Sometimes I’m Afraid I’ll Fail

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

Three times?

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 life

In relationships

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

Take faith-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


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