"When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” – Psalm 56:3-4
Although I’ve never set out to count it myself, I’ve heard it said that the Bible urges us to “fear not” a total of 365 times… once for every single day of the year. While this number may or may not be accurate, I do believe we all need this one reminder from God each and every day. And we all know exactly why… because there are so many mind-spinningly-jacked-up things on this planet capable of driving us totally crazy with fear, if we let them.
At the very second I write this there is a loony in North Korea with a nuc threatening our nation, while our nation is angry, divided and fighting itself. Innocent children are being stolen and trafficked, and shot inside their schools, while others are dying from contracting the flu virus there… or from intentionally and purposefully eating a Tide pod. And, the truth is, all these terrible and worrisome things are the equivalent of a single grain of sand on the seashore of life as we know it. These are trying times we are living in. And the direct result is a troubled society burdened by consistent worry, persistent anxiety, super-charged stress… and you guessed it, paralyzing fear.
So what do we do? We isolate, self-medicate or retaliate. We try to distract ourselves with consumerism or accomplishment or our own brand of obsessive behavior. We self-sabotage. We destructively break things…. sometimes ourselves… sometimes the hearts of others. We carry on. We try to stay calm. We buy more antibacterial soap, apply hand sanitizer three times an hour, and go Krogering with masks covering our faces (not that I’m saying precautions aren’t good and sometimes necessary). All the while we keep our eyes fixed on our TVs, computers, and smartphones and our ears tuned into news radio and podcasts, for yet another dose of dread that is wrapped in each enticing drop of bad news that trickles in like IV fluids to our veins.
Simply stated, if left free to roam within our hearts, minds, and spirits, fear can and will lead to a life of devastation and stagnancy, and is the one thing that most commonly prevents God’s children from living in the fullness of His grace, glory, and peace.
With all that said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that the command against fear is one of the most frequently communicated commands Jesus gave us during His time here on earth.
The fact that messages like “fear not”, “take heart” and “have courage” were so frequently repeated by Jesus does not mean these are the most important commands (because Jesus told us through His disciples that the most important commandment of all is to love). “He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” – Matthew 22:36-40
But, this repetition clearly does say something very significant about our predisposition and susceptibility to fear. We are born into this world hard-wired with all the makings of becoming tortured, fearful souls, and God Himself is the only way for us to avoid living that kind of painfully consumed life.
That’s why His command not to fear is an actual command, not just a recommendation or a very strong suggestion. God is known to be the Great Comforter, but the only way we humans are able to experience His perfect peace (which translates into a life without fear) is by developing that progressive relationship I mentioned in a previous blog… learning about Him and experiencing His presence working in our lives… while we journey through times of trial and wilderness with our eyes, ears and hearts fixed solely on Him, rather than the chaos of the world around us.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” – 2 Corinthians 3-4
To dig into this a little bit, I thought we could revisit the story of Gideon. An angel of the Lord gave Gideon the weighty instructions to tear down a Baal alter. And scripture tells us that Gideon was so frightened by the likelihood of retaliation by the people of the city, (lead by his own family none-the-less) that he fearfully accomplished his mission in full-on stealth mode.
“On that very night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s young bull and a second bull seven years old. Then tear down the altar of Baal that belongs to your father and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Build a well-constructed altar to the Lord your God on the top of this mound. Take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down.” So Gideon took ten of his male servants and did as the Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his father’s family and the men of the city to do it in the daytime, he did it at night.” – Judges 6:25-27
Now, up to this point Gideon had already received several divine signs and wonders from God, yet he was still afraid. Furthermore, God Himself had guaranteed Gideon supernatural protection while accomplishing His missions, and yet… even so, he was still afraid. In fact, he was so terrified that he was incapable of carrying out God’s wishes in the light of day. Why? Because at that time Gideon had had very little personal experience with God, therefore His relationship with God was in its young and immature phases. At this point in the story, it appears that Gideon still had training wheels on his faith… and God appeared to be neither surprised nor disappointed by his weakness. And the reason, I believe, is because God knew and understood Gideon’s heart just like he knows and understands ours today.
