Devotional: ‘Overcoming Our Fear of Failure’


James 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

Many of you know my personal history with James 4:17. For twelve years I struggled with going into the ministry until one night I heard a message on this verse of scripture. Suddenly it hit me – there was not going to be a flash of lightening across the sky or a voice out of heaven telling me what to do. The Lord had already revealed to me His will and He was waiting for me to follow.

As I look back upon my hesitancy, I realize now that much of it had to do with my fear of failure. ‘What if?’ was the big question in my mind that kept holding me back. ‘What if I can’t do it? What if the Lord hasn’t actually called me? What if I suddenly realize one day that this was all a big mistake?’ The – ‘What if’s’ too often hold us back in life and keep us from experiencing God’s best.

A perfect example of this is found in the gospel of Matthew. Jesus told a story about a landowner who entrusted his estate to his servants. To one servant he entrusted five bags of gold, to another three, and to another, one. Then, expecting his servants to take proper care of his estate, the owner left and went on a long trip.

But one day he returned and called for his three servants to give an account of how they had managed his money. The first two servants had taken their lord’s money and doubled it. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.’ the master said. ‘You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ But then the servant, who had been entrusted with one treasure, said to his lord –

Matthew 25:24 ‘…Sir, I know you are a hard man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth and here it is.’

How did the master respond to this servant?

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! You think I’m a hard man, do you, harvesting crops I didn’t plant and gathering crops I didn’t cultivate? 27 Well, you should at least have put my money into the bank so I could have some interest. 28 Take the money from this servant and give it to the one with the ten bags of gold. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away.

I believe that one of the primary reasons we do not experience more of the power of God is that we are afraid of failure. Like the wicked servant, we bury our opportunities in the ground and then grumble because nothing is happening.

A lot has happened in my life since that night I heard my pastor preach on James 4:17. Perhaps the biggest thing is that the Lord has taught me to trust Him. For years I struggled with the fear of failure. Today I strive to walk by faith.

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

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