Overcoming the Fear of Failure


In the summer of 2016 the England soccer team were competing in one of the most important international soccer competitions in the world. Having reached the second round of Euro 2016, England were drawn to face Iceland. What happened next would go down as one of the biggest upsets in European Soccer history.

Soccer is the national sport in England. It’s a country of 53 million, with 1.5 million registered players and England are only one of eight nations to have won the World Cup. Iceland however is a country with a population of just over 300,000 and they only have 42,000 registered soccer players and its national sport is handball!

This should have been an easy victory for England. But it wasn’t. Iceland won the game 2-1 and advanced to the next stage.

When analysing the game Doctor Chris Rowley commented “England lost this game because they were scared of losing. They didn’t want to take any risks, as they didn’t want to make any mistakes. This is fundamentally a fear of failure, and it is limiting what the English soccer team is able to achieve in world football.”

Fear of failure can cripple us

I wonder if you’ve ever thought about the areas in which you fear failure? I wonder if you have ever found yourself crippled by the fear of making a mistake? If you have, you will know that the fear of failure is a debilitating mind-set to have and one that will drain you of all joy, peace and hope.

In order to understand how we overcome a fear of failure, we need to first understand why we fear failure and I believe that it comes from placing an unhealthy emphasis on the importance of winning.  Fear of failure is the result of placing too much importance on success. Or to put it another way, the fear of failure is the result of believing that success is the most important thing in the world. More important, in fact, than God.

If we see achievement as the goal in all we do and the place in which we draw out identify from, we will ended up becoming paralyzed by the need to get it right, work hard and ‘be successful.’ And the reality is that to be a success at everything we do is an impossible task and so we’ll actually spend most of our time disappointed and frustrated.

Failure isn't final

The wonderful news of the gospel is it doesn’t call us to succeed, but rather the gospel calls us to Jesus.  And in Jesus we have a God who has already achieved the ultimate victory, that of defeating sin and death and winning the keys to eternal life.

2 Timothy 1:9-10 says, “He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

This is why for a Christian, failure isn't something we need to fear, because He has already won the ultimate battle on our behalf. It means we can live freely, trying our best and knowing that whatever the outcome, we are loved and accepted in Christ and have a hope of a glorious future with Him.

What is the way forward?

Last week here in Brooklyn we spent some time studying the story in Matthew 14 in which Jesus (and Peter) walk on water. We asked the question, what can we learn from this story to help us to overcome the fear of failure? The starting point was knowing that, in Jesus, even if we fail, we are not defined as a failure. We looked at the importance of knowing and believing that God is for us, with us and good to us and that no circumstance or situation can alter or affect that.

We want to start a church here in Brooklyn that believes success is not the absence of failure but the presence of obedience to our great King Jesus. Will join us on this journey?

BlogSeth HoffmanFear, Theology, Blog