Failure can be a good teacher


It’s exciting to see the Atlanta Braves having a better year. Even Chipper Jones is finally coming around. At the end of June, Chipper was batting .254 with five home runs and 32 RBI. Way off his best years’ production, but after a slow start, his offense appears to be picking up.

Think about what a .254 average means. He gets a hit only one out of every four times he comes to the plate. Or, he fails to get a hit three out of every four times he comes to the plate. Yet, he still gets what? Something like $14 million this season?

That’s pretty good for a 75 percent failure rate. I guess failure is not all bad if we can look beyond the failure.

We all make mistakes, for failure is part of the human experience. The only way not to fail is not to try, and not trying is unacceptable.

Several years ago, Braves manager Bobby Cox pulled centerfielder Andruw Jones in the middle of an inning because Jones didn’t try hard enough to reach a ball hit his way. He loafed.

So did B. J. Upton in a recent Tampa Bay-Arizona baseball game. Diamondback Rusty Ryal hit a line drive to the gap, and a double became a triple when Upton took a summer stroll to retrieve the ball.

When the Rays returned to the dugout, teammate Evan Longoria got in Upton’s face. Tempers flared and the two had to be separated, but Upton was benched the next night.

Upton broke baseball’s cardinal rule: you play hard and give your best, because effort is the one thing you can control.

Maybe Upton will finally learn. And learning from our goof-ups is a good way to move beyond our goof-ups. Basketball coach Rick Pitino said, “Failure is good. It’s fertilizer. Everything I’ve learned about coaching, I’ve learned from making mistakes.”

Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” God can use our failures to help us grow up spiritually.

In his book, Failing Forward, John Maxwell points out that failure is the price we pay for progress. We can’t move forward without a stumble or two along the way.

According to Tulane University business professor Lisa Amos, the average for entrepreneurs is 3.8 failures before they finally make it in business. They realize that setbacks are part of the experience of moving ahead. They understand that three steps forward and two steps back still equals one step forward.

Failure is not the end of the world. As someone said, “God uses people who fail because there aren’t any other kind around.”

God still used Peter after he denied Jesus. God still used David after his affair with Bathsheba. God still used Job after he lost everything. God still used Jonah after he ran away from God’s assignment. And God can still use us, if we’ll allow Him to.

Every now and then, when I’m entertaining discouraging thoughts, I pull out the “Don’t Quit” poem:

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,

And the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

And the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a failure turns about,

When he might have won had he stuck it out,

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow,

You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,

It seems to a faint and faltering man,

Often the struggler has given up,

When he might have captured the victor’s cup,

And he learned too late when the night slipped down,

How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out,

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you can never tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far,

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church. The church family invites you to Bible study at 9:45 a.m. and worship at 10:55 a.m. each Sunday. The church is located at 352 McDonough Rd., just past the department of drivers’ services building. Call 770-460-5423 for more information.