I’ve dreamed of being published since I was a nine-year-old girl. That’s when I declared to my mom, “I’m going to write a book!” Yellow legal pad in hand I wrote 10 pages and gave up. I didn’t think it would be so hard.
Years later, I’m still writing, though I’ve moved past legal pads. I actually wrote a book and determined to publish it. I thought surely the potential agent I pitched it to would be delighted. She was not.
Discouraged, I stopped writing for a time. Until I decided I was not done yet.
I learned about building an audience, strengthening my social media platform and creating an attractive website. Then I put myself out there. This was not just a hobby anymore; it was a calling. I saw my audience as my mission field, the gospel going out through my words.
I thought my audience would explode, and I would enjoy the fruit of my labor. Instead, I faced three weeks of crippling anxiety.
Suddenly, it all mattered. No one saw the scrawling of my nine-year-old self on a legal pad, but they might see my blog. Or worse yet, they would not see it. The fear of failure consumed me. It’s fear that holds us back so often, is it not? The curse of “what if?”
- What if others do not want what we have to offer?
- What if they do not receive the gospel we share with them?
- What if we step out in faith and it fails miserably?
- What if we do what it seems like God wants us to do, and nothing happens?
As I entered the public arena alongside others far more widely read and loved than me, comparison overwhelmed me. “Who am I among these people?” I thought. “What do I have to offer? Why do I even bother?”
When these questions arise, the temptation to give up on how we are attempting to demonstrate the gospel is intense. Is it worth pressing on?
I cried out to God, wanting him to guarantee a successful outcome. What I wanted even more, though, was to know how to navigate a risky venture with a sense of peace.
Jesus wants to meet us in those moments when we want to quit. He does not promise us success. But he does promise to walk with us as we press on in faith. Here’s how:
More of him and less of us
So much of my anxiety and stress was due to making this all about me. I was concerned not with the gospel going out, but with my own success. What people thought of me was more important to me than anything else.
When God calls us to step out in faith, we need to check our pride. Otherwise we’re likely to care more about our own glory than God’s. If our reputation is at stake, once we come to the end of our resources, we’ll want to quit.
Humility goes both ways. Not only does it keep us from over-inflating ourselves, it reminds us to value what we do have. When we compare our gifts with others we usually come up short. We question the value of our offering.
My inclination to compare my writing with others’ was evidence of my lack of humility. When I found I could not be the best, I decided that what I had was not enough. Either way, my eyes were on myself.
Pride keeps our eyes on the horizon, scanning for evidence that justifies our value. But humility reminds us to look up, back to the One who called us in the first place.
Jesus is our example in this. In Philippians 2:5–7 it says, “In your relationship with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
When Jesus came to earth, he came humbly. Laying aside his glory he came to do God’s will. His eyes stayed fixed on the Father, not on himself or what others thought of him.
I’ve learned that the gospel is about death and resurrection. Something must die in order for something else to live. So when we want to quit, Jesus invites us to demonstrate the gospel to ourselves and those around us.
As we die to ourselves in humility, we live fully.
Offer what you have
When we see ourselves rightly, our aim is God’s glory rather than our own. Then we can offer what we have, freely and boldly. We can be confident God wants to use us. What we have is worth sharing.
We might not be as fruitful as the next person, but we can be confident in what we offer.
Until I began writing in earnest, I was able to stay in safe places. But God does not call us to stay in safe places — he calls us to step out in faith.
In Matthew 25, we’re taught the value of talents. A man gave to one servant five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. The ones with five and two talents invested them, doubling what they had. But the servant with one talent foolishly hid it.
At the time “talents” referred specifically to a currency. Yet this passage encourages us to consider what God has given us, and to invest it wisely. As we engage in missional living, what gifts, time and resources has God uniquely given us? And how are we to share them? The amount is irrelevant — what he cares about is our faithfulness.
It’s tempting, if we feel our offering is insufficient, to let it go to waste. We convince ourselves the world does not need what we have, that it will not make much difference anyway. But that kind of thinking is simply a way to avoid quitting. If I never start, I’ll never fail.
Instead, we’re called to use whatever gifts we’ve been given. I may not be the best writer out there. But God gave me a gift and I must use it; to do otherwise would be disobedient.
This applies not only to my writing, but to my neighboring as well. Maybe others explain the gospel more eloquently. It might be easier for others to strike up conversations with neighbors or co-workers than it is for me. Hospitality might not be my strong suit.
But I have something to offer that is uniquely mine. I have the story of what God has done in my life. That is worth sharing, and sharing boldly.
Jesus did not stay in safe places. He left the comfort of heaven and came to this uncomfortable place for us. He offered all of himself. To look at him, one would not have thought he had much to offer — poor, inconsequential, “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him” (Isaiah 53:2). But what he offered was more than enough.
Jesus’ aim was not success — it was faithfulness. He was faithful to offer all that he had to the people God called him to.
Leave the results to God
So we offer what we have, and then we leave the results to him. It’s his prerogative to use what we offer however he sees fit.
Maybe I write a blog post that thousands read, and it changes lives. Or maybe no one reads it at all. I might share the gospel with 20 people and see 20 people respond with faith. Or, I might share with 20 and watch it meet 20 pairs of deaf ears.
It’s our job to be faithful; it’s God’s job to bring fruit.
In 1 Corinthians 3:6–7 Paul recognizes this truth: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” We’re not responsible for the outcome.
So at that place where I wanted to give up, instead, I kept writing. I did it less for me and more for God – writing not to see success but to be a good steward of my talents.
I began offering each blog post to him, asking him to use it to speak to exactly whom he chose. Some posts did well, others fell flat.
Even today, I face challenges in my work. They feel overwhelming. Sometimes I’d love to quit, and go back to safe places.
But Jesus whispers, “Do not give up, child. This is not all on you. I’m with you. Look at me. Look at what I can do, not what you can or cannot do. Give me what you have, and leave it to me.”
What step of faith is God calling you to persevere with today?
Maybe there’s a person you love who you’ve shared the gospel with over and over, but to no avail. Perhaps you dream of building community in your church or neighborhood, but people are not responding the way you hoped. Or you’re passionate about being involved in a particular ministry, but you do not know if you have what it takes.
If Jesus came and sat next to you right now, do you know what I think he would say?
He’d say, “Let go. It’s not about you. It’s about me, and my power. Look at me. Bring what you have, however big or small you think it is. I will use it. It might not be in the way you think I should, but I will use it in my time and my ways.”
He’d say, “I know what it’s like facing overwhelming odds. I know what it feels like to face rejection, misunderstanding, opposition, weakness and exhaustion. I kept my eyes on the Father and his glory, and he carried me through. He will carry you too.”
In coming to us, Jesus set himself aside. He offered all of himself willingly. It was all about God’s plan, God’s way, God’s glory. Surely Jesus was tempted to give up. He begged to quit in the garden. But he pressed on in humility and gave his life for us.
We are not alone. The One who understands us is with us — our ever present God.
So we do the same. When we’re tempted to quit, we press on in humility. We set aside our pride and gladly give our gifts and our lives for the sake of the gospel.
And then we trust that God will use what we offer as he sees fit.
Photo by Abbie Bernet