Are you adventuresome? Do you dare to try what others hesitate to do? Are you the first to step into the water, or do you wait and watch?
Maybe my zany attitude for the thrill of attempting new things comes from remnant trauma. My older brother often “pushed” me into doing things I wasn’t quite ready for but was too stubborn to back down from. Can anyone else relate? I can’t tell you how many times I sucked in my fear, held my breath, and stepped into the unknown — sometimes with painful consequences. He rarely led the way, but followed if I successfully survived the test!
Or maybe I cast the blame on my brother too quickly. Perhaps God designed me as a curious explorer.
Sometimes, the greatest wisdom rests with those who wait and watch, allowing others to break new terrain. But how many experiences would I have missed if I would have been too afraid to dare to try? Too late I realized the foolishness of always trusting my brother. But I know that I can completely trust the Lord’s lead.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.“ Proverbs 3:5-6
Dare or Faith
God never pushes or dares! Rather, He invites us to a journey of faith — a journey that may lead to unexpected places and opportunities.
Hebrews 11, the faith chapter, inspires me. These pioneers held enough faith in God to dare to try the unexpected and step into the unknown. Exploring options only possible through God, they each heard the whisper of His invitation and responded.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
Noah wasted no time trying to convince God an ark would be useless since not a single drop of rain had yet ot fall on the earth. He just started building this thing called an ark. Abraham uprooted his family and headed toward a yet to be revealed destination. Joseph refused to allow a prison cell lock up His faith. Moses, the failed prince, may have stuttered at God’s invitation, but he willingly stepped into unknown waters.
Some achieved earthly success. Others never witnessed the full reward of their faith until they entered heaven’s realms. But they each explored the faith possibilities.
Faith or Fear
Fear of the unknown attempts to keep us from venturing into the realms of unlimited faith. Choosing the path of faith leaves no regret. Bowing to fear or comfortable predictability often does.
“Their circumstances will never shake them and others will never forget their example. They will not live in fear or dread of what may come, for their hearts are firm, ever secure in their faith. Steady and strong, they will not be afraid, but will calmly face their every foe … ” Psalm 112:6-8 TPT
We discover many aspects of God’s character only through the path of faith. We all desire hearts that are firm, security in our faith, and a steadiness and strength of character. These by-products of following God’s leading develop best in the soil of faith.
Fear or Love
The power of God’s love for us and in us propels us to explore previously unknown pathways.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18
The Passion Translation of John 14:15 reads, “Loving me (Jesus) empowers you to obey my commands.” Love empowers! How wonderful!
The awareness of the immeasurable love of God over us empowers us to step into whatever He invites us into. Whether new territory or untested ground, He leads with perfect love. God’s love enables, empowers, and encourages us to dare to try.
Fear evaporates in the face of such pure love.
Where you are going is not where you are right now. Who you are now is not the fullness of who you are becoming. What you have had is not what you are going to have. God always has more for us than we could ever imagine.
Nothing limits what God can and will do through a yielded life. Where is God’s love welcoming us to venture? How is He inviting us to yield to His transformational love? What faith steps is He calling us to move into?
Father God, I sense Your invitation to dare to step into a new level of my calling and destiny. I receive the fulness of Your love for me. You have greater and better things for me than I am experiencing right now. There are areas of my life hungering for the impact of Your Presence. I thank You for Your faithfulness in the past. I turn my heart toward You for the faith to step boldly into today and the days to come. May I look to the examples of other faith-walkers while becoming an example for still more. Trusting not in my own understanding but leaning totally into You, I draw the courage, tenacity, and boldness I need to explore the impossibilities You place before me. May past experiences and failures not limit future prospects or diminish hope. You are a good and loving Father. Amen.
We all seek to have our confidence well placed. Who can we trust? I mean really trust. Shaking markets and shady deals abound. Enticing offers bombard us at every turn, tempting us to try and buy the latest, greatest products. The internet has created a haven for scam artists. We answer phone calls with apprehension, not knowing if the caller is legitimate.
My granddaughter stood with her toes curled over the edge of the pool. I waited below with my arms outstretched, prepared to catch her when she jumped. She leaned forward. Her quivering legs contradicted the smile on her face. It took more than a little persuasion to convince her to trust me. After several more jumps and successful catches, her confidence in me grew. Finally, she jumped with complete abandon. Confidence well place replaced her initial fear.
We have all taken turns at being the jumper or the catcher. We have learned through experience who we can and cannot trust. No one has proven more trustworthy than our God.
“Blessed [with spiritual security] is the man who believes and trusts in and relies on the Lord and whose hope and confident expectation is the Lord.” Jeremiah 17:7AMP
How wonderful! We may have perfect hope and confident expectation in the Lord.
The wounds of broken trust pierce deep. When we have trusted someone to love, but they wouldn’t. When we have trusted someone to protect, but they didn’t. Broken trust makes it difficult for us to fully trust again.
Each time we trust a little less and then even less. Until finally, we trust only ourselves. Eventually, we realize we are as untrustworthy as everyone else. In the most complete sense of the word, there is only One deserving our complete confidence.
The Hebrew word for man in Jeremiah 17:7 means someone who is valiant, like a warrior. It represents a person of courage and determination. Confidence well placed in God for our security requires a measure of courage and determination to overcome the broken trust in people. But it is worth it!
