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Why do we fear failure? Part 1 - When our focus is on the past:
"But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”— Hebrews 10:38
Don't fear failure!
Why do we fear failure...?
Why do we “shrink back?” why do we stop just short of the dreams that God has given us? Why do we feel paralyzed and unable to move forward and continue the work that we have begun? When we are so close to finishing why does it become so very, very hard to continue? I say “we” because I understand this problem all too well. I deal with it every day of my life in the form of anxiety and flashbacks to my past that try to hinder my movement into my future. So here I would like for you to begin a very personal journey with me in a four-part series “Fear of failure.” I know that I should not fear failure as a Christian because if I am meant to do something then God will take me through it, but therein lies the rub, does it not? If I am meant to do it…what if I am wrong, what if I only thought I was meant to do it….well that is for another part in the series altogether. Today we will look at how the fear of failure sabotages our dreams and our God-given purpose when our focus is on the past.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."— The Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:13-14
Past failures as a source of fear...
It is easy enough to see how the failures of the past can derail us in the present and future. When we have failed in the past we believe we will fail in the present and in the future as well. We begin to believe that we are failures, we forget to separate the event from the person. My first go-around in college, during my undergrad years at Ohio State, I was acting out and I experienced failure that caused my GPA to plummet. I worked very hard to bring it up, but once you are rowing against the current it becomes very hard, I graduated with a respectable GPA, having taken classes in my major at the Graduate level and I took the GRE and received a perfect score on the writing portion, yet Ohio State rejected my application for Graduate School…years later when faced with the opportunity to apply for grad school at another school (and on a full-scholarship) I shrank back, you bet I did, as far back as I could!! But thankfully there were people around me to prod me forward! I was accepted and received my Master’s degree almost free of charge, whereas at Ohio State I would have paid for the whole thing! My past failure did not define my future because God had already planned my Grad school, my major (which believe me was NOT the major I would have chosen!) and when I would attend, it was just a matter of waiting on him!
Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these? For it is not wise to ask such questions."— King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 7:10
Past successes as a source of fear...
Did you know that past successes can also keep you from your God-ordained purpose in life? We remember a time when life seemed to be easier or it seemed to make more sense to us, we were more successful, maybe we were serving God with power and now…now we are not. The Bible shows us here in Ecclesiastes that this remorse, this sense of loss keeps us stuck, it keeps us focused on the past and unable to move forward and take hold of the new promise that God has for us. It is not wise to ask such questions because God is not finished with us he has a new purpose a new path for us to follow! Sometimes we spend our time looking back at the great things that we did for God and we don’t realize that this is holding us back from doing good things for him now. We are so focused on the GREAT that we don’t want to do the merely good. Let me give another example from my life.
In 2008 I had the opportunity to preach in Guatemala. In one of the cities that I preached in (I was on a tour) I preached in front of over two thousand people, the night was simulcast on every radio station in the area, when I was done preaching the altar was full, my sponsors had to pull me from the altar to leave when night fell and we had to start our journey back to the city where we were staying. I lost all of that when I had to divorce my abusive ex-husband, but now I live free from abuse, I write these Hubs and I am working on my first book, fear of failure, of not living up to the standard of thousands of people and an altar full of people wanting to receive from the Lord holds me back frequently. But I can hear God saying to me, to you, to all of us…
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”— The Prophet Isaiah 43:19
Streams in the wasteland we need not fear...
Right now God is doing something new in our lives, and he would like for us to learn the lesson that the Apostle Paul learned: stop looking back because that is not the direction that we are headed!! I cannot look back on my time preaching and baptizing and long for that instead of writing, this is what God has called me to do right now, this is my way in the wilderness, this is my stream in the wasteland and I must choose to trust in Him! What are you looking back at my friend? What do you need to let go of in order to perceive the way that God is making for you in the wilderness and the streams that he is creating for you in the wasteland?
...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."— The apostle Peter in Hebrews 12:2
Where our focus needs to be...
So we can’t look back, where can we look? We can look at Jesus! Instead of crying over failures and wishing wee were back in the past enjoying successes that we no longer have, we need to ask Jesus to lift us up. As an alternative to reminiscing about successes, it is time to look to Jesus and ask him what is next in our lives. Sometimes we live dreaming of what we did and we get stuck and we don’t do anything what we really need to do Is forget the past, as we cannot live there, we can only live in the present and choose to look for a new and exciting way to serve our God, and be willing to face our fears of failure and trust and step out in faith believing that we can walk on water because Jesus is holding our hand!