Tag Archives: fear

Not always believable, but always true

asbury sanctuary cross plasticYesterday was an interesting day. I was forced to deal with the truth of God which I currently have a hard time believing. Even now I hesitate to tell you for fear that it might push you away from the church rather than toward it (and honestly, I fear others thinking less of me). So as I begin, let me say something very clearly about God’s word for us in Scripture. This is an important lesson God taught me over the past week:

Don’t accept something because you are able to believe it, accept it because it is true.

Now, just that phrase will send theologically-minded thinkers and debaters running down a rabbit trail talking about how we know something to be true. I’m not here to debate that. What I can say is that when you read the Bible with an ear for the truth of God, when you seek to hear truth – real truth – God will show it to you. God reveals Himself to those who truly seek Him.

With that in mind, I knew this promise of God to be true: and as a recap, yesterday I was preaching from Haggai chapter 2 (a very popular book for preachers – he said with tongue in cheek). In Haggai chapter 2 the prophet is speaking to the leaders of God’s people, the ones who have just recently returned from exile. They have come back to the “promised land” that was destroyed by the enemy. The temple itself was in ruins as well. Through Haggai the Lord says to those leaders and the people – I am going to restore your land and the house of God to a greater glory than you can even remember. It’s not a carrot dangled before them to get them to dance to God’s tune. It is not an inspirational speech telling them, “you can do this.” It is a promise that God will do a new thing even in the midst of what seems to have come undone.

So, I tried to preach that promise to the church where there are significantly less people this week than there was the same week 3 years ago. I did my best to proclaim this promise of God to a room less full than it had been. That was really hard. I feel the burden of the loss. I feel the weight of the empty seats. I have come to a place where internally I carry the failure. And then God leads me to this passage. God makes me not only hear the promise, but he leads me to preach it. It was one of the hardest sermons for me to deliver because I had to keep listening to my own voice declaring a promise I found so hard to believe.

But here’s the point of all this: the good news is not that I believe this promise, the good news is that the promise is true. The reality of God and the future promise of God does not depend on my ability to believe. The future glory depends only on the faithfulness of God to deliver on His promise. And God is faithful.

I say all this to you and share my unbelief for this reason – you may be in a place where you hear God’s promise but find it hard to believe. Where God says you are forgiven, you may think your sin is too great. Where God says I will never leave you, you may feel like God is nowhere to be found. Where God says, I have come to give you life and give it to the full, you may wonder if it will ever happen for you. The good news is that God’s promises may not always be believable, but they are always true. You may find it hard to believe what the Bible says God will do and is doing, but your doubt in God does not negate God’s mercy and love and grace for you.

God’s promises are not always believable, but they are always true. That’s the hope I cling to. I encourage you to do the same.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

Frozen by Fear

blueholeIt wasn’t like cliff-diving in Jamaica or Australia on some ledge hundreds of feet in the air, but it might as well have been the tallest cliff in the world from where I stood. Where did I stand, you ask? Well, on the top of the highest cliff on the north side of “Blue Hole” – a local recreation/swimming area in my hometown. I had been up there several times and stood looking over the edge. I wanted to experience the jump, but I was paralyzed by my fear. I was frozen in place.

I’ve learned that fear has that effect on me sometimes. When fear begins to creep into my psyche and my spirit I often find myself locked up. It’s not my feet or my arms that don’t work, it’s my brain. I get seized up like a motor that threw a rod, like a teenage boy trying for the very first time to ask out a girl. I know I need to think something, but the gears don’t seem to move.

Fear can do that. It can cause us to get frozen in our tracks. It can paralyze our brain functions and hinder our ability to move forward. It’s not a fun place to be.

There was one day when Jesus encountered a man who was stuck inside a body that wouldn’t function. He was physically paralyzed. The man was brought to Jesus by some friends. They actually opened up the roof and lowered him down to where Jesus was. Jesus looked at the man. Then he looked up to see his friends staring down through the newly opened hole in the roof. Looking back at the man he said – “Your sins are forgiven.” Now, this caused a stir among the Jewish people – only God can forgive sins, they said. Jesus replied, “So, would it be easier for me to just say get up and walk?” And so he did that, and the man got up and walked.

The story is much about who Jesus is, but it is also about that man. Much speculation has gone into trying to figure out his real issue. I don’t have a definitive answer for you on that. What I do have is my own experience of being paralyzed by fear – and sometimes the fear that comes from not living the way God wants me to live. There are times in my life when I find myself in that man’s place.

So, what is it I want from Jesus in those moments? Honestly, it would be nice if he said, “Get up and walk,” and I could and I would. I would like it if God just cleared the cobwebs, gave me a push in the right direction and showed me what to do.

What is it I usually get from God in those moments? “Your sins are forgiven” or “Fear not, I am with you.” More than just thawing out my frozen gray matter, God looks to address the deeper issue. It may be that I am not living the way God wants. Often times I’m just giving into the fear (which you could argue IS my sin – a lack of trust in God).

What I want would seem to me to be the easier answer – just lay out the path for me and give me a push in that direction. It’s like being on the top of that cliff and having a friend give you a gentle push. You have little choice at that point but to make your way to the water.

What God seems to want is not what seems easy to me. God wants me to trust him more. God wants me to take a deep breath, believe he is in control and begin to figure out which way I need to go. That’s what ultimately happened for me on that cliff. I took the step all on my own. I didn’t let fear drive my decision. It was a great adventure – and I did it on my own.

I am discovering that trusting God is not “doing it on my own.” But, it is also not just letting God force me or push me into something. I have discovered that when I do not give into fear and instead I trust God, then I experience a great adventure WITH God. We become partners. And God also sends others to be with me – we become a team, a spiritual force working to make the Kingdom of God a greater reality in this world.

Stepping off that cliff wasn’t easy.  Following God’s call isn’t always easy, either.  But in both cases, I found myself stronger for having made the step and for having followed His call.  I have discovered that my fear is not stronger than faith – even when I think fear just might be more powerful, it is not!  I hope you will know this truth as well.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike