Monday, 30 August 2021

Thought for the Day 30/08/21 - Fear of failure



Bank Holidays are always a bonus ... if you get them ... but sometimes they do look a bit like just kicking the can down the road. 

Bank holiday Monday gets followed by 'not-a-Bank-Holiday Tuesday' and there's always the threat of what would have needed to be faced on Monday now piled up against Tuesday's regular work to be gone back to.

And what is it we dread about that? Why is facing work a thing of dread to so many? At root it seems very much to be the fear we won't be able to face up to it's challenges without falling short or failing in some way we're expected NOT to.

Fear of failure

 According to Psychology Today

"Fear of failure is the intense worry you experience when you imagine all the horrible things that could happen if you failed to achieve a goal. 

The intense worry increases the odds of holding back or giving up. 

Being successful relies to a large extent on your ability to leverage fear."

Psychologists seem to 'psychologise' it by giving it a name (atichyphobia) and presenting us with techniques to 'cure' it .. as if it is a sickness.

Well, no doubt when it gets out of hand there is a case to be made for treatment, but the simple existence of this fear of failure is not really abnormal at all ... it comes with the line of country - it's very arguably just part of being human.

Being human

Failure, it's experience, memory and anticipation is simply part of being human rather than Divine, and what it does is remind us of our realities and our dependence of the One Who lies above and beyond us. He is not like this Himself, and sees His role as to stand by us, strengthen us and assist us in facing, dealing with and overcoming our capacity to fail ... day by day and a day at a time.

The resources to cope

In our Verse for the Day we read 

"As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

Isaiah 55:10-11

Now, you may well want to say: 'Well that's all very well for HIM, but how does God's non-failure do anything for me?'

The Point

Psychology will offer you ways to re-envisage the reality you're facing in such a way as to minimise it's reality, whereas the God Who speaks in His Word may correct your perceptions of that reality (which may or may not be more comforting!), but then strengthens you as you trust in the Word of the One Who speaks to enable you to face not to flee that reality.

So Isaiah 55 goes on to speak of the fruit of that:

"You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands."

Now, OK, that's a bit of a poetic description of how trusting in the God Who does not fail and living in reliance on Him and His Word might affect how you will walk into the office on Bank Holiday Tuesday (and that's probably not the sort of entrance you'll want to make either!) 

But you get the point?

The Takeaway

Living through our failures trusting in the non-failing God and leaning on the wisdom in His Word puts our fear of failure in a whole different perspective, and equips us to be more fully human than we were before as we grow into the re-made model of humanity God is creating in all of us who live in this way.
13 ”

Friday, 27 August 2021

Bible Exposition: Jonah 3


Studio Cam

    Jonah 3


How many ways can you think of to effectively and efficiently disobey what God says He wants you to do?

The human heart is capable of all sorts of ingenuity in discovering and deploying different strategies to disobey God and it particularly excels in the area of NOT doing what He commands whilst very much appearing to do so.

Covert disobedience is what we’re talking about.

So for example, do you remember what happened after the Battle of Jericho in Joshua 6 when the Israelites had got their new leader, Joshua, then crossed the Jordan River as the Lord held the waters up for them, circumcised all their males to show their dedication to the Lord and then trusted God to deliver the first great, walled city they came to into their hands as they obeyed God and did all that soft-looking stuff with the trumpets around Jericho?

Do you remember that down the road was a tiny little place in comparison … a little place with a two-letter name called Ai?

Such a small place they just sent a small group of soldiers down there to mop it up … and got absolutely routed.

The good reputation they’d got for themselves and their God by crossing the Jordan and defeating Jericho, which had given them this huge tactical advantage in the campaign to capture Canaan was now GONE because of Ai … and both Joshua and the people were WRECKED by it.

Well, as we well know, Joshua tore his robes and went in and lay face down in the presence of God in the Tabernacle from morning to night and God revealed to Joshua the reason for what had happened.

“The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 


Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 


That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.”


Jonah 7:10-12


But where does that sort of thought help us with our passage in Jonah chapter three?



Jonah has continued the habit of a lifetime and responded to go preach at Babylon by behaving like a really rotten prophet.

God hoisted the high ball of a call to preach repentance to the REALLY bad city of Nineveh over Jonah’s head when Jonah was deep in his own 22 and Jonah handled it much more like Stuart Hogg than Liam Williams.

