Facing Epic Failure

Tower of Babel

Fail videos are some of the most watched videos on the internet.  In preparation of this series, I found a YouTube video title “The Ultimate Fails Compilation”.  It has been viewed over 216 million times!  That’s more than 7 times the population of the entire state of Texas.  Are you kidding me?! Let’s be honest, epic fails aren’t just funny, they’re hilarious.  Watching videos of dad getting hit in the crotch by their kids is just hysterical and epic fails have happened to all of us.

So, let’s talk epic fails…My wife Robyn, in our first year of marriage was in three car accidents.  Not major enough for an ambulance or that anyone was hurt, but large enough where each time her car had to be taken to the shop for significant repairs.  Three times!  Now I can feel some of your judgmental stares saying I’m a jerk for sharing my wife’s epic fails.  Hold on…let me tell you more.  All three of these accidents were not her fault at all.  She was hit in all three, and all three were by me.  What! I know.

The first time we were pulling out of a parking lot.  We were in separate cars, she was in the front.  I thought she had pulled out of the parking lot.  So, I was looking for a space for me to pull out and when I saw it, I hit the gas.  Only to find out that she hadn’t yet pulled out and BOOM.  I rear ended her car and she needed a new bumper.  Later that year, we were in separate cars again (sensing a theme) and she was dropping someone off.  You know how you wait to make sure the person gets inside before you drive away?  Well I was doing that but didn’t have my foot on either the brake or the gas.  I was just idling and watching.  Well Robyn was completely stopped, and I drove my truck all down the passenger side of her car.  Really.  The third time I don’t even remember.  Three times…come on.  I remember when we had to renew our insurance policy the cost sky rocketed on us.  Not only was it the cost of three repairs and my dignity along the way, but we paid for it for years to come through our car insurance policies.  Epic fail Adam, epic!

Epic fails are funny until they cost you something you cannot replace.  A bumper and side fenders on a car are replaceable, but time with your kids is not.  An epic fail that cost you a marriage or any relationship is not funny.  An epic fail that cost you your job and career and possibly impacted others and their careers is not funny at all.  They’re called epic because the price is so high. God wants us to learn from the epic fails of others, so we don’t repeat them in our lives.  Biblical figures are no exception either.  Adam and Eve for example.  Don’t eat the fruit!  Epic Fail!  King David- Stay away from Bathsheba!  Epic Fail!  The Apostle Peter- Don’t deny Christ!  Epic Fail!  Trust me, there’s lots of them, and we’re going to be studying them during this series.  Why you ask?  So that we don’t make the same mistakes.  While we will never find ourselves in the exact same situations, the attitudes, values, misplaced priorities, and emotions are all very present in our everyday life.  Lessons like pride, finding security in ourselves instead of God, giving into peer pressure and running from God are at the heart of the Biblical epic fails we are going to be learning about throughout this series.  What I’ve learned about epic fails., is that it’s really multiple failures that add up to one epic fail!  Wouldn’t you rather learn from someone else’s mistakes than make them yourself?  Of course, you would!  We will see how at the heart of each of these epic fails lies a struggle that each of us have on a very regular basis.

Today we are going to be looking at the Epic Fail of the Tower of Babel very early in the book of Genesis.  To fully understand the magnitude of this fail let me give you some background.

God sent a global flood in Genesis chapter 7 because of the wickedness of man.  Water covered the entire face of the earth.  Everyone was killed except for Noah and his family.  Because of his faithfulness, God commanded Noah to build an ark.  After the flood, the water has finally subsided, and Noah and his family have exited the ark.  It is there that God gives them new commands in this new earth.

We find it in…

Genesis 9:1 (NIV)

“Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.”

