Of the many things a person can fear, it seems to me that the most pervasive fear is the fear of failure. This looks like a lot of different things. I’ve seen it expressed in various forms including denial, rejection, anger, deception, pride, arrogance, ignorance, depression, repression, and oppression. The fear of failure might drive the businessman, the teacher, the student, the politician, the mother, or the son. It seems that the fear of failure creeps in at all stages of life, despite the actual successes or struggles one faces.
We tend to spend so much time and energy fighting against this fear of failure. We don’t like to disappoint others. We would hate for people to find out what we really think and what we really feel. And this applies to God as well. We would hate to disappoint the One who judges the living and the dead. We want to do right, or at least we don’t want to be found wrong.
We ask questions like, what if I stumble? What if I fall? The truth is, we’ve already stumbled. We already fell. However, even though we deserve the wrath of the Most Holy God, He was merciful to us. He was merciful to me.
A simple picture of mercy is that of an authority figure withholding punishment that the offender deserves. Maybe you got caught speeding and the officer exercised mercy by letting you go with a warning. You deserve a ticket, but you did not receive the punishment you deserve. When we talk about the Merciful God we are talking about God, the ultimate Authority, withholding his wrath against us, the offenders. All have sinned and fallen short. All of us deserve God’s wrath. Yet He withheld His judgment.
Just this morning I was contemplating the fear of failure and I suddenly realized that I’m no longer a slave to fear because of the Merciful God. I no longer have to fear failing God (or others for that matter), because I already did and he extended mercy anyway. He knew me when I was messed up and He offered salvation through Christ regardless. I no longer have to cover up my shortcomings – the Good Father loves me as I am. I can live at peace with God because He offered me life where there was once death.
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” — Romans 8:15 NIV
As recipients of this incredible grace and mercy we are also called to something different. God calls us away from fear and He calls us – even compels us – to walk in grace, truth, and love. As we walk with Him, we are transformed more and more in to the image of the Son.
Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. — Ephesians 5:2 NLT