What am I saying?

Jonah flunked the very THOUGHT of taking that high ball and fled in the totally opposite direction of Nineveh (which was due East) to Joppa and Tarshish (which were due West, and in Tarshish’s case just about as far due West as you can go).

Prophets were totally not supposed to do stuff like that.

Jonah’s life was supposed to be a devoted thing, dedicated to the service of God … just as the lives of all the Israelites were … but for Jonah it should’ve been especially as He was God’s own prophet.

So Jonah’s flunk and dash to Tarshish was an act of outright rebellion against the command and commission of God … but it was Jonah not the Ninevites who was going to pay for it.

From that point of flight onwards in this book it has been God Who is faithful, the pagan people in the story that were learning faithfulness and the prophet who was incorrigibly faithless.

The Lord highlights the same sort of issue we have here with that parable of the two sons … where the Father said ‘Go’, one son said he would but then didn’t, while the other said he wouldn’t but then did.

‘Which one did his Father’s will?’ - the Lord asks.

Well, obviously, it was the one who DID what His father said, not the one who said that he would but then actually didn’t.

You see, Jonah’s had a very large shot across his bows inside that fish, but as we saw last time there’s a course deviation not a decisive repentance in the man and he continues in the role of a a religious but still prodigal son.

                The POINT of this chapter

The point of this chapter is that God is hugely, inherently, actually gracious and patient with people … in the TEETH of our heading west not east.

And that humanity has a love for heading West.

And that we have an awful lot of different ways of doing the opposite of what God commands while keeping up some sort of appearance of compliance and ‘godly’ obedience

And he knows.

And He CAN somehow deal with what we are without compromising Who and what He is, and what He is doing, too.

But what He is LOOKING for is willing and eager hearts, watching and springing to whole heartedly comply and co-operate with what He wills.

Obedience from the heart with not just the process but the point of what He is doing.

And that’s why Achan and Israel and the Valley of Achor are so relevant.

They reveal something that recurs across and throughout Scripture which reveals a key characteristic of the God of the Bible.

He is too pure and holy to look on and tolerate sin, but He is too loving and too gracious to sinners to abandon those who will be won back by His mercy.

Joshua had to deal with the fact that God put His finger on the painful place of Achan’s sin … regardless of the shame it at first seemed to bring to God and to His people.

Jonah in his turn needed to deal with the fact that God would humble him in his sin before a watching pagan world … and offer Jonah back by means of a storm and a fish.

Hosea in his day had to deal with the fact that God’s people had similarly been rejected by God in the eyes of all around them for THEIR sin, but Hosea paints a beautiful picture of what God purposed next and we read about the BEAUTIFUL grace of God in Hosea 2 which refers back to the Valley of Achor where Joshua purged the sin of the Israelites of Achan’s sin:

He recites the errors of the Israelites and we’re expecting next to hear harsh judgement but speaking directly for God Hosea writes this:

Therefore I am now going to allure her;
    I will lead her into the wilderness
    and speak tenderly to her.
15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
    and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
    as in the day she came up out of Egypt.”


Hosea 2:14-15

                Re-commission, vv. 1-2


And what do we read next of Jonah?

“Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’”

Jonah 3:1-2 NIVUK

Now, I have always found great comfort in this verse whenever I feel that, mebbe, I haven’t quite come up to what the Lord was looking for from me.

In Christian ministry you can beat yourself up pretty badly sometimes … especially on Monday mornings.

Particularly it seems in longer ministries you can have times when you feel you’ve really blown it now, and that there’s no way forward … you’ve blown it.

Funnily enough, this sort of thing has apparently afflicted the most godly of lives and ministries as the accuser of the brethren has sought to strategically undermine and de-moralise the greatest threats to his infernal efforts in rebellion against God.

But our God is the God of the second chance and He gives you and me a second chance to repent and turn back to Him genuinely EVERY day … I mean, hallelujah … this is the glory of God’s Grace!

                Mission, vv. 3-4

“Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.’”

Jonah 3:3-4

So … what do you notice about the sermon there?

·       Jonah has just been shown astonishing, potentially life-changing grace by the Lord.

But WHERE is the grace in his sermon?

·       Jonah has just been shown clear direction by God as to how he needs to respond to God’s grace by doing what God told him at first.

Where is the clear direction about what they must do to be saved in the message Jonah preaches to the Ninevites?

