The fear of failure is a universal fear. It causes an enormous amount of stress in our lives. If I fail, what will happen to me? What will other people think? Will I be rejected? Will anybody love me? Will God send me to Hell?

No one wants to be labeled a failure. But most often, it is a label we put on ourselves.

A student might say, "I have tried my best to learn algebra. It’s way over my head! I’m failing the course. I should have never tried to go to college! I feel like a failure."

Or a mom might say, "I’ve done everything I can think of to raise my kids in a Christian home. I’ve prayed for them. I’ve taught them right from wrong. But they keep making decisions that break my heart. And they seem further from God than ever before. O Lord, I feel like a failure!"

Or a man might say, "I want to live for the Lord with all my heart. There’s no one in the world that I love more than Jesus. But I struggle with sin in my life. And I keep committing the same ones over and over again. I feel like a failure! How could God ever love or use a sinner like me?"

If these examples describe your feelings about yourself, then I have good news for you! Some of the Bible’s greatest men and women of faith failed greatly.

In the book of Genesis, Abraham, the great man of faith, lied two times about his relationship with Sarah. Both times, he introduced her as his sister instead of his wife, because he was afraid that he would be killed on account of being married to such a beautiful woman. Consequently, Sarah is taken into a harem each time and God rescues her out of potential adultery. After the second time, God could have said, "Abraham, you obviously don’t trust me. You think that lying to people is necessary to save your own life. I can’t work with you anymore because of your unrighteousness and unfaithfulness."

But God forgave Abraham both times. And the Lord went on to do amazing things in his life. Even though Abraham showed fear instead of faith on these occasions, Abraham learned to believe God and obey Him. God still made a covenant with Abraham, tested him again with the sacrifice of his son (which he passed), and as a result, God credited Abraham’s faith as righteousness.

James 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend or God.

In Exodus 2, Moses killed a man and hid the body. God could have said, "I can’t work with this murderer. He’s an arrogant, hot tempered man!"

But 40 years later, in chapter 3, God essentially said, "Moses, I want you to be the man who leads my people out of Egypt. I want you to be the one to tell Pharaoh, ’Let my people go.’"

Moses thought God was making a mistake. Moses felt like a failure and unqualified for the task. He made excuses and wanted God to choose someone else. He didn’t want to fail again, so He told God he couldn’t speak well. God could have agreed and selected another person, but He let Aaron speak for Moses and gave Moses grace to show forth the power of God.

Later, God again meets with Moses, this murderer who is now a humble man, and talked to him as a friend. He gave Moses His Law and Commandments.

Exodus 33:9-11 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses. Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to his tent. The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

Then there was David, called a man after God’s own heart. He failed greatly: coveting another man’s wife, committing adultery with her, and planning her husband’s death on the battlefield to cover up his sin. God could have rejected David, removed him as king of Israel, like He did with David’s predecessor, Saul, but God kept His promise to David. David suffered great consequences for his sin, but he continued to rule as king over Israel. And importantly, David continued worshipping God. So, God made a covenant with David that provided for the Messiah (Jesus) to be born from the lineage of David.

Psalm 89:34-37 I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me. Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies.

Then there are the apostles of Jesus Christ. The Gospels describe Jesus demonstrating to the world that He is the Messiah and the Son of God by His deeds, by His death, and by His Resurrection. And the apostles of Jesus witnessed the whole thing!

They were there when Jesus drove out the demons. They were there when Jesus told the wind and the waves to be still. They were there when Jesus walked on water, changed water to wine, fed thousands, healed the sick, and raised the dead. They were there when Jesus spoke to the Pharisees like no one had ever spoken to them before. In addition, they were there for the Last Supper, when Jesus established a new covenant with mankind.

Yet, in spite of all these things the apostles were privileged to see and hear, in spite of all the things that were designed to strengthen their faith, Jesus says in Mark 14:27 "You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written: "'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.'

The disciples swore they would not fall away or fail to support Jesus. They went with Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus told them to watch and pray. However, they fell asleep. They failed to pray and watch for danger. Suddenly, soldiers arrive to take Jesus into custody. The disciples are so startled and scared that they run for their lives. They all fell away. They failed Jesus just like He said.

What about us? In here, it’s easy to pledge our allegiance to Jesus Christ. Out there, we sin, we deny Jesus as Lord, and we fail to keep the faith. Thankfully, God is not through with us. Instead, He disciplines us with the purpose of changing us because He loves us.

Hebrews 12:4-11 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Discipline is God’s way of saying, "Even though you have failed Me many times, even though you’ve sinned and come short My glory, even though you’ve made mistakes, I still love you! I still want you in my family! I still want you in my church! I still want you in my heaven! So I’m disciplining you and changing you into the image of my Son!"

Some of you may be thinking, "But I have failed so many times that I don’t see how God is changing me. I keep sinning in the same areas. I am a wretched failure."

If that is you, perhaps you don’t understand grace. We cannot earn grace. Grace is a gift from God. God gives grace to failures so they can believe in Him and succeed by His power, not their own. He gave it to Abraham. He gave it to Moses. He gave it to David. He gave it to the apostles. And He will give it to us if we sincerely seek Him with all of our heart. His grace leads us into repentance and salvation.

Ephesians 2:4-10 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We can’t say, "God loves me in spite of my failures, so I’m just going to keep sinning." Grace, leading unto repentance means we die to intentional sin, and we live for Christ.

Romans 6:1-4 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

It is so unnecessary to fail, for God has provided a way out of temptation. We fail when we don’t seek God with all our heart. We fail when we don’t get grace in our time of need. When we are tempted, we must run to Him for grace and the power of His Spirit.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

We need to understand that God never gets tired of forgiving us when we truly repent. Even if we have to ask God for forgiveness 5 times a day for the rest of our life, if we are sincere about repenting, He is faithful to forgive us and change us.

1 John 1:9 "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Assuming that we are truly sorry, how does God respond to us? Mark 16 gives us a clue. The women went to the tomb where Jesus lay.

Mark 16:5-7 As they [the women] entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. "Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'"

In other words, even though the disciples sinned, even though they lost faith, even though they abandoned Him, even though they failed, Jesus still wanted to be with them! He still wanted to use them! Therefore, He was going to give them grace to believe and to repent, a grace that would empower them to overcome their failures and their fear of failure.

That is why He told the disciples in Luke 24:49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."

The promise was the Holy Spirit. Jesus did an amazing thing after He returned to the Father. He sent His own spirit, the Holy Spirit, to be IN the disciples and IN us!

Jesus still wants to be with us and use us, too! He knows we are weak. Without the Holy Spirit, we have no power over sin, the flesh, or the devil. Without Him, we are doomed to fail. We need Him every hour of every day and our Father wants us to have the Holy Spirit. Therefore, focus on being filled with the Holy Spirit and walking with Him.

Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

The wonderful truth is that God uses imperfect people to accomplish His perfect will. He uses flawed people to accomplish His flawless will. And if you’re willing to let Jesus have His way in your life, God will use you to be a blessing to others.

If you have been failing Jesus, I urge you to come back to Him this morning. Ask God to forgive your sin, create in you a clean heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within you. Seek Him with all your heart once again and yield to the Holy Spirit every moment of the day.

If you have never given your life to Jesus, publicly confess Jesus as the Son of God, admit your sin and repent. Then give your life to the One who gave His life for you by being baptized in His Name for the forgiveness of your sin. Then you will receive His power, the promised Holy Spirit.