Everyone faces a fear or two in their lifetime …
One fear that I have faced a number of times over the last 50 years has been fear of failure … looked a little different each time
- Fear of not being able to live up to my ordination vows
- Fear of failing to be adequate enough in my first parish
- Fear of preaching
- Fear of starting an independent church
- Fear of overseas ministry and the unknown over there after communism fell
- Fear of not honouring the Name of Jesus
- Fear of pushing too hard and burning out
Here’s one that is still there behind the scenes digging at me on occasion
Fear of not finishing the race wisely and in a way that honours God
“…run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1b)
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
- What if my preaching doesn’t reach the lost?
- What if I make a bad decision and turn thousands away from Christ?
- What if my advice to a pastor does not help but hinders their ministry?
We all have fears that we face on a regular basis
- What if I say the wrong thing to the non-believer, and he never knows God because of me?
- What if I miss the opportunity that God regularly gives to me to tell others about the love of God found in Jesus?
- What if my children who are not honouring or serving God today never return to the faith they once knew?
Whatever our responsibilities are at work and on the job we take them seriously and we certainly don’t want to fail
And, at times, there is that ‘fear of failure’ that creeps in
Tonight’s topic: “Sometimes I’m Afraid I’ll fail”
As I think about this whole area of “fear of failing” I came to realize how close this topic is to another topic: Obeying God
That often God asks me to do something different or new … or do something I am decently good at in a new way …
And I submit to my fear of failure and don’t obey God – fail to do what God is asking me to do in the way He wants me to do it
There is a link: obedience and failure
The devil – our spiritual enemy – does everything in his dark power to scare you away from obeying and receiving God’s best … that is, failing
So, it would be good to start learning to see failure God’s way because His way is different than the way we tend to see and handle the fear of failure
Jesus illustrates the fear of failure in Matthew, Chapter 25
In this passage He talked about a wealthy man who entrusted his money to three servants to invest on his behalf.
When the man checked up on his servants one of them said, “Master … I knew that you are a hard man … So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.”
Let’s read the whole story…
Matthew 25:14-29 (TPT) “Again, heaven’s kingdom realm is like the wealthy man who went on a long journey and summoned all his trusted servants and assigned his financial management over to them. Before he left on his journey, he entrusted a bag of five thousand gold coins to one of his servants, to another a bag of two thousand gold coins, and to the third a bag of one thousand gold coins, each according to his ability to manage.
“The one entrusted with five thousand gold coins immediately went out and traded with the money, and he doubled his investment. In the same way, the one who was entrusted with two thousand gold coins traded with the sum and likewise doubled his investment. But the one who had been entrusted with one thousand gold coins dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.
“After much time had passed, the master returned to settle accounts with his servants. The one who was entrusted with five thousand gold coins came and brought ten thousand, saying, ‘See, I have doubled your money.’
“Commending his servant, the master replied, ‘You have done well, and proven yourself to be my loyal and trustworthy servant. Because you have been a faithful steward to manage a small sum, now I will put you in charge of much, much more. You will experience the delight of your master, who will say to you, “Come celebrate with me!”’
“Then the one who had been entrusted with two thousand gold coins came in and said, ‘See, my master, I have doubled what you have entrusted to me.’
“Commending his servant, the master replied, ‘You have done well, and proven yourself to be my loyal and trustworthy servant. Because you were faithful to manage a small sum, now I will put you in charge of much, much more. You will experience the delight of your master, who will say to you, “Come celebrate with me!”’
“Then the one who had been entrusted with one thousand gold coins came to his master and said, ‘Look, sir. I know that you are a hard man to please and you’re a shrewd and ruthless businessman who grows rich on the backs of others. I was afraid of you, so I went and hid your money and buried it in the ground. But here it is—take it, it’s yours.’
“Angered by what he heard, the master said to him, ‘You’re an untrustworthy and lazy servant! If you knew I was a shrewd and ruthless business man who always makes a profit, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? Then I would have received it all back with interest when I returned. But because you were unfaithful, I will take the one thousand gold coins and give them to the one who has ten thousand. For the one who has will be given more, until he overflows with abundance. And the one with hardly anything, even what little he has will be taken from him.’
“Then the master said to his other servants, ‘Now, throw that good-for-nothing servant far away from me into the outer darkness, where there will be great misery and anguish!’”
The master was a businessman and he did not honour the servant who was cautious and fearful
“You wicked, lazy servant!”
Then he took the money away from the fearful servant and gave it to another servant — the one who had risked his money and multiplied it
This is a parable – a simple story to present and explain a spiritual and Kingdom truth or principle
What motivated the unfaithful servant?
Fear of failure
Because of it, he avoided risk by burying his master’s money
In the parable:
The Master is God
The servant is you
The gold coins are your skills, abilities, gifting, and calling
Failure resulted from not obeying… failure is linked to obedience
He didn’t obey because of fear and thus he failed his master
Often we don’t accomplish what God has and is calling us to do because of fear
As I read this story over and over again, I asked myself:
What am I afraid of?