God has dealt personally with Jonah in this warm, personal interaction that He has initiated with Jonah … look: ‘the Word of the Lord came a second time to the prophet Jonah, saying …’ THAT is a warm, direct, personal interaction.

Where is there any hint of that man to man, face to face, personal address with a gracious message of clear spiritual direction aimed at their deliverance and salvation as Jonah heads into Nineveh as God’s messenger?

The purpose of God has been missed altogether, and my suggestion to you is that Jonah is not thoroughly repented and is complying only OUTWARDLY but not at heart with God’s gracious second call and command … He has embraced the process but not the purpose of God’s call, the call of the God Who requires repentance but delights to show grace.

Chapter 4 will make this painfully obvious.

Against the odds, given the way Jonah behaves, the Ninevites make a startling response to their dodgy preacher.

                Nineveh’s response, vv. 5-9

“The Ninevites believed God.”

 That short sentence comes to us a bit like suddenly being hit with a brick!

That is NOT what we have been led to expect.

Verse 5 goes on:

“A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. 

When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 

This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.’”

Jonah 3:5-9 NIVUK

Notice please:

·       The populace universally, publicly and heartily repented.
The populace first.

·       Then the King himself … the ruler of this notoriously brutal and cruel evil Empire, so not a naturally very gracious person in himself … got up from his throne amongst his courtiers, put on the sackcloth that signified mourning FOR HIS SINS, and swapped his haughty royal throne for the dirt and the dust of personal self-humbling and debasement.

·       And when he’ done that the King decreed a day of repentance and urgent prayer for God’s mercy, specifying explicitly (as Jonah hadn’t done) what his people needed to do to be saved (mind you this is BABYLON):

Let everyone call urgently on God. 
Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.
 Who knows? God may yet 
relent and 
with compassion 
turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.’”

Yet again in the book of Jonah, the pagans and the people hostile to God show more genuine repentance and understanding of grace than the prophet Jonah or the people of Israel that God has previously spent such patience and care on.

Now here’s Babylon itself and its ruler turning in repentance to God and casting themselves humbly on his mercy.

This is HUGE.

What will the God of second chances do in a situation like this?

                YHWH’s response, v. 10

“When God saw what they did and 

how they turned from their evil ways, 

he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.”

Jonah 3:10




What this tells us about God

God is patient with very trying people.

He is patient with even the Emperor of Babylon, the ruler of one of the most evil empires ever on the earth.

He is patient also with the runaway prophet, who in spite of all of the privileges God has offered him, does the opposite of what God wants for His world, then persists in actual obstruction of what God wants to do through him even after the second chance to be the instrument of BABYLON’s redemption being once more is so graciously offered him.

As we’ll see in chapter 4, God is still gracious to this horrible prophet even after his appalling and awful response to the mercy the Babylonians had been shown by God … in spite of Jonah’s attempt to obstruct that.

What this tells us about Ninevites

For all of their sin and rebellion, the Ninevites were open to the Word and work of the Lord.

They saw this fishy-smelling oddity come into their city doing and saying things they had NO inclination for.

But still they were reached savingly by the things that they heard and could see the Lord had done.

People speculate about the effects of fish stomach acid on Jonah’s skin and Jonah’s clothes … I’m really not an expert on fish biology, but Jonah MUST have looked and smelt a bit unusual.

God had clearly been at work in Jonah’s story … and even the folks at the heart of the earth’s most evil empire can be reached by hearing God’s Word inadequately explained, and seeing His work in the world – however bizarre it seems.

Our world also has its own Ninevites.

We need to learn that God’s people mustn’t run from them nor doubt His ability nor His desire to bring them in.

What this tells us about Jonahs

Finally, WHERE do we start on exposing what this chapter tells us about people like Jonah?

All too often we, in God’s church, look like Jonah.

Theoretically one thing, but acting like another?

Outward conformity but inward lack of sympathy with the burdens on the heart of our God?

Reluctance to go to Babylon with the Gospel of the God of grace, and irritation with God for meaning Babylon well?

And repentance that is just like morning mist?

May the Lord 

… have mercy on the lost amongst His people, 

… show restoring love to those of US amongst His people who slip into acting like the terminally lost 

… and show the marvels of His grace to brutal Babylon.


DIY Sunday Service Kit - 26/06/22 - Testing the 'Voices' and matters of 'Legacy'

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