Their command is to make babies, grow families, and cover the earth.  They have been blessed by God and are sent out to cover the earth For His name.  In Genesis 11 we find the epic fail of the Tower of Babel.  So, knowing God’s new command to His people, the descendants of Noah, lets read here-

Genesis 11:1-9 (NIV)

“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language, they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”

That’s an epic fail on many levels.  I mean, God had to come down and discipline their actions.  It’s as if God was saying to them the whole time, “Don’t make me pull this car over, you better stop going against my commands.  Seriously stop or I’ll pull this car over.  Okay I’m pulling this car over you’re going to get it now. “

Satan doesn’t want us to study this passage.  He wants us to read it, laugh at them, and then say something like well I’m never going to be building a tower, so this has nothing to do with me.  When in reality, this account has everything to do with you. Epic fails that damage and leave scars in our lives can be avoided if we understand the epic fail of the Tower of Babel.  Fails like adultery, addictions or lapses of integrity that cause us to lose a job, break relationships or lose self-control can all be avoided.  These are all things that can’t be replaced because the stakes are so high.

So, what was at the heart of the Epic Fail of the Tower of Babel? The heart of the fail is found in verse 4.  I’ve reprinted it for you.  When we take a very close look at this one verse, we can see what they did, why they did it, and what was at the heart of the issue.

Genesis 11:4 (NIV)

“Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

Fail #1

What did they do?                     They built a city despite God’s command.

Why did they do it?                   They didn’t want to be scattered.

What was at the heart?              They found security in themselves.

There’s nothing sinful about building cities, but remember the command that God gave Noah in Genesis 9, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.”  They didn’t want to do that.  They wanted to all stay together and form a city with walls, where they would be safe and protected.  Scattered into the unknown is dangerous, risky, and really stepping out in faith and obedience.  The blessings of following God’s command were not enough for them.  They wanted to stay together.  They found security in themselves.  But their fail didn’t stop there… 

Fail #2 

What did they do?  
They built a tower for them, not for Him. (Not only did they have a city, but within the city they built a tower.  Not just any tower, a tower that they thought would rival God Himself.)

Why did they do it?      
They desired to make a name for themselves.

What was at the heart?    
They desired to be praised. (They were like “Dude Watch This, we’re going to build a tower.”  Just like from miles and miles away you can see the skyscrapers of downtown Houston, they wanted everyone that had scattered to be able to see their tower in their fortified, secure city and marvel at what they had done and praise them for it.)

When you add those fails up, it’s a pretty epic fail.  So, God came down and in His loving kindness didn’t harm them or curse them, He simply scattered them Himself and, in the process, changed their languages so they could never unify again and be tempted in this way. When we look at the heart of this epic fail, we find the desire to be praised and the temptation to find security in ourselves.  This is what started the entire account of the Tower of Babel.  How many epic fails throughout history have mirrored these struggles and temptations?  Countries, kingdoms, companies, careers, families and friendships have all been brought to ruins in the exact same way.  Now do you see why Satan simply wants you to read the account of the Tower of Babel, chuckle, say something like “well I’m never going to build a tower” and then move on?

Since we are just as susceptible to a downfall like the Tower of Babel, how do I avoid what was at the heart of the Epic Fail of the Tower of Babel in my life?

Find security in trusting God not in myself.

I can understand the nervousness, fear, and struggle the people had with God’s command in Genesis 9.  Going to an unknown place and starting a new life can be very daunting.  Like your first day of Junior High, High school, or college.  Starting a new job or a new career.  Moving to a new city.  It’s the unknown that’s the worst.  What if something happens?

Psalm 91:1-3 (NLT)

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.”

Most scholars believe that Psalm 91 was composed by Moses.  It would make sense, the unknown journey to the promise land that Moses and God’s people undertook after fleeing from Egypt was very daunting.  They were journeying to an unknown place to start a new life.  What they were in the process of doing is very similar to the struggle of people in our account of Genesis 11 today.  Moses and God’s people were wandering in a desert where there is no shelter and nothing was fortified, yet Moses knew what God had called them to and he found more security in trusting God then in himself.

This is the very attitude you and I are to take today to avoid the epic fail of the Tower of Babel.  There is nothing you can do that will create enough security for yourself.  Having a fortified bank account, a big house, lots of friends, and nice cars, cannot protect you from a diagnosis that steals your very breath.  Having those things doesn’t make your marriage immune from devastating struggles.  No effort of yours can promise anything.  Therefore, find your security in trusting God.  How different would this account be if they simply said, “Look, God has called us to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the entire earth.  Now I know that sounds scary and a lot of it is unknown, but I’d rather be obedient and trust God knowing it might not be easy than to find security in myself and potentially fail epically!”

