Paul was very aware of his needs and situation, and if you know anything about the life of Paul, then you know the intense suffering and trials he went through for our Lord and on our behalf. Yet Paul was still content about what he had to work with and go through. Paul was not stupid, and had no masochistic complex, but his focus was on the Lord as ours must be. Paul wanted to impress to us the necessity of a focus on the Christian life. Without the goal of pleasing our Lord as our guide and gratitude to drive us, we will be too afraid to go beyond our comfort zones to do anything of significance.
When we do not have the ability to take a risk, then we need to ask God and ourselves why. Then we need to realize the results belong to the Lord and Him alone. We do not need to worry about the results, because they are in the Lord's hands, they belong to Him. The great Reformational doctrines of Election and Predestination have to do with the fact that God is in control and we are not. So we should respond with our hardest effort because we need not fear the result. Most business plans and philosophies have the focus of result as their primary goal. These ideas sneak their way into the church, and there is some truth to them, but as Christians we are not to be performance driven, but rather centered on our service and desire to please God. Too many churches put unrealistic expectations on its leaders, pastors, and staff that cannot be met. We have the natural desire to succeed as the large church does or as in the business world. But sometimes God does not call the small church to be large, but obedient. Yes they need to be focused on reaching the lost and discipleship, and not stay a closed social group. Of course we are to seek results, but the results are not the focus. If the results are not as you expected, be as joyful as if they were much more than expected, as long as your focus was trust and obedience to Him. We are to always strive to do and be our best for His glory, but His glory is not always success as we interpret success! Christ's version of success is our obedience, yet we tend to ignore that and try to take on His role, and be His "bean counter."
When we have the idea firmly planted that we are not responsible for the results of the ministry, but only the obedience to His call, then out of that will come the perseverance to press on to serve Him and the fear of failure will cease. The ability to take the risk will become more vigorous, and the fears we have will go away. Always count everything in joy when we are serving as best as we can.
Since we are to keep the focus and attention on our call and obedience, such as to reach our neighborhood as paramount, then the planning is centered on how we can do our best and not worry on the, "what if they do not respond." We are not to concern ourselves on the "what ifs." Thus the big block party that took months to plan and thousands of dollars to execute only attributed a couple of visitors or perhaps none. Be joyful, your work was not in vain! Our mission is never the focus of increased membership, but increased obedience and discipleship. Increased membership is usually a sign that obedience is happening, but not always. I have seen too many churches that are obedient that do not grow and disobedient churches that do. There are just too many circumstances that effect it, and mostly what is God's plan. The attention is always the ministry and not the results, this subject of results is purely the work of the Holy Spirit. Since we are not God, we should not worry about His job, only ours! Thus when we face setbacks and disappointments, we do not consider them failures but rather victories and joy.
"The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. All a man's ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart." Proverbs 21:1-2
Fear does not take into account the sovereignty of God. God is sovereign even over pagan kings and presidents, over our family, friends, and ourselves. God is absolute. Thus His dominion is total and complete from the macro of creation of galaxies and universes to the micro of the number of hairs on our head. At the same time, we have free agency of our personal decisions and will. What we do is subject to judgment from our Lord. God is in control over us but the specifics of that free will and control may be debated by theologians. All we need to know is we are responsible as moral agents of our Lord entrusted with a call and abilities to make it work. Since God is sovereign, we should not fear going to our neighbor and witnessing, nor should we fear to do what it takes in our leadership responsibility.
"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Luke 21:31-32
Ó R.J. Krejcir 1994, 2001 excerpt from the upcoming book 'Pew Sitting' www.intothyword.com