It’s easy to blame ourselves or those around us for failures. However, we should not fool ourselves into thinking that failure is always a result of our shortcomings. Nor should we believe that success is exclusively due to our merits. Success or failure may be due to luck.

For example, Microsoft had a crack at success largely because of IBM’s offhand decision to use the MS-DOS operating system for a backwater project called the personal computer. Bill Gates later reflected, “Our timing in setting up the first software company aimed at personal computers was essential to our success. The timing wasn’t entirely luck, but without great luck it couldn’t have happened.” Asked why he had started a software company just at the time IBM was trying its luck with a personal computer, he replied, “I was born at the right place and time.”[1]

This is not to say that hard work and ingenuity aren’t important. They prepare us to make the most of the chances we get in life, and they may create opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Yet one who succeeds at work may be no more deserving than another who fails.

If our response to success is solely self-congratulation, we are practicing idolatry. If our response is thankfulness, then we are worshipping God. If our reaction to failure is despair, then we are feeling the hollowness of a broken idol. But if our reaction is perseverance, then we are experiencing the gracious power of God.


Faithful Father, some circumstances are not in my control, though I often wish they were. Thank you for the opportunities and skills that have allowed me to succeed (in big ways and in small ways) in the past. After the sting of failure, help me to pick myself up and move forward with what I’ve learned. Amen.
[1] “Bill Gates Answers Most Frequently Asked Questions” available here. (12 February 2010).