What’s the Worst that Could Happen?
“What’s the worst that could happen?” For most of us, it doesn’t take long at all to answer that question in a variety of specific circumstances. In fact I would say to an extent we almost enjoy imagining the worst case scenario. It’s almost as if picturing horrible scenarios gives us a sense of control in our lives. Yet regardless of the reason we fixate on these fears, this phrase results in a plethora of circumstances leaping into our minds: flunking out of college, not getting the job or promotion we applied for, our child not doing well on their ACT or being behind their peers, everyone laughing at us and mocking us, being stabbed in the back or rejected by a friend, and we could go on and on.
Interestingly, while each of these scenarios is vastly different, they can all be summed up in one word: failure. We are absolutely terrified of failing. In fact, for many of us we can’t imagine anything worse than being a failure. So how does this fear play out in our lives? We don’t try new things, we don’t do anything we don’t know we are good at, and we stay happily in our little comfort bubble with phrases like, “Well that’s just not my talent.” How do you know it’s not your talent, have you ever actually tried?!
The hard truth is that no one is ever “good” at something the very first time they try. One of the most innovative minds in history, Thomas Edison, is quoted as having said, “I didn’t fail. I just found 2,000 ways not to make a light bulb; I only needed to find one way to make it work.” What if he had quit on try 1,950? You certainly wouldn’t be reading this article on a computer right now. Or, what if because he didn’t know exactly how to accomplish his goal, he never even tried?
This past summer I was able to accomplish a life-long goal of mine: I earned my blackbelt in karate. It was a highly intimidating prospect, particularly because my husband and I were just about the only students over the age of 18, never mind 30! Yet here I am. And let me tell you, I literally cannot count the times I have fallen on my bottom in a gym full of people over the last 5 1/2 years. In fact, even leading up to my blackbelt test there were times I landed right on the ol’ patookus. I just kept telling myself, “Keep going, keep trying, you only have to do it perfect one time.” Due to prayer and a lot of hard work I was successful this summer, and am now a blackbelt. However the point is that I was only able to succeed because I had been willing to fail countless other times.
However I know there are many other times, many other circumstances that I have crippled myself with the word, “can’t.” This is one of the most negative words in the English language, second only to the word, “try.” You see if I say I’m going to, “try” something, the idea of failure is implied before I even begin! It’s like I’m building in an escape clause for when I inevitably fail, “Well, I did just say I would try…”
Certainly this mindset is prohibitive in our daily lives. How many things will we never experience, how many talents and joys will remain undiscovered, because we simply weren’t willing to risk failure? Because we had made failure the absolute worst case scenario?
While this is prohibitive in our daily lives, sisters, I would suggest to you that it’s deadly in our spiritual lives. I believe the absolute worst thing that can happen to a Christian, or to a congregation, is for them to stagnate as a result of apathy and a refusal to do something outside their comfort zone. Over and over again God makes his expectations of Christians clear:
– “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.” – Hebrews 5:12
– “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:18-19
– “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
– “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, ind and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” Titus 2:3-5
– “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that be testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
– “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2
– “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:22
Ladies, these are just a few commands that are found in Scripture. These aren’t suggestions for a select talented few. They aren’t good ideas for down the road when you have more time (what does that even mean, really?!?!). They are God’s expectations of His people. We look around at the state of the church, at our falling numbers and we say, “Wow, what’s happening?! I guess people just aren’t open any more. Maybe we need a new preacher?!” No sisters! This is absolutely not acceptable. People haven’t changed! “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9.
Sisters, the lost haven’t changed, we have! Do you know how thousands upon thousands were saved in the first century? Do you know how the church came to be known as those who were turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6). Scripture tells us! “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word,” Acts 8:4. Who went about preaching the word? The Christians! Not the apostles, not those with miraculous gifts, certainly not the “pulpit minister” as there was no such thing in the first century. It was the joe shmo every day plain ol’ ordinary Christians!
Church, the lost haven’t changed, we have! We have gotten to the point where we value our comfort more than the souls of the lost, and shame on us. And yes I mean “us,” because this is something I struggle with as well. We have taken God’s commandments and turned them into good suggestions for everyone but us. Yet here’s what’s cool, and what’s really exciting about God’s expectations of us:
– “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.” Hebrews 5:12 – This verse does NOT say that we have to be the most awesome Christian ever! What is failure according to Hebrews 5:12? It’s refusing to grow and being unwilling to teach what we know, that’s it! Failure isn’t teaching and no one listening, it’s refusing to put out the effort!
– “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:18-19 – This verse does not say that we must have all the answers, it simply says we must teach what we know! What is failure according to Matthew 28:18-19? It’s refusing to share the gospel and disciple those who are in our lives!
–“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 This verse does not command perfection! What is failure according to 2 Timothy 2:15? Being content with where we are spiritually, and not doing our best to conform to His expectations!
– “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, ind and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” Titus 2:3-5 This verse does NOT say that we must have spotless homes and be perfect! What is failure according to Titus 2:3-5? Not training the younger women, and not striving to be self-controlled and maintain a godly family.
– “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that be testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 – This verse once again does NOT command perfection! What is failure according to Romans 12:2? Looking like everyone else in the world! Not being willing to be seen as different for the cause of Christ! Not being familiar with the Scripture!
– “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2 This verse once again doesn’t hold us accountable for the state of the soil, but for planting the seed! What is failure according to 2 Timothy 2:2? Allowing the good news of the Gospel of Christ to stop at us! Not trying to share with others what Jesus has done for us!
– “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:22 This verse does NOT command us to be doormats. However what is failure according to Ephesians 5:22? Not treating our husbands with the reverence and respect they deserve as God’s appointed head of our homes.
Ladies, we need to seriously reconsider what it means to be a failure. God never once demanded that we be the best. He doesn’t even hold us accountable for the results of our labor. However he does hold us accountable for the effort we put out for Him.
Recently I was blessed to be at the fall Come Fill Your Cup ladies’ retreat where we were studying Nehemiah. If you have never studied this book, please sit down and read it! Spoiler alert, but basically in Nehemiah, Jerusalem and God’s people are in danger. So what’s the answer? They take a bunch of jewelers and perfumers and say, “Hey, why don’t ya’ll go build us a big ol’ wall to protect the city!” Not only that, but the Jews were under attack while they were building the wall! So then they had half the jewelers and perfumers building the wall, and half “guarding” them with swords at their back. I don’t know which would make me more nervous!
But they did it! Not only did they accomplish their goal, but they did it in an insane 52 days! Can you imagine how ugly that wall must have been! But that’s just the thing, God never said it had to be a pretty wall! It just had to keep the bad guys out, and it did!
Sisters, if a bunch of jewelers and perfumers who have been in captivity for 70 years can hop to and build a massive wall in 52 days, what could we do if we had more faith than fear! What would this country look like if we decided that the worst that could happen is to be apathetic about the lost and God’s commands. What if we decided that we valued souls more than our own comfort!
Because here’s the other side, and where I believe we are as the body of Christ: people are watching. Not just the world, but our children. If we allow the fear of failure to cripple our service to God, guess what our children are going to do. And their children, and then it’s no wonder that the Lord’s church is folding up or giving in to false teaching all over the country. Sisters, will all sincerity and love in my heart I ask you, “What’s the worst that could happen?”