fear abounds where faith is not found

Has a nice, catchy “ring” to it, doesn’t it?

Fear abounds, where faith is not found…..I would expect to see that on a marquee outside a synagogue or a church.

But what is the “fear” I am talking about? Is it fear of loss? Fear of death? Fear of going hungry? Fear of being unpopular? Fear of success? Fear of failure?

Yes. It is all those fears, and (just about) every other fear you can think of. And the cornerstone of fear is the lack of faith. Of all the things to be afraid of, I think the only thing that faith will not help with is fear of pain. No matter how faithful or spiritual you are, if someone kicks you in the groin, it’s going to hurt.

I know people who have been so controlled by fear that their lives have not changed for years. I know one person who has held the same, low-level position in a firm for over 30 years. I know another who refuses to drive; another who will not see a doctor. Another who hasn’t held a steady job, ever.  And when you talk to them, they have their prepared answers rationalizing why they can’t, but it is clear that they are just plain afraid of change and of trying something new.

You all know someone like this, too- it is an epidemic, this fear of something that we can’t even justify being afraid of. They say, “Oh, I could never do that- I’d be too afraid.” It doesn’t really matter why they are afraid, the problem is that it controls them.

I am afraid of many things, but I do not let that control me. Fear of death keeps me from doing things that are foolish, fear of pain keeps me from doing things that might result in my breaking a bone (although I do like physical challenges and often play on the Treetop Trek at the Brevard Zoo), and I am afraid that one day I may go blind or be crippled from arthritis (I already have some). These are normal fears, and although I don’t like the idea of these things happening, the difference is that my faith in God allows me to overcome these fears.

Yes, I may go blind, but I know that God will provide someone to help me. You know, when I think about it, by not seeing people with my eyes I will be better able to see them as God does, without first judging by their appearance (this would actually be a good thing for me because I do judge by appearance); and if I am crippled and cannot do the physical things I love to do, I will have more time to read, write and study- nothing wrong with that.

Fear is healthy when it is used to remind us to be cautious in dangerous situations. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the strength to overcome it, and the best way to gain that strength is to have faith. You need to have faith in God that He can, and will, make all things better and that He has nothing but the best in store for you.

What God wants to do for you may not be what you think is best, but you need to absolutely accept and trust that He knows better than you do what you really need.

I am a little ashamed to say I have very little patience with people who live in fear of everything, who have no ambition to improve themselves or help others, and who always have tsouris (troubles) in their life. Have you ever noticed how people who live in fear always have more things go wrong with them that they can’t get passed? Maybe it’s because fear causes problems and that is why the enemy uses it to control us? If so, then courage is what God gives us when we trust in Him, and those who are faithful may still have troubles but they overcome them. Living in fear is allowing the enemy to use you and control you, which can only separate you from God. But faith and trust that God is in control (which, BTW, is absolutely true) will allow you to overcome the fear.

In 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, Shaul (Paul) tells us of a “thorn in his side”, some weakness or issue that Shaul couldn’t overcome:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.…

This is what faith overcoming weakness and fear is all about: God’s Grace is all we need to know. When we allow the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, to come into us and to rule over us, we then are inside a protective barrier that will reflect the arrows of the enemy, quench the fire of disillusionment, and block the attacks of the world that come against us.

I “googled” fear in the bible and found at least 40 different verses about how we can overcome fear through faith. Here are just a few of them:

Isaiah 35:4:

Joshua 1:9;

Psalm 23:4;

Psalm 94:19;

Romans 8:38-39 (this is a really good one!);

Psalm 27:1 (this one just about says it all)

and there are many more.

Fear is not the enemy, but the enemy uses fear. God is not fearlessness, but courage to overcome fear. Only the foolish have no fear; the brave have courage to overcome fear and do what is right. Righteousness takes strength: strength of character, strength of conviction, and strength of will. These are things that are weak in humans, but strong in the Lord. As Shaul told us (above), we can be strong in our weakness when we allow the Lord to be our strength.

David was a man of great courage, a man of many battles, a fierce warrior and the one who set the standard for how a King should rule. And yet, when you read the Psalms, he was fearful on a regular basis, and he always found his strength and courage in God.

In Psalm 18 David says:

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock,in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies.…

If you feel fearful, are unsure of yourself, and find that what you want and need to do is beyond your ability to try because you are afraid, then trust in God and give up relying on yourself. Let God’s strength and awesomeness be manifested through your weakness, and allow the Lord to be your power.

The Green Lantern recharged his ring from his lantern, and recited the oath:

In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power… Green Lantern’s light!

It’s important to note that his power didn’t come from himself, or even from the ring, but from his lantern:  you can be just like a superhero yourself, and you already know where you get the light that is your power:

Psalm 119:105Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

The light that powers us is the Light of the World, Messiah Yeshua (Jesus), and the strength we need to overcome evil comes directly from the Word that is within us, the Ruach HaKodesh.

Don’t be afraid anymore- you are a superhero! You are the lantern of truth, justice and you have divine protection! You are the sidekick of the Almighty, El Elyon, The Lord of lords and the King of kings; you are Robin to God’s Batman, you are Bucky to God’s Captain America, and you can be even more because with God, there are no limits.

