The Bible tells us that the “Just shall live by faith” . . . but our reality is that we, far too often, live in fear. We worry about the economy, we worry about conflicts around the world, we worry over health, and a wide range of other issues. So, the question is, “How do I move from fear-based living . . . and into faith-based living?”
Of course, there will always be those who claim not to fear and perhaps a test is in order . . . and perhaps some don’t have fear, so here is a personal test:
Those who do not fear . . . are those who do not love. Those who love become vulnerable . . . Love makes us realize that we have placed ourselves in a situation where we can be hurt, betrayed, abandoned, used or abused, and to suffer loss and pain. If you love, you care a lot and that enables fear . . . that is just how we are wired.
In fact, as we look around, fear is the headlines of the world today . . . not only the headlines . . . but also the bylines of news reports on TV, radio, and in the newspapers. We see, hear, and read about all manner of things that can and do produce fear in us . . . fear in the nation . . . and fear across the world. At this moment in time there are a number of concerns around the world: the economy is staggering, the Middle East is on fire with uprisings by ugly mobs, and war between Israel and almost anybody seems unavoidable . . .
You still don’t think people don’t live in fear? I recently read that this is the most worried generation that has ever lived. As one example, statics prove that life-expectancy has doubled in the USA over the past 100 years. That is true even in spite of the world having more diseases today than at any other time in history. Still, there has never been a more healthy society than we are as Americans today . . . yet, in spite of that blessing . . . there has never been a group of people more worried about their health. Try to get a doctor’s appointment . . . 2 to 3 weeks in a small town?
The truth is that we live in a culture of fear . . . It is clear, given our world and our culture that none of us are going to be able to live a life free of fear and vulnerability. In spite of that, God’s goal is that we not be controlled by fear. Scripture bears witness to that reality . . . because frequently we are encouraged, “Do not be afraid.” God gives us repeated assurances of His presence in our lives . . . and over and over again He says, “I am with you . . . do not be afraid!” God constantly reminds us that no matter what happens in life, He is with us. In Isaiah 43, He says, “I have redeemed you, I called you by name when you passed through the waters, you will never be destroyed . . . ”
Here is the truth: God wants us to live beyond fear . . . that is the call on our lives. Yet, in spite of that call and God’s assurances, when we are faced with fearful events . . . we fear. Rather than being motivated to correct the cause . . . we become paralyzed by the problem . . . and immobilized by the issues . . .
Here is the difficult part in moving from fear-based living into faith-based living . . . in order to conquer our fear we must go through our fear. We cannot go around it, over it, or under it. We have to meet it head-on . . . but the simple truth is that it just seems easier to run from it. Faith-based living demands that I act in a way that says, “I trust God . . . even when I am afraid.” It means approaching what I fear head-on . . . as opposed to avoiding it.
Do you know that the first recorded response to fear was avoidance – running and hiding? It is true. In Genesis, we find that prior to the fall of man there was no record of fear even being part of the human experience. Man did not even know fear . . . because there was no fear. Yet, when humans chose to rebel against God . . . fear, insecurity, worry, and anxiety moved into the human situation and has spread through our DNA into every generation. As we look at Genesis, we see that after they sinned, God came to visit . . . and they hid – hid in fear! God called out, “Where are you?” Adam replied, “I heard you and I was afraid . . . so I hid.” The truth of the matter is that he could have just courageously confessed . . . but fear made him hide. Think about it: Adam hiding from God was not even rational. God knew where he was all along! Truth: We cannot hide from God. Adam hiding was not even reasonable . . . God knows everything. God knew what he had done. TRUTH: We can’t hide from God either – God also knows what we did . . . He knows what we thought about . . . and He knows what we didn’t do—and He knows we didn’t do it only because we couldn’t figure out how to do it and not get caught! Adam simply didn’t know that what he tried to conceal . . . had already been revealed. That is the whole point of fear . . . It is not rational . . . and it is not reasonable. It didn’t solve anything for Adam . . . and it can’t solve anything for us. That is why God wants us to live beyond fear! Jesus came from Heaven and told people, “Don’t Worry . . . ”
But God knows all things and He understands that is part of our chemistry. Still, He wants us to learn how to function in spite of our fear, how to move despite of our mood and how to act despite of our anxiety. He says, “I want you to learn how to obey me in spite of the obstacles in your path, because if you will trust me and try me then you can experience my power at work in your life . . . ” He is saying, “. . . Face it, go through it and then I will help you . . . to step beyond it.”
In I Kings 19, we find a perfect illustration from history. There we find the great, courageous Prophet, Elijah. God called him to service at a time when the Nation Israel had been led into idolatry by a wicked Queen named Jezebel. This woman was one of the most powerful, ruthless, wicked characters in the entire Old Testament. She was married to a weak, hen-pecked King who seems to have been without any core values. This Queen was a formidable opponent, so the weak King simply stepped aside and let her run the show. She took over and dominated and led the nation in Baal worship. She had assembled an army of 450 priests . . . men who made up messages for the people and claimed the messages had come from God himself. It was in this vortex that God called Elijah to take a stand.
