ScriptureThat Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” ~John 20:19-23, NLT
Atychiphobia is the abnormal, unwarranted, and persistent fear of failure. As with many phobias, atychiphobia often leads to a constricted lifestyle, and is particularly devastating for its effects on a person’s willingness to attempt certain activities. A person afflicted with atychiphobia considers the possibility of failure so intense that they choose not to take risk. Often this person will subconsciously undermine their own efforts so that they no longer have to continue to try. This unwillingness to try arises from the perceived inequality between the possibilities of success and failure holds the atychiphobic back from his or her potential.
It might be worth noting that failure does not keep us from succeeding, it is the “Fear of failure that keeps us from succeeding.” Jesus disciples failed miserably and they knew it. They had locked themselves into a secluded and safe place. They lack the courage to unlock the door and step out into a world that crucified the Son of God. They were many things but above all they were AFRAID! It never feels good to be terrified. Charles L. Allen was a preach slash psychologist: he studied people. He served as pastor at the First Methodist Church of Houston, Texas for 23 years. While he was there, First Houston became the largest Methodist congregation in the world. He has written a lot of good books. His classics are “God’s Psychiatry” and “All Things Are Possible Through Prayer.” Both are great reads and I highly recommend them. He begins chapter 16 in the latter with this statement, “Basically, man has four problems: fear, guilt, self-centeredness and the inability to forget.” Haunting memories are hard to deal with and somehow our mind refuses to let us forget our failure. Note the testimony of Paul…I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Paul had a past that he wanted to forget. He gave consent to the brutal and malicious death of Stephen: matter of fact, he held the robes of those who threw the stones. I am guessing but I would be willing to wager that Paul thought about Stephen at least once per day. Like the eleven disciples, Paul past was marred with failure. The question I present in this message is this: are we going to cling to our fear of failure and remain in our comfort zone where the risk failure seems not to exist or will we dare to step out on faith and follow in the steps of our Savior who confronted a dark and sinful world.
Actually, I think the eleven felt fear, guilt, shame and remorse. Let’s briefly discuss these feeling that keep us in a shut-down mode, which is exactly where Satan wants us.
We know that Peter was feeling shame before the crucifixion but now all eleven are ashamed of their behavior. All of them had made the same pledge as Peter and all of them without exception fled under pressure and left Jesus all alone. They had acted like mice and not men. They had played the coward and is there any greater shame than that of the coward? How many times have we had the opportunity to take a stand for Christ and we backed up, faded into the landscape. Why do we deny the Christ who died for us? Because we are cowards by nature. As an old cowboy once said, “There are some things that gnaw on a man worse than death.” I have always believed that living with the shame of cowardice is far worse than death. For some reason, I place a lot of stock on nobility and integrity. C.S. Lewis says that cowardice is universally disdained: no culture admires cowards. The disciples had forsaken Jesus at the time that He needed them most. This once proud group now has head in hands staring at the floor. It is hard to shake off that kind of shame.
We’ve all done stupid things. I wish I could say that my stupidity was limited to my youthful years but that would not be true. A few years ago, probably more than a decade, I went to see an old friend and took him out to lunch. I knew he was not trustworthy but because of a disability that he had, I felt sorry for him and wanted to encourage him. He got me on a sore subject and I said some things that I had no business saying. I had an eerie feeling as I drove home but then I forgot all about it but about three months later, I got a blood chilling card in the mail. It came from a man filled with bitterness and contempt, especially for me. I knew immediately what had happened. The bad thing is that he did not repeat what I said verbatim but of course he didn’t have to, all he had to do was repeat it to the right people and he knew it would create storm which it did. Some people who I loved very much and never intended to hurt got hurt and it was all my fault. There are certain people who you just do not trust but I acted very unwisely and caused a lot of problems. Did I feel shame? Yes, I did and do. It was a dumb thing to do. I cannot be proud of doing something stupid. It is one of those things I would like to forget.
Although shame and guilt are related they are not exactly the same. Of course they both are by-products of sin. Guilt is a legal term associated with the responsibility for a crime, transgression or malicious deed. Usually where you find guilt, you will find shame but not always. Ted Bundy was guilty but he felt no shame. A psychopath or sociopath feels no guilt or shame but in the eyes of the law, they can be guilty. Guilt is an actual fact whereas shame is more of a feeling. No one has ever been arrested or executed for shame. The word of God is a mirror that reveals our scars, blemishes and flaws. I seldom read a passage or hear a sermon, that God does not convict me of something. Of all the things that plague men’s souls, I think I hate guilt the most. How do we cope with guilt when we continue to make the same mistakes over and over? Let’s face the facts, human are guilt ridden which is one of many things that makes us different from other creatures.
I have not had a hard life by any stretch of the imagination but the one thing that delights me most about my promotion is no more guilt. I don’t know what heaven will be like but it will be guilt free I do look forward to living in a guilt free environment.
Remorse is the feeling of guilt and regret over pass mistakes but sometimes short of repentance. Judah felt remorse but unfortunately he did not repent. He confessed his mistake but to the wrong people. Never confess to the devil or his servants: they could care less. I think everyone has regrets, probably some more than most. I have no desire to relive my past but there are some things I would change if I could. I do admit that it might be a good thing that we don’t have that power.
