Dear friends and readers,
Are you a follower of Christ who is constantly bothered by your unwanted companion, FEAR?
Have you ever known someone who was so incapacitated by fear that they were nearly unable to make it through life? Unfortunately that is an all too often problem for lot's of folks including among some believers.
Fear takes many forms and fortunately is far less traumatizing for most people than those who suffer from Agoraphobia. Fear is an emotional response and is common in one form or another to all mankind. Even the most well trained and fearsome soldier, policeman or other first responders such as fire fighters are subject to fear. That is only natural. For those kinds of "front line" folks, training, education, team work and safety issues normally help them push past the fear factor and get the job done. But that does not mean the fear is not there. But for the rest of mankind, regular folks with 8 to 5's, families, bills and little league, fear can also be debilitating. For some folks more than others of course.
Christians are no less susceptible to fear than anyone else---but we should be. After all, we are the only persons on planet earth who's God and King says to us regularly, FEAR NOT!
True confession? Easier said than done. But there is help if we will but look. I had a young missionary on my staff many years ago who was subject to great fear. While on an outreach near a desert town, I later discovered that she was near paralyzed in fear an entire night while sleeping in a tent. All night long, a terrifying huge mountain lion was scratching on the outside of her tent fabric trying to get in. Sound silly? Well it wasn't for her, it was very real and very traumatic. Of course it was only wind and branches scratching at the tent but our human minds, particularly in the middle of the night can dredge up the most horrible circumstances and while we are involved in those mental gymnastics, nothing and I mean nothing can make the reality go away, frequently even prayer.
Have you ever noticed that the middle of the night often brings with it the worst possible kinds of worry? The light of day and a good cup of coffee often dulls the worry but of course some worry and fear is truly rooted in reality. Illness particularly when suffered by a loved one, loss of a family member, divorce, wandering children, unending bills that threaten to bury us in a veritable mountain of debt, all these things and more can take their toll and the fear that accompanies those kinds of circumstances is not easily shed. In fact I learned as a very young pastor, that although ALL the answers to mankind's problems are contained within the pages of our Bibles, still you cannot simply "throw scripture" at people and expect their problems to go away and their fear to dissipate.
A small confession; I learned something extremely valuable early on while performing fear counseling sessions as well as other types of counseling. Often, it was better for me to simply keep my mouth shut and listen. Folks in many cases did not need advice, they needed someone to walk along side them or sit with them and patiently listen while they worked through the problem on their own. In many cases they left my office thinking their pastor was a genius while in fact they had the answers all along themselves. Not always of course, some people really do need council including scriptural reminders to work their way through what ever it is that is bothering them.
NOTE OF ADVICE TO HUSBANDS; Something else I learned early on in life. Gents, don't be in a rush to try and fix your wife's problems. Often she just needs to vent and have an understanding ear. She will generally come up with the answers all by herself and if she really wants your advice, she will ask for it. (-:
Ladies as a husband myself I would not think of trying to give you advice about communications with your husband. I would just get myself into trouble )-:
But back to fear. You know as a believer we really do have some protection and guidance available to us. First really is the power of prayer. I myself have found myself worrying about something and only after working myself into a dither did I finally slow down and realize I had not prayed about the issue FIRST! As a pastor one of my first questions is "have you prayed about this"? Frankly in a very large number of cases the answer is NO! So let's talk about a very real scripture that some folks in the church try and explain away. John 10:27 (As you know the Lord refers to His followers as sheep), "My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me". Yes, yes, I know somewhere along the line someone has taught you that the Lord only speaks to us through His written word. Ah, well could someone please find that scripture in the Bible and send it to me because I have read the whole thing and cannot find it anywhere. You can also send a note to both Daniel and John who had visions and dreams.
Yes, the word of God does speak to us as we read or hear it. In fact "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God", Romans 10:17. But is that the ONLY way God communicates with us? God "spoke" to Adam and Eve, to Cain, to Moses through a burning bush. He spoke to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob (Israel). He spoke to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:9. and in fact God spoke to the prophet Elijah more than once. And how did He do that? First, God had to get Elijah's attention and when He had it He spoke to the prophet in a "still small voice". Was that an outside voice or an inside voice? Who knows. But of one thing I can absolutely assure you; If you want to hear that "still small voice" you have to slow down. Chill out, get by yourself and pray and then listen. Shed the hecticity of daily life. No guarantees of course because it is up to Him how He chooses to communicate with you.
To clarify, I am not speaking of the gifts of the Spirit as reflected in either 1 Corinthians chapter 12 or Romans chapter 12. I am not speaking of gifts of knowledge, wisdom, prophecy or tongues. I am not speaking of a gift of discernment. For the record I believe in all those gifts but also believe according to 1 Corinthians chapter 14 verse 40 (in speaking of the various gifts) "Let all things be done decently and in order". NO WEIRD STUFF with the gifts of the Spirit!
But yes, I also believe in scripture when it says "My sheep will HEAR my voice". Did you notice that did not say "READ MY VOICE"? It says hear My voice. The problem with most people is that they are far too busy to hear the Lord speak to them even if He was trying to beat a brass drum in their ear. We are commanded to pray. That means speaking To God. But honestly some folks spend so much time speaking that they don't take the time to listen. Once again, slow down, get by yourself, spend time with the Lord, certainly pray but then be quiet and listen. And then if He chooses to speak to you keep your own counsel. It seems in this day in age that the church is over run by the "GOD TOLD ME" crowd. If God is really speaking to you regardless of how He chooses to do so, you are far better off simply acting upon what He has said to you. But before you act, seek confirmation with the word of God because He will never ever tell you something that is in conflict with His written word.
