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At the Intersection of Success and Failure

C.S. Lewis was a well educated atheist who sought out to prove that God does not exist. Some might say that this quest ended in failure as Lewis went on to accept Jesus as his personal Savior and Lord. This journey to disprove God altered Lewis’ career path in life as he became a famous author and theologian. Prior to his death in 1898, Lewis left behind a series of famous quotes. My two personal favorites are “It is not your business to succeed, but to do right. When you have done so the rest lies with God.” The second comes from Mere Christianity, “success if the process of arriving.”

Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

The latter quote suggests that one must fail several times before you draw near to success. For example, if you play baseball, failing to get a hit in 7 out of 10 plate appearances is considered good. The current average batting average in Major League Baseball in 2021 is 220. This means that most professional hitters are failing nearly 80% of the time. If you combine this lack of success with local weather forecasters who tend to get their daily predictions right once or twice a week, Americans are surrounded by failure.

Nevertheless, God was not pleased with the great majority of them, for they were overthrown and strewn down along [the ground] in the wilderness. Now these things are examples (warnings and admonitions) for us not to desire or crave or covet or lust after evil and carnal things as they did, 1 Corinthians 10:5-6.

The apostle Paul devotes an entire chapter to remind the Corinthian Church of Israel’s failures. These past errors, mistakes and sins serve as lessons from the past. As I drive around to various places, my photographic memory often triggers a collection of memories within my mind. Yet, as I pass a little league field and two vacated churches, the pain of a defunct baseball league and closed churches hit home. Am I failure because I wasn’t able to save these three organizations or was it God’s will for these things to come to an end? When you’re surrounded by failure, it’s hard to press on. Yet, when you are weak, Christ is strong, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, so with God I go on.

by Jay Mankus

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