Everything was going well until they were over 55 hours into the flight and almost 1,99,000 miles from Earth. At that time, an explosion was heard and these famous words were uttered, “Houston we’ve had a problem”. (Although often misquoted in popular use, these were his actual words.) It was the voice of Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell. He and his crew were attempting the third lunar landing in April 1970.
Mission Control in Houston had no choice but to abort the mission and bring the crew home. It was easier said than done. The explosion in the command module was causing a loss of oxygen. Lovell and his two crew members needed to take refuge in the lunar module, which was made only to accommodate two astronauts to land on the moon. That was the least of their problems. They only had a two-day supply of oxygen left and the return trip to earth would take three days.
Because of the work of Mission Control and Lovell and his crew, they miraculously made it home. Commander Lovell said that the mission was called a successful failure in that they returned safely but never made it to the moon.
The plan was for Apollo 13 to land on the moon, explore, and return safely home. They did not set out to fail in their mission. A student studies for a test in order to get a passing grade. A teen practises her driving in a parking lot to prepare for getting her driver’s license. An athlete runs for hours every week to prepare for a race. Regardless of all the time and effort, the student may flunk the test, the teenager may fail to get her driver’s license, and the athlete might finish dead last in the race. Nobody plans to fail, but sometimes it happens.
2 Corinthians 13:5 exhorts us to examine and test ourselves. In what areas of your life do you struggle? What sin do you seem to commit over and over? And why has victory over that sin eluded you?
Moses did not plan to strike the rock when the Lord told him to speak to it in order for water to flow out of it. King David did not decide to fail the Lord and purposely set out to look for the beautiful bathing Bathsheba so that he could fornicate with her. The boastful, but lovable Peter meant it when he said that he would not deny the Lord even though the others would. I believe that these men did not deliberately and willfully plan to fail the Lord by committing these terrible sins.
And, you and I did not devise a scheme that would ensure failure in our walk with the Lord. However, there were times that we yielded to temptation and fell into sin, missing the mark and falling short of His glory. Although we hate to admit it, we failed. We may have had a failure, but we are not failures!
After we confess and repent of our sins, the first thing that is necessary for the failure to be a success is that we learn from our failures. What caused us to fall? What did we do or not do that contributed to our failure? What must we do so that we won’t be deceived again?
Did we neglect the reading of God’s Word? Did we not spend much time in prayer? Have we been faithful in attending church? Did we read something or watch a movie that we should not have? Did we dwell on a sinful or lustful thought?
I love what Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer says in his book Failure: The Back Door to Success, “Whenever we can pinpoint sin in our lives, we are on the way to true spiritual progress”.
2 Corinthians 13:5 exhorts us to examine and test ourselves. With the Lord’s help take a “spiritual inventory” of your life. In what areas of your life do you struggle? What sin do you seem to commit over and over? And why has victory over that sin eluded you?
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the moon, was once asked what he would do if the engine on his spacecraft failed and he had only one hour to live. What would he do? Aldrin replied, “I’d work on the engine”.
With the Lord’s help “work on the engine!”
Secondly, let’s allow our failures to draw us closer to the Lord in order not to commit the same sins again. In Hebrews 4:16 the Lord gives us a wonderful invitation to come boldly or with confidence to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. “Come near to God,” says James, “and he will come near to you” (4:8).
Thirdly, do not listen to the lies of the devil or anyone who would try to condemn you. Remember, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1. Feeling condemned will not help us to progress spiritually.
After the lesson has been learned and we are beginning to live victoriously with the Lord’s help, help others so that they won’t fall into the same trap that we fell into. Encourage and build them up if they have fallen. The Lord showed you mercy, now show others mercy.
An uplifting song that I enjoy listening to is sung by one of my favourite singers, Natalie Cole. It is a secular song, but it conveys a word of encouragement when we fall. The song is titled ‘Pick Yourself Up’. Here are some of the words:
Pick yourself up, take a deep breath
Dust yourself off and start all over again.
OK, my brothers and sisters, it’s time to take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue to run that race set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1, 2).