What is keeping me from moving forward in life?
What prevents me from doing what I know God has asked me, as a believer, to do?
What fear keeps me from telling others about Jesus?
Good questions to ask yourself from time to time
God invites us into a fantastic adventure as His disciples … an adventure that will make a difference in the world in which we live
But rather than accepting the invitation to make a difference, lots of Christ followers “play it safe”
Rather than obey and use our talents, skills, gifts, and calling to honour Him we let our feat of failure derail us
That’s what the unfaithful servant did:
Hedged his bet
Avoided his fear
Buried his master’s money
His decision forfeited any future opportunity to make a difference for his master
What if Jesus took your opportunities — or mine — and gave them to someone else?
Scientists once conduced a very interesting experiment
In the middle of a room, they hung a bushel of fresh bananas halfway up a pole
Then they let four monkeys loose in the room.
Immediately the hungry monkeys dashed towards the bright yellow bananas
As they climbed the scientists blasted the monkeys with icy-cold water
The monkeys backed off, regrouped, then made a second attempt. As they started to climb the pole, once again they received the discouraging dousing
After several unsuccessful attempts, the monkeys became convinced that failure was inevitable and finally stopped trying.
The next day, the researchers removed one of the four monkeys and replaced him with a new monkey.
What did the rookie do?
He went straight for the bananas
But before he even reached the pole, the three veterans pulled him away
Undeterred, the new money tried again.
Again his compassionate roommates intervened
At last he gave up and adopted their fatalistic attitude
Each day, the scientists replaced one of the original monkeys with a new one
By the fifth day, four monkeys occupied the room, not one of whom had ever been sprayed with cold water
From that day forward, whenever a new monkey was traded in, the others would prevent him from going for the bananas … without even knowing why
Four had failed, and then they conditioned the novices to not even try
This happens to us as believers more often than we care to admit
People hear what we are wanting to do and tell you all the reasons we should not
You were in a friendship that didn’t work – so you decide not to risk another attempt with someone else
You were married and the marriage failed. Others tell you to just stay single
Your first child was a pain in the neck an totally upset your life – so you don’t ever have a second one
Once burnt – twice shy
Eventually, to avoid potential failure and pain, people stop trying and abort their dreams
They bury their ‘gold coins’
Advice: Don’t let fear of failure make a money out of you
Sorry about that. I couldn’t resist!
So, let’s dig in and look at this “fear of failure”
Your spiritual enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy God’s purpose for your life (John 10:10)
That’s what he does, and fear is one of his main weapons
But the apostle Paul said, “God has not given to us a spirit of fear” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV)
Fear of failure doesn’t come from God
So it is time to face this giant in our lives
The way to beat the fear of failure is to realize that God has some important things to say about failure
As we see these truths about failure, receive these truths about fear and failure … they will give us a pathway to freedom
1> The Failure Fact: You will fail
Strange way to begin a journey to being free of the fear of failure …
God’s approach to failure starts with the fact that you will fail
That may not sound encouraging
That may not seem to be a pleasant truth
But, if you want to defeat the destructive fear of failure … grab hold of this starting point
Failing is a part of life – the Bible states:
“We all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2)
All of us stumble and fall – fail
Not just in some ways — but according to James, in many ways
Failing is a part of learning and growing and becoming all that God wants us to become
If we work to avoid the risk of failing we will never become who God wants us to be
Failure is always the way forward IF we learn from our failures
And remember, just because you fail at something, doesn’t make you a failure
2> Failure is an event, never a person
The world may tell you as you fail at something that YOU are a failure
This is a false assessment of the situation
You need to understand that failure is not personal … it is simply an event in your life as you grow and mature and become all that God wants you to be
This goes for all failures:
- Failed in your marriage — divorced
- Failed in your finances — bankruptcy
- Failed in raising your children — they won’t talk to you and have rejected your lifestyle
- Failed to win someone to the Lord — disciple-maker
- Failed at your job and got fired (laid off)
- Failed because you made poor child-raising decisions
- Failed because you didn’t go to university
- Failed as a believer because you have fallen into sin
There is no end to the list of ways we can fail and not measure up / fall short
But these do not make you a failure — failure is an event, not a person
3> God often accomplishes good results through failure
You learn a lot about life and about yourself if you take the time to pull out the lessons from your failure
God teaches you life lessons through your failures
God works in you through your failures …
As long as you take time to ask yourself “What did I learn?”
Over the years in my times of failure…
- I learned humility
- I learned dependence upon God
- I learned to stop feeling sorry for myself
- I learned to pick myself up and get back on the horse
- I learned to conquer my fears
- I learned to study harder
- I learned to pray more
- I learned to continue to read and develop myself
- I learned to allow God into all areas of my life – Lordship
- I learned to put more confidence in His presence than in my abilities
- I learned that failure is only temporary
I have learned more from my failures than I have from my wins or successes
So, every time I fail I ask God what He is wanting to teach me and show me
Everyone fails, but failure is not permanent — unless we refuse to learn from our failures and mistakes
4> With God, you can overcome failure
So, we need failure in order to grow and mature and become who God created us to be
But, failure is not your friend — it is an obstacle
An enemy to overcome
We grow from failure through the lifelong experience of learning to defeat it
But, remember, failure in a giant that will conquer if you attack it on your own
Proverbs 24:16 says, “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.”
