David Jeremiah - Defeat: The Fear of Failure
Sooner or later, every husband learns this bit of wisdom, if at first you don't succeed, do it the way your wife told you. Even failure can have its lighter side. But for many, the fear of failure is no laughing matter. I mean, it's profound and paralyzing, and it's a fear that plagued some of the most celebrated figures in the Bible. But when we see how God responded to them, we can learn a great deal. Are you held back by the fear of failure? Do you allow past failures to determine your current decisions and future opportunities? Stay tuned as we consider "Defeat: The Fear of Failure" with a look at one of the heroes of the Old Testament. Now that's coming up as we continue our ten-part series, "What Are You Afraid Of? Facing Down Your Fears With Faith".
A person who is afflicted with the fear of failure considers the possibility of failing so intense that he chooses not even to take the risk. I've known people, and you have too, who are so afraid of failing, they could not possibly succeed. In fact, in the Bible, there are over 200 people mentioned about whom it said they were afraid, and I'm not talking about peripheral characters. I'm talking about main players in the biblical narrative. And the fear of failure in the Bible shows up, especially, in what we refer to as the call narratives of the Bible. I know that's a new term, and I'm gonna explain to you what it means. A call narrative is a section of Scripture in which God calls a person to do a particular task or to accept a particular assignment.
And so, they call these passages call narratives, narratives about the call of God. In this record which is given to us in the first chapter of the Book of Joshua, all of the principles that are scattered throughout the other call narratives come together in an organized step-by-step strategy for dealing with the fear of failure in our lives. Now, let me set the stage for this story in Joshua. This is what we call a transition passage. There's a transition going on between Moses and Joshua. Up to the first chapter of Joshua, it's about Moses. Now it's gonna be about Joshua. In fact, the first verse of Joshua chapter 1 reads like this, "After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, God spoke to Joshua saying: 'Moses My servant is dead.'" God came to Joshua, and he said to Joshua, "You know that Moses has died, and you may be wondering who's gonna take his place? Well, I would like to make this announcement, I have chosen you. Joshua, you are the one to follow Moses as the leader of the people of Israel".
Now, this was an amazing moment for this man, Joshua. In order to understand the magnitude of it, you have to get your arms around the greatness of Moses. The Bible tells us that Moses had a relationship with God unlike anyone else you read about in the Scripture. Exodus 33:11 says that, "the Lord spoke to Moses face to face as a man speaks to his friend". Someone said Moses and God were tight. So, how would you like to have been Joshua? "Joshua, you have to follow this great icon of Jewish history and be the new leader of the Jewish people". And this was not going to an easy task, even had Moses survived these days. You see, the people of Israel had been taken out of Egypt where they had been in bondage for 400 years. They had then wandered through the wilderness in order to fulfill God's punishment for their disbelief, and now they were on the threshold of going into the land of Canaan, which was filled with people of gigantic heighth and strength. In fact, it's the only place in the Bible, up to this point, where we even hear of any kind of military armament. Joshua 17:16 says, "All the Canaanites dwell in the land of the valley, and they have chariots of iron".
So, here are these Israelites totally unprepared with no military experience at all about to go into a land and they are gonna get killed if God doesn't do something. And God said, "Joshua, you the man, you the man". Now, suppose you were a consultant, and Joshua came to see you and unloaded everything I've told you up to this point and he said, "Okay, I need some help. Can you get me ready to do this job"? What would you have said to him? Well, let me tell you, Joshua did have a consultant. He was a divine consultant. Joshua's consultant was Almighty God, and Almighty God is about to prepare Joshua to take on this fearful assignment and help him get past the fear he would have had to do this and go on to victory. And what I'd like to do in these moments that we have today is to show you what God said to Joshua and help you understand how God is still in the same process of doing that for all of us.
The first thing that Joshua heard from the Lord was this, God said, "Joshua, I have a principle of divine perspective that I want to put in your heart. And here it is". Joshua 1:5, "Here's what I want you to know. First of all, as I was with Moses, Joshua, so I will be with you". Now, that must have been an incredible moment when Joshua heard those words because as you see, Joshua had been Moses's Lieutenant. He had walked with Moses all through his journeys, and he had been had his side. And obviously, he had seen God do the miracles that God did through Moses. He'd had a ringside seat. He'd been there, he'd been a part of the inner circle, and he had seen that. Now he faces his own challenges and the first thing God tells him is this, "Young man, I want you to know, just as I was with your boss, I'm gonna be with you. You can count on it".
