Failure can be a measure of Greatness

wpid-img_3346.jpgThe article below is part of “Topical Tuesdays” and part of my weekly email as a Chaplain to my Army unit.   I offer these non-religious reads to them praying that they will want more and might view the hyperlinked Christian Resilience videos that I also send to them.

This article considers one of the historic and the ongoing implied dangers of the American space program.  But even more, it commends the courage of its scientists, engineers, astronauts, and others who have pressed on to incredible achievements.  If you’re a student of history, especially of pioneers in any field, you know that the most successful experienced more than their share of failures before they made their mark in the world.

Before you read on, consider these passages on failure and its many uses in the lives of God’s people:  Numbers 13-14,  2 Chronicles 20:12-17, Proverbs 24:16, Ezekiel 3:16-31, Jonah 1:1-16, Habakkuk 3:17-19, Matthew 17:14-21 and 24:4-14, Luke 14:27-30, 18:9-27, and 22:31-34, Acts 16:6, the failures of many in Hebrews 11:32-40, and 1 John 1:8-10.

Then discuss the following:

  • In what ways might many Christians say they have failed?
  • How does the Lord define real success, rewards and risks to following Christ by faith in Him?  Be specific and elaborate from Scripture.
  • What are some of the results of truly failing to obey God in faith?
  • Name some of times in Scripture when the Lord used failures of human strength or wisdom to build His people for faithful obedience in Christ?
  • How can failure be a measure of growth for God’s people?  Elaborate from Scripture.


50 years ago last week:  Apollo 1                            

“Failure can be a measure of Greatness”
by Chaplain Jeff Dillard (31 January 2017)

On January 27 1967, astronauts Lieutenant Colonel Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Lieutenant Colonel Edward White, and Lieutenant Commander Roger Chaffee were in training, sitting comfortably in the cockpit of their spacecraft on the launchpad when a fire erupted and burned them alive.  How we respond to failure, however, is often a measure of the greatness that can follow.

All of America had been on the edge of their seats watching them prepare to travel into space.  The possibilities seemed endless, but so did the risks.  As with any great endeavor, there were potentials for catastrophy.  But when we weigh the potential rewards as greater than those risks, we press on.  But not in ignorance.  In courage.

Time magazine reported that, even before that day, “The spacecraft gave repeated trouble. The nozzle of its big engine shattered during one test. The heat shield of the command module split wide open and the ship sank like a stone when it was dropped at high speed into a water tank. Certain kinds of fuel caused ruptures in attitude-control fuel tanks. The cooling system failed, causing a two-month delay for redesign. But all the bugs were eventually ironed out, as far as the experts knew, after arduous testing under every conceivable circumstance. Last week’s test was billed as the ship’s first full “plugs-out” operation—meaning that the craft was to rely solely on its own power system instead of using an exterior source.” (  Yet, ironically, in an earlier interview in which they were asked about the risks of space travel, they clearly and confidently stated that, if anything were to happen to them, they hoped Americans would remember the greater goal in sight and press on.

And we did.

Most of us weigh potential rewards and risks daily.  Some decisions are small and easy.  If I skp physical exercise just this Saturday, the short-term risk is probably small. – unless make that a habit.  So maybe I could use that mornng to catch up on another area of my responsibiity.  But other decisions are harder because they come with much greatter risks.  Those are the times we need to inventory the potental rewards.  What could I gain?  Is that worth even great costs to my time, my wallet, some of my relationships, maybe even more.  And who stands with us?

Even potentially great goals can be clouded by great risks.  We often need others to help us keep our eyes on the prize.  And that is a key part of most great success stories:  they’re not in it alone.  Those astronauts were supported by others who shared their vision.  When they struggled, their friends encouraged.  In the same way, when we can list what could be lost, our teams can list how much more could be gained.  When we fear that we have such limited time and other resources to get this done, they can remind us that, if we do not quit, we can inspire others who will carry on the good work.  And that may be one of our greatest helps;  perspective.

Those three astronauts didn’t make it to the moon.  But others did two years later.  And we’ve not been back in almost 50 years, but the courage, technology, teamwork, and inspiration that those trips generated have led to countless other achievements for all who didn’t quit.  it is no exaggeration to say that the entire world has benefited because NASA and our nation did not led tragedy stop us.

In fact, their courage inspired us to move beyond failure to the fantastic.

You and I may not be perfect parents.  Who is  But if we persevere in loving our kids, they can be even better for their children.  We may not have enough time to teach, tweak, or sustain our vison, but we may inspire others who will.

What are you facing today?  Inventory what’s at risk and the potential rewards.  Look around to see who supports you.  And keep your eyes on the good, good prize.  If the goal is truly worthy of what you may lose, you’re probably not alone.


If you’re interested in other posts from this series, “Topic Tuesdays”, you can subscribe to this blog.

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If you’d like to know more about who publishes the articles, videos, and other materials on tools4trenches, you can click on the picture of me and my wife.

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