People sometimes use the terms “fear of failure” and “fear of success” as a way of trying to explain why some individuals are reluctant to take risks. We know both from the Bible and personal experience that a certain amount of fear is normal – an emotion that can be triggered by many different things. And while many of us recognize the harm that comes from unhealthy fears, we understand that fear can also cause us to take precautionary steps to keep us out of trouble.
God wants us to understand that there are some risks associated with following Him as the following account in Luke illustrates:
Now great crowds were traveling with Him. So He turned and said to them: If anyone comes to Me and does not hate (love less than Me) his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes , and even his own life – he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple . . . .
For which of you wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to fun of him, saying, “This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish” (Luke 14:25-30).
Some risks are certainly worth taking. In his recent book The Power of Failure: Succeeding in an Age of Innovation, football Hall of Fame member Fran Tarkenton encourages people to not allow fear to keep them from accomplishing great things. He explains how the process of trial and error is an important part of our lives and that failure is not a death sentence or reason to quit trying. Referring to the Spanish explorer Cortez who burned his ships once he landed in Mexico, he urges his readers to think of life as buying a one-way ticket.
Likewise, accepting Christ’s calling is like buying a one-way ticket. We have no option other than to continue our journey with Him. In the words of Jesus, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). The Life Essentials Study Bible, Principle #2, page 1535 in Romans puts it this way: No matter what our circumstances, we should never allow shame and fear to keep us from being identified with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We should be comforted by God’s promise to be ever-present with us no matter what obstacles we face:
. . . He Himself has said, I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU OR FORSAKE YOU. Therefore, we may boldly say: THE LORD IS MY HELPER; I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT CAN MAN DO TO ME (Hebrews 13:5-6)?
Paul reminds us of God’s ability and power to see us through to our final destination: “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). He has given us a one-way ticket to Heaven. Aren’t you glad? And when we stumble along the way He gives us the strength to continue our journey: “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he will get up . . .” (Proverbs 24:16a).