FREEDOM FROM FEAR. PART III.

FREEDOM FROM FEAR. PART III.

On the verge of a historic election and review of a painful year, I came across another article depicting the adverse effects of overzealous societal lockdowns due to COVID concerns.  On this occasion, senior adults in Colorado were demonstrating because the authorities had prolonged their separation from loved ones. Many stated that they would rather die of the disease than loneliness.  For them, the emotional pain of being so rigidly separated from family is worse than the fear of catching COVID and dying from it.

From the very beginning of this threat, I have said that we need to live with a balance between courage and concern.  We don’t want to live in fear on the one hand, and, on the other, we want to be aware of just not doing stupid things.  A slew of young adults thrashing around in an indoor rave party?  Yep, that’s a stupid decision.  We need to be wise.  On the flip side, allowing fear to dictate our lives’ details will drive us to make poor decisions and lead us into slavery.  The wise Solomon noted that the “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

As we’re progressing in this discussion over fear, we’ve noted that when we no longer have the right reverence of God, we begin to embrace a wrong fear of man and the situations of mankind. These fears may be a physical threat, such as something in nature or harm from another human being.  This human harm may be an actual attack or their withholding something good from us that we desire.  When we live with these fears controlling us, we begin to make poor choices and eventually pay the consequences of those choices.  Like many pieces of life, the Bible is chuck full of people who gave into fear, even great people of faith at times, and had to deal with the ripple effects of their choice.  While there are countless illustrations of this principle of the wrong fear leading to failure, here are three quick ones that almost immediately come to mind.

1. Abraham lied about his wife to save his life. That’s right, and he actually did it twice.  The history tells us that the patriarch was a friend of God and the model of faith by taking God at His word and stepping out to follow him.  But shortly after his call of faith, Abraham went down to Egypt because of a famine, even though God told him to go to another place.  He then told the Egyptians that his wife, Sarah, was his sister because he feared they would kill him to take her.  He did the same thing years later in Genesis chapter 20, and his son, Isaac, learned the lesson of fear and likewise lied about his wife, Rebekah, as well in Genesis 26:7.  They were afraid of physical death and thus chose to sin against the closest person to them to save their lives. 

Fear of physical danger from the elements or what someone might physically do to us can trap us and tempt us to do what we know is wrong.  It can also prevent us from doing what we know is right such as when Peter in the New Testament refused to acknowledge his allegiance to Jesus because of fear.  Fear can also be what others will withhold from us or say to us if we do not give in to their demands.  Thus, anxiety can lead to unhealthy broken boundaries and dysfunctional relationships because people are afraid to say no.

2. In Israel’s history, King Saul found himself in a tight situation with the Philistine army closing around him. 1 Samuel 13 records that out of fear, Saul offered up the burnt offering to God, which was a task reserved for the priests and prophets to do.  On this occasion, Samuel was the prophet and the one responsible for the sacrifice.  A keyword here is probably panic.  Saul surveyed his situation through the eyes of men and saw the threat with no sign of Samuel being around, so he made the sacrificed himself.  Immediately after Saul’s actions, Samuel showed up and informed him that his kingship would not endure because of his lack of faith and falling to fear.

Fear can also drive us to a controlling mentality when we fail to trust in God’s time and reason.  A controlling attitude may result in all kinds of dysfunctional relationships and missing out on God’s best because we took matters into our own hands.

Thinking of Abraham again, we see that he chose this path when he took Hagar in Genesis 16 in addition to Sarah with the hopes of producing the promised son through her.  Hagar’s son was Ishmael, and to this day, we still experience tension in the world between the offspring nations that came from him and Isaac.  Islam and Israel.

3. Another reality is that when we give in to fear, we can also miss out on the great victories that God may have for us.  Going again to Israel’s history, we see that the first generation that came out of Egypt mostly missed the promised land as they feared the present inhabitants even though God told them they would be victorious.  Generations later, we see that Gideon is about to go into war, and shortly before the battle took place, he announced to the army that “anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.'” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.” Every time I read those numbers, I wonder what the 22 thousand men thought years later. I wonder if they kicked themselves for their decision to turn back and to miss out on the victory that God brought to his people.

The truth is that when God calls us into something, it will most usually mean stepping out of our comfort zone and bring risk.  It may mean we might actually suffer or even die.  On the other hand, when we know that we are his children and made for eternity, we can be at rest regardless of what happens in this realm, knowing what lies ahead in Heaven.  Then there is, of course, the reality that there are times when God brings us glorious results in the here and now, such as David’s victory over Goliath, which we noted in the first post over fear. 

In thinking again about the tensions of COVID and everything else in 2020, the reality is that a whole lot of folks will wake up discouraged and possibly fighting fear Wednesday morning following the Presidential election.  Regardless of who wins, half the country will experience a propensity to panic.  But for the child of God, we know that we do not have to live like the rest of the world does. We do not have to be driven by dread and fear.  We do not have to allow fear to rule us.  So how do we move from fear to faith?  Well, that will be the subject of our next post.

Freedom From Fear. Part I.

Freedom From Fear. Part I.

If you’re looking around these days there is plenty to be afraid of.  We have experienced unprecedented circumstances with COVID19 which has caused fear of the actual virus and ripple effects to the economy and countless personal ramifications around the country and globe.  The past few weeks have brought news images of racism, riots, heightened political saber-rattling and the list goes on.

Looking beyond the present panic though, fear is something that has plagued many people as far back as they can remember which affects every part of their lives and those closest to them.  Why are some driven by fear while others can face it and rise above it?  Why are there times when even the bravest among us are stymied by inner struggles?

Throughout the Bible we hear the voice of God calling out to his people to not give in to fear somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 times.  One powerful occasion is the Lord speaking to the leader, Joshua, with the call to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Yes, when we look at the divine connection we can see the fear in a different light. On the other hand, if we are merely the accidental byproducts of evolution with no eternal and divine purpose, then people may be right to fear. After all, the honest conclusion is that it is all about the survival of the fittest in this life alone.

However you cut it though, there is an element of fear in the hearts of mankind that we must deal with.  Questions arise such as: Where does fear come from? How does fear affect us and how can we move past it?  Those are the questions that I will address over the next three posts.

In considering the plague of fear, I am reminded of the differences in how the first two kings of Israel faced evil and danger in 1 Samuel chapter 17 which occurred around 1000 BC.  At the time, Saul was king and he and his entire army faced off with the Philistines and their champion, Goliath.  The text tells us that Saul and the army of Israel were “dismayed and terrified” as they looked at the evil and danger.  David, who would later become king himself, focused his eyes and heart above the fray onto God and declared that it was not “by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”  With that, David charged the danger head-on and won the victory for Israel even though he was no match physically for the Philistine warrior. 

Instead of looking around at all the potential fears of this realm, David looked up to the creator of the world and overcame it.  I want you and me to live that way as well. God wants us to live that way.  Paul exhorted the young evangelists, Timothy to not fear because “God gave us not a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.”  Because of Christ, we can move from a life of fear to a life of faith.

error

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)