“For he will be [nourished] like a tree planted by the waters, That spreads out its roots by the river …” Jeremiah 17:8
When we have confidence well placed in God, we become like this tree — fully nourished and satisfied. Planted by an ever-flowing stream as God completely sustains us.
Recovering from broken trust drains every fibre of our being. The pain of severed relationships cuts deep. Jagged wounds that refuse healing often become infected with rejection. Rejection oozes out through fear.
Only God’s perfect love brings lasting relief and complete healing.
“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” 1 John 4:18NLT
With confidence well placed in our loving Father, fear holds no ground. Jeremiah continues to paint a word picture for us.
“… And will not fear the heat when it comes; but its leaves will be green and moist. And it will not be anxiousandconcerned in a year of drought nor stop bearing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:8 AMP
I know beyond a doubt I cantrust God with every aspect of my life. I have full confidence that He will never fail.
Unfortunately, in the day-to-day struggles, I resemble my granddaughter far too much. I stand on the edge of the pool of relational trust, holding tight with all ten toes. I lean toward God with every ounce of courage I can muster, but will others reciprocate my love “this time?” Will that person value our relationship “this time?” Or will repeat offenders surround me forever?
That is the human dilemma. Confidence well place in a God who stands apart from all human control requires every valiant warrior portion of this heart. Trusting my frail humanity into the hands of other frail humans sounds foolish at best.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34
Yet, God calls, even commands, us to love each other completely, regardless of the outcome. He desires us to become a similar life-giving stream for others as He is for us. He longs for us to love others so absolutely that it releases them, too.
God calls each of us to love. The love of God washes over us like a river to live worry free. His love flowing through us provides space for others to grow in faith — without fear or worry even in the toughest times.
When Jeremiah talks about a tree “planted” by the water. It literally means to be transplanted. No matter where we began, He has repositioned us, transplanting us by the stream of His grace and mercy.
We were planted in brokenness and rejection. We have been transplanted into Christ and He into us. Once we held misplaced trust in people, finances, positions of authority, and possessions. Firmly transplanted, we now maintain confidence well placed in Him.
Transplanted ones experience not only God’s blessing, they also
“… never fail to bear fruit.“ Jeremiah 17:8
As we obey the call to receive and express love, continuous spiritual “fruit” comes through our lives.
Confidence Well Placed
Honestly, this process stretches me. Maybe, it stretches you too. Only with confidence well place in the love of God will we dare to risk loving and being loved.
Yes, people will fail us. But secure in the Father’s love, our roots spread wide and strong, nourishing us at every level, sustaining us through dry seasons, and securing us through every storm.
The more we trust Him, the more we confidently jump with childlike faith into His arms, willing to abandon ourselves to love others fully and deeply — with or without love in return.
A love that reflects Him will always make a difference. Always!
Whenever we experience failure, shame and pride attempt to cover. God offers the only sure way to shake off shame, allowing us to walk free.
Three times in the last few weeks, I have been confronted by hidden shame. We may attempt to hide areas of shame in a thousand different ways, but it will insistently peak through cracks in our facade. Often, we don’t even recognized the root, but the desire to conceal any area of our lives reveals shame as the underlying source — a source resulting either from my failures or the failures of others.
Whenever I am asked to share my testimony, feelings of shame inevitably rise. The root may spring from my foolish or even sinful decisions. Other shame originated in the violations others perpetrated. After intentionally seeking repentance, and receiving, as well as extending forgiveness, I live relatively free. Yet, faint shrouds of shame still haunts, causing frustration. Why?
“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame, And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced, But you will forget the shame of your youth, And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.” Isaiah 54:4
This verse offers hope! In it Isaiah connects four integral components: fear, shame, humiliation, and disgrace.
King David faltered and fell in a huge way. First through committing adultery and then, out of fear of being discovered, he murdered an innocent man. Shame will lead anyone, even a righteous king, down a path they otherwise would never have gone. Afterward, shame always seeks a place to hide.
Jon Bloom describes the deadly combination of pride and shame well. As if shame didn’t carry enough of a burden, it frequently partners with pride. Rather than expose us to shame, pride convinces us to bury it in all the wrong places.
Paul beautifully wrote,
“But we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:2
David eventually renounced his hidden sin, which wasn’t as hidden as he hoped. When he openly confessed it all to God and others, he received the ability to shake off shame and walk free of his past.
Dictionaries define shame as a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety. It carries strong regret and reproach.
King David’s shame resulted from his own sin. Often the most intense shame we feel comes by the misconduct of others, through disrespect or violation through words and deed. Shame-filled people often shame those around them as a means of covering their own condition.
“Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land. Everlasting joy will be theirs.” Isaiah 61:7
What a beautiful promise! Those who have experienced abuse or misuse will receive a double portion. Get ready! God is about to give double for the trouble others have caused. He will bring honor, praise, respect, and esteem to you in double the measure for wrongs inflicted upon you. As we resist proud coverups and walk humbly, God will bring you blessing.
Because sin resides both in and around us, shame may subtly come to cloak us. Either consciously or subconsciously, we begin to align ourselves with the accuser in self-condemnation.
