Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect

Advance Part 3: Keeping Your Courage Tank Full

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“Failure is not an option.” Can you picture a macho guy in an action adventure movie saying this to his team before sending them out on an impossible mission? While it sounds great, failure is an unavoidable part of our lives. How we respond to failure is the place where we have control.

Beth Moore explored this idea at the Living Proof Live event I attended in Stockton in June. My last few posts have expanded on some of the themes from her acrostic: A-D-V-A-N-C-E.

So far, we’ve covered the first four letters:

A- A kingdom is coming

D- Dare to advance it

V- Vie fiercely in prayer

A- Add traction to your action

Today we’ll look at the next letter:

N- Never take a “no” from the devil

Beth explained that Satan uses our failures and defeats to diminish our effectiveness and to convince us we’ll never succeed. Whether it’s falling back into an old pattern of sin or seeing a ministry we’re involved with flounder, we tend to let failures have more power over us than they should. However, God can use our setbacks to His advantage. He can teach us humility and grace or show us areas that need to be surrendered to Him. Our failures fertilize the soil we need for growth.

When we fixate on our defeats, they cause us to wallow in fear and insecurity, preventing us from advancing in our spiritual journeys or taking ground for God’s kingdom.   Beth used the analogy of a tank of gas, describing the way failures can drain our “courage tank” if we don’t submit them to God.

The Apostle Paul describes it this way:  I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:20)

Evaluating how full our courage tanks are should be a regular practice when we’re serious about following Jesus. If we find the needle on our gauge pointing towards “empty” then it’s time to surrender our fears to God and let Him fill us with “sufficient courage.”

Beth asked “What would you be like if you were operating at full courage? What do you have to lose?”

For me, operating at “full courage” means that I’m finding my confidence in Christ and developing the potential God has given me. I’m relying on Him to work through me and to use my spiritual gifts for His glory. I’m not looking to other people to define me or make me feel worthwhile because God is enough for me. When I’m operating at “full courage” I experience joy because of God’s incredible love for me, not because circumstances are lining up according to my plans.

A few years ago I encountered a season of failure that caused my confidence to falter and my faith to stall.   Looking back, I see how Satan capitalized on my insecurity to diminish my effectiveness in advancing God’s kingdom.

Over the course of a year I developed friendships with two different women who were struggling personally and seeking me for wisdom and encouragement. As my relationship with each of them grew, natural opportunities to share the gospel arose. Both seemed interested and excited to learn more- whether it was attending church or meeting with me regularly. It was exhilarating to have them ask spiritual questions and to point them toward Jesus. And then, without warning, each of them cut off relationship with me within a few months of each other. No return phone calls or texts; no answers to my e-mails. If I happened to bump into them around town they were cool and distant.

I continued to pray for both of them, but I was confused and bitter—disillusioned that I’d put myself out there only to have the relationships end abruptly with no explanation.

For several years, I shied away from reaching out to others, assuming there was something I’d done wrong to turn them off. I could only see my perceived failure. Satan had cut me off at the knees and robbed me of my courage and confidence.

So, two years ago when a new friend began asking spiritual questions, I was wary and hesitant. Her persistence won me over and I began sharing more of my faith with her. Eventually she plugged into Bible study with me and later coaxed me into starting a Bible study with her to reach other women in our community. (I’ve written more about this story in the post “Being Open Handed is a State of Mind” in April 2013).

Because of my perceived failures in the past, I turned to God, asking for His guidance, wisdom and courage. Instead of relying on my own abilities and previous experiences, I sought Him with each plan and decision along the way.   He taught me to trust Him one step at a time and to rely on Him for my confidence instead of my own skill or the approval of others.

I’d grown to expect rejection and was not prepared to have so many of the women we invited say “yes” to joining us for a Bible study. My co-leader and I moved forward with our plans in obedience. We didn’t worry about failure because we trusted God would provide whatever outcome He thought best.

In the last year, ten of us have been meeting weekly to study the Bible. For most of the women, this is the first time they’ve ever studied Scripture in their lives. Watching them grapple with God’s word, apply it to their lives and see Him at work has been like watching flowers bloom in a garden. Seeing their growth has filled my courage tank and made me realize the joy that comes from being used by God. My “failures” from a few years ago made me rely on God so much more than I ever did in the past.

A few weeks ago our group members gathered with our husbands, kids and some additional friends to host an event for Stop Hunger Now. The women in the group were eager to respond to God’s love by doing a service project together. I was overcome with joy watching as our kids laughed together wearing hairnets and packing food for the needy. Around fifty people came to help. A year ago, most of these women hadn’t even read the Bible, yet now they were advancing God’s kingdom in their families as they reached out to the hungry across the globe.

I’m glad I didn’t take a “no” from the devil when I felt discouraged after being rejected by my two friends. Looking to God to redeem my failure paved the way for His kingdom to be advanced. God has an amazing way of using setbacks to further His Kingdom. Our job is to let Him do it.

If you’ve been in a season of failure, click on the link below and be encouraged by Jason Gray’s song “Nothing is Wasted.”

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.   (Ephesians 3:17b-19)

IMG_1187For more information on Stop Hunger Now, or to host a meal-packing event, go to: http://www.stophungernow.org

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Author: mmccullum

Marybeth McCullum enjoys writing and blogging about her Christian faith and how it intersects with everyday life. Her goal in every post is to encourage, challenge and inspire her readers. She is in her 10th year at CPC's Focused Living Women's Bible study and currently serves as Coordinator. She also writes a regular blog and speaks occasionally. You can find her page on Facebook at: Marybeth Mc Cullum- Author. Learn more about her other endeavors at marybethmccullum.com.

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