THE FACTOR OF FEAR

Posted by Perry


What do you fear? It's really amazing how many people are afraid of so many things. Common fears are: deep water, needles, growing old in this body, losing my mind, monsters, the dark, flying, falling, failure, criticism, rejection, death, retirement, the unknown...and the list goes on and on.

Do you get the picture? People around us live in fear. Maybe you share in some of those fears. Our fears cause us to make specific choices, all of which are not good for healthy living and our relationships. For instance, if you're afraid of confrontation you may put up with a bad job situation when you don't have to. Or maybe you're afraid of growing old alone, so you make choices to be with people who aren't good for you.

Churches can be gripped with fear. They fail to practice discipline because they're afraid someone might leave. Afraid to try something because we've not done it like that before. Afraid to let something go because they've grown comfortable with it, or because it feels too much like they're losing their heritage. Churches can be afraid to follow God for fear of the unknown, what it might cost, or what it might require. You may have passed up a ministry opportunity because you're afraid. Afraid the kids won't respond to you. You may be afraid of speaking in public. Afraid you don't have anything worth saying. Afraid you don't have what it takes to do the job. Afraid of falling and losing face.

Our culture thrives on the thrill, anxiety, heart-stopping action, living on the edge. It profits from our fears while we all too often live enslaved to them: at work, at home, in our private life. We're consumed with safety. Have you noticed it? Some of it is good. We buckle up behind our airbags and safety cages. We put our baby bed rails closer together. Some high school tracks are rubber now instead of rock. We're insured to the hilt, we've got answers ready and waiting in case the preacher asks us to volunteer for a ministry, and we fight tooth and nail against what is slightly unfamiliar or uncomfortable.

I want you to know that you're not alone. Whether we'd admit it or not, everyone reading this blog is effected by our silent, private fears, whatever they may be. From the very beginning fear has dominated people's lives, to their own detriment, but I also want you to know that God never intended for us to live that way.

Do you remember the story in the Bible about God trying to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land? The book of Exodus tells us the story of God's delivering Israel from Egypt and their journey to Canaan. He told them over and over He was going to give them that land: a land flowing with milk and honey. It's a beautiful piece of real estate that has been reserved just for you. I'm going to kill your enemies, drive out all the land squatters, bless you in every way, and all you have to do is move in and take the land.

Numbers 13 tells us how God instructed Moses to send 12 spies into the land to search it out, explore it, see if it wasn't all He had promised. And He repeated the promise. I'm giving you the land, the key word being GIVING. So they did. Those twelve representatives went, and they explored.

READ NUMB3RS 13:25-14:10a

Notice 11 observations about fear from what you just read:

1. Fear always has a "but"; 2. Fear looks for the obstacles; 3. Fear focuses on the difficulties; 4. Fear spreads like wildfire; 5. Fear doesn't listen to reason; 6. Fear demoralizes and immobilizes us; 7. Fear says "if only"; 8. Fear says "we can't"; 9. Fear longs for the comfort of yesterday; 10. Fear will cause us to act foolishly; 11. Fear of this sort is offensive to God.

Compare this to John 10:10 where Jesus says that He came to give us abundant life. Just like God marvelously delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage, Jesus has delivered us from our slavery to sin. He gave us life, but He wants us to have abundant life. I want you to notice that the abundant life Jesus is speaking of here is found in the context of a personal trust relationship with God: the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep. When the sheep know the shepherd, they trust him, and when they trust him they are absolutely at ease to follow him. You'll never see a shepherd lead his flock out to pasture and hear the sheep say, "Woa! We can't go to that pasture! The hill is too steep. The grass is slippery. There might be wolves over there. We can't possibly eat all that grass. Let's stone this stupid shepherd and get a new one!" No - sheep simply trust and follow.

Here's what you need to hear today, whether you're a 10 year-old kid facing 5th grade peer-pressure, a high school teen so afraid of rejection that you're doing what God doesn't want you doing, an over-controlling parent afraid of failure, a church member who's favorite words are "but, if only, and we can't", or the spouse of someone who's job requires them to be away from home and in harms way every single day." Here's what I want you to hear today: God never intended for us to operate, live, work and relate in fear mode.

There's an abundant life out there that is ours for the taking. Spy it out. Explore what God is trying to give you. But as you listen to the naysayers and the people with the biggest "if only's", remember that God never intended for us to operate, live, work and relate out of fear. Your marriage will never last if you're always worried about infidelity. You'll never enjoy peace if you fear him or her leaving you. God never intended marriages to work that way. School is a tough place to live out your faith. You may be afraid the kids won't like you, afraid they'll make fun of you, afraid you don't really fit in. What are your fears causing you to give up and give in to? What are you fears costing you? God never intended His people to live in fear like that.

Some of you know God would have you share your life with someone. Will your fears of getting hurt or used stop you? You know God wants you to relax and rest. Will you allow your fears of criticism keep you running? Ask yourself this question: what is one thing in my life that fear is keeping me from enjoying the abundance of life God promised me? Just one thing? What is one relationship that fear is destroying? Fear of losing; fear of messing up; fear of not being loved; fear of not being accepted?

Does your fear always have a "but"? You'd be at ease, "but"...You'd be successful, "but"...

Have you been looking at the obstacles in your way?

Focusing on the difficulties?

What relationships at home, work or church are being caught up in the wildfire?

Is your fear preventing you from listening to reason?

Do you feel demoralized and immobilized?

Have you been saying: "if only"

Are your unintentional favorite words, "I can't"?

Are you longing for the comfort of yesterday?

Are you making decisions impulsively or even foolishly?

Are you aware that your fears may be offensive to God?

God never intended for you to live and operate out of fear. That's why Jesus could say His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. Israel didn't know that voice. God spoke to them words of victory and promised them a land of abundance, but they didn't follow. They cratered to their fears...and they died!

How might our futures be different if FEAR WASN'T A FACTOR?

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