“Behold, I am going to deal at that time with all your oppressors. I will save the lame and gather the outcast. And I will turn their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.” Zephaniah 3:19
The woman who suffered from bleeding for twelve long years, secretly attempted to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. Cultural humiliation of her condition drove her low. Jesus healed her, reversing the shame unjustly placed on her.
I honestly believe the weak and broken will maintain a higher position in heaven, receiving eternal rewards to compensate for the misplaced humiliation and shame they endured here on earth.
Disgrace refers to a loss of reputation and respect. God reverses the plight through His unprecedented and unmerited grace. Any degradation, discredit, or dishonor experienced, He removes, replacing it by with His grace.
Instead of hiding behind pride, expensive clothes, educational titles, successful businesses, lofty positions, or glass pulpits, God invites us to the only sufficient hiding place, Jesus Christ. As long as we choose to cower behind bitterness, resentment, sarcasm, or insecurity, we will remain prisoners of shame. To shake off shame and walk free, we follow the humble road to Christ.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9
Here is the catch! We may have memorized hundreds of Bible verses, sought God’s forgiveness, and liberally forgiven others without finding freedom from shame. The residue of shame may continue to limit our ability to move forward.
A Spiritual Issue
As much as shame roots itself in human behavior, it contains a spiritual dimension. When we choose to take a stand and say, “No more!” shame must go.
“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:6-7
Here’s the real deal! We may have humbly approached God, honestly confessing our sins and the violations of others. If so, we have received His beautiful grace, and submitted to a new way of thinking and living. One last, most crucial step remains — resist the devil.
In my instance, to shake off shame and walk free, I had to verbally declare,
“Devil, you no longer have the right or authority to hold shame over me. Jesus Christ has taken care of it all. His double-portion promise of honor, praise, respect, and esteem now belongs to me. So get lost! Get out! In the mighty name of Jesus, I command all shame to leave. You are no longer welcome in my heart, mind, or soul.”
Honestly, with the verbal renouncing of shame, I “felt” a new sense of freedom, and God enabled me to finally shake off shame. Praise His Name!
I’m working to identify and overcome any roadblock or obstacle to success. Why? I feel stuck or unproductive in a critical area of my work.
Do you stall out? Or have you hit an invisible wall impeding your progress? We all face these situations and seasons. I’ve been working through my own recently. Fortunately, we also possess the ability to overcome.
Jesus met with serious opposition at the beginning of His ministry. His baptism by John created the launch point. What occurred immediately afterward, however, determined His trajectory.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well please.'” Matthew 3:16-17
God affirmed Jesus as “my Son,” declaring His love and pleasure with Him. Yet, immediately the Spirit led Jesus into a difficult place, a wilderness, where again and again the devil questioned Jesus’ identity and value.
This may well have created a serious obstacle for anyone of us. If Jesus would have listened to the enemy, His ministry would have been terminated instead of propelled into motion.
What internal “voices” or external pressures are you facing?
I will share a few of mine!
We resist the same enemy Jesus did. The devil attempted Jesus to doubt His identity and value — to question His worth.
Every forward movement encounters opposition. “Who do you think you are?” “You can’t do that!” “No one will listen to you.” “You have nothing to offer.” It is familiar rhetoric that haunts many of us.
Most of the time, I’m pretty good at recognizing this ploy. But sometimes, I take the bait and become paralyzed by my insufficiency.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7
Honestly, acknowledging my inability releases me to do and be all I am meant to be, without the pressure of attempting to measure some preconceived standard. If I believe I am the next great thing the world needs, pride dooms me to failure. Every success I achieve, I achieve through Christ in me.
“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8
When self-doubt blocks you, admit your weaknesses and move on. Step over any feelings of unworthiness and draw from God’s power and ability at work in and through you. Don’t allow self-doubt to become an obstacle to success.
Fear takes on many forms. Though people perceive me as being bold and perhaps even fearless, I encounter this roadblock more than I would like to admit. Often, it creeps in so subtlely I fail to recognize fear as being the root of my stagnation.
Though it sounds foolish, I may fear both success and failure simultaneously. In school, other students criticized me as much for my successes as for my blunders. Those voices of childhood, even though they occurred decades ago, sometimes still derail me from reaching peak potential.
“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
If we ask God, He will expose the root of our fear. Whether He points to the fear of not measuring up to the opinions of others or the fear of being vulnerable, identifying the source helps us to move beyond it.
God knows we are imperfect. We know we are imperfect. So why is perfectionism such a big deal? Or at least, why is perfectionism such a big deal for me?
“Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.” Ecclesiastes 11:7
When I make perfection even remotely my goal, I may begin the work, but never complete it or boldly present it to others. Perfectionism focuses on flaws. It holds us to impossible standards, clouding everything we do with disappointment and discouragement.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
Timothy’s mentor and “father” in the faith encouraged him, “Do your best!” Our consistent best will keep the momentum going. It will elevate us above obstacles.
We could all glean from these words, applying it to whatever we are working at. “Do your best!” Let’s put perfectionism behind us and simply attempt to do our best.
So many times, I look at my work, knowing it is far from perfect. But I also recognize that at this point in my life, this is the best I have to offer. When I resolve to accept my imperfection, I step past perfectionism as the obstacle to success.
