The Fear of Failure

Have you ever had a conversation where you really wish there was a “do-over” button? You could just tap it and life would rewind 30 seconds giving you the chance to say something different than what you said. Like the other day when I was encouraging my wife to eat one of my freshly made pancakes. I was attempting to be funny when I said, “Eat one, honey. I like my women a little chunky!” (I can almost hear the groans…don’t judge me!). There is simply no good way out of that one! “You’re not chunky honey” didn’t cut it: after all I said I LIKE chunky women!
She responded, “What, then you don’t like me!”
“No…I LOVE you!”
“Well if you LIKE chunky women and you LOVE me, then I must be HUGE!”
(she’s not, by the way)

Yeah…a conversation “do-over” would have been awesome! I would have said, “I just made pancakes for the most beautiful woman in the world! Ahhh…there you are!”

Fortunately for me my wife is both good-humored and very forgiving; two character traits that have saved our marriage more than once!

There was another time in my life when one of those “do-overs” would have been great. When I was a young, arrogant, and rash college student, one of my professors asked me, “Do you ever fear failure?” From the look in his eyes it was evident he did and that the fear of failure had impacted his ministry. I revealed my prideful heart when I quickly said, “Nope.” At the time, I probably didn’t fear failure. But then again, I didn’t have a clue about much. If I could go and have that conversation over again I would certainly hit that “do-over” button. If I knew then what I know now, that conversation would go completely different. I would have said, “Yes…I fear failure everyday. Teach me…help me.”

But the sad truth is you have learn how to deal with failure the hard way…you to have fail. And repetition is important if you want develop “dealing with failure” skills. In other words, you have to fail over and over again. Failure teaches us lessons that can’t be learned any other way. For example, failing brings humility and that’s a character trait I was sorely lacking. Failure grows us. It teaches us important lessons. The beautiful, though hard truth is God allows failure for our sanctification!

But nobody likes to fail! In fact, many are crippled by the fear of failure. Humanly speaking, there are unplanted churches because there are men who were burdened, but feared failing. There are unwritten books because people didn’t want their thoughts rejected by a publisher. There are great things to be attempted, but the fear of failure cripples great men and keeps them from venturing forward. But what is the answer? Does God have solutions to the fear of failure? I believe once we understand the root of this fear, we will discover there are wonderful, biblical answers we can apply! And once we see our own hearts we will be able to dare boldly and accomplish greater things for God’s glory!

Understanding the Fear of Failure
What we call “the fear of failure” is really an inaccurate label. Isn’t there something deeper than fearing failure itself? Isn’t “the fear of man” really the source…the root…of the fear of failure? What we really fear is looking foolish in front of others. We really fear rejection. And the opinions of men become so important to us that we allow them to rule our hearts.

The fear of man is a common problem! At some level we ALL want others to think well of us. Little children care about what they will wear to school because they don’t want other kids to make fun of them. Teens are DRIVEN by “looking cool,” and even adults regularly cave in to “peer pressure.” However common the sin may be, it is still a sin none-the-less!

Prov. 29:25
The fear of man lays a snare,
but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.

Paul addressed how he handled the fear of man in his book to the church at Galatia;

Gal. 1:10
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

We are called to be servants of Christ! But if I will not venture out and boldly serve Jesus with my gifts and abilities because I fear what others think, then who am I really bowing down to? MAN!

Uprooting the Fear of Failure
To conquer this fear, we must pull it up by it’s root. If we want to push through the fear of failure, we need to attack the fear of man. So here are some steps:

1. Get God-focused; not MAN focused!
It became evident that Bob had a talent for writing. He enjoyed it and others enjoyed what he wrote. Bob also had a passion to share what he was learning in his personal Bible reading, so he thought about starting a blog! When he shared this idea with a friend, his dream was met with criticism; “Come on, Bob! Who’s going to read it? I mean besides your mom!” Bob felt foolish and a little guilty. Who was he to think that people cared about what he would write? So Bob dropped the idea entirely. And instead of venturing out and attempting to use his talent for Christ, Bob allowed the criticisms of man to stifle his dream.

When we attempt great things there are always people there to question our motives and point out all the reasons our dreams will fail. And because we care deeply about what others think… because we don’t want to be ashamed when we don’t accomplish those dreams…we allow the opinions of nay-sayers to keep us from trying. Brethren, these things ought not to be so!

When Ethan Jones from “Quints by Surprise” was considering doing a multiples reality show, there were many who questioned his wisdom. In a fantastic blog post entitled “Daring Timidly….Huh?”, Ethan unpacks his heart and nails the right, and godly, attitude! Addressing the critics, Ethan used a fantastic quote from Teddy Roosevelt…

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
-Teddy Roosevelt

WOW! What a GREAT quote!
When we are attempting great things for God’s glory, we are living for the MOST WORTHY of causes! We need to focus on our God-given purpose and not listen to men who are to afraid to make bold steps for God…all because they are too afraid to fail in the eyes of man.

Here’s another step:
2. Get God-focused; not ME focused!
God appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Think about that. GOD…the CREATOR of ALL…miraculously appears to Moses and reveals to Moses His plan…He wants to use Moses for a great cause! But Moses fears failure and he argues with the miracle working Creator of the universe! God puts Moses in his place by reminding him of a few things.

Ex. 4:11-12
11 Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”

Moses was focused on himself and he completely missed a very obvious truth. God created him and God was calling him. The self-focus brought the desire of self-preservation and fear gripped his heart. Moses needed to get his mind on God and step out in faith trusting that the One Who called him would also equip and enable him!

When we fear stepping out and using our abilities and opportunities for the glory of God we are focusing on ourselves! It’s NOT about US! And if God equipped and called you then He will enable and empower you! That doesn’t mean you won’t fail…as I mentioned before, God uses failure to grow us! But if we learn and grow from our failures, isn’t He glorified all the more?

Last step:
Dare Boldly!
Get focused on God and His glory, not your own. Get excited about making His name known, then dream big! And as you evaluate how He has equipped you (Rom. 12:3-8), then go and use those gifts and abilities to attempt great things for Him! Take the opportunities in front of you right now and give them your all! And if you “fail” at least you will fail with your face “marred by dust and sweat and blood!”

In his blog, Ethan mentions Matt. 8:22. He nails the application of the passage with this:

“I do not know what that passage means to you when you read it, but to me it means to seek every opportunity that Christ puts in your path and pursue those opportunities with vigor until the day that Christ directs you in another way. It means to move forward without reservation, focus your eyes on Christ, and dare to take the road less traveled if that is the road he is leading you down. It means to get out of the boat and truly believe that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. It means to control what you can control and leave the rest up to him…”
-Ethan Jones

My prayer is that you are encouraged to pick up the challenge from William Cary; “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” We are all going to fail! Let’s fail attempting great things. Let’s fail for God’s glory!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


6 thoughts on “The Fear of Failure

  1. What a great story about you, your wife, and the pancakes! I laughed out loud when I read it! I’ve done it a million times myself, but praise the Lord for understanding wives who don’t take our less-than-thought-out comments to heart!

  2. Great thoughts Jamie.

    P.S. You obviously have no fear of failure, as indicated by the fact that you kept playing intramural basketball.

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