Since God has put his work into your weak hands, look not for long ease here: You must feel the full weight of your calling: a weak man with a strong God.
– Lady Culross to John Livingston
It was a typical, hot, muggy day when my third-grade class held its annual “Olympics.” For an entire week, during the P.E. period, we competed with one another in various events and, for some reason still unclear to me, I signed up for the high jump.
Being small for my age and competing with taller and faster kids created the possibility of embarrassment. Add to that the presence of all the third-grade classes sitting along the edge of the course leading to the high jump bar, and you have an unfortunate situation for any kid. Then, atop it all, I lived with a fear of failure. It wasn’t a matter of not wanting to fail, no one wants that, but of being terrified to fail. (This story is not going to turn out well; you know that.)
The day of the high jump came, and the bar was set up at the middle of the playground. On the other side of the bar, where you would normally expect a big, soft landing pad, lay a large pile of loose hay. It seems that with a limited budget, that’s the best the teachers could do. What better way to enjoy a day when it’s 90 degrees in the shade, and you’re covered in sweat, but to jump into a pile of dry, dusty hay?
We took turns jumping, and all was fine…at first. Then the bar crept upward. Higher and higher it went. On one jump, I barely made it over. I thought that if the bar was any higher I wouldn’t be able to make another jump. They moved the bar up, and when my turn came, I froze. I just stood there. I knew I would fail. Everyone was saying, “C’mon, you can do this. Try!” So, I ran. I ran like a little madman toward the bar, but I didn’t jump. Throwing my arms out with open hands and my face fixed skyward, I ran right into the bar (which was made of metal and caught me just at chest level), and then promptly collapsed facedown into the hay.
There was complete silence from the crowd that was interrupted by one kid asking loudly, “Is he dead?”
I didn’t even try. For a long while after that, a couple of kids would refer to me as “The-One-Who-Didn’t-Try.” Have you ever worn that title?
Sometimes the fear of failing is so great that we give in before we begin. It has been said, “Many men never attempt anything significant because they might fail. They would rather be perfect in potentiality than imperfect in actuality.” God has called us to obedience, but sometimes we would rather seek the “comfort” of thinking of how things “might have been” than to risk taking action.
Does your “bar” look too high to clear? You are running toward it thinking, “There is no way. There is just no way.” I think of Moses herding sheep out in Midian (Exodus 3), and God tells him, “You’re the one for job of leading Israel out of Egypt.” Moses proceeds to tell God why he isn’t the best candidate; he poses the “Who-am-I-what-if-I-can’t-I-don’t-really-want-to” objections to the Lord. But with every objection, Moses hears God tell him about divine power and presence: “I will certainly be with you” (3:12a). “I AM WHO I AM” (3:14a). “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (4:5). “Who has made man’s mouth…Have not I, the LORD?” (4:11). “I will teach you what you shall do” (4:15b).
What are your objections to trying? Do you recognize that God is more than able to empower you to accomplish his will (Colossians 1:11; Ephesians 3:20)? Are you willing to live and act based upon his power working within you (Ephesians 1:19-20)?
Don’t focus on your inability; focus upon God’s availability.
We would be strengthened by the power of God to live with endurance. – Colossians 1:11 Being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.
We would know that God is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or think. – Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.
We will rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit and not our own strength. – Ephesians 1:19-20 And what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.