Australia Bible Christian Living Personal Sermons

Letter from Australia 10- The Fear of Failure

Brothers and Sisters,

I have a fear of flying….which, given my current location, is not particularly helpful. If I want to go anywhere – it has to be by plane and despite my desire to help the climate, Ifind myself flying on average around twice per month. People think that the flight from the UK to Australia, which takes one day, is too long. In 1938 Sydney’s first airport was the Rose Bay seaplane wharf. Then it took 28 stops and nine days to travel to the UK! At least in this respect, I am thankful that we live in modern times.


But I have a greater fear than the fear of flying, and that is the fear of failure. None of us like to fail. Above all it hurts our pride. Sometimes this fear is so powerful that it prevents us doing anything that could result in failure. I was thinking about that this week because I have become more aware of how difficult and risky the task we have taken on here is. I wasn’t really under any illusion that coming here to do evangelism was going to be a walk in the park. In my experience sometimes it appears as though everything worthwhile is difficult!   But this week I got a glimpse into just how difficult the whole enterprise is.

But I think that what got me the most, was not the possibility of failure, but rather my own reaction to that possibility – which really is one of pride.   I don’t want to fall flat on my face. I don’t want to return to Scotland in a couple of years with my tail between my legs – humiliated and humbled. My primary concern should be the glory of God and the salvation of sinners – but oh how hard it is to assess one’s own heart! At times I think that the primary motivation is the glory of God, but I know that pride too often gets in the way as well.

As a Bible believing Christian who knows that God is sovereign, and that the work depends on him, and not us, I know that failure is both possible and permissible. We don’t lose our salvation or God’s love because we fail. He’s not that kind of Father.   But that does not mean that we are complacent, blaise, or indifferent.   So we turn to the Scriptures.  There are three assurances.

1) To know that the Lord never fails – is the ultimate assurance.

Psa. 73:26      My flesh and my heart may fail,

                        but God is the strength of my heart

                        and my portion forever.

2) There is a treasure that will never fail. –

Luke 12:33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

3) What is of God will ultimately flourish, what is not will ultimately fail.

Acts 5:38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.

Sometimes when we have a fear of personal failure we blameshift and we rely on programmes and bureaucracy. Speaking of which Australia is one of the most bureaucratic societies I have encountered – in my limited experience. It is quite astonishing how many hoops you have to jump through and forms you have to fill in order to get anything done. I’m surprised the country does not grind to a halt!  I have also learnt that it is just not worth arguing with bureaucrats, pointing them to such human traits as common sense and rationality.  They are there to serve the machine.  They have the power.  And they know it.

Let’s move from the ugliness of bureaucracy to the beauty of this country.   This week I spoke at a conference in Shore school – which must have one of the most beautiful outlooks in the world.  I also visited one of the most amazing churches I have ever seen – EV church up in Gosford. The location is beautiful but what the Lord has been doing in this church is even more so.  I believe that Andrew Heard is one of the best leaders I have ever come across.

Not a bad place for lunch…!

Another kind of beauty is that which comes with children and grandchildren – and another kind of fear of failing.  Who of us has not thought that we have, could or will fail as parents or grandparents?   But again we thank the Lord that He is our heavenly Father, that he loves our children more than we ever could, and that he is the covenant keeping God, blessing his children to a thousand generations.   We bring our children up in faith not fear.

Let’s teach Granny how to smile!
Let’s teach Grandad how to dance!

Last Sunday we heard two sermons which I would highly recommend to you. Firstly Simon Manchester’s sermon in St Thomas’s on the morning – – one of the best sermons I have ever heard on the Resurrection.

And then to St Andrews Cathedral

Where Kanishka Raffel concluded his series on Amos with a great sermon that applied the text to the contemporary culture in an exemplary way. We were truly well fed.

The take away I had from the whole day can be summed up in two quotes”

“Nothing on earth can paint the glory that is to come”.

“Alexander Fleming gave us penicillin, Christ gives us the penicillin of the Gospel”

But let’s return to the question of failure. The 1650 metrical version of the verse quoted above from Psalm 73 says ‘My strength and heart doth faint and fail, but God doth fail me never”.     Why is that? Think of the people at the time of Lamentations – in the midst of the most dreadful circumstances imaginable – where everything seems to be failing – this is the great assurance all of Christ’s people have….Hold on to this assurance from the Lord…cling to it like a limpet.

Lam. 3:22       Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed,  for his compassions never fail.

See you next week,


Letter from Australia 9 – Third Space – the Beginning

PS.  The Lord knows me better than Amazon.  They know I am interested in books by John Owen…but I doubt I would be interested in this one!




  1. In one hundred years time we will all be dead, David, and success and failure in this life will be long gone.

    And when the Lord comes to judge your efforts, the success you achieved won’t come into it. Because everything you achieve is through him anyway. He will decide whether to give the growth or not. And the Bible is full of stories of his servants who laboured without obvious earthly success during their lives.

    The Lord is much more interested in a mans heart and his efforts……….but of course even that comes from him.

    And many of the works of those who appear successful will prove to have been built on sand.

    All we can do is to keep praying, keep trying and keep smiling. Whatever the outcome you are blessed to be the one chosen to stand in the breach for the Lord.

    Keep up the great work. I love what you are doing!


  2. An oversight, here, David, is the absence of success. What is it? How is it defined? How is it measured? Who measures?
    If you’d died those years ago, would you have been a successful Christian? Then spared, then moderator, with a growing church, and Solas and other media outlets and then Australia. Even if your time there, is not “successful” will you be using a lifetime “credit balance sheet” to measure?
    So what timescale is to be used.? Even in secular jobs it takes, in my experience in different fields of employment, about 6 months to settle in, even as part of 2 year national (Social Marketing- fascinating, look it up if you have a spare few minutes) project. Was it a success? Yes and no. Nationally, it was cut at the end: locally there were some measures of success, but not in the nationally predetermined metrics as they were based on the erroneous presumption of voluntary involvement of key professionals with different agendas over whom there was no control and very little influence.
    One of the most odious pits we can fall into is a one of comparisons, with others, with past self.
    Another is that we can do it alone. We have weaknesses, limitations, that make room for others in our lives. I could not organise much, my wife is amazed that when she was young she organised ship launches, but couldn’t do it now: we both know our limitations and to venture into bureaucratic administration wouldn’t be a roaring success, would bring disappointment and frustration.
    As you know, a recurring point in Ephesians 6 is to stand, take a stand, stand your ground, stand firm in Christ, (who is) the armour of God…that the gospel may be declared fearlessly. The battle is not against flesh and blood. (Even though it may seem to be against the manacles of bureaucracy.

  3. May I share with you an insight I copied a few weeks ago from a commentary on Luke 5: 1-11? I keep it on my daily prayer list to remind me not to despair at the apparent impossibility of the task. Peter knew his trade: he knew he was being asked to fish in an area he’d already seen was fishless. But his response was the right one…

    “Why did Jesus perform the miracle of the great catch of fish? No doubt the great crowd of people who had pressed upon Jesus had something to do with this miracle. They were very hungry for God and were eager to hear his word. Jesus wanted to use this occasion to teach his disciples an important lesson. Although Simon was wearied from a night of fruitless toil, he nonetheless did what the Lord Jesus told him to do: At your word I will let down the nets. When you meet disappointment and failure, do you press upon the Lord, like Simon, to hear his word and to receive his command? “

    I’m very sure you do: may the Lord bless your labours.

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