Monday, July 4, 2016

Failure Commissioned (Inseparable Chapter Four)

Are you afraid to fail?  Are you afraid you won't measure up, that you aren't good enough?  Are you afraid that someone will find out that you messed up and that you are not perfect?

As I read the opening pages of Chapter Four of my Bible study, I really identified with what the author Ashley Linne was writing.  It so captured my very thoughts:  

"Failure.  We loathe it.  We fear it.  We allow it to hang over us like a cloud, threatening to ruin our hopes and dreams.  We dread it so much that sometimes we choose to sit safely in our comfortable lives, never daring to step out and pursue the great things to which God has called us.  I have never attempted because I feared I would fail...I often have some unattainable definitions of success in my life, and I bow to the pressure before I even make an attempt."
Ouch and double ouch.  Some unattainable definitions of success, and I stop before I get started.  I have this idea in my head of what "perfect" should look, and then I decide I can't possibly do it that well.  Doesn't really matter what the "it" is; it could be anythingAnything that I am afraid to attempt because I might fail.  What about when this defines my Christian walk?  Can I be perfect?  Of course not.  Does that mean I shouldn't try?  I know in my head that the answer is, again, of course not, but that is sometimes my mode of operation.  So when I fail to try as a Christian or I try and then fail, does that affect how God feels about me? 

What about if I am doing everything right?  Does that mean God loves me more than when I am not doing well?  "We're right with God because Jesus is right with God, and we're in Jesus.  We're filled with His Spirit; He resides within us, guiding and directing us minute by minute if we are listening.  Following His voice in trusts is what pleases Him."

So pleasing God comes from trusting Him, and trusting Him comes from following His voice.  But how do I know His voice in order to follow it?  Jesus told His disciples that He was the Good Shepherd, and that His sheep would know His voice and follow Him.  Still though, how do we know His voice?  It comes from knowing the word of God, and that comes from an ongoing commitment to read it, listen to it, or otherwise study it. 

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be our daily helper after He was no longer able to walk the Earth with us.  Because the Holy Spirit is the mediator between God and us, we can learn to listen to that still, quiet voice inside us that prompts us to follow Him.  Ashley says it like this: "The Holy Spirit is constantly in communication with us, so we have ample opportunity to follow His lead.  Will we miss some of what He's saying?  Most likely.  But that's where grace comes in.  Making a habit of listening for God's voice takes time and practice.  For some of us that time span may be days, but for others it may be years.  The important thing is that we remember that in Christ, we can do what He asks of us.  We can do it because we're in Him and He's in us.  So if He's asking us to do something, we can do it because He will be the One powering us" (Philippians 4:13) [emphasis mine]

Listening to God's voice and following His will comes down to the two commandments that Jesus gave us:  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.  If we put everything we do under the microscope of loving God and loving those around us, we won't necessarily avoid failure but we will begin to define success as doing what God wants.  The outcome of our actions and how other people respond to us is up to Him.  He just wants our heart, and He wants us to treat other people well.

In some of His last words on Earth, Jesus commands us to "Go, and make disciples of all nations."  This is an area where I always feel like I fall woefully short.  My words get all tangled up.  I don't know what to say.  I don't want to come across as judgmental or as hypocritical, especially when I know all the areas where I have fallen short in the past (or right now).  But it is important.  If we are looking again at the microscope of loving others as ourselves, don't we want those people who are in our daily lives to know the love of God like we do?  Don't we want them to know they are loved like we are loved? 

"We don't need to be perfect, know everything, or have it all together.  We just need to be able to point others to the One who is perfect, knows everything, and has it all together."  

In case you are still uncertain about measuring up to God's standards, let's took a look at Peter.  Peter is well-known for being impetuous.   Yes, he is the one who sank when he tried to walk on water.  Yes, he told Jesus not to wash his feet.  Yes, he is the one who denied Christ at the crucifixion.  But isn't he so much more than the sum of his mistakes?  He also is the only one who got out of the boat to walk on the water.  None of the others even thought about it.  Peter is also the one who changed what he was saying to Jesus:  not just my feet, but my head and hands as well (John 13:9).  And Peter is the rock on whom Jesus trusted to build His church after He ascended to Heaven.  Even though Peter didn't always get it right, he didn't always get it wrong either.  If Jesus could forgive Peter for denying him three times and give him more chances to follow Him, He can do that for you as well.

You may not always get it right, but you won't always get it wrong either.  Take it day by day, and follow His lead one step at a time.  Cut yourself a little slack, and keep trying.  "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

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