Seeing Excellence Surrounded By Failure


“Edward Steichen, who eventually became one of the world’s most renowned photographers, almost gave up on the day he shot his first pictures. At 16, young Steichen bought a camera and took 50 photos. Only one turned out — a portrait of his sister at the piano. Edward’s father thought that was a poor showing. But his mother insisted that the photograph of his sister was so beautiful that it more than compensated for 49 failures. Her encouragement convinced the youngster to stick with his new hobby. He stayed with it for the rest of his life, but it had been a close call. What tipped the scales? The vision to spot excellence in the midst of a lot of failure” (Bits & Pieces, February 4, 1993, pp. 4-5).

During the prime of his career, Edward Steichen became the best known and highest paid photographer in the world. His work was so unique and groundbreaking, he shaped the way photography is done today. In 2006, one of his photos, The Pond-Moonlight, sold for at that time a record setting $2.9 million. And his entire career and success might not have ever begun if it wasn’t for the encouragement of his mother.

In general, rather than encouraging we’re pretty good at complaining and seeing fault in others. I take that back, we’re excellent at this. Sadly, only the Lord knows how many spirits have been crushed because we couldn’t see the excellence shining through in the midst of the person’s failures. Maybe we’ve forgotten all the encouragement we received when we had just started pursuing our passion. Did we do it perfectly at that point? Of course not. But someone saw through our failures to our potential.

If we wanted to, we could utterly tear people apart by pointing out their flaws. Ironically, if someone chose to do so, they could probably demoralize us as well. This may be the greatest need in the church today – encouragement (1 Thessalonians 5:11-15).

Bible class teachers. The people who clean the building. The leaders of the ladies class. The people who write letters to our visitors, sick, and shut-ins. The person who stocks the pew cards and pencils. The guy who works the sound booth. Song leaders. Prayer leaders. Scripture leaders. Those who serve at the Lord’s table. The hospital visitors. Ministers. Deacons. Elders. The children. The teens. The younger adults and families. The older adults and families. The singles. The elderly. Husbands. Wives. Moms. Dads. Grandparents.

No group is exempt. Everyone loves encouragement. Everyone can encourage. Everyone needs encouragement. Everyone benefits from encouragement.

If people’s future success or failure were dependent on your recent words to them, what would their future look like? God knew the eternal benefit that could come from our words, which is why He commanded, “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).

Let’s look for the positive. Let’s encourage when no one else is. Let’s choose to see the brilliance when everyone else is glaring at the failures. Let’s look for someone’s excellence in the midst of their failures. Wonderful things will result, of which only the Lord will know to what extent.

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