Elijah challenged her Baal priests to a smack down . . . before the entire nation. They would meet at Mt. Carmel and see if the Lord was God, or if Baal was God. As they assembled there on that day, Elijah asked a powerful question: “How long are you going to be halt between two opinions?” He was asking them, “How long will you waiver over two beliefs?” He then declared, “Today, you must decide if Baal is God and if he is, then serve him. But if the Lord is God, then serve Him.” We know the story. God acted and sent down fire from Heaven. With it, He destroyed the false prophets and those who stood with them. This happened because one man had the courage to stand . . . yet, sadly, that same man who had been so out-numbered and unpopular; that man who had called down the fire from Heaven still remained vulnerable to fear. In spite of everything he had been told and had seen, he still was inclined to allow fear to control his life . . .
After the events had happened at Mt. Carmel, King Ahab returned home and told Jezebel what he had seen. Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah and said, “May God kill me if I haven’t killed you by this time tomorrow.” Elijah had to make a decision – just as we have to decide – “Am I going to approach the problem, or am I going to run from the problem?” In short, Elijah said, “I am now retired, I can’t cope, I can’t take it anymore, it is too much for me . . . I have had enough,” and he took off.
Sometimes trying to comfort people in pain, we say, “The Lord won’t put more on you than you can stand.” It is catchy and even encouraging, but it is just flat wrong. The truth is that sometimes, God will, indeed, put more on us than we can bear . . . why will He do that? He will do that: to stretch us . . . to grow us . . . and to move us to depend on Him. It is in these times we can discover strength beyond description . . . beyond explanation . . . faith we didn’t know we had . . . a level of hope that we have never experienced. Elijah said, “I have had enough . . . ” And he headed for the wilderness. In a classic example of what worry and fear can do to a human, Elijah calls out to God and says, “Take my Life!” Sadly, he proposed a permanent solution . . . for what was actually a temporary problem.
But it is good to know that when fear took over his mind . . . God did not abandon him and He did not cast him out. What God did was support him . . . He sent an angel to minister to his needs. There is an important lesson here for us: God will help us live beyond our fears, anxieties, and worries by sending us what we need . . . and sending it when we need it (perhaps not what we want . . . but always what we need – and there is a difference).
Notice in the story . . . God does not rebuke Elijah, nor does He rebuff or punish him. He sent an angel to lift him up . . . when we are weak, people will put us down . . . but not so with God – He will lift us up.
Everything that God says you are . . . You are!
Everything God says you can have . . . You can have!
Everywhere God says you can go . . . You can go!
Everything God says you can do . . . You can do!
Place your confidence in Him . . . not in your house . . . We have recently learned that our houses can let us down . . . our houses have lost 40% of their value in the past 2 years. Place your confidence in Him . . . not in your stocks and bonds . . . We have recently seen how those things can diminish in a troubled economy. Place your confidence in Him . . . not in another person . . . People can let us down and break our hearts . . . but God never fails.
In Elijah’s time of concern, fear, frustration, and suffering, God provided him with security, companionship, food, and water and even baked him a cake. He encouraged Elijah. He had the angel tell him to go back to sleep because he was going to need his strength for the journey . . . and while Elijah slept, the angel watched over him and waited. God would remind Elijah, “You thought this was your ending place, but this isn’t your ending place . . . this is not your stopping place . . . this is not the end of your journey . . . the end of your blessing . . . the end of your joy . . . you still have a bunch of living ahead of you. You still have to come to that place where I want you to be . . . you will live to declare the Glory of God!
When Elijah wakes, God takes him further into the wilderness; there he experienced fire, wind, and an earthquake. Inside him a small voice begins to speak to him . . . in this he does not get the information . . . but he does come to understand the situation. God doesn’t disagree with him, but neither does God do what Elijah asks Him to do. He doesn’t get Elijah out . . . He didn’t confirm Elijah’s desperation . . . He didn’t step in and handle the problem for Elijah . . . He doesn’t fix things for Elijah, but what He does is . . . He fixes things in Elijah!
He said, “You have to go back the same way . . . that is the only way out . . . You have to go through the problem . . . Jeezebel is still going to be there . . . she still going to be as mean and nasty as ever . . . she is still going to be as cruel and determined . . . and she is still wanting to kill you.” In this God wanted Elijah to learn that he could only overcome it by trusting God and going through his situation. The point is that God doesn’t want us to merely talk in faith . . . He wants us to walk in faith. His promise is that if we will just take one step towards it . . . we will also be taking a step towards Him. When we take a step toward Him we can see His power at work in our lives . . . then our faith will grow, our confidence will soar, our hope will emerge, our enthusiasm will expand, and our tomorrow will be brighter.
I am reminded of hearing a guy tell about spending several weeks laboring over a difficult jigsaw puzzle. Finally he finished it . . . and felt great victory – a meaningful accomplishment. He was so proud that he left the completed puzzle displayed on a table in the living room so he could show it off. Everyone who came in admired his work. Then one morning, the dog chased the cat through the house and crashed into the table and dumped the puzzle into the floor into a big mess. The energy went out of the guy and he was overwhelmed. He fretted all day over the tragedy . . . then, in his sadness and defeat, it occurred to him . . . “Everything I need to reassemble the puzzle is right here in this room.” He stood the table back up, picked up the pieces, and got to work . . .
That is how we are to deal with the challenges, pressures, struggles, and turmoil in our lives. The Lord has already provided us with everything we need – the indwelling Holy Spirit, the promise of a glorious inheritance, new life, hope . . . and add to those things . . . His assurances.
Remind me again, “What is it we are worried about?” What have we been thinking?