Love and Faith — What Little Boys Taught Me About Fear

Love and Faith

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.

How Mental Health Is the New Domain of Ministry to the Next Generation - Barna
How Mental Health Is the New Domain of Ministry to the Next Generation - Barna

Mental Health

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

Only One-Third of Young Adults Feels Cared for by Others  - Barna

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.

Christians Struggled with Relational Health Prior to the Crisis—So What Has Changed? - Barna

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.

Only One-Third of Young Adults Feels Cared for by Others  - Barna

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.

Peter says,

“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.

Christians Struggled with Relational Health Prior to the Crisis—So What Has Changed? - Barna

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 come in contact with 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

It’s Personal

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).

References

You might appreciate these Barna references:

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Take Courage! Don’t be Afraid

Take Courage

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.”

I find many things about Mark’s biblical account of one stormy night intellectually troubling. Let me name just a few.

Not My Boat!

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 . . . 

“Immediately Jesus made his disciples
get into the boat and go on ahead
of him to Bethsaida,
while he dismissed the crowd.
After leaving them,
he went up on a mountainside to pray.”
Mark 6:45-46 

Boat calm water

Do you see that? Jesus made them get into the boat. He made them go on ahead of Him. Everything in me screams, “No! Don’t do it! Wait for Jesus!” But in obedience they step into a boat, not of their own choosing, but by divine instruction. They leave without Jesus, going ahead of Him.

This time, it must be okay, right? After all, they are obeying the Master. 

Every follower of Jesus is in a boat. It’s not our boat, but HIs. He has pointed the way and released us to “Go!” To the best of our ability, we follow. Even though He wasn’t physically with them in the boat, Jesus interceded for them on their journey; He intercedes for us on ours.

“. . . Christ Jesus who died —
more than that,
  who was raised to life —
is at the right hand of God
is also interceding for us.”
Romans 8:34

Not My Wind!

Night came and with it a fierce wind.

“Later that night,
the boat was in the middle of the lake . . .
He saw the disciples straining at the oars,
because the wind was against them.”
Mark 6:47-48

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. 

Boat Storm

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.

Not Alone!

“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. 

Faith

Take Courage!

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.

Calm Sunrise

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. 

No Fear!

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

Jesus

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, countrysides 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.

Take courage! Don’t be afraid! Get excited! 

 

Free from all Fear! Psalm 34 – Is Fearless Living Possible?

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: 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 through the air. A spider had appeared! She panicked!  The mirror shattered against the far wall. I laughed! (Sorry to the rest of you arachnophobics, I couldn’t help it!)

Fear can sometimes cause us do unusual things.

Positive Fear

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 rewrite 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

In the midst of 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 man called, 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.”
Psalm 34:6,7

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!

**********

Further Reading:

The Righteous are as Bold as a Lion – Survive and Thrive

Never! 8 Things God Will Never Do

 

 

Faith or Fear? Which Will We Choose?

Faith or Fear

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 real obstacles 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
the impenetrable
a key relationship shattered
financial decimation
all-hope-gone kind of events.

Faith or Fear

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.

Enemy Army

Faith or Fear?

What was Joshua’s response? He looked the facts in the face, threw his shoulders back and replied,

“…though they are strong, you can…”
(Josh 17:18)

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
of relationships
and promotions
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 work station 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!

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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,
your power,
your majesty,
and your goodness,
for as I look to You faith stirs,
invites,
hopes,
endures,
transforms,
until I live and walk in the expression of
true and full life
where all fear is displaced by genuine faith.

_______________

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