Recently, while attempting a jog through my neighborhood (attempting being the key word), music was blaring through my headphones and these lyrics stopped me dead in my tracks . . .
FEAR KILLS MORE DREAMS THAN FAILURE.
I immediately stopped running to catch my breath. Those words hit hard. I wondered how many of my dreams and aspirations had been subtly and unknowingly shut down over a spirit of fear. If I’m honest, my fears are often masked as humility or discernment.
I don’t think I’m alone in the struggle. God has called and used so many people that have had every excuse to shut down in fear.
Moses told Joshua to “be strong and courageous” as he encountered the giants of the promised land. David told Solomon to “be strong and show yourself a man” as he stepped onto the throne as leader of God’s chosen people. Paul had to remind Timothy that God gives us a spirit of power and not of fear. Esther had to bravely enter the presence of the king to appeal for her people, risking her life. Daniel had be willing to step into a lion’s den for his devotion to God. Fear could’ve easily killed God’s call, but they refused to let their fears stop them.
The brave are not the ones who stop fearing, they are the ones that trust God in spite of it.
The problem is when we let self-doubt and fear paralyze us, believing that the outcome is dependent upon our own adequacy and ability.
These are a few of the lies we believe and need to combat with some solid truth.
1. YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH
Let’s get this straight from the get-go. You are absolutely not good enough. You aren’t gifted enough. You aren’t smart, funny or pretty enough. Enough said.
How’s that for a motivational cheer?
“If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” Acts 5:38-39
When the goal of our work is to produce fruit and not fame, there is no amount of human gifting or ability that will determine the outcome of our mission. In fact, He often calls us to scary and seemingly impossible tasks because He wants us to trust His ability at work within us. He wants us to depend on His resources. He wants us to humbly see ourselves as the glove and not as the hand at work. We like to be hands.
Our weakness and smallness should never be the reason we pause or shrink back. It’s actually all the more reason to press on. God seems to do His best work in the lives of those who seem least likely to succeed.
Let’s consider Paul. He was arguably one of the most influential figures of the early church. God stepped in, re-directed and used him to catalyze the growth and expansion of the Gospel in incomprehensible ways. These were his words in regard to his own abilities.
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:1-5
The truth: Your strength and ability is a result of His abilities, not yours. Be strong and courageous. Be brave. Watch how God will use your faithfulness and willingness to bring about a rich harvest. Kingdom success may look far different than earthly success. We often equate success with notoriety, platforms and numbers. Jesus said the road is narrow and the way is hard. Doesn’t sound all that glamorous, does it?
They way of Jesus will more than likely bring you less fame, but significantly more fruit. God is always good enough, He fills the gaps and does the work. He is the hand. Will you be brave enough to let Him?
2. MY PAST IS TOO UGLY
This lie just won’t die.
How often does God use broken and sinful people to accomplish His will? 100% of the time. Every person He chooses to use is knee deep in sin and failure. There is not a person who has ever walked the face of this earth that has earned the right to be used by God because of their goodness and righteousness.
Let’s take a look at a few . . .
Peter had a temper. Jacob was a cheater. Noah got drunk. David had an affair. Jonah ran from God. Gideon was insecure. Martha was a worrier. Miriam was a gossip. Thomas was a doubter. Elijah was moody. Moses stuttered. Sara was impatient. Paul was a murderer. Zacchaeus was short. Abraham was old. Lazarus was dead.
These people don’t seem likely candidates to me. You see, there is nothing you could have done in the past that would disqualify you from His work in the present.
The cross is what qualifies you for the race. The perfection of Jesus gives us the fresh start. This is so much grace, it should blow our minds and yet strengthen our resolve.
God looks at the condition of your heart right now. He uses those who have surrendered their failures, their sin and their brokenness. He looks to those who are willing to trust and obey from a position of righteousness, not for a position of righteousness.
He promises to redeem and remove all of our past. That means everything. When you hold onto your past, you give power to our enemy. He wants nothing more than to make you feel unusable. He knows He can’t strip Jesus of the power He had to defeat your death and redeem your soul, but you better believe he is constantly trying to make you feel utterly worthless.
