Grace abolishes fear of failure

By Dave Henning / September 8, 2023

“Grace abolishes fear of failure. . . .  So many of our deepest longings to succeed are really just ways to be for ourselves what Christ should be for us. . . .  When we stop trying to steal self-acceptance from other sources, we lose our fear.  We become fearless without becoming defiant.”- Timothy Keller

“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  The men of Nineveh . . . repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.”- Matthew 12:40-41 (NIV)

As Timothy Keller moves on in Chapter 12 of The Prodigal Prophet, he cites Matthew 12:40-41. In that passage Jesus refers to Himself as “greater than Jonah.”  Consequently, Pastor Keller notes:

  • Jonah went into the depths of the sea to save the sailors; Jesus went into the depths of death and separation from God — hell itself — to save Jonah.
  • the waves and breakers of God’s waters crushed Jonah; the waves and bellows of God’s wrath buried Jesus.
  • Jonah descended to Sheol, driven from God’s sight; as the Apostle’s Creed states, for our sake Jesus “descended into hell.”

Therefore, Pastor Keller underscores, God solves any problem you have through His grace.  Hence, the author counsels, take care not to see the real God as a means to an end.  Don’t use God to serve your real god!

Paul Tillich, the German Lutheran theologian and philosopher, once argued that everyone must live for something in order to give life meaning.  As a result, Tillich doubted the possibility of true, thorough atheism.  Because, he stated, even if you don’t call the meaning of your life a god, it still functions like one.  Therefore, everyone’s life is based on faith.

Or, as Pastor Keller concludes:

“Whatever you live for actually owns you.  You do not really control yourself.  Whatever you live for and love most controls you.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you take to heart that grace abolishes fear of failure?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A crazy world of self-protection”

About the author

Dave Henning

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