Fear of Failure

There is a big difference in Church Leadership between fear of failure and fear of the Lord. Honestly, I fear both. But the problem is, I don’t always or instinctively know how to distinguish between the two in life and mission. Especially when I’m pursuing success. Especially as a Church Planter. Yet, it simply changes everything.

“Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.” – Psalm 25:12

The significance of this statement is the promise of instruction for those who fear God, not who fear failure (or even the lack of success) itself. Instead, it’s a promise for those who know and trust the power and ways of God, who fear being out of His will, who fear losing His favor or leading. These come with two different starting points. It comes with two different motives and two different trajectories that will lead us in two different directions. These differences determine our journey.

The problem might be in how we evaluate success in the first place. Our nature is to allow the ends to determine our means. Do we really measure success the way God measures success? That’s a deep rooted and loaded question. There are many layers that have to be peeled away in order to find the truth. And probably only God knows where we stand.

I was having this exact discussion this week with a friend when he said “I’d rather fail than succeed if it meant I had to do it with my own strength rather than God’s leading.”

Sadly enough, I used to perceive a statement like that to be lazy or an obvious excuse for a recent or impending failure. And it may be for some. But for others, it’s really a powerful statement of faith. And I’ve found that when they mean it, they really mean it. (They also seem to be the guys who have peace in their lives…hmmmmmm) According to Psalm 25, if we believe and live by this fear of God, “like an archer shoots an arrow”, He truly will instruct us on our journey.

And any success will be His success. Anything else, will not be credited as success (nor righteousness). Do we believe that? I wonder how offensive it is to God when we claim to be men and women of faith yet fail to live and lead anything close to this way.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24


About Brandon Hatmaker

Church Planter, Missional Strategist, Non-Profit Collaborator, and Author of "Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture". View all posts by Brandon Hatmaker

3 responses to “Fear of Failure

  • Joe Wickman

    Great post Brandon. Next week I’m wrapping up a 3-week series called, “Fear God” for our Student Ministries, so this topic has really been on my mind lately. I’m going to use a quote from one of our students. When asked what he thought of a topic like, “Fear God” for a series, he said, “I think we fear everything BUT God.”

    I think this is as true for pastors dealing with potential failure as it is for High School students dealing with the potential of rejection.

    Funny how the fear of God and that peace you talked about seem linked. I guess God’s best really does come through a high, exclusive view of who He is.

    Good stuff.

  • Brandon Hatmaker

    We had a great discussion this week on how truly our theology shapes everything. What we know about God connects every dot of the Christian faith. Francis Chan wrote a book called Crazy Love… I was thrown off at first at his starting point on the sovereignty of God, then of course, it all made sense.

  • Jacob Vanhorn

    A good word here bro. I appreciate your faithfulness to your flock and to other pastors to share what God is teaching you.

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