When things don’t turn out like I hope, discouragement creeps in. Often shame or regret ride the same wave with discouragement.
“Don’t be afraid for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“Don’t be discouraged!” God says to each of us. “Don’t give it room or entertain it in your mind!”
Whatever we do that is good and upright, let’s remember God is with us. He never calls us to something He will not equip us to do. He strengthens and helps us to carry it out.
Whatever door of opportunity God opens for us, He empowers us to confidently walk through it. Let us not allow discouragement to become an obstacle to success.
Ineffective management of my time often creates the greatest roadblock to accomplishing my goals. Usually, this results from an over-booked, over-extended, and over-loaded schedule.
Distractions continually bombard — some avoidable, others unavoidable.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
Jesus encourages us to establish godly priorities and set healthy boundaries over our time. I find these tips helpful:
Say “no” to some things to give the option to say “yes” to the most important things
Recognize and avoid time wasting distractions
Tackle the most difficult work during peak performance periods
Minimize where I can so I can maximize for the greatest effect
Rest before work, eat before effort, exercise before assignments
We cannot regain time once it passes. Time is precious to God.
Obstacle to Success
My list includes only a few of the roadblocks that create obstacles to success. We each will face our own recurring roadblocks to impede progress.
Your list might read differently from mine. Procrastination, insecurity, or past shame may rank high on a few lists. Through Jesus Christ, we all can be victorious no matter how long or short our lists appear.
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:57-58
Whatever God has set before us, wherever He has positioned us, let us thank God. He gives us the ability to identify and overcome any roadblock or obstacle to success.
God reveals Himself in innumerable ways. Have you sensed the lightning and thunder of His Presence recently? If so, was it fierce or awe-inspiring?
In our area, we often experience thunderstorms — some severe. People respond to the storms in various ways. Some people run for cover and hunker down until it’s over. Others carry on with life like nothing unusual is occurring around them. Still others, who border on insanity, pursue storms, enjoying the near-death experience of pushing the boundaries of reasonable safety.
Sometimes a soft rumble of thunder offers the only evidence of atmospheric disturbance. More often a sudden flash followed by an intense clap awakens onlookers to take heed. The more experienced may “feel” the storm coming a long way off, sensing it in the air, and feeling it in their bones.
God often speaks through nature, pointing our attention to deeper spiritual concepts. Paul said,
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
God reveals His “invisible qualities” through His creation. In nature, the flash of lightning produces the sound of thunder. What about in the spiritual? Do we need a similar combination of visible and audible, power and voice, to comprehend God more personally and fully? Perhaps.
Word and Light
The Gospel of John opens with Word and Light, the audible and visible, thunder and lightning.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” John 1:1
In the beginning — before created things — the Word, Jesus Christ, was with God and was God. From the beginning, preceding time as we know and understand it, the thunder of God’s Word existed and resonated.
“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5
Here it is! Lightning and thunder! The Word, above all words, speaking all things into existence! The Light overcoming every darkness!
Lightning flashes and is gone; Jesus came and remains eternal. Thunder roars for a moment; Jesus’ words endure forever.
My mother experienced disabling fear of electric storms. At the slightest hint of danger, she gathered everyone and everything into protection. Quickly she closed and latched windows and doors, pulled curtains shut, and busied herself attempting to occupy her fear-filled mind. Many others react similarly.
When God descended upon Mount Sinai with “thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled“ (Exodus 19:16). Such an awesome revelation of God certainly would have made my knees shake and heart beat intensely.
” . . . Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” Exodus 20:19
Many people easily relate to the Israelite’s response to God’s Presence, seeing God as fierce, cruel, and judgmental. Moses knew God personally and more fully.
“As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.” Exodus 19:19
Years later, David wrote these words:
“He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” Psalm 103:7-8
The fear of God will either draw us near, like Moses, or cause our hearts to tremble and our feet to run away, like the people of Israel. Knowing God’s attributes and nature dispels negative fears and nurtures positive affection and attraction.
For a rare breed of others, the mention of an impending thunderstorm incites excitement, their hearts pound with enthusiasm and anticipation. Just the mention of lightning and thunder to these folks causes a flurry of motion as they leap from lethargy, jumping into their jalopies to go wherever necessary to experience the storm close up. With cameras in hand, they ready themselves to catch the ultimate image. Then they tell their adventurous stories with enthusiasm.
The church contains a few similar enthusiasts, ready on a moment’s notice to fly to the far reaches of the globe to hear their favorite speaker, teacher, revivalist, healer, or evangelist. Their enthusiasm for the things of God is exemplary. Their senses sustain high alert for revival. They, too, zealously tell their stories of close encounters with God’s Presence.
Though not all fit this category, some people chase God only for the thrill of the experience or for what they hope to receive, rather than to know Him more fully. There have always been a few followers, only seeking fringe benefits.
“Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” John 6:26
God will eventually confront all selfish seekers who attempt to imitate true God followers. Seeking God for the rush of spiritual lightning and thunder falls far short of leaning close to God, waiting to discover His heart and learn His ways.
