How does a Christian face failure, and the fear of failure?
" His desire does not seem to have been visibly fulfilled, but the exercise of soul that it cost Jim did something at least to preserve him from what, for the average college student, is often a life of unmitigated selfishness. "
That small anecdote from Shadow of the Almighty really made an impact on me (as is already obvious from the number of times it's appeared on different posts.)
For different reasons. Not just the phrase 'life of unmitigated selfishness' (I think everyone around me is tired of hearing me quote that phrase by now. I should replace it with a neat little acronym out of consideration: LOUS. Which conveniently--or perhaps dangerously--sounds like LOUSE...but I'm distracting myself.)
The other phrase which really struck me was the thought that Jim's desires--good desires, unarguably--came to nothing, to no visible success, despite his effort and labor. Personally, I've experienced this feeling so many times, and have dreaded it so much every time I think of attempting something, that reading this was mentally bawling "COME TO MY ARMS!" The great Jim Elliot experienced this too! It wasn't a problem that non-great people like myself struggled with because we weren't wise enough, or strong enough, or good enough! As we often tend to think. The fear of failure, and failure itself, can haunt us, can cripple us.
Often, when I'm considering a new means of serving God/others, the main thing that I struggle with is the fear that it won't work out, that I'll fail, that people won't respond, won't be helped by it. That after pouring my best heart's blood and tears into it I will come to God empty handed.
How does a Christian face failure, and the fear of failure?
Then I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain;
Yet surely my just reward is with the LORD, and my work with my God.
"I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain..."
How often I've felt like that--or imagined feeling like that, and dreading it.
But surely, our just reward for our labors is with God. He knows the blood, sweat and tears we've poured willingly into this work. The sleepless nights. The challenges. They are not in vain. Surely, God has a just reward for us. He is a just God. Our labor for Him does not go unnoticed. Our efforts are precious to Him, regardless of their results.
Our work is with Him. Beginning, process, and end. God sees them, not as we do from our limited, earthly perspective of time, but from 'bird's eye view', so to speak. Sometimes it's as simple as remembering that, to help us through our fear of failure. God already knows the end of our efforts. We don't have to fear 'disappointing Him' or somehow 'letting Him down.' And what's more, He is the One who enables us and guides us through our efforts--we are His instruments; He works through us. Even in our failures. Even in our mistakes.
Our works are in His hands.
A while ago, I picked up Greg Gilbert's What is the Gospel.
I wasn't expecting to be deeply affected by the small little black book because of its innocuous title. After all, as a Christian-background kid I thought I knew the Gospel really well. The same thing happened during my conversion; and both times God showed me--gently--that I was wrong.
But before I even reached the first chapter--and I'm a fast reader--I was engrossed. This little book refreshed and enlightened me as I never expected it would. I was encouraged in my own love for Christ--something which always makes me love a book. Greg Gilbert wrote so tenderly and personally, so earnestly and clearly about Christ; it was a reminder that stirred up my sleeping gratitude and brushed the dust off my love.
I thought I'd try to pick out my favorite points about the book, but in the end what came out was a brief book summary from my perspective. So here it is, as well as a few of the quotes and passages which I loved most (not too many, or nobody would feel like reading the book--or the rest of this post.)
What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert: brief book review
*Confusion on what the Gospel is
Find definition of Gospel in the Bible (Romans 1-4)
...Holy and Righteous
...created to enjoy God.
...but fell. ALL fell, through sin.
Sin = rebellion against God;
..not just sin's effects, or our broken relationship with God (which is just one aspect of sin);
..not merely specific acts (eg. murder, theft, etc) but a heart-issue, a condition.
...Fully God and Man.
...a suffering King. One who saved us by dying for us, taking our punishment.
...but yet, in His resurrection, is ultimately triumphant.
Faith and Repentance.
Faith = reliance on Christ's death ALONE for a righteous verdict from God.
Repentance = crucial; NOT perfection but taking a different side; with God against our sin instead of with our sin against God.
*The Kingdom: Now and To Come
Kingdom of God = God's redemptive rule over His people.
...already here since Christ's death for us; yet not fully complete until His second coming.
...citizenship depends on our response to the King (faith and repentance)
...live the life of the kingdom despite the darkness of the world around us.
*Keeping the Cross at the Center; What the Gospel is NOT
Temptation to tweak Gospel so it seems more 'relevant';
3 examples of what the Gospel is NOT:
1. 'Jesus is Lord'; this is actually NOT good news to us if we are still sinners in rebellion against God!
2. Creation-fall-redemption-consummation; summary of Bible's main storyline, BUT NOT the Gospel if used to emphasize renewal of world INSTEAD of the cross.
3. Cultural transformation; though good, NOT ultimate point of the Gospel; moralism and not Christianity.
Face the fact: the Gospel will be a stumbling block to many.
*Power of the Gospel
We let sin and worldliness dull and desensitize us to the Gospel. To FIGHT against spiritual laziness, so the Gospel can transform us.