The truth: As you repent and turn to Jesus, surrender your will to His and trust His perfection is yours, His grace makes you worthy and capable to accomplish His perfect will in and through you.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
3. THE TIMING IS NOT RIGHT
I don’t know about you, but it’s far too easy for me to suppress God’s call on my life, believing that it’s not the right time or season. There is certainly wisdom in prayerfully considering your current situation, but I’m afraid we often use timing as an excuse to avoid obedience to do the hard and uncomfortable things.
I am constantly wrestling with my call to ministry outside and within my home. I know that when God entrusted me with 3 small children to love, nature and train, I was committing to the work of that worthy, sacred calling.
But God has been teaching me a moment-by-moment dependence. I tend to be an all-or-nothing sort of girl. I like things to be cut and dry or black and white. It’s less risky when I feel I can fit my life into neat little boxes.
God isn’t calling me to a tidy life, but an abundant life.
Dependence isn’t always tidy. It feels vulnerable and a bit messy. It takes patience to let God guide us moment by moment into how we should steward our time and opportunities.
I struggle a lot with guilt. And it’s straight from the devil . . . you know, the one that is also known as the accuser. He accuses us to our own minds and consciences. There is a difference between guilt and conviction. False-guilt tend to be “me-centered” rather than “God-centered”. It makes us think that we will never be good enough and leads us into depression or despair. When I am stuck in repressive guilt, I am almost always assured it is the enemy at work. True, healing guilt will lead us toward repentance and then bring about freedom!
The truth: Regardless of the season of life, we are all called to the great commission, to the amazing work and ministry of discipling souls. We are all called to teach, encourage and use the passions and opportunities He’s given us to further the kingdom. And we are only promised today. We aren’t promised 10 years from now or even 2 days from now. Only this very moment.
“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14
If you don’t know God’s will or call on your life or are unsure of His timing, start by renewing your mind in His Word. He will speak to you and guide you toward His will as you pray through scripture. If He convicts and calls you on mission, don’t wait! Be brave and press through the opinion of others, any doubts or guilt and get after it!
4. FEAR OF FAILURE
Going back to the lyrics of that song, we see that fear is a powerful emotion. The fear of God is empowering, the fear of man is disabling.
“For God gave us not a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-disciple.” 2 Timothy 1:7
God has called us to a spirit of power, not of fear or timidity. We are never more righteous in our shrinking back. In fact, inaction as a result of fear is disobedience through lack of faith.
Why do we fear failure so much? Pride. We fear looking like a fool. We crave the approval, acceptance and applause of people more than the glory we can give God. When we genuinely humble our hearts, we can let go of what other people think, worry over the outcome or who get’s the credit. We have nothing to prove.
Faithfulness doesn’t let success get to our head or failures to our heart.
The truth: Success is not the outcome. Success is faithfulness in the journey. It’s obedience in the process. It’s willingness to be used regardless of the position, appearance or result. Success is the diligence to work as hard as we can and as long as we can for the glory of God.
I can’t tell you how many times that as I’ve assessed someone else’s giftedness or abilities and began to feel inadequate. Anyone else? Comparison is only the thief of joy when we let it speak lies into our hearts and stifle our walk of obedience.
Comparison isn’t always a bad thing when we have proper perspective. When we realize that God created us with different backgrounds and unique abilities, placing us in specific situations to lead us toward purposeful destinations that will work together for our good and His glory.
This frees us to be the biggest cheerleaders of those running alongside us! Comparison should lead us to thankfulness and joy. When He becomes our greatest mission, we can applaud those along the way that are out there getting after it with the same goal. It becomes less about competition in the work and more about completion of the work.
The truth: God created you for a special purpose. He didn’t make a mistake on you. He designed and wired you exactly how He planned from the beginning. He redeems all that He allows in your life. Believe it! Don’t try and be someone else. Be you for Him. And then let Him take care of the rest. That is success.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
Here’s to a new lyric and truth for your soul . . .
POWER TO ACCOMPLISH YOUR PURPOSE IS NOT BASED ON YOUR PERFORMANCE, BUT ON GOD’S PROVISION.
Bravely onward, dear friend.