Also, many of you reading this were estranged from the organized church for some past hurt. Yes, individual Christians can be mean spirited at times. Entire church boards can become so tied up in the work of the church that they loose track of the fact that the work of the church is PEOPLE! But you cannot paint the entire church with the broad brush of "hurtful". Look for a small fellowship with a pastor who is full gospel and who is vested in his congregation. They are out there and pastors are given by Christ to the church for a very specific reason, (Please look up Ephesians chapter 4 verses 11-16). Having a pastor to speak with in times of worry and strife is a very comforting thing.
When people come up to me and say "God told me", I generally tune them out. The same holds true when folks hand me business cards labeling themselves as PROPHETS or APOSTLES! Those cards go directly into my round file (garbage can). If you are ever in the genuine presence of a Prophet of God or an Apostle, you will know it. They do not need to beat their own drum so the world knows. The signs of verification of either of those offices is clearly found in the Bible. If God speaks to you, consider yourself blessed but don't be in a hurry to announce it to the world. Now a word of clarification so no one misunderstands; I read my Bible and count on it for the answers to life's problems and recommend that you do the same. It is invaluable to followers of Christ.
In that Bible, the word fear is listed over 500 times in one form or another. It is a very real human emotion and no one should ever feel ashamed because they are having problems with fear. But there is great value in scripture so we do need to rely on it for advice in the important issues of life. One caution however; When praying if we do receive some kind of answer from God, please know that inwardly God's voice and our own voice can sound exactly the same. That is why we need to confirm what we think we are hearing with the printed word of God. I cannot stress that enough. And don't forget, counsel with your pastor.
Worry and fear can recede into the background of our minds after prayer. Notice I did not say that the problem would disappear. Sometimes problems simply have to work themselves out and we need to be proactive in caring for our own responsibilities. Also, some illnesses and other human problems are beyond our power to fix. We don't always get what we want. But the Lord is always there and listening to the cry of our hearts.
Someone once said "the Lord often misses golden opportunities to be early but He is never late". In my experience God does His best work at what we would call the very last moment. That is what builds our faith.
Proverbs 9:10 gives us the basics for trusting God with our problems; "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding". I am not speaking of the kind of fear in which we are in dread of God Himself. After all, we are saved by the blood of the Lamb of God because God loves us and desires our fellowship. No, I am speaking of a kind of fear in which we really do respect our God and want our lives to reflect as closely as possible, HIS LIFE! Jesus clearly states in Luke 6:46 "But why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and not do the things that I say?" The things that the Lord says are pretty well boiled down to the proverbial nutshell in Galatians chapter 5 (22-26) while speaking of the things of the Spirit. On the other hand the same could be said to be true about those who are NOT walking in the spirit but rather in the flesh because Galatians also spells those out in verses 17-21. Decisions leading to a "flesh ruled" life style can end up disastrous as is seen in Matthew chapter 7 (21-23) in which folks who think they belong to God are told "Not everyone who says to Me Lord, Lord shall enter the Kingdom of heaven". Reading further we discover that these people are "PRACTICING LAWLESSNESS (evil)". We are not speaking here of honest mistakes repented for. We are speaking of people who say they are believers but have never really changed from evil lifestyles.
In times of worry and fear the very first step is repentance and prayer. Making certain our lives are playing themselves out in Godly ways. Also worthy (more than worthy) of mention is James 4:8 "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you". And verse 10 "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up". A sincerely humble heart yearning after God will get His attention.
Fear and worry are a natural part of human existence but there is help. Scripture tells us (Ephesians 2:14) "For He Himself (Jesus) is our peace". And He further says in John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you; Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid".
Someone once said "most worries never become reality". Basically that can be said for most of our human middle of the night sweat sessions. Not that bad stuff does not occasionally happen because it most assuredly does. The question is, are you as a believer and follower of Christ walking through what ever issue is bothering you, BY YOURSELF? Here is something for you to think about;
We look at our lives differently than God looks at our lives. Picture in your minds eye a standard 12 inch long ruler. It begins with one inch and ends with 12. That ruler figuratively represents your life. You are holding it horizontally to you so you see the entire thing at one time. BUT, you can only understand the particular mark upon which you currently stand. The number 1 inch mark represents your first birthday, Perhaps number 6 represents your marriage date. Now here you are at 2 a.m. on a particularly worrisome night and you are at the number 9 inch mark of your life. You are worried sick and in fear because you do not know what the number 10 mark will be like when you get there. Sound familiar?
God on the other hand is Omnipresent. He is everywhere at the same time and knows the beginning from the end. Surprise, even of your life. The prophet Jeremiah was spoken to by the Lord in Jeremiah 1:4-5. "Then the word of the Lord came to me saying": " Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you-----"! And the word of God also says that He is no respecter of persons, Romans 2:11 (note: Some versions say "For there is no partiality with God"). One way or another the message is the same. God knows about your tomorrows. Just like the prophet Jeremiah, no matter what happens in your life, it is no surprise to Him. In short, He looks at your 12 inch ruler not horizontally but from end to end. He sees the date of your birth and at the very same time He sees the date of your passing from this earth. He knows exactly what will happen in your life at the number 10 mark.
Try asking Him and even if He chooses not to reveal the exact future to you, He will bring that peace that passes all understanding into your heart. You are not alone.
Matthew 28:20 "----And lo, I Am with you always, even to the end of the age. AMEN"!
Have a great sleep tonight and be at peace.