How many of you know that if God is with you, you're already off to a good start? God promised him he would be with him. And then secondly, God gave him the principle of divine purpose and by that I mean, he told Joshua what his assignment was. And I'm gonna read these words to you from the first chapter and verse 2. "He said to Joshua, 'Now Joshua, go over this Jordan, you and all this people to the land which I am giving to them, the children of Israel. And every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon, I have given to you as I said to Moses". And then he gives the outline of the barriers of the land. God said, "Joshua, I want you to understand clearly what your job description is. Here's what I am calling you to do. I'm calling you to lead these people across the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, and I want you to settle that land. I want you to take control of it".
You see, God already owned the land, and he'd already given it to Israel, but in order for Israel to possess the land, they had to go in and take control of it and used this picture. He said, "Joshua, every place where the sole of your foot touches, it's yours". In other words, he was saying, "What I've given you, Joshua, I want you to go and take possession of it. It's yours, first of all, by my gift. Now, make it yours by your own personal possession". And what God was doing for Joshua in this moment and what he loves to do for us is he was giving him focus. He was saying to Joshua, "I don't want you to be fuzzy about what this is I'm calling you to do. Here's your assignment. Here are the details. This is exactly what I want you to do, I want you to keep this central in your mind. And as the leader of Israelites, keep it central in their minds. Don't get caught up in anything else. Don't get on any detours, Joshua. Here's your job description".
And when you have focus in your life, it's amazing what it does to your fear. When you have focus, your fears began to subside. When you begin to implement focus in your life, you discover that you no longer have fear and since fear is the father of failure, the less there is fear, the less there is failure. You see, when you get up and you don't know what to do and you're caught up in the ambivalence of an undirected life, fear comes in and begins to just take control. But when you get up every day and you know that God has called you to something, and you know what it is, and you begin to focus your attention on it, something begins to happen in your heart. He gave him divine perspective, and he gave him divine purpose, and now he's gonna give him a little pep talk, if you will, divine persuasion.
With all the experience that God had with Moses and all that was before Joshua here were his marching orders, "Be strong, and of good courage". Verse 7, "Only be strong and of good courage". Verse 9, "Have not I commanded you be, strong and of good courage"? You get the impression God wanted Joshua to be strong and of good courage. And in case you missed it, if you go on through the rest of the chapter, he says it again at the end of the first chapter. Now, why, why was it important for Joshua to have courage and strength?
Well, I can think of many reasons as I read through the rest of the book of Joshua, not only the reasons we've cited already about his position following up this great leader, but God is going to ask Joshua to do some very unlikely things. I mean, can you imagine Joshua coming before his military people when they're about ready to go against the city of Jericho and saying to them, "Here's what we're going to do, you guys. We're gonna walk around the city every day this week and on the last day, we're gonna walk around it a bunch of times, and we're gonna blow our trumpets and the walls will come down. Okay, everybody ready"? "Say what"? Then Joshua faced some discipline problems. There was sin in the camp, and throughout the whole book of Joshua, there's just one reason after another why if he wasn't strong and courageous, he never would have been able to do this work. And God is saying to him, "Joshua, I want you to be strong, and I want you to have courage". And then we are told that God gave to Joshua a divine priority.
And if you don't get anything else from what I say today and you have a challenge in your life with fear, I hope you will get this part of it. In order for God to protect Joshua from the fear of failure in the assignment that was given to him, he gave him these words. These are the words of Joshua's divine priority, verses 8 and 9, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, and you shall observe to do according to all that is written in it". God said to Joshua, "I want to give you your instruction manual, it is the law". What God gave to Joshua couldn't have been anything more than the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. And God said to Joshua, "Here's the book, here's the law, I want you to spend time in this law".
Notice, "I want you to know this, I want you to put this in your heart. This is to be the main thing going on with you. As you take on this assignment, you can't get very far away from this Book 'cause this Book is the Book that will help you". And I want to say to you this morning if you're not familiar with this Book, this is the Book God has given to help you. Did you know in the Bible, there are many commands? Do you know what the most often repeated command is in all the Bible? I'm gonna ask you to say this with me in a moment. Way more than any other, you know what it is? "Fear not," over 200 times, "Fear not". Say that with me, "Fear not". God cares about what we experience.
