Overcoming the Threat of Failure

April 8, 2013
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I can do everything through him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13


Roger Bannister, the British runner who was the first to run a mile in less than four minutes, said, “Failure is as exciting to watch as success, provided the effort is absolutely genuine and complete.  But the spectators fail to understand–and how can they know–the mental agony through which an athlete must pass before he can give his maximum effort.  And how rarely, if he is built as I am, he can give it.”  (Think, July-August, 1968, p. 25).  But no one remembers who came in second on May 6, 1954 when Bannister broke the four-minute mile barrier.

The path to the top, however, is marked by pitfalls called failure, and only by facing the possibility of failure and knowing how to deal with it can you ever get to the top–whether it is in business, sports, relationships, or even your spiritual life.

Life has a way of knocking you down, of putting roadblocks in your path, of confusing you so you turn aside from your goal.  So how do you fight back when it appears that failure is looming on the horizon?

In the Olympics when Chris Klung was about to make his dash down the slopes in the giant slalom, the buckle broke on his boot.  This man had faced tremendous adversity to get there.  Eighteen months before, his liver failed and he underwent a transplant.  Nobody ever thought he would again compete in anything, let alone the Olympics.  Now his hopes were threatened by a broken buckle. He couldn’t say, “Hold everything; I’ve got to replace this.”  Instead he grabbed a roll of gray duct tape–yes the kind you use to strap packages and boxes–and plastered down the buckle, and went on to earn the Bronze Medal.

Theodor Seus Geisel was unquestionably the most successful children’s author of the past century, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1984, and the recipient of eight honorary degrees to say nothing of banking more money than many corporate executives.  You know him as Dr. Seuss, and if you have children who have grown up in the past generation you can still probably quote his, “I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I am.”   But Seus didn’t have success handed to him on a golden platter.  Twenty-seven times his first book was rejected by publishers.  Then he ran into an old schoolmate who had just been hired as a children’s book editor.  He took a chance on his old friend, and thus began a career unrivaled by anyone.

When you are confronted with a failure situation, you can quit.  Most people do that.  They can’t handle the personal rejection.  Their sense of inferiority causes them to hide.  Some people never succeed because they are not willing to fail.  Others say, “OK, this didn’t work.  Now I have to figure out what will work.”  And don’t forget the possibility of gray duct tape, otherwise translated as, “What do I have at my fingertips that can help me succeed?”

Winston Churchill was considered too dull to study the classics so he was kept in basic English for three years, and he mastered it.  His words became as powerful as a machete later in life.

But usually it takes more than a few strips of gray duct tape to get where you want to go.  You refuse to believe what people tell you and listen to your heart and to the voice of God’s Spirit within saying, “Go for it!”

Struggling with rejection and roadblocks that could have stopped him, Paul wrote, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

Frankly you are your own worst enemy.  What if Seuss had given up after his first rejection, or even his tenth or twentieth?  Remember, the real test of your character is what it takes to stop you.  Never forget it.

Resource reading: Joshua 1:27-36.


Bible References

  • Philippians 4:13
  • Joshua 1:27 - 36