What if nobody claps? What if people ridicule me? What if nobody likes my book? What if? What if?
We have all been there at one point or another: afraid to perform a task for fear of not meeting the mark.
Our mindset determines whether our foot moves or remains immobile. Thoughts of the audience’s response to our output affects whether we put out. People are afraid of failure because they do not want the experience of not reaching their goals to bring them ridicule. They know others are watching what they do, and either they will applaud your efforts if successful or ridicule you, making you feel ashamed for even trying.
In the presidential primaries, about four more have to fail before the process is complete. And each candidate knows that failure is a great possibility. They could have let their fear of shame get the most of them. They are in the public eye. Newspapers and broadcast journalists talk about them nonstop. And everyone does not respond to another’s failure with grace. The media knows how to accentuate failure to make you feel stupid for even trying. This is the fear of failure that cripples many people.
But people who fear failure have their minds on the wrong focus. Remember when Peter tried to walk on water? Jesus called Peter out of the boat.
“And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’”… (Matt. 14:30-31 NIV)
Peter took a look at his situation, began to doubt he could make it to where Jesus was standing, and began to sink.
When Jesus calls us to complete a task and we respond to his call, we must execute his plan with the same attentiveness that we gave him when he first called us. Sometimes instead of focusing on the one who called us to the task, we look at too many other things, which discourage us and cause us fear.
The people around us may not be encouragers; they may be just the opposite. They may be scoffers. If we focus mainly on those types, we may become a statistic of the fear of failure and do nothing at all. This is the tragedy of a life not lived at all.
But fear of failure does not have to cripple us. It may very well be the best response if we use that fear to inspire us to prepare with excellence. Fear of failure caused Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors to work endless hours in the gym to defy those critics who said he wasn’t strong enough to make it in the NBA. Today, this Christian young man is the top player in the league.
Even Moses handled his fear in an instructive way. God called him to lead the children of Israel and he responded with three questions and one statement (Genesis 3 and 4):
Who am I to lead the race?
Whom shall I say sent me?
What if they don’t believe me?
I’m not a good speaker.
His four attempts to get out of the assignment did not succeed.
Lessons from Moses about the Fear of Failure
All of Moses’ responses demonstrate his focus on himself. In short, he was saying I am not a big enough person to get people to follow me. God had a response for each of Moses’ fears, which is instructive for us all.
God does not expect us to throw away our thoughts, concerns, or fears. He does expect us to bring them to him: “Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you” (I Pet: 5:7 NIV).
Fear of failure should deepen our faith and stretch our resolve. If handled properly, it can only cause us to work harder and draw us closer to God.
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