The most important thing (to God and to us) was that Gideon listened and followed through! Despite the fear, Gideon did it anyway, to the best of his ability. And, by boldly doing it afraid, Gideon gave God the opportunity to fulfill all of His promises. As a result, Gideon’s faith grew stronger after this and every single experience he had with God, leading up to the biggest battle of his life… after which God made him king of Israel.
Wait. Did you hear that? In the beginning, Gideon was an unremarkable young dude called to a higher mission (he knew he alone was incapable of accomplishing). Therefore, he was obviously shaking in his handmade sandals. But by taking fearful steps in faith he was able to receive God’s supernatural guidance, protection, and sovereignty… to the point where he was eventually made royalty and given a crown!?! This, my friends, is the glory, grace and power of our amazing God.
“Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.” – Luke 16:10
After Gideon’s victorious battle, just as God had promised, the people of Israel came to him to make him their ruler. “Then the Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you as well as your sons and your grandsons, for you delivered us from the power of Midian.” (Pay attention here, this is where it gets good!) But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my sons will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” – Judges 8:22-23
By doing it afraid, with the Lord leading his way, Gideon was able to grow out of his fear by trusting God so much so that he chose to surrender his entire life to Him.
“I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” – Psalm 34:4
Gideon knew it was not by his own might that Israel was saved, but instead by the power of the almighty God. And furthermore, he knew that he as a simple man was not capable of ruling over Israel without the same divine intervention that had restored his people from the hands of a powerful enemy. So Gideon was simply letting God do what only God could do. He laid all power, control, and his entire sense of “self” at the feet of God and elected to serve the Lord instead of his own agenda. And as a result, he opened himself up to God’s perfect will (i.e. power, control, and future), not only for the good of himself, but more importantly… for the good of all of Israel. This is how God, our Father, wants us to live. And, we can look to the life and words of Jesus for the perfect example of the selflessness God desires from all of us.
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." – Mark 10:45
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8
One of my favorite quotes is one by Lao Tzu, when he stated, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” The Bible tells us that life is a journey… one that eventually leads to salvation and eternal life for all believers. But what is not certain is whether our lives will start with fearful moments that lead to increased faith, divine miracles, and end in absence of fear… or begin with fearful moments that lead to more and more destructively fearful moments, and end in a half-full life.
The difference, my friends, comes from doing it afraid. It comes from taking one step in faith, followed by another… and another… through fear, high water and sometimes even through the valley of the shadow of death.
Remember, Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” – John 10 – 10
Fear originates in darkness and therefore is in direct opposition of God, who is the true essence of love, light and life. And just as the presence of light makes it impossible for darkness to remain, God is is equally capable of chasing out fear from our hearts and replacing it with love, peace and certainty. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” - 2 Timothy 1:7
This week and everyday I urge you to choose to focus your eyes, ears, and hearts on the words and life of Jesus. He is the only good news that can prevent us from drowning in all the bad that gushes over us every day. By choosing to look to Him, we are truly capable of living a life of abundance that conquers all… “yes, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20
“Now, brothers and sisters, I want you to remember the Good News I told you. You received that Good News message, and you continue to base your life on it. That Good News, the message you heard from me, is God’s way to save you. But you must continue believing it. If you don’t, you believed for nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 1-2 ERV
For more juicy details relating to the story of Gideon, be sure to refer back to my blog, Thinking Outside Of The “I”, if you haven’t already read it. And, if you feel you are being called to do something that scares you… something you know you, yourself, are not humanly equipped to do, I have four words for you. Go. Saddle. Your. Donkey! Cast all your faith on your Father and move forward in trust and humble expectation of a miracle, because where human capabilities end, the Glorious otherwise impossible begins.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified: do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
"Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that He will lift you up in His own good time. Leave all your worries with Him, because He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:6-7
“’For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear: I will help you. Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,’ declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” – Isaiah 41:13-14
See, there’s that beautiful, comforting, and totally intentional repetition again… “Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you.” He tells us this twice in a row because He really wants us to know it, trust it, and expect it… because our Great and Gracious Father always keeps His promises. How unbelievably fortunate are we then, my friends? #livelikeachsah #onceforgiven #twiceblessed #thanksbetojesus #theend