Why would he ever put that in the Bible if there wasn't a problem of fear? Apparently, it's a major problem because he put it in there a lot of times. And when you read this Book, it doesn't matter where you start, but as you read this book, you will come into contact with the record of God's provision for his people over and over and over again. Somewhere along the way, you'll find yourself in this Book and you will realize that God has spoken to you. All Joshua had was Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. I doubt if most of you go to that section of the Word of God when you need encouragement, but I want to remind you that when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by the devil, Jesus used all of his quotations against the enemy from the book of Deuteronomy. Did you know that? Every place that Satan would confront Jesus, Jesus could say, "It is written," and then he'd quote Deuteronomy.
So, you might want to read those books. There's some good stuff in there. Jesus thought pretty highly of it. When God told Joshua that he was to take the Word of God as his main priority, he told him, first of all, he was to talk about it constantly. "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth". He was to meditate on it continually. "But you shall meditate in it day and night". He was to read it obediently. "Observe to do according to all that is written in it". Look up for just a moment. I have to tell you something about that one. God said, "Joshua, I want you to read this Book in a special way. I don't want you to read it to get smarter". You know, a lot of us read the Bible so we can know more. God wants us to read the Bible, not to know, he wants us to read the Bible to do. He says, "I want you to observe to do".
How do you read the Bible? Do you read the Bible every day so here's how most people do it, "I'm gonna find out what God says so I can decide whether I want to do it or not". Can I get a witness? No, no, no, you don't get very far if you do that. You read the Bible as God's instructional manual and when God says something you're supposed to do, you just do it. And he told Joshua, "When you read the Word of God and make it your manual, I want you to observe to do". And it's written in the text twice, "Observe to do". Say that little phrase with me, "Observe to do". I promise you if you start reading the Bible like that, it will change your life. If you say, "Lord, whatever it is you want me to do, I'm gonna do it, just show it to me," and then you do it, the Bible will become a new and rich volume for you.
And then he told Joshua to follow it exclusively. He said, "Do not turn from the right hand or to the left, and to accept it totally to do according to all that is written in it". So, men and women, whenever we are afraid of failure, or perhaps we feel as if we are failures, there's one place and only one that I recommend without reservation, and that is God's Holy Word. Find in it these strong words of truth, and they will lift you up and set you free from your fear. And then here's one of the great encouragements of this incredible passage of Scripture, God gave to Joshua the principle of divine presence. Read with me verses 5 and verse 9, and think about this as if you're Joshua and you're sitting there kind of trembling in your boots wondering, "How am I ever gonna pull this off? I know what these people are like, God. I've been with Moses. I've watched this".
Here are the words of God to Joshua, "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you where ever you go". If you have God with you, all the excuses go away because it becomes apparent when you get to this point in the discussion that the whole issue is, "Is God gonna do this through me or am I gonna have to do this on my own"? And God never asks us to do something and then abandons us to fail. As we're going to see in a few moments, God goes with us into whatever he's called us to do. The main thing we need to find out is, "Is God telling me to do this"? And if he is, he has promised to be with you, the principle of divine presence.
And then God makes one final promise and this is kind of like the carrot at the end of the journey. Verses 5 and 8, God gives to Joshua the principle of divine prosperity. He says, "No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life, for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success". Here's what he's telling him, he was saying, "Joshua, if you just do what I tell you, if you'll allow me to be your source, if you will go out in strength and be courageous and strong and you will do this in obedience to my Word, I will be with you and when I am with you, Joshua, nobody will be able to stand before you. No one will be able to take you down, and you will be successful and you will prosper".
What did he mean by success and prosperity? He wasn't giving Joshua a new chariot or a new house. He meant, "You will be successful in what I've called you to do, which is to go in and settle the land of Canaan. Joshua, if you will do what I told you to do the way I told you to do it, I want you to know that no one will ever be able to stand before you and you will have success, and you will be prosperous in what you do". God promises in every situation, "I will be with you". And when he calls you or me to anything whether it's difficult or easy, whether it's a challenge close at home, or far away, if God has called you, he is obligated to help you. And I'm here to tell you after all these years, he has never, ever failed me.
Let me tell you this in this way, listen to me, if you will do what God has called you to do, hear me now, he will always show up. He will always show up when you need him. He'll be there with you. He will never leave you. He won't forsake you. You can count on it. There is no greater adventure you can ever get involved in than doing what God calls you to do and just waiting to see how he's gonna show up and help you do it. And some of you need to hear that message today because you've been sitting back in your comfort zone. You've been waiting, and I don't know what for, but God has a plan for your life. He has something he wants you to do. It may be simple or it may be complex but if God is in it, you need to step out in faith and do it and count on the fact that God will never ask you to do something he won't help you do, and he will be with you.