So then, the next thought on your mind is, “I don’t know what God wants me to do.” I don’t specifically know either what God has called you to or where to go but what I know is what God has clearly called all of us to.  We are all called to could forgive even when it’s hard and what the other person has done is extremely hurtful.  We are all called to love, seek, know, and spend time with God every day through His word, prayer, and meditation.  We are all called to submit our desires for the desires of others.  We are all called to share the good news of Jesus Christ to those in our life. I keep going, but the idea is to trust God in what you know he has already called you to. How are you doing in that? Are you so nervous that you’ve gone rogue and are finding safety and security in yourself and what you feel like you should do? What I’ve experienced is that when trusting God and following through with what you know He’s called you to do becomes a habitual part of your spiritual life, then it becomes easier for you to recognize His leading in your life.  Through prayer, wise counsel, and seeking Him you will know what God is calling you to do.

How else do I avoid what was at the heart of the Epic Fail of the Tower of Babel in my life?

Find more joy in giving praise than in receiving praise.

This is especially true when your praise is directed at God.  In Genesis 11, the people wanted to be praised. They wanted to make a name for themselves.  That was their goal and their joy.  It’s what they wanted to do.  This temptation hits home for me, and a lot of other pastors of churches that I know.  As pastors we, want our churches to grow.  I want it.  I want our church family to grow.  It’s not because I don’t like us the way we are now – no.  It’s because there are hundreds and hundreds of people living in our community that are living far from Christ and if they were to die today it would only get worse.  That’s why I want our church family to grow.

Even as I say that in this very moment, I sense Satan whispering in my soul, “You just want a bigger church so that you can make a name for yourself as the pastor.  You just want to be praised.  You just want a bigger church because you want the name of Parkway Fellowship to be huge.”  The temptation of receiving praise is very real.  How many church and ministry leader scandals have been brought about by this desire? It’s not just me and other church leaders.  How many relationships, companies or careers have been ruined by this?  How many addictions have gotten started because of this desire?  It is devastating.  The temptation to make a name for ourselves and to be praised for what we’ve done is ever present in our life.  This temptation was left unchecked, it grew, and look what happened to the people at the Tower of Babel.  The same can be true for you and me.

Psalm 95:1 (NASB)

“O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.”

Our joy is to be found in praising God.  As I read this verse this week, here’s what the Holy Spirit showed me.  There is a specific reason to praise in this verse.  It’s our salvation.  It’s specific, not a general praise God because he’s God.  No. No. No.  Are we to praise God because He is God?  Yes, but it is far easier when we can focus on one specific aspect of what God has done and praise Him for it.  In Psalm 95, the specific reason is our salvation.

For those of us that are Christ followers, we have a relationship with God because all of our sins have been forgiven.  Every sin you have ever committed in your life has been forgiven.  Not just every sin you’ve ever committed, but every sin you are ever going to commit is already forgiven.  Let that sink in for a moment.  That’s how much you are loved by God.  That’s how significant Christ’s death on the cross was for you.  That is worthy of giving praise not receiving it.

If you’re reading this today and you’ve never become a Christ follower, please do so.  It’s no accident that you are reading this message today. Maybe you feel like an epic fail in your life was so big that there’s no way God loves you.  Well, that simply is not true.  Jesus Christ died on the cross to forgive you of everything, especially your epic fails.  Praise God joyfully for He is the rock of our salvation.

There is another cool truth tucked in this passage-

Genesis 11:6 (NIV)

“The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language, they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”

Now I know this is not referenced as a positive in this specific passage, but the truth is that if we are unified not just as a people but also with God, then nothing is impossible for us.  Remember that God is not against towers.  He wasn’t upset because of what they accomplished.  It’s because they were not aligned with Him.  My prayer is that you would accomplish great things when aligned with God.  Think about it. What could happen in our church, in our families and in our small groups if we truly aligned our desires with what God desires? Nothing we plan to do will be impossible for us.

by Adam Jungeblut