My father labored through many storms while keeping alert to the shifting skies. Wisdom taught him to respect the power of lightning and heed the warning thunder, but he walked confidently through them both. He knew when to stand in awe with appreciation and when to shut the door for protection. We often sat together in a dark room, scanning the horizon for the next lightning flash, giggling, gasping, and glorying in God’s majestic display. Even secure in our home, we felt the fear as the house shook with intensity. It was a fear that drew us close in wonder and amazement.
I think this best illustrates how I approach God’s lightning and thunder — the awareness of His Presence and the sound of His voice. I don’t want to miss the miraculous, but desire to clearly see His movements in my generation. God still speaks. I want to be tuned to listen.
While multitudes came and went, a few stayed true to Jesus. Peter captured the reason well.
“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68-69
To be a Christ-follower isn’t only about rushes and thrills, miracles and encounters, although these are available and important. Being a worshipper of Jesus means knowing there is no other One we want to be with — to see and hear, to believe and to know.
Lightning And Thunder
The Holy Spirit enlightens our minds to understand, so the thunder of God’s voice creates the greatest impact. The disciples who knew Jesus the best missed most of the essence of what He did and said, until He “opened their minds so they could understand” (Luke 24:45).
Everywhere Jesus went, He performed miracles and taught truth. He became incomparable lightning and thunder wrapped in humanity! The Book of Acts records how the apostles followed His example of teaching and doing miracles. Paul speaks to the church in Corinth, saying,
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1 Corinthians 2:4-5
Lightning and thunder, miraculous power united with God’s Word, best demonstrate God’s attributes and character. They steer our eyes from Earth to Heaven — our allegiance from human to divine. Today, this combination still evokes various responses.
Like the seasoned, experienced weather trackers of old, may we possess a strong sense of God’s movements and His ways. May we acknowledge His transcending Presence, His unstoppable power, and His overflowing goodness and grace. May we stand in this window of opportunity, delighting in His display, seeing His lightning power, and hearing His thunderous voice. Fear not!
God often teaches us powerful life lessons of love and faith at the most inconvenient times and in the most uncomfortable ways. These lessons remain with us for a lifetime, influencing decisions and stabilizing us in uncertain situations.
Faith and fear are mutually incompatible. In reality, however, faith fails to find a firm foundation until love paves the way.
Our children are long grown, but memories of their frightened cries piercing the dark night run fresh through my mind. Lights turned on, to prove nothing hiding in a closet or under the bed, failed to dispel fear. The reassurance that dad and mom were in the next room impacted the angst little. Even prayer and affirmation that the Presence and protection of Jesus covered them only faintly eased their discomfort. Information alone holds little resistance against fear. Yet, when love draws close, confidence and calm prevail!
Fear flees without a fight when love enters.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18
Whether during a global crisis or the not-so-simple daily pressures of life, love makes all the difference. No matter our age, social status, or race, we all need to know love and support. Do you have someone who loves you unconditionally? Someone constant through success and failure, health and illness, prosperity and lack, the strength of youth and the frailty of old age? Who is your someone — the person you could call anytime, day or night, who will listen, support and encourage?
If you can name anyone, you are in the privileged minority.
I’m not sure I have experienced times as full of angst as in this season. The breakdown of the family, the disintegration of faith communities, and often fluctuating political impetus seriously affect us all. Deceptive addictions, in various forms, clench cruel claws and breathe death into the unsuspecting in pandemic proportions. We suffer generationally from dis-ease both within and around us. No one guarantees immunity or promises cure.
Just as my little children needed love with flesh in their fear-filled darkness, our world needs it too. We, as God’s hands and feet, can rise to the occasion, push aside our own insecurities and fatigue, demonstrating love and faith within this present global famine.
“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
Barna conducted this study pre-pandemic on 18 to 35-year-olds. Only one in three young adults felt loved by those close to them. What I find shocking is that these young adults said they “feel the broad, global trends more than they feel loved and supported by others close to them.” The reality that two-thirds of young adults do not feel unloved and unsupported should shock us all into high alert.
The effects of the last several months of isolation and uncertainty have only exacerbated the problem, not just among the young, but among us all. God created us to thrive in loving faith-filled community. People of all ages are struggling emotionally and relationally. They may not describe themselves as anxious or depressed, yet confess they struggle to maintain concentration and focus, feel elevated concern for themselves and others, and are uncertain about employment, housing and their ability to secure the basics of life.
As Christians, we have the antidote! God planted faith and love within us.
It’s Up to Us All
If this kind of love sounds messy, you’re right. If you think this kind of love is best left to professional pastors and clergy, you’re mistaken. Your family needs you. Your neighbors need you. Even your church needs you. Your workplace needs you.
Only Jesus held a doctorate in love. Only He got it right all the time. Please, don’t underestimate what simple demonstrations of love and faith might do when committed to Him.
Maybe we should start our efforts with those who stand in the centre of the fray — “professional” clergy. The pressure upon pastors to care for their congregations effectively, through a pandemic, has taken a toll. Five years ago, only two percent of pastors rated their emotional health as below average or poor. Today, over twenty percent say they suffer. May I encourage you to love those who lead. Assist and support them however God directs you.
“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work . . . “ 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
Let’s begin together by practicing love and faith with those who have dedicated themselves to serve God, us and others.
Know the Signs
If we willingly slow our pace, even a little, and look around, for even a moment, the evidence becomes obvious.
