Hanging on to Fear, Denying God’s Power

I love the book of Acts and how it describes first-century Christians, and so I’ve really been enjoying this latest sermon series as the pastors of The Crossing are working their way through the book of the Bible that describes how the church was begun in the wake of Christ’s resurrection and ascension. As Keith was preaching this past Sunday about all the ways in which Christians were persecuted, I wondered how many of those early Christians lived their lives in constant fear. I wasn’t wondering that because I also fear persecution. Not in the “Land of the Free,” and certainly not in mid-Missouri, near enough to throw a rock and hit the Bible Belt. I don’t fear persecution yet, at any rate.

I was wondering, though, because I battle with fear in general. Anxiety, worry, fear…call it what you want. I battle it.

I have an impressive list of small fears, many of which you might relate to – I worry about my kids, I fear for their safety when they are out at night. I am anxious whenever unexpected expenses crop up and it looks as though my husband and I may be forced to raid our savings account to pay for repairs to our van. I worry about things I’ve said and how they might have been received. I fret that we’ll grow old and have no savings, and we’ll have to eat cat food (no wait…that’s my husband’s fear). I could go on and on, but these are not the fears I “really” struggle with. I find I can set aside my gut reactions in many of these instances fairly quickly.

The fear I’m talking about has to do with ultimate control over my own life.

This is not a new area of insight for me; in the last few years, it’s become very clear to me that whenever I seek to control some situation in my life, I’m not trusting God. Whenever I fear “What might happen if FILL-IN-THE-BLANK comes to pass?” I now understand that I’m not believing in God’s good plan for my life. The Lord has taught me through several situations how to let go of my fear or desire to control, and to trust Him. (Praying through the Psalms, in particular, has really helped me.)

But the problem is that “desire to control” is a sin I keep giving up to Him, and it keeps crawling off the altar and right back into my arms.

Recently, I was expressing my fears to my husband over a particular situation in our lives where fear has been a dominating issue with me. As we talked, I began to get frustrated with him, because I wanted Warren to sympathize, to tell me he understood how I felt and that it was okay for me to feel the way I did. The conversation ended well enough, but I was plagued with this feeling that I was searching for something elusive in his words. Something I didn’t find.

A few days after that conversation, I picked up the book I am reading this week, and within minutes a little sentence jumped off the page and slapped me in the face. Hard.

“Fear is sin.” (1)

This bold, hard statement was followed by, “God is not sympathetic to my unbelief. Why? Because fear, worry and unbelief say to God that we don’t really believe He is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15) We are calling God a liar.”

Can anyone relate to expressing fears to someone – your spouse, or perhaps a close friend – and wanting somewhere in that conversation to get “permission” to hang on to those fears? That’s what I was looking for in that conversation I alluded to earlier. I didn’t know at the time what exactly I was seeking, but as I read this paragraph, it struck me that I wanted my husband to tell me that my fears were understandable, that it was even wise to be wary and fearful in this particular situation. I wanted him to sympathize, and in so doing to give me the “go-ahead,” if you will, to hang on to those fears.

Thank God he wouldn’t do it! I came away from our conversation unsettled because I didn’t get what I wanted…and that helped me to see the sin of “desire to control” creeping back up into my arms.

I thank God that He has seen fit to give me not only a husband but a few very good friends who feel free to point out to me when I am pursuing something sinful. This is one of the many amazing blessings He provides us through the Body of Christ, at least in my opinion, a blessing that likely existed from the very beginning, as the first-century church was slowly being built up. Acts 2:42 says that the early believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship. I have to think this must have included exhorting each other to throw off sinful behaviors and thought patterns. Surely they encouraged each other to boldly cling to Christ when they faced opposition and persecution, rather than to be overtaken by fear. We who profess Jesus as our Lord today are all fighting this same basic fight, aren’t we?

Like many other Christians, I would love to see revival break out and for the 21st-century church to take on more and more qualities of its first-century predecessor. I would love to see more passion for Jesus playing out in deep friendships that offer accountability and support to each other as we seek to turn from sin and our selfish desires and obey Christ. I would love to see more deep-seated concern for the welfare of the Body of Christ. (Really? They sold their possessions and gave to all as needed it? Just like it says in Acts 2:45?) I would love to see more of us – starting with me – loving God’s Word so much that we’d give our lives for it…rather than deny its power in our lives.

When you find yourself facing a situation that puts knots in the pit of your stomach…when your very breath feels restricted by the fear gripping your throat…when your mind races, searching for a way out of your circumstances…where do you turn? I pray that more and more, we would all encourage each other to turn to God’s Word for comfort and peace.

Psalm 27:1
The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

(1) Excerpt from “Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood” by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Mahaney Whitacre.

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