On Sunday I shared about my own journey in an ongoing battle to overcome fear. What follows is a recap about what I shared, and what I hope are some encouraging words about different fears that tend to hold us all captive, and some brief bible verses I turn to when I’m looking to overcome each of them. I pray that these reminders bring you comfort and courage.
Some of the fears I deal with are that God overestimates me. The responsibilities, authority, trials, mourning, addiction, life-threatening accidents and illnesses – I’ve feared that God thought in vein that he was teaching me how to persevere; toughening me up; teaching me to bounce back stronger. I feared God thought he could prune a branch in me that wasn’t bearing fruit, like in John 15:2; Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
In this illustration, I feared that His attempt at doing so had gone awry, that his hand “slipped” and maybe He pruned the wrong one. He crippled me - maimed me for life - tried to humble me in a way that would build my faith, but instead wound up ruining me.
As it so often does, God’s Word challenged me:
If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
And I thought, yeah but... me!? Breaking me down further and further to reshape me into an even humbler follower of Christ? But I prefer being strong and proud and doing it my way and on my own! Without what makes me proud to be me, who am I? What’s the point?
Thankfully, God’s Word never fails:
James 1:2-4, 12
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness… Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
What a convicting group of verses for me!
What about you? What fears are keeping you from casting your anxiety on the Lord and letting him sustain you?
Fear God is not listening? Fear that, if he won’t take this cup from you, there can be no peace? Is it hard to imagine finding peace and understanding in light of current circumstances?
Philippians 4:6-7 ESV
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I notice that it doesn’t say, “And the peace of God, which comes from improved circumstances…” Instead scripture says He will give you peace beyond your understanding and guard your heart and mind, which I take to mean regardless of current circumstances.
Fear about a lack of basic necessities? What if the rug gets pulled out from under your carefully laid out house of cards?
Luke 12:22-26 ESV
And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?
Fear of being accountable for your actions? Fear of consequences, discipline? Fear of holding others accountable or disciplining them?
For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
I deal with this a lot in my line of work. We can hold ourselves and others accountable and discipline as needed in love – for betterment; for growth; and because we care.
Fear of not being able to pay the “cover charge” of eternal life? Fear your legacy isn’t enough to earn your place?
And a ruler asked him, “good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother”. And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “one thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
For those of us who feel the need to earn everything and do things in our own strength and resources, this is a great reminder that nothing else needs to be in the “assets” column of our spiritual general ledger other than following Jesus. Too often I think we want to impress and compete with some imagined unsaved versions of ourselves, instead of simply giving it all up to just follow Him and letting that be enough.
Fear that in the end, it will have all been for nothing? What if you go all-in for Jesus, do what’s asked of you, never knowing during your time on earth if it will have paid off?
I believe Jesus was God in the flesh, died for my sins, was resurrected by the Father, ascended to heaven, and has prepared a room for me in the Father’s house. If we believe that to be true, we can’t allow fear to cripple us. When we live in fear it damages our testimony. And it asserts that God either can’t or won’t, the cross of Calvary wasn’t enough, or that our specific circumstances are exceptions to his Word – all of which are lies.
Take heart, Hope Church! God loves us, has a perfect plan and perfect timing, and no matter how big our fears are, God is bigger!