba’s baby boy became very sick and died.
David repented of his sin and turned back to God. In His mercy, God gave David and Bathsheba another son, Solomon, who became the wisest man who ever lived. God hears when you repent and is faithful to forgive you.
Even when your greatest sins feel too weighty, like the failure in the Bible, God still forgives you and wipes your slate clean.
When we first met Saul in the book of 1 Samuel, he was a shy, timid young man. The Bible tells us Saul stood head and shoulders above all the other people in his town, but he was so humble, he hid from the crowd.
Over time, Saul became filled with pride. Eventually, he turned his back on God and did not follow the wisdom of his mentor, the Prophet Samuel.
In 1 Samuel 15, God commanded Saul to smite the city of Amalek, and destroy all the people and animals there. But Saul made the mistake of disobeying God and letting the king of Amalek live, as well as the sheep and oxen.
Because of his failure to obey, and his own pride, Saul lost his place as king, and the lineage passed over his family forever. God will not tolerate disobedience and there are consequences from straying from His promises.
King Solomon is one of the great examples of individuals who God had blessed with wisdom, wealth, and power, but he didn’t follow God completely. King Solomon, unlike his father, David, didn’t obey God’s commands.
Instead, he chose to take 700 wives, allowed them to worship their false gods, and even participated in the worship of those false gods himself. While he continued to go through the motions of worshiping the Lord, Solomon had lost his hunger to serve and obey God’s commands. As a result, the Lord was angry with Solomon and would divide his kingdom after His death.
As a result, we can learn that continued wisdom and favor from the Lord is only given to those who continually seek and obey Him.
While Elijah was a great prophet, he’s one of the perfect examples in Scripture how a man of God can easily stumble.
One of Elijah’s greatest moments was when he challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest about the power of God. The Lord used Elijah’s faithfulness to show His power and prove in a variety of miracles that He is the One True God.
Yet it wasn’t soon after, in a weak moment of exhaustion, where Elijah fled and hid from Queen Jezebel’s plot to end his life. He struggled to trust God provision and asked the Lord to take His life. However, God forgave Elijah and renewed and restored his strength.
Even a man who sought God’s wisdom, was not immune to the struggles of this life.
The story of Judas in the Bible is heartbreaking to read. Although he was one of the disciples of Jesus, he didn’t walk in the way of the Lord.
He betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas’ failure was so sad because he was so close to eternal life in Christ Jesus. But instead of reaching out and accepting salvation, he sold God’s Son for thirty pieces of silver.
Despite Judas’ sin and failure, God used his betrayal to set in motion the events leading to the death and resurrection of Jesus. What the enemy used for evil, God used for His glory and as part of the redemption story of mankind.
Sometimes the apostle Peter gets a bad rap because he betrayed Jesus. Peter’s failure plays out multiple times in the New Testament, as each of the gospels contains an account of his mistake.
When Peter heard that rooster crow, his heart must have broken when he realized what he had done. But God’s grace was real for Peter. He repented of his denial, and become one of the leaders of the early church.
When Scripture first introduces Paul, he was a prominent example of failure in the Bible. Paul, then Saul, had a mission to persecute believer and was God’s enemy.
Yet through a miraculous encounter with God on the Road to Damascus, Saul’s life was radically transformed and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. With his named changed to Paul, he began to preach of God’s redemption and it became His mission to spread the good news of Jesus.
10 Lessons to learn from the failure in the Bible
It’s crucial that we don’t just casually read through these biblical accounts, but that we learn from them.
May these lessons on failure in the Bible to keep us rooted in Scripture, and help us keep God at the center of our lives. And while we will never live a flawless life, we can trust God to meet us in our mess and that His grace will wash away the stains of our greatest failures.
1) God’s grace covers all mistakes and failures.
2) No one is too far gone or the failure too big for God to handle.
3) Grace and redemption doesn’t depend on you or your actions, but on God alone.
4) God can use your biggest failures for His glory.
5) The Lord will reveal His plan and purpose for your life if you seek Him.
6) Wisdom comes from God alone. We must continue to seek the Lord and follow where He leads.
7) Repentance and obedience to God is necessary to move forward.
8) No one is immune to trappings to the trappings of sin and failure.
9) Disobedience to God has consequences.
10) God can and will the radically change the lives of those believe in Him.
How to move forward from failure as a woman of God
Have you experienced your own epic fail, and struggle to move past your shame? You can overcome spiritual pride and move forward towards healing with God’s help.
How to move forward from failure
Return to the Lord
Trust that God’s grace will wipe away every single one of your missteps. All you have to do is seek His face.
Confess your sins and struggles to the Lord with a humble heart. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins and your wandering heart (if your failure was a result of sin).
Then, turn away from your sins and struggles, as you ask the Lord to help you overcome the strongholds in your life.
You’re never too far gone for God and His steadfast love is always waiting to welcome you home.
Make the Lord the cornerstone in your life again
While moving forward from failure is not a to-do list, it’s important to nurture your spiritual growth through a regular quiet time and time being still before the Lord.
Then, unshackle guilt and shame at the foot of the cross and trust that the grace of God has already wiped your slate clean. Consider using biblical affirmations to refute the lies of the enemy and renew your mind with biblical truth.
To keep me focused and on track, I like to choose one Scripture a day to write in my Christian planner. Then, as I open to my daily agenda, I’m reminded of God’s goodness throughout the day.
Obey the Lord and follow God’s plan (even if you don’t see the way)
As a woman of God, you may have a solid knowledge base of Scripture.
Yet it’s not enough to just know the Word of the Lord. You need to be a doer of the Word, as well. It’s important you know the Word, so you can live the Word and share the good news of redemption with a world in desperate need of God’s help.
Surrender your life to the Lord and let go of the temptation to do life in your own strength.
Seek wise counsel
Do you have a Christian mentor or someone in spiritual leadership you can openly share your struggles with and let into your life?
Having a church leader, godly woman, or even one of your closest friends can help you remember the love of God and keep God’s instruction close to your heart.
See how our Christian mentoring workshops can help you move forward and step into your role in God’s kingdom. Learn more here.
Often a godly mentor can help you move forward in difficult times and share experience of God’s faithfulness from their own lives.
No matter what failure you’re moving forward from, remember God’s love and grace runs deeps. He is faithful to walk with you on all the paths you take and give you wisdom along the way.
Seek God’s plans for your life and trust that He will faithfully reveal His perfect plan in due time.
Don’t miss the rest of the Victorious in Christ series
Powerful Bible Verses on Victory in Christ and Overcoming
What is a Stronghold in the Bible? Top Verses About Strongholds and Overcoming
Rely on God: Bible Verses on Trusting and Leaning on Him
7 Bible Verses for the Hurting Heart: Comfort From Scripture
Calming Bible Verses About Stress, Worry, and Anxiety
Comforting Bible Verses About Depression and to Overcome Anxiety