People who progress in work and life know that they must constantly be learning. Learning is acquired through observing others, training courses, skills development and if you are careful, simply by being aware of things as time goes by. There is one area of life that is often quoted as being a fruitful field for learning lessons. Older, wiser colleagues will point to it, and most people will refer to it – especially when they are in it. This source of learning appeals particularly to the more melancholic mind and is particularly prevalent in some working cultures. You will hear it referred to most frequently when something has not gone very well. So the phrase that is trotted out is some version of – ‘learning from your mistakes’.
It is very understandable that we look at our failures or errors for clues as to how to handle things better next time. Often you are more open and vulnerable after a mistake, and if nothing else, fear can drive you to make sure that particular mistakes are not repeated.
The human leader of the first Christian church was Simon – renamed Peter. Whilst communicating the Christian faith in an unusual context to a non-Jewish audience, God arrived in some force and the entire group was converted and baptised. By any measure of effectiveness this sermon had gone very well. This incident in Peter’s career was a great success. He had learnt a lesson about the extent of the love of God which was far greater than he had imagined.
Not long after the incident he is called to account for his actions at a Jerusalem meeting. He explains the success of his unusual excursion and when the listeners hear his account, they have no more objections and celebrate the happy implications of this learned lesson.
As things get a bit more intense some individuals start to lay legalistic Jewish requirements on non-Jewish believers. A council has convened in Jerusalem and one of the keynote speakers is Peter. His argument centres around his successful visit to a non-Jewish audience and the important lessons that he has learnt. The day is won and the learning implemented.
There is nothing wrong with the ‘learn from your mistakes’ mantra – it is just incomplete. Surely we should also learn from our successes. When things go well you are doing something right. If you can identify what you are doing correctly, then you can do it again – and that’s a lot of fun. Armed with success stories you can counter criticism and negativity. I would encourage you to enjoy, celebrate and learn from the things that go well. Reflect on the good times and the successes. Tease out from your achievements the principles of progress and enjoy the ride.
Just by the way, the tortuous process of the early Christians learning the lessons of expansion was not just some internal, irrelevant debate. If they had not learnt from Peter’s success they would have kept the good news to themselves and you and I would still be in the dark.
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 47 “Can anyone keep these people from being baptised with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
“I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”
No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
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