The righteous person is the one who lives depending on God
If you fall (fail), with God’s help, you can get back up
If you fall and fail a second time, He’ll help you up again
He’s still there, and you can do it again. And again. And again. And again
Seven times (in the verse) is not literally seven times
His promise never expires
Being knocked down does not mean you have been knocked out
However, a warning:
God often uses others to help you get back up … don’t try to ‘get up’ on your own
5> Failure is often the price you pay for progress
During seasons of failure — God is shaping us
If we take a risk, we might not succeed
But, if we avoid all risks, we guarantee that we won’t succeed
And that we will miss so much of what God wants us to learn
And we will never become all that God wants us to be
So, when you fail or struggle with failure…
Look for what God is teaching you
What’s happening to you is not as important as what God’s doing in you!
And, you will not make any progress without failure … So, hang in there and don’t give up
Eventually you will learn and grow and succeed God’s way and on God’s timetable
Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Failure is the price you pay for growing and becoming who God wants you to be
And through failure, you will be stronger and wiser than you were today
6> Fail by faith — Take faith risks
The way you please God is to open yourself up to the potential of failure
Open yourself up – in faith
You cannot please God by giving in the complacency and comfort and safety
You must not be passive – you have to be actively engaged…
In touching others for Jesus
You must embrace all of life and live life wide open
The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6)
In other words, you cannot play it safe and please God — Impossible!
To become who God created you to be you cannot eliminate risks – you must risk and step out in faith
Don’t avoid risks — But take the right risks
Faith risk: When you believe God is calling you to do something you can’t do on your own
Faith risk: Is when you pull away from the shore and launch into the deep
Faith risk: When you stop making excuses…
- At this point in my life…
- If you were my age, you’d understand…
- Given my health…
- In my financial condition…
- If you understood where I came from …
The reasons we “can’t afford” to take risks are infinite
But, if you are thinking this way you will never take faith risks and thus will never please God
Faith is believing in what you can’t see, following a voice you can’t prove you heard, and living by principles that God says are true but don’t make sense in this world.
Without faith, you cannot please God
So be prepared to step out in faith
Understand that you will “fail by faith”
You need to take risks
Do you remember the story about Jesus’ disciples riding in a boat during a storm?
Jesus wasn’t with them, and they were freaking out
Which is exactly what I would be doing, riding in a small, rickety fishing boat during the Perfect Storm
That’s when Jesus miraculously walked toward them on the water.
Then the disciples really started to freak out, thinking Jesus was a ghost
Trying to calm them, Jesus said, “Take courage, it is I” (Matthew 14:27)
Then one of His disciples spoke up
Above the terrified shouts of the others, Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water (verse 28)
Jesus replied with one word: “Come” (verse 29)
Is Jesus saying that to you in some area of your life currently?
- Come, Follow Me
- Come. Let me lead you
- Come. Leave your comfort behind
- Come. Try again
- Come. Trust me
The next line of Matthew’s story will always amaze me:
“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked in the water and came towards Jesus” (Matthew 14:29)
Would I have done what Peter did?
Would you have done what Peter did?
Eleven other disciples didn’t
Even though they had seen the same miracles and spent time with the same Jesus, they stayed in the boat
I can’t tell you why they wouldn’t hop into the choppy, icy water
But I know why I most likely would have stayed in the boat
I’d be afraid I’d sink — Ah! The fear of failure again!
Why did Peter do it?
I believe because He understood how God views failure – faith – risk
I believe he understood that God was an unfailing Father
7> God never fails
How can you become firmly convinced of God’s absolute trustworthiness?
Peter’s courageous move shows us the only way: You have to step out to find out
You will never know what God can do through you until you leap over the side of the boat and get your feet wet
APPLICATION / CONCLUSION
So, what are you waiting for?
Fear of failure is natural to those of us who don’t like pain
But if you haven’t noticed by now., one of life’s greatest pains is … REGRET
If you don’t face your fear
If you don’t climb your mountain
If you don’t cross your ocean
One day you will wake up and voice one of the most excruciating statements of your life — the words of regret:
- I wish I would have…
- I wonder what would have happened if…
- I always thought I was suppose to … but I never tried
- I always thought I’d have time for … but now it’s too late
If you don’t confront and subdue your fear of failure
You will certainly live with the pain of regret
Failure fact: You will fail
Failure fallacy reframed: Failure is an event, never a person
Failure’s function: God often accomplishes Good results through failure
Failure-fighting fellowship: With God, you can overcome failure
Failure facing forward: Failure is often the price you pay for progress
Failure by faith: You must take faith risks
The unfailing Father: God never fails