Failure can come in many forms. It may be failing to reach a goal, falling into sin, being defeated by an enemy, or simply not living up to one’s full potential. As Christians, we know that failure is a part of the human experience. Even biblical heroes like Moses, David, and Peter experienced major failures throughout their lives. Yet their stories also show that failure does not have to be final. God can redeem our mistakes and failures when we submit to His wisdom and timing.
In this post, we will explore some of the main causes behind failures recorded in the Bible. The aim is to understand why we fall short and how we can avoid or overcome failure by God’s grace and the guidance of Scripture. You may recognize some of these causes in your own life. My hope is that reflecting on stories of failure and restoration in the Bible will inspire perseverance, repentance, wisdom, and hope as you walk with Christ.
Introduction: Failure Happens to God’s People Too
If you feel like you just can’t get it right, you’re in good company! Many major figures in the Bible–people who were called and equipped by God–messed up big time. Abraham passed his wife off as his sister–twice! Moses struck the rock God commanded him to speak to. David committed adultery and murder. Peter denied even knowing Jesus.
Clearly, being called and commissioned by God does not make someone immune to failure! We see this pattern throughout Scripture: God uses imperfect people–sometimes deeply flawed people–to accomplish His purposes. He works patiently with people over the course of their lives to shape them into better reflections of His glory.
So take heart if you feel plagued by failure! You are not cast off or abandoned. Many amazing men and women in the Bible failed in major ways, but they repented and experienced God’s redemption. Here are some of the recurring causes of failure we see through their stories:
- Godly people in the Bible still failed in major ways. Failure is part of the human experience.
- Major failures don’t disqualify us from God’s work and purposes when we repent.
- Understanding recurring causes of failure in Scripture can help us avoid pitfalls ourselves.
Pride and Arrogance
One major cause of failure we see time and again is pride and arrogance. When people become overconfident in their own abilities and wisdom, they stop relying fully on God. Pride blinds people to their limits, skews their perspective, and leads to reckless choices.
King Uzziah started strong and enjoyed God’s blessing for many years. But when he had become strong he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense (2 Chronicles 26:16). Uzziah’s arrogance led him to presume privileges that were not his, which led to his downfall.
Like Uzziah, Hezekiah experienced the blessings of walking closely with God for most of his life. But later on, Hezekiah’s heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him; and he was ungrateful to the Lord his God (2 Chronicles 32:25). Hezekiah took pride in his wealth and achievements, losing sight of his reliance on God.
Another story that illustrates the dangers of pride is Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector: The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people… I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ (Luke 18:11-13). Jesus made it clear that the arrogant Pharisee’s prayer was not pleasing to God.
As these examples show, pride distorts our self-perception and causes us to mistreat others, dishonor God, make reckless choices, and set ourselves up for a fall. If you feel yourself sliding into arrogance and overconfidence, pause for self-reflection, invite trusted friends to speak into your life, and remember your desperate need for God’s mercy.
Giving in to Temptation
Another recurring cause of failure is succumbing to temptation and allowing sin to take root. Sin promises fulfillment but only brings bondage. The most mournful example of giving in to temptation is King David’s adultery with Bathsheba, which ultimately led him to arrange the murder of Bathsheba’s husband.
Right before this tragic affair, the Bible notes a key failure on David’s part: In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war… David remained in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 11:1). David indulged in leisure and neglected his duties, creating an opening for temptation. His lust, deception, adultery, and murder followed. But even this grievous sin was not the end. David repented, and The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die (2 Samuel 12:13).
There are three main takeaways here. First, intentionally putting ourselves in tempting situations is unwise. We need wisdom to discern and avoid temptation traps. Second, indulging the natural appetites can erode willpower over time and leave us vulnerable. Third, repentance and restoration are available, by God’s grace, even after horrific sins.
Another story that illustrates the destructive process of giving in to temptation is Cain’s murder of Abel. God warned Cain, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it (Genesis 4:7). Rather than heeding God’s warning and repenting, Cain nurtured his jealousy and gave in fully to sin’s pull. Like David, Cain faces the consequences of his grievous sin while also receiving God’s mercy and protection.
Neglecting to Wait on God’s Timing
Trying to force outcomes or rush along God’s promises is another cause of failure we see in Scripture. Abraham and Sarah became impatient waiting on God to fulfill His promise of a son. They conspired to produce an heir through Hagar, which caused painful family dysfunction for generations to follow. Jacob schemed and manipulated to claim his older brother’s birthright and blessing prematurely. Moses struck the rock at Meribah when God told him to speak to it, compromising God’s instructions.