How should the Gospel affect us?
1. Repent and Believe
2. Rest and Rejoice
3. Love Christ's People
4. Long for Christ's Second Coming.
'The Christian life is not just about making sure you avoid God's wrath. Far from it!
it's about being in a right relationship with God, and ultimately enjoying him forever.'
'It's not enough to say that Jesus came to save us from our sins, if what we mean by that is that he came to save us from our isolated mistakes.
It's only when we realize that our very nature is sinful--
that we are indeed "dead in our trespasses and sins," as Paul says (Ephe. 2:1,5)
--that we see just how good the news is that there is a way to be saved.'
'The difference between an unconverted man and a converted man is not that the one has sins and the other has none; but that the one takes part with his cherished sins against a dreaded God, and the other takes part with a reconciled God against his hated sins.'
(William Arnot; quoted by Greg Gilbert)
I encourage you to read this little book.
(Plus point: It's small. It fits easily into almost any bag. And it's fairly thin; visually, as well as actually, easy to read. Ah; sometimes we do need these little encouragements to help us along, don't we?)
It has been a blessing to me; and I pray it will bless you too.
One of the New Year Resolutions I had made for 2014 was to pray better.
For one, I get distracted easily. I suddenly remember something I had forgotten, or need to do, and break off to write it down in my schedule. Or my brain is seething with the pressure of all the things on today's to-do list, screaming for urgent attention, and it becomes so hard to focus on praying that the words seem fake and forced even to me. Let's not even dwell on the occasional falling asleep.
We tend to neglect giving God the basic respect we give to another human being over the phone.
How, then, to pray better?
Coming across R.C Sproul's acrostic for prayer again (I had heard it once before, but hadn't taken it to heart) was immensely helpful. It's been a reminder to me to examine how I pray and what I pray for.
Each letter of ACTS stands for one element that should be present in our prayer--
--as well as the priority we should give to each.
I realized at once that my prayer had all along been SSSSSSSSS-t-c-a.
Adoration. We need to remember that the original purpose of our relationship with God was the enjoying of His goodness forever, adoration. Though sin has ruined this, it's not lost. Christ has enabled us to the restoration of this. We have sinned, yes; the world around us, as a sinful world, is so full of heartbreaking needs. But let's not be so overwhelmed we forget the goodness of God, which through Christ was given to us to enjoy forever. He is a good God. The clearer we see the beauty, goodness, and glory of God, the better we know Him, the better we serve Him.
Confession. Let this not be the last thing on our list--or worse, something we (conveniently) push under the rug mentally while we focus on the more 'urgent' prayer requests. The truth is that we are constantly falling into sin, and the more aware we are of this, the better equipped we are to resist it. Confessing our sins, no matter how small, and asking God for forgiveness sets us into the right frame of mind for the rest of our prayer as well as the rest of our day. We are humbled by remembering how unworthy we are. We don't lay our requests before God prosaically as entitlements we expect Him to fulfill. And at least for me, we are reminded how precious Christ's sacrifice for us is, how it is the one thing which has transformed and empowered us to where we stand today in God's eyes. This one small thing--daily confession of sin and asking for forgiveness--has helped me to love Christ better, and to be more appreciative of the great sacrifice He made for me.
Thanksgiving. The simple order of this coming first BEFORE supplication makes such a huge difference. I always rushed into supplication and then, after feeling vaguely discouraged and dissatisfied by the avalanche of needs, tried to remember something to thank God for.
Of course, it always came out somehow insincere and hollow, as much as I tried to truly feel the gratitude I acknowledged I owed. 'Ah. Er.Thank You for my family....my church....hmm let's see...oh yeah, and my salvation...' You ask with a different heart if you have thanked first.
And then supplication. Though this one has never been a problem for me, supplication should also be an important part of our prayer....simply because though Christian contentment and faith should characterize us, we should also be alive to the many needs of the world and people around us--and recognize our own areas of need. So many sins we need to let go of, so many virtues we need to grasp. We should be content. But we should not be complacent.
Prayer is one of the pillars of the Christian's life.
Life, both in the physical sense--as in an important part of your daily routine--and in a spiritual sense, as in your sensitivity to God's goodness/the state of your relationship with Him.
We are deceiving ourselves if we pretend that it's okay, we can focus on other good things instead of seriously examining how we pray. Serving God is one thing. But don't let it take the place of knowing Him, of growing in love for Him (which is natural and simple if we truly are knowing Him better.)
And there is no way we can know Him better unless we talk to Him. Quality, quantity--perhaps it's one or the other--or both--which is the challenge for you.
Talk to Him. It is never hard to talk to someone we truly love--even if it may take us a while to get used to it. Human relationships mirror this truth. We can love and care for someone, but find it awkward and difficult to talk to them if it's been a while since we last did. But if we persevere, the barrier fades, and the relationship deepens. Anyone who has met up with an old friend, or had a loved one go overseas for a long period of time, will remember the initial and inevitable awkwardness.
Talk to Him.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are