God’s Word never fails! Perfect love always casts out anxiety, fear, uncertainty and insecurity, rendering them powerless — like a lion without fangs or claws. I propose we engage in love and faith like never before. Though we may feel love for others, they may genuinely question that love. Here lies the great disconnect. Only when we learn to demonstrate love and faith in ways people comprehend will we shift the tide of mental anguish.
“Now, because of your obedience to the truth, you have purified your very souls, and this empowers you to be full of love for your fellow believers. So express this sincere love toward one another passionately and with a pure heart. For through the eternal and living Word of God, you have been born again. And this “seed” that he planted within you can never be destroyed but will live and grow inside of you forever.” 1 Peter 1:22-23
Christ planted the seed of His perfect love in each one of us. His seed of love empowers us to love fully. He not only preserves the seed but guarantees it will live and grow inside of us forever. Wow! What a promise! Love planted in each of us, living and growing into a vibrant reality, impacting those desperate for it. He takes the pressure off, providing us with everything we need to love others, especially those within the body of believers.
Love and faith work together.
There Is Proof
Barna also researched how the Christian community functions in crisis. Better than average, apparently! Bravo, people of God, you are doing it! Your love within the ranks is having an impact.
Sadly, those outside the faith are suffering the most. However, that reality presents great opportunity. Though fear has taken up temporary residence in the cultural love vacuum, God appoints us to serve eviction notice to the squatter of fear. I daily witness people stepping through the invisible barriers of uncertainty, reaching across cubicles, hallways, alleys, denominations, cities and nations. With hearts overflowing, they extend to the emotional hurting love and faith in action.
I hear voices of young and old resolutely declare,
” . . . Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8
How Love Looks
Only thirty percent of the global population feels supported, secure, and hopeful. Hold off on discouragement, though! As hints of spring crease the snow-clad landscape, I’m reminded of little bees, hidden in cloistered hives. Soon they will stretch sleeping wings, moving out to work silently their God-given task. As they fearlessly take flight, extending beyond their secure habitat, they benefit our world in powerful ways, producing incredible fruitfulness.
May I encourage you to reach beyond your secure cloister, “pollinating,” with love and faith, those you encounter by supporting them and letting them know you believe in who they are. Yes, validate the work they do and the gifts they possess, but, more importantly, endorse them as uniquely created by God with divine purpose, having irreplaceable worth.
Love and faith create, enrich, and sustain others, fostering hope for the future. Although most of us have learned to dream silently, we can encourage others to dream beyond human possibility. May we become dream keepers and dream builders, encouraging and fostering potential in others. We can faithfully pray they will achieve their full capability.
By creating an atmosphere of love and faith, and building support and hope, we will make progress in dislodging fear and anxiety. One word of encouragement, one act of kindness, one phone call, one moment of your time, may be the turning point for someone.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34
A young woman sat huddled in the center of her bed, cocooned in a fetal position by darkness within and without. Spiritually and emotionally tormented, no cries for help pierced the broken stillness. Hopelessness gripped her heart and suffocated all hope . . . until . . . love walked in.
Her father slowly ascended the staircase and slipped quietly beside her. He knew. He, too, lived the dark night of depression. Slowly, he reached out his large gentle hand, and with not much more than whisper offered, “Honey, I love you.”
Like a mighty wrecking ball, the walled fortress of desperation and despair crumbled. Love made a way! Love broke through! My father responded to his grown daughter’s unuttered cry, slip into my night, and embraced me with love — a love that changed everything.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2
What if our simple acts of love deposit seeds of flourishing love in others in the same way that Christ deposited love in us? What if we each possess powerful seeds of love and faith that will ultimately produce more of the same? Maybe, just maybe, we can become like little bees gently spreading the pollen of love and faith (one act at a time) that will bear more fruit than anyone realizes. Maybe together, we can turn the tide, tip the tables and trample the terror that has gripped people for far too long (one person at a time).
You might appreciate these Barna references:
How Mental Health Is the New Domain of Ministry to the Next Generation
When Jesus says, “Take courage! Don’t be afraid,” fear dominates and faith is hard to find. Jesus doesn’t suggest; He commands. “Take courage!”
I, like the disciples, often find myself in a “boat” not of my own choosing, tossed by waves stronger and bigger than I. It is in those times; I too must learn to “take courage.”
Not My Boat!
I find many things about Mark’s biblical account of one stormy night intellectually troubling. Let me name just a few.
I’ve experienced firsthand the consequences of running ahead of God. Those times remain burned into my memory bank. Too often, I get a hint of God’s direction, turn up the throttle and embark on the voyage before He gives full instruction. Fortunately, I’m gradually learning to follow rather than race full steam ahead. But . . .
Eventually the winds of adversity press against all desire to follow Christ — to obey His leading. Strain as we might progress becomes slow if not impossible. We usually face it “in the middle” of our calling, “in the middle” of our journey.
Ferocious winds have been blowing against the church of Jesus Christ since those earliest disciples stepped into their shaky boat. Perhaps never in the course of the Christian church has she faced such extreme adversity on a global scale. Oppression and dark times surround us. It is spiritually “night.” The majority of people live with no concept of God. The other day I sat on the grass with a new young visitor who stopped for a chat while I was in my garden. Though a new acquaintance, around 10 years old, it became obvious as he talked just how disconnected from society and reality his young life was. Raised by video games, formed by cultural influences, hurt by abandonment . . . My heart ached for him. And a generation like him. Cold, harsh winds blow ugly and cruel.
“Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them . . . ” Mark 6:48-49
Jesus came! He sees our dilemma and comes to our aid too. He comes to where we are — our places of straining, places of fear, places of hopelessness and futility.
The next line shocks me, “He was about to pass by them.” How can these two passages sit so close together? He comes but would also pass by unless we notice — unless we call out to Him, unless we acknowledge His Presence. They all saw Him coming. They all cried out in terror. Yet, they all missed recognizing Him as their help and hope. Until He spoke.
At the sound of His voice, they knew Him. Through the familiarity of His voice, they recognized Him despite the dark, and above the wail of the wind.
“Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Mark 6:50
“Take courage!” He commands. Fear never leaves voluntarily. When we take courage, fear has to go. Whether the winds willingly subside at the Presence of Jesus or not, courage is ours to possess — ours because Jesus offers it to us.
“Take courage!” Jesus says, as He holds out His hands to us and enters our circumstances, climbing into our rickety “boats.” “Take courage!” He says, as He tells our personal storms to be still.
The best place to be in stormy or safe times, is beside Jesus in the boat, any boat. Perhaps now like never before, the spirit of fear has swept upon us from every direction, threatening health, stability, and security.
When we receive the courage Jesus offers, fear immediately dissolves like mist in the sunshine. I can think of no greater time in the history of church to be alive and in His boat — going where He sends us. The opportunities ahead rise wider than the Sea of Galilee. Will storms come? Probably. Will it take everything we have to strain ahead? Most certainly.
When these men crossed over to the other side of the lake, multitudes, anticipating their arrival, were excited to see them and ready to receive ministry.
This is such a picture of where the church is heading! We are almost there. We’re with Jesus, crossing over to new territory. The spiritually hungry still flock to receive all that Jesus provides.
“They ran throughout the whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went — into villages, towns or countryside — they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.” Mark 6:55-56
My little visitor on the grass, searching for someone to care and some reason to live, became my personal reminder. He didn’t come running or begging, but he did come hoping.
Jesus heals, delivers, and supernaturally touches lives right here — in our own villages, towns, country sides, and mega cities. Though much of the journey remains confusing to me, this I know and am certain of — Jesus is with us. We live in a season of miraculous encounters.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in North America. For many people, living free from fear is an unrealistic expectation. Is fearless living possible? What would it look like? In Psalm 34, David hands us the key to overcoming all fear.
Believe it or not, there are more than one hundred phobias people experience. Many we can easily relate to like acrophobia (the fear of heights), ophidiophobia (the fear of snakes), mysophobia (the fear of germs, and arachnophobia (the fear of spiders).
Several years ago, my daughter-in-law took possession of an inlaid willow frame I had made. She wanted to use it for a mirror. Since we had an unused large mirror, we both proceeded to the basement to cut it to the appropriate size. The first edge cut perfectly! As I was gently under-tapping the second cut, she frantically swung her arms in a wide flailing motion sending the mirror and tools flying. A spider had appeared! She panicked! The mirror shattered against the far wall. I laughed! (Sorry to the rest of you arachnophobiacs, I couldn’t help it!)
Fear can sometimes cause us do unusual things.
Fear can be positive. In fact, it is essential to our survival! Fear warns us of impending danger. A certain amount of fear increases adrenaline flow helping us perform demanding tasks better.
I read once that Alfred Nobel awoke one morning to read his own obituary in the local newspaper: “Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who died yesterday, devised a way for more people to be killed in a war than ever before and he died a very rich man.” The obituary should have been for his brother, but in error Alfred’s name appeared instead. Alfred was afraid this would indeed be the assessment of his life so he initiated the Nobel Peace Prize, the award for those who foster peace! Fear led Alfred Nobel to r,ewrite his life’s work!
God Uses Cowards
There are 365 bible references encouraging us, to be courageous. One for every day of the year! The bible is full of accounts of God’s ability to use even the fearful, however.
Gideon is found hiding in a winepress, afraid of the Midianites (Judges 6,7)
Moses afraid of his own people and Pharoah was unwilling to obey God without help. (Exodus 3 & 4)
Ninety year old Sarah, fearful of promises long delayed lied to God about laughing at the news that she would conceive a child. (Genesis 18)
Jonah was afraid God would be merciful, so he ran from his assignment. (Jonah 1 & 2)
There were just as many who missed their opportunity because of their phobias:
Ten out of twelve scouts sent to explore Canaan infected the camp with fear of giants and strong cities. (Numbers 13 & 14)
The rich young ruler, afraid of losing his wealth and comfortable lifestyle, refused to follow Jesus (Luke 18:18-23)
Do Not Worry
Jesus encouraged the people,
” … do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink
or about your body, what you will wear …
Look at the birds of the air;
they do not sow or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
And why do you worry about clothes?
See how the flowers of the field grow.
They do not labor or spin.
… not even Solomon in all his splendor
was dressed like one of these.
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field,
… will he not much more clothe you
— you of little faith?