In each case, these biblical figures took matters into their own hands rather than waiting on God’s provision and timing. They faced consequences, but God remained gracious. These stories urge us to persevere through seasons of waiting and uncertainty, fully trusting in God’s faithfulness. As Isaiah said, they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31).
Forgetting Past Provision
A fifth cause of failure we see in Scripture is forgetting God’s past faithfulness and provision. This was the root issue behind the Israelites’ cycles of complaining and rebellion in the wilderness. Over and over God miraculously provided food, water, and victory, yet Israel repeatedly lost heart and grumbled, acting as if God had abandoned them. Psalm 78 notes this pattern as a grave warning:
He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors in the land of Egypt…He split the rocks in the wilderness and gave them water as abundant as the seas; he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers. But they continued to sin against him, rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High (Psalm 78:12-17).
For us today, it is essential we develop a habit of intentionally remembering God’s past provisions, victories, and miracles–through writing down our testimony, celebrating Communion, and declaring His past faithfulness in prayer. Remembering sustains grateful faith. Forgetting leads only to despair.
Depending on Personal Strength
Do you tend to think you just aren’t strong enough or spiritual enough to overcome sin or walk through difficulty? Scripture offers both encouragement and caution on this point. God’s power truly is perfected in our weakness. His strength shines brightest through fragile jars of clay. Our insufficiency is an invitation to rely fully on supernatural strength rather than self-sufficiency.
However, the Bible also warns us not to think we can stand firm in our own strength. Peter insisted he would never abandon Jesus, but he did. Samson vainly trusted in his brute strength rather than fully depending on God’s Spirit. Proverbs warns, Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).
This is a tricky balance to walk. We should not excuse sin or failure by saying “I’m only human” or “God knows I’m not strong enough.” But neither should we rely on sheer willpower or believe we can manufacture righteousness from within. As Paul discovered, only through surrender and deep reliance on Christ’s power can we walk in true freedom and victory. Our strength is not the issue; His strength is.
One cause of failure repeated throughout Scripture is refusing to accept correction and wisdom from God’s representatives. King Saul received clear guidance through the prophet Samuel, but repeatedly chose to go his own way. In 1 Samuel 15, God rejects Saul as king, Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king (1 Samuel 15:23).
Likewise, Judas walked closely with Jesus for years, witnessing His example and teaching firsthand. Yet Judas refused to surrender his own will fully to Christ, rejecting the correction that could have saved him. Proverbs reminds us, Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid (Proverbs 12:1). Let us have soft, receptive hearts to God’s correction in our lives.
One final recurring cause of failure worth noting is isolation. God created us for community, knowing we need each other for support, accountability, wisdom and encouragement. Yet those headed for a downfall often end up cutting themselves off from godly relationships that could help prevent failure.
Even Elijah, that fiery prophet of God, sank into depression and burnout, lamenting, I am the only one left (1 Kings 19:10). God gently corrected him, reminding there were 7,000 who still followed the Lord. For us today, resisting the urge to isolate when we’re struggling and cultivating supportive Christian community is absolutely essential to walking faithfully with God.
- Pride and arrogance distort perspective and invite failure. Stay humble and rely fully on God.
- Giving in to temptation promises fulfillment but brings bondage. Guard your heart.
- Trying to force outcomes or rush God’s timing leads to regret. Wait patiently on Him.
- Forgetting past provision causes us to lose hope. Rehearse God’s past faithfulness.
- Our strength is not the issue–Christ’s strength is. Rely fully on Him.
- Refusing correction keeps us from growth and life. Welcome it humbly.
- Isolation leaves us vulnerable and discouraged. Pursue godly community.
Conclusion: Failure is Not Final
As we reflect on these stories of failure in Scripture, a common theme emerges: failure is real, but it is not final. No person is cast aside or disqualified because of failure. God worked patiently with men and women throughout Scripture, using their failures and weaknesses to help shape them into people who reflected His glory.
The same redeeming, refining grace is available to you and me today. I hope considering these causes of failure provides insight and warning for avoiding common pitfalls. But even more, I pray this overview boosts your confidence in God’s ability to redeem our failures when we keep short accounts with sin and walk in humility and trust.
The failures of God’s people prove that He does not expect perfection from us to accomplish His purposes. Our failures cannot thwart His sovereign plans. What He desires most is a soft, receptive heart that is quick to repent, learn, and follow His lead. May we all extend and receive extra grace as together we reflect on these stories of failure and restoration from Scripture. God makes all things new–even histories of failure–for those who love Him.