Just remember this: when you are feeling inadequate to the job and fearful, don’t trust in yourself but put your trust in God, ask for His favor and walk in faith, because…

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

The answer is: no one!

Walking or Wavering?

In the letter Yakov (James) wrote to the Jewish Believers (not Christians, mind you, but Jewish Believers) in Jerusalem, he was talking about asking for things from God, and how we must be faithful when we ask. In James 1:5-7 he says:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,…

Wow! Here is the brother of Yeshua (Jesus) saying that if we falter or are unsure of ourselves when we pray to God we shouldn’t expect that God will take that into account and still answer our prayers.

Heavy, Man!

Heavy? Yes. Unfair? No, well…to humans it may seem unfair, but God’s way is not our way.

Think about it from His perspective: if He enables us to be weak and unfaithful in what we do then how will we be able to stand against the attacks from the enemy of God?  Satan knows our weaknesses and our doubts- he works with them. God will strengthen us but the enemy works the opposite way, in that the enemy will weaken our faith by placing doubt in our minds. He will attack God by creating events that make us feel God is ignoring us, that God lies to us and that God doesn’t love us. The enemy will attack God by attacking our faith in God.

The enemy wants us to doubt that God will deliver on His promises.

That’s why God has to strengthen our faith by making us work at it. We are, by nature, lazy and we want to be led, that is what the enemy works with when steering us away from God. God, on the other hand, is trying to get us to work towards Him. He makes us exercise our spiritual muscles by forcing us to work at being faithful.

The Greek mythical hero, Theseus, recovered his fathers sword and shield by constantly trying to lift a large rock they had been buried under. Once he was strong enough to move the rock, he recovered these things, which were proof of his parentage and right to the throne.

We have a similar task: the large rock we need to lift is our doubts and our faithlessness, which we need to move out of our way in order to receive what our Father (in heaven) has placed there for us: salvation.

We talk about those who will take the mark and those who will not, but we forget to think about the ones who will turn from the faith in the tribulation. Revelations tells us that many, in some texts it says most (meaning more than 50%) will turn from their faith in God to take the mark of the enemy.

That scares the heck out of me! It should scare you, too, because if you are saying to yourself, “That’s not me- I will never take the mark!”  I am right there with you. Except that I am not so sure of myself because I know my faith needs more strengthening, I know I can’t move that rock, not yet, and I need to be able to. It’s my fear of my weakness that keeps me alert and aware.

God will turn us from base metal, slag even, into beautifully refined gold. But we need to go through the fire to get there. The enemy will not do that- he will give us whatever we want, make our lives easy, peaceful, joyful, a hedonists’ wonderland and grant us (initially) everything and anything we want.

This is why Yakov tells us that we shouldn’t expect anything from God if we are unsure of His faithfulness, which is what our faithlessness reveals about us. That is a little hard to understand, so let me rephrase it:

When we are not sure God will do as He says, it means we think God is not able to deliver on His promises. That is what the enemy wants us to think, and it is easier for humans, self-absorbed and egocentric as we are, to believe that God is at fault for not answering prayers than it is to think that it is because of our unfaithful attitude that we don’t receive.

Faith is hard…very hard….to achieve, and even harder to maintain. It is by faith alone we are saved, and it is our faith that gives us the strength and perseverance to maintain our belief and trust in God. And when the fecal matter comes into contact with the air circulation unit, we better have strong and dependable faith.

It isn’t God’s responsibility to answer prayers as much as it is our responsibility to ask faithfully believing that He can answer them. Not that He will, but that He can. God always has the right to say, “No.” to a request from Him. Just because He decides that prayer is not going to be answered doesn’t mean He won’t answer other prayers.

That’s what it means to not waver, to keep walking even if the ground slants, or gets rocky, or we aren’t sure why we have to go this way and not that way. We need to walk with a sure step, with our eyes on the finish line, and not waver from this side to that side.  We will probably slip and fall along the way; in fact, more than just once or twice, but God will always be there to pick us up. All the time, so long as we reach out to Him and ask for help. That is one prayer I believe He will always answer- a prayer for help.

All prayers should be submitted to God with the total belief that He is able to answer, even if He doesn’t. Even if His answer is, “Not yet”; even if His answer is, “Maybe later”; even if His answer is, “No way, Jose!”

It’s not about whether or not God answers your prayers, it’s all about believing that He can. If you can handle that truth without being upset or feeling that it is unfair, then you have proper faith and a properly respectful and humble attitude. That’s a good start, but it’s just a start. Very few of us can really lift that rock yet.

I know I can’t lift the rock, not all the way: I need to get back to that rock and keep trying.

We each of us have to work at “lifting the rock” of our faithfully believing in God’s ability to do what he says He will do. We need to walk, not waver, we need to stand firm, not bend in the wind, and we need to trust God, no matter what anyone else tells us or what happens to us.

It’s a big rock that hides our crown of victory, but it can be moved. We just need to keep at it.