It’s Monday Grace!
Fear is a normal human emotion. If you think about it, fear has an important place in our lives. We are often right to hesitate or even to run when we hear certain sounds or see certain things.
Years ago our family was enjoying a hike in the foothills near our home. We tried to keep everyone together, but one of the younger boys had a few moments by himself on the path. During that short time, he heard a strange noise that puzzled him. When we asked him to describe it, he said it was like a rattle. Yes, we do have rattlesnakes in our foothills. He also said that he saw something moving away from him in the grass.
Of course, we were afraid! Rattlesnakes and young children are not a good mix. We had never seen one near the path, but neighbors spoke of them. We were not as careful as we should have been. But our little boy had no understanding that he should be afraid. Fear has a good place in an area with rattlesnakes.
The problem with fear is that it isn’t easy to control. There are long lists of things that people fear. Crowds and loneliness, heights and holes, getting married and staying single, growing old and dying. We fear most of the passages of life at times. And we fear things we don’t understand, which is most of life.
But we cannot allow fear to keep us from doing what we need to do. In fact, fear can cripple us in life and work. By causing us to focus on negative possibilities fear holds us back.
So, let me say it plainly: I want confidence!
I don’t want arrogance or self-righteousness or a sense of superiority. I just want to be confident in the things I am called to do. I hate letting my fears stop me from doing good things.
Once again, there is nothing wrong with wanting what you are supposed to have!
According to some Bible teachers, fear is a lack of faith. Now, I admit that I struggle with that, but I agree. I also believe that fear is normal. So, let me adjust the way we think about this. Let’s take any sense of condemnation or shame out of the equation. If God gave us fear to protect us from the evils of this world, then fear can be good for us. But if fear is a lack of faith, then maybe all of us need to learn to trust the Lord more. That’s a simple and true statement.
Part of growing in the Christian life is learning to trust the Lord in every area of life. No one enters the Christian life fully grown. We are fully saved and justified when we come to Jesus, but the way we learned to live is still with us. What I call “the flesh” still retains the thinking of the old way. The fears we gathered as we grew up in the flesh are almost all still with us, even though we belong to Jesus.
Certain things will always bring fear to our hearts. That’s normal. But faith allows us to look past those fears to the Lord who loves us. When we do look past them, we see that He is bigger and stronger than anything we fear.
So, is there still good in fear for us? Yes! Fear keeps us from doing things on our own, apart from the Lord. Fear should keep us from trying to live in our own strength and wisdom. Fear should draw us to His strength, to His will.
In other words, if I decide that I should do something for the Lord and move forward on my own initiative and in my own power, I should be afraid. Instead, I should learn to listen to His voice and do only what He tells me to do. If I learn to do that, I never have to be afraid of my performance or the results. Whatever He calls me to do, He will accomplish through me. That’s the message of grace as applied to Christian service. There is no failure, no condemnation, for those who follow Jesus. Whatever the results of our actions, He knew beforehand. He knew when He called you to do it how it would turn out. Trust Him.
Now, someone will ask how you can hear the Lord’s guidance. That’s the most important question for a believer! Find the answer! Search until you find it. Don’t take another step of Christian service until you know that the Lord is leading you. Once you know that, you will have confidence. He will be with you, and you will accomplish exactly what He wants.
Confidence is not being certain of the outcome. Confidence is knowing that the outcome is not your problem. Confidence is knowing that the only One who can judge you is leading and giving you all you need. Will there be enough to accomplish the work? Enough money, enough time, enough resources? If it is the Lord’s work, there will always be enough. And neither you nor I get to decide if a project was a failure. If we do what we are led to do, there is no failure.
You wouldn’t know it if you judged by the world’s definition, but confidence comes from yielding, from submission. For the world, confidence comes out of ego: only those who think they are superior are confident, the world says. But we learn in Jesus that confidence comes out of humility, understanding the real source of strength and wisdom. When we yield our efforts and our decisions to the Lord and follow as He leads, we have nothing to fear. There is no failure.
A brief personal story to close this. As of this month it will be a year since we have been able to visit my wife’s mother. She resides in a memory care center, and Covid-19 has locked the doors against us. We can’t talk with her on the phone, and she does not receive mail. We check on her health and spirit regularly, but have no connection with her other than through our prayers. Our concern is that she may pass (she’s 97) before we can see her again. But is that in our hands? No, her life is in the hands of the Lord who loves her more than we do. Every day, we look past our worry and fear to the One who is strong and good. We are becoming more confident that His timing will be right.
This is normal life. The worries and fears are normal. Confidence is looking past those things to see the goodness of the Lord.