“The fear of man lays a snare,
but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” (Prov. 29:25)

The conversation with my friend over a cup of coffee was not one I’ll soon forget. I had just shared an idea for a fund-raiser I was interested in pursuing for his organization. With enthusiasm and assurance, he agreed that it would be a great idea.

He continued to explain how easy it would be to execute my idea and expressed the joy we’d all experience as we watched the Lord provide. And then a daunting sense of uncertainty hit me. I even wanted to invest in this fund-raiser myself and believed in the mission, but the thought of asking others to donate terrified me. This friend had such great faith; I did not. Ironically, I lacked faith even though it was my idea.

What I realized in that moment was that I wasn’t afraid that no one would give to the fund-raiser; I was afraid that I would look foolish. I didn’t want to fail.

In retrospect, I realized that there was plenty of conflict going on in my heart that day over cups of deliciously brewed freshness. I wanted to believe God could provide for the future, but I was struggling with two powerful anxieties: the fear of man and the fear of failure. I cared deeply about what my friend would think of me if I didn’t meet the goal. And I also feared that I would fail. I hated the idea of coming up short. So, if I was afraid of failure, then what did success look like? Was this about the ministry or was it about me?

When our measure of success is based not on glorifying the Lord but on measures that are defined by worldly standards, we need to change.

Although my friend had no idea of the conflict inside, my increasing heart rate exposed me. It was all I needed to know. Is the Lord speaking to me? I wondered silently.

Foolishly, I had adopted a worldly idea for success. This would be all about me. It would make me look good if I were able to prosper in this fund-raiser. I’d mostly feel good about myself rather than the mission or the cause. How twisted and prideful.

Fear of Man

God’s Word is clear. The fear of man lays a snare. It’s a trap. The fear of man leads us to do or say things we might never imagine ourselves doing or saying. The fear of man changes our motive for why we pursue or do not pursue certain goals. When we put man in the place of God, human opinions become the dominant motivator for our actions. This denies God’s holiness and worth. The fear of man plagues us. And had I allowed the fear of man to rule my heart, I would not have pursued the fund-raiser.

How many good things have you and I missed out on due to our fear of what others may think of us? Are you currently hesitant to do something because of the fear of man?

Because of the power of man’s opinions, this is not an easy task. You and I have to work to replace the fear of man with the fear of the Lord by saturating our hearts with the truths of who God is. God is for us. God is with us (Rom. 8:31). We need to be self-forgetful. We need to think of ourselves less and trust God more (John 3:30). When we humbly confess our need to Him, He will help us. This is His promise (Deut. 31:6).

Fear of Failure

Along with the fear of man, it was clear that I was afraid to fail. Can you relate to my struggle? The Apostle Paul warns us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).

When our measure of success is based not on glorifying the Lord but on measures that are defined by worldly standards, we need to change. To be clear, goals are not bad in and of themselves. Measures are not sinful. It’s when you and I place our faith or hope in these measures that we begin to have a worldly view of success.

The fear of failure can lead us to absolute despair. In order for us to walk by faith, we need to evaluate our motives and ask God to renew our minds. We have to put off worldly definitions of success and rest in God’s perspective for the outcomes. Should we fail to meet the goals we have set out to achieve, how we respond reveals what our motives were in the first place. This clearly exposes what was in our hearts.

If you and I seek to glorify God in all we do, we will have been successful (1 Cor. 10:31). Whether it is the fear of man or the fear of failure, the pride and self-focus of both will keep us from magnifying the Lord.

If you struggle with the fear of man or failure, ask God to help you turn from your fear to embrace Jesus, asking the Lord to fill you with fresh faith, grace, and knowledge of Him. Keep pursuing good work—but ask your gracious heavenly Father to cleanse your motives, helping you do it for the good of His kingdom and the glory of His name.

What Should Christians Think About?

Jonathan Edwards the Pastor