Great Faith, Part 1
In these next few posts I want to pick up on a theme that was started a little while back dealing with developing great faith in the midst of an atmosphere of great fear. All of us at one point or another have experienced the effects of fear welling up in our heart and minds creating all sorts of stressful negative emotions that can have devastating mental and physical consequences if not quelled. Before we use broad brush strokes to paint the picture that fear is the diabolical enemy of our souls, we need to look at the place that fear has in driving us into faith.
Fear, in its simplest form, is a mental and emotional reaction based on the activation of a belief about whether something being experienced is safe or dangerous. Since the Fall of humanity and the introduction of the knowledge of good and evil into the world, humans have had to figure out how to navigate through this maze in order to survive. Over time, people develop a belief system (a way of processing life) based on experiences that become the control center for all future behaviors when dealing with similar situations. These belief systems can be passed on from one person to another and one generation to the next. Some of these fears are good and even necessary for survival, like not putting your hands into the flames of a fire or not jumping off the roof of a 10 story building. God has built into our reasoning capacities basic understandings about how to deal with danger and threat. We can call this a fight or flight response and we can thank fear for helping us stay alive!
Another form of fear can be expressed in what we might call reverence. Reverence is the expression of deep honor and respect for something or someone based on an understanding of the relationship between the respecter and respected. For example, even though I should have fear that putting my hand into the flames of a fire will burn me, respecting and understanding the nature of fire can allow me to experience great benefits from it like cooking my food or keeping me warm. The same holds true with respect for people and the positions they hold. In order for me to fully benefit from a surgeon who has the ability to remove a ruptured appendix, I need to act on that respect by putting my life in the hands of the surgeon allowing the surgeon to cut me open and fix the problem. Reverence will allow me to benefit from the nature of the relationship, even if I don't like the person!
This is never truer then in our relationship with Almighty God. This is why the scriptures continually instruct us to fear (reverence) the Lord. We do this not because He is terrifying but because He is awesome and He alone is the ultimate power in the Universe. It would be utterly stupid not to reverence the Lord. The great king, Solomon, expressed it this way: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7)!
If we want to be wise, honor God and His Word and things will go well. If not… this is another way that fear (reverence) can keep us alive.
Now we come to the dark side of fear. As well as having the ability to keep us from danger and to keep our relationship with God in proper perspective (He is God and we are not), in the hands of the enemy of our soul (Satan), fear can be transformed into a weapon of mass destruction. This dark fear can terrorize the heart of humanity and turn them into slaves to serve a despot who is rattling his saber from a propped up throne of lies. How can humanity, which thinks itself to be so wise, get so trapped in this web of deceptive lies?
I believe the answer lies in understanding what fear does when it enters into our minds. One of the most basic of all thought processes is centered on survival. Our brains are constantly scanning our environment for things it believes are harmful and things that it deems are helpful. We are hard wired by God to survive. In order to survive we need certain basic things: food, water, and shelter. These necessities can be boiled down to provision and protection. The thing about needs, though, is that we are not aware that we need them until we are aware that we need them. Sound confusing?
Let’s say that you are in a rush to leave your house one morning to get to an appointment. In your frazzled escape you jump into your car and drive off without your wallet and thus without your drivers license. At that moment you are not aware that you don’t have it and therefore, you are not aware that you will need it. As you are speeding down the road you notice the flashing lights of a police car in your rear view mirror and you look for a place to pull over. You are already frustrated that you are late for an appointment and now you are getting angry that you will be even later. All of a sudden, as you reach for your wallet, you have the shocking revelation that you forgot it and that you now need it in order to deal with the situation at hand. You were not aware of your need until you needed it.
Satan is not all knowing but he is sly and crafty (Genesis 3). This snake slithers into our thought process and poses all sorts of questions about our provision and protection designed to open the discussion about how we intend to have those needs met. The very first line of questioning from the serpent to Eve started with, Has God said…? That question opened a door of thought that Eve had never had to entertain. She was not aware that she needed to know that God actually said what He said until the serpent asked her if it was really true. Now she had to go back into her thought process and question what she believed she heard God say. The serpent took the questioning a step further and asked Eve to explain herself and in her explanation, the serpent injected another possibility - maybe God isn't giving her the whole truth. Maybe God was holding back something good from her and that this new fruit could actually cause her to be wiser and healthier then she currently was. Maybe this fruit was something that she really needed?
This line of questioning and reasoning goes on in our head all day long. We perceive a need for something, we reason out our options, and we make a decision about how we will meet the need and we go for it. If we are in a situation where it is difficult, or even not possible to meet the need, a disconnect in the thought process (need - options - decision - need met) creates a void where fear can come in like a flood. Fear exposes the reality that there is a need for provision and/or protection and something must be done about it in order for me to survive. Over time, repeated experience with this process creates a belief-behavior cycle that controls our life. If it is fear based, we become enslaved to what we have come to fear (not having a resource and not being fully confident that we will be able to get the need met).
Here is an axiom that exposes the entire process expressed above: what we see as our source will determine our course. In other words, whatever/whoever we see as the place where provision and protection can be obtained is the direction we head in to get our needs met. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve were not aware of this need and therefore had no fear because no other option for a source of needs being met other than what they had in God had ever entered into their minds. They had everything that they believed they needed. Now, after the Fall, humanity has a choice to look to God or itself as the source of provision and protection. This choice created a whole new line of reasoning that is so confusing, convoluted, and conditional that provision and protection became an obsession in the human heart.
The reality and realization that this fear exists sets before us a choice of two paths. One path will drive us deeper into the swamp of human strength, cunning, intelligence, and even brute force, to get our needs met - or it will drive us back into the bountiful bosom of Almighty God. The human-source path will require constant vigilance and produces immense stress and all that goes with it (every kind of physical and mental disorder known to man). The God-source path will require surrendered trust and produces peace and all that goes with it (every description of well-being known to man). The choice is totally up to us. The choice is before us in every choice we have to make.
God, in His amazing love and grace, has done everything possible to make the choice clear, make the right possible, and even gives us the right answer - choose life, choose Him (Deut. 30:19). Fear is the only thing separating us from this life-giving love. The Apostle John summed up this truth in this simply powerful statement:
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. (I John 4:18 NLT)
We are on a quest to fully experience the perfect love of God, and when we do, we will find the place where Great Faith obliterates great fear every time!
So stay tuned, and tune in...
by Pastor Jim Anan