A woman came to she her pastor after her mother had passed away. She was an emotional wreck so the pastor started talking about her mother being in a better place. He assumed that her grief had to do with the lost of her mother or her mother’s eternal state but finally she interrupted and said, “You don’t understand, I know my mother is in heaven. I am not worried about where she is…the thing that is tormenting me is how I treated her when she was alive.” The woman was feeling guilty. My mother lived to be 95 but I started treating her like she was old long before her 90’s. It’s difficult when you are a parent on both ends. Mother knew how to pull my chain but that is little comfort to me now. I do know one thing: what goes around comes around and I can see it coming. My children are going to treat me like I’m old before I get ready to be treated that way. I do wish that I had shown more patience with my Mother.
Of course you understand that all these things are related our sin and transgression. Adam and Eve had no insecurities until they rebelled against God. Sin is a package deal; with it you get fear, guilt, shame and remorse. There is no question in my mind that fear is the engine pulling the train. Fear is big! Our church has been involved in My Hope with Billy Graham for a year. Our goal was to have 25 Matthews [host homes] but we had only 10 or so to respond. I assumed that are numbers would grow but they have declined. People are fearful when it comes to sharing the gospel. My Hope is the simplest and most confrontational way I’ve ever seen to share the gospel but people are afraid. We are afraid of failure, rejection and the reproach that comes with standing for Christ. My Hope is something every Christian family could do but most will not even give it consideration. We are afraid of risk! We are afraid to fail! We are paralyzed by negative thoughts, by what if’s. The only way to expel negative thought is to have stronger positive thoughts. Take the thought of fear and failure and replace with a stronger thought. David’s friends advised him to flee the wrath of Saul by hiding in the mountains. David chose to dwell on the sovereignty of God who made the mountains. Faith will conquer fear if we give it a chance. People watch too much TV and read too much news paper. Focus on the word of God. Faith comes by hearing the word of God. We will have no assurance and little faith a part from the word of God. Starve your doubts and feed your faith. Why do you read a news paper that you don’t believe and not read the word of God which you say you believe.
Crazy people and kids make good witnesses because they know no fear. A six year old boy invited a relative to the revival his church was having and the relative brushed him off by saying, “I have my religion, I don’t need the church.” The little boy, without hesitation, looked him straight in the eye and said, “What you need is Jesus.” Dr. Adrian Rogers told the story of the mentally challenged man who attended a mid-western small town first Baptist church. They were in revival and the pastor called a visitation on Monday morning. He had a few people show up and among them was this simpleton. He ignored him and give all the assignments to the other people. A normal person would have gotten their feeling hurt after being ignored but this man didn’t think anything about it. There was a furniture store right across the road from the church and the man who owned ran the store was a notorious sinner. He made no bones about it: he had no use for Jesus or the church. Well this simpleton walks across the street and into the man’s business. He is engaged with a customer but the simpleton rudely interrupts, he didn’t know that interrupting was rude. He addressed the man and said without hesitation, “Do you want to go to heaven?” The man was very angry and did not want to lose a sale so he said abruptly, “No, I do not want to go to heaven. What I want is for you to stop interrupting me, I am busy with customers.” The simpleton said, “Well, go to hell then! And he turned and walked out of the store. We the revival service got started that night, there was a hush that fell over the congregation: this business man who hated the church had eased in and was sitting in the back. The evangelist preached and the invitation was given and this man came forward with tears of repentance. After he had prayed to receive Christ the pastor asked him what prompted him to come. Then he told him the entire story. He said, “I have not been able to get those words…’go to hell then’ out of my mind all day.”
Dr. James Kennedy said there are two major reasons why Christians do not share their faith:  They live a compromising life  They are intimidated by fear. I think Dr. Kennedy was right about the two; perhaps fear is the greatest problem, I don’t know but it is certainly one or two.
If you went to your doctor and he diagnosed that you had a major problem such as a tumor. You wouldn’t want him to tell you about it, show you the x-ray and then get up and walk out of the room. You would hope he was prescribe some medicine or treatment and give you hope of recovery. Is there any hope for our fear problem. It is a pervasive and intimidating problem; do we have hope of recovery. The disciples recovered. Jesus is the great Physician. The steps to recovery are…
- Realize the presence of Jesus–Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! We don’t have His physical presence but we have His promise that He is present. It is a matter to trusting His word over our feelings and experience. He inhabits the house He built. He cannot not be present–It is an impossibility.
- Recognize Jesus ability to confer peace–“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Jesus is the peace speaker. Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” What did Jesus do to calm the seas? He spoke to them and He can speak peace to your heart just as He did the elements.
- Receive His Spirit–“Receive the Holy Spirit.” You may need to surrender all and be filled with the Holy Spirit. If you are saved you have received the Spirit with your new birth. In this world we get our feet dirty and we need them washed daily. It is not one and done, we surrender to Him everyday.
- Remember our sins are forgiven–If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” This verse has been interpreted and misinterpreted in many ways. Only God can forgive sin: that is one thing that the Pharisees had right what they missed was that Jesus was God and He had the power to forgive sin and confer righteousness on whoever came to Him in repentance and faith. Some believe that Jesus is talking about our WITNESS. We can confer grace and forgiveness in the way we live. A good witness can help a person come to know the forgiveness that we have in Christ. Only believers have this power and privilege. Only the forgiven can share forgiveness. Did Jesus berate or rebuke any one of the eleven for their cowardice and failure? Don’t you know they breathed a sweet sigh of relief just to know that Jesus had forgiven them.