By Dr. Charles Stanley
Slothfulness isn’t always a matter of laziness.1 This landmine can be caused by a host of issues, including fear of failure. This fear can be caused by discouragement, perfectionism, or negative previous experiences. In this study, you’ll discover how to overcome sluggishness caused by fear of failure.
1. The dispirited believer
Disheartened people can seem slothful. Perhaps their parents told them they were worthless, stupid, or would never amount to anything. Or they are disabled and feel their options are limited. Or they’ve tried again and again, but can’t seem to achieve their goal.
- Do you feel discouraged for any reason similar to those above? Explain.
- Read Galatians 6:7-10. What are the consequences of giving into our fleshly desire to give up? Ask God for a practical thing you can do to obey this passage.
- Even if we don’t experience earthly success, one day we’ll be rewarded in heaven for our faithfulness. What do we need to do to earn heavenly honor (Col. 3:23-24)? Are you currently doing this?
2. Overcoming discouragement
Learn your identity in Christ.
- According to Isaiah 41:8-10, how does God see His people? What does He promise to do on their behalf?
Live by God’s definition of success.
- Read Ephesians 2:8-9. Why should no believer feel that he or she lacks the ability to succeed in following God’s will?
Begin with small, attainable steps. Be realistic about what you can do.
- Think about three of your goals. What is a small step you could take towards fulfilling each one?
1. The perfectionist
Perfectionists sometimes put off a task or project indefinitely. Because they want to do everything with excellence, perfectionists may also resist obeying God if His will seems difficult or impossible.
- Moses felt unqualified to address Pharaoh. Why? (See Exodus 4:10-16.)
- Think of at least two responsibilities that you’ve put off. What excuses keep you from fulfilling them?
In the parable of the talents, one man misused his master’s money (Matt. 25:14-30).
- What does the servant give as a reason?
- The “talents” in the story were units of money, but they represent a person’s abilities. What does putting the money in the bank represent? How can you apply this parable to the tasks you are postponing?
2. Overcoming perfectionism
Let go of trying to do everything flawlessly.
- What have you been putting off so you have time to “do it just right”? How can you modify your goal so you can accomplish it?
Prioritize. Each night, take a three-by-five card and write three things you want to get done the next day. At the end of the day, evaluate your progress.
Avoid comparing yourself to others. Much of a perfectionist’s drive comes from trying to impress or compete with others. Don’t set goals that are outside God’s will for your life. Then you’ll be free to accomplish all He’s asked you to do.
- Read 2 Corinthians 10:12. In what area do you need to stop comparing yourself to others?
C. Past disappointment.
1. The disappointed believer
Fear of failure sometimes springs from hurt and anger with God. Perhaps you lived obediently, but your hopes ended in disaster, or your heart’s desire never materialized. Discouragement often turns into slothfulness.
Joseph certainly had every right to become lazy. He was sold into slavery by his own flesh and blood and then later jailed because he fled sexual immorality.
- What did Joseph see as the reason for his enslavement (Gen. 45:5-11)?
- How do you respond to hardship and major disappointments? Ask God to help you continue to serve Him despite these kinds of setbacks.
2. Overcoming disappointment.
Be real with God about your hurt and disappointments (Ps. 42). Journaling your thoughts or writing God a letter can help you express how you feel.
Instead of asking God why it happened, ask what He wants you to learn through it (Ps. 119:71).
- Think about at least one major disappointment you’ve faced. What do you think God wanted to teach you through it?
Ask God to give you motivation to try again. Remember that He promises to make all things bear good fruit in your life (Rom. 8:28).
Closing: Slothfulness is sometimes caused by a fear of failure. If this is the case with you, determine what is behind your fears, and you’ll be able to find freedom to actively and powerfully serve your risen Savior.
Prayer: Lord, thank you that I don’t have to remain slothful. I can be set free to obey you and use my time wisely. Guide me out of this bondage and enable me to actively serve you in every area of my life. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.
1. Some medical conditions, such as depression or hypothyroidism, can make someone feel weak or sluggish. Please seek medical treatment if you think your sluggishness might be rooted in a physical disorder.