Throughout my Christian journey, I’ve struggled with a lot of different sins. A few of them I seem to never completely defeat, and so I must return to the battlefield over and over again. Lust, selfishness, pride, laziness and a fear of failure periodically conspire to set back my spiritual growth – or at the very least – retard it. When I first truly began pursuing a spiritual life, I thought lust was my greatest sin. Of course, no sin is a minor thing, and lust certainly is no small force. It is dangerous and intrusive. But as dangerous and intrusive as it is, it isn’t as problematic (for me) as a fear of failure. Sins like lust, selfishness, pride and laziness dampened my relationship with God and made it harder for me to talk with him, but fear of failure kept me from actually fulfilling Godly goals and spiritual duties. The other sins slowed me down, but fear of failure kept me from properly leading in every area in which God had graced me with leadership responsibilities. It blunted my talents, killed my enthusiasm, kept me from trying, stunted by growth, and made me ineffective. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Fear of failure always denied me the first step. If it was my duty to lead my family, or my coworkers, or my friends in a particular direction, I would sometimes cower at taking the initiative. What if I fail? I will look like a fool. I will be mocked, and so will my family, my coworkers, my friends, and maybe even God! I had failed enough in life (or so I thought) that I knew firsthand the pain and the risk.
And that is the problem with the sin of a fear of failure: it is ultimately just like all other sins of fear. It is a sin because it is born from a lack of faith. Faith and fear exist in an inverse relationship. The greater faith one has, the less fear one has. The greater fear one has, the less faith one has.
This is precisely why it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). Faith produces behavioral results. If you don’t have faith, you won’t do those hard things God sometimes asks. A lack of faith is always accompanied by a proportional abundance of fear.
The truth is that a Christian cannot fail in anything he or she tries (Romans 8:28-29). The only failure is not to take Godly initiative. Even if the intended goal is not reached, a Christian has learned, become more resilient, and his or her character has improved. For the Christian intent on following Jesus, failure simply isn’t an option (Romans 8:31-39).