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’
or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ …
your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Matthew 6:25-33
For the majority of the world’s population concern for the basic essentials of life is constantly present! The wealthy minority worry about protecting their possessions, a secure retirement, the next vacation, and pursuing dreams. Many in Jesus’ audience were struggling daily for survival.
Jesus frames this passage with wisdom,
” … store up for yourselves treasures in heaven … seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow …” Matthew 6:20 & 34
All sufficiency is in God alone. He can and does give us the ability to create wealth and wisdom to know how to use it, but ultimately everything is His and comes from Him.
Free from all fear!
David’s words echo the thought,
“Lord! I’m bursting with joy over what you’ve done for me! My lips are full of perpetual praise. I’m boasting of you and all your works, so let all who are discouraged take heart. Join me, everyone! Let’s praise the Lord together. … make him famous! Let’s make his name glorious to all. Listen to my testimony: I cried to God in my distress and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears! Psalm 34:1-4
When did David write such joy filled praise? When he was afraid!
To escape from Saul’s death threats David ran toward Achish king of Gath. Because David was famous for his military exploits, hiding wasn’t easy!
“David … was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he pretended to be insane in their presence;
and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman …” 1 Samuel 21:12,13
The Right Fear
During justifiable fear, David “sought the LORD.” Relief came! Courage was restored! He was courageous not because he chose to be brave, but rather because he sought God in the midst of his fear.
As a matter of fact, David recognized how deficient his courage was,
“This poor mancalled, and the LORD heard him: he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those
who fear him, and he delivers them.”
The LORD, Jehovah, the self-existent, all powerful, eternal God is big enough to wipe away all fear and circle his trembling ones with protection. In Him is unrattled security!
The Human Factor
Let’s be honest, being afraid is something we all face. In agreeing with David’s assessment of our “poor” condition, we rightly position ourselves before God who fiercely defends, protects and supplies us with needed courage.
“Fear the LORD, you his holy people
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.” Psalm 34:9-10
Jesus said it this way, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.”
When fear is centred in God alone, there indeed is freedom. Fearless living is possible after all!
Like a great chasm an expanse is drawn,
polar opposites separated as east from west –
faith and fear.
Which will we choose?
This is a decision that will influence every other direction!
Will we live a life of faith or be crippled by fear?
When all is “going well”, confidence and assurance floods our thoughts and brighten our steps. However, when realobstacles loom before us and the ground shakes beneath our feet, what then is our response? I’m talking about those events that threaten to dismantle:
the terminal or incurable
a key relationship shattered
all-hope-gone kind of events.
Where To Go?
Where do we go at times like these? Then what do we do?
“We are certainly not those
who are held back by fear and perish; we are among those who have faith and experience true life.”
Hebrews 10:39 (PT)
God is looking for those who will fix their eyes on Him and trust Him at all times, in all seasons and through all circumstances. Faith requires one to reach beyond self. And that is the real problem! Humanity, by nature, is most self-reliant. Breaking this inert tendency requires consistent and persistent effort, which really is at the heart of faith.
[bctt tweet=”Faith requires one to reach beyond self” username=”MAWardAuthor”]
Joshua is commanded to hamstring all the horses and burn all the chariots of the enemy kingdoms he conquered. Why? Because God knew it wouldn’t be long before they would forget about the supernatural victories they won through faith and begin to trust in man-made remedies and solutions. And true enough, just a couple of chapters later we see the people paralyzed by fear. As they recognized the strength of their enemy’s military might. their personal faith felt minuscule.
Faith or Fear?
What was Joshua’s response? He looked the facts in the face, threw his shoulders back and replied,
That is exactly what faith declares! You can! With God you can! Through Him it is possible! When the impossible seems large, The One who makes all things possible is greater! You can!
You will know when fear is present because it will always hold you back and make you want to retreat. ALWAYS! The result will consistently be death instead of life:
death of hopes and dreams
death of joy and peace
the list is endless…
But! That little equalizing word! But “we are among those who have faith and experience true life!” We are! Right now, we are! Not maybe some day we will be! We are!
Mustard Seeds Wanted
Jesus said all we need is a mustard seed sized faith. Then nothing will be impossible! (Matt 17:20) I can’t tell you how reassured I am in that statement! Mustard seeds are very small. As a matter of fact, I have one taped above my workstation as a daily reminder of just how small one is. When we are on a life-journey with Jesus
who is for us and with us,
whose promises toward us will never fail,
and His purposes for our lives never waver,
He is uninfluenced by times or situations,
whose declaration over us is, “You can!”
Then mustard seeds are enough;
then even small faith does
what nothing else can do!
He speaks, “You can!“
The tiniest of faith will always draw us to drink deeply from richer, fuller life – true life!
If the choice between faith or fear is the question, my personal answer will not be fear! I’ve lived long enough on that shaky side. Today I set out with a pocket of mustard seeds anxious to see what kind of life will spring forth.
Faith, at least for me, is the best choice – the only way! How about you? Will you choose to test it out, grab a little seed and see what might happen?
Prayer for Today
Lord Jesus, may my eyes not wander from your beauty,
and your goodness,
for as I look to You faith stirs,
until I live and walk in the expression of
true and full life
where all fear is displaced by genuine faith.