Forthright Magazine

Fear, faith & church directions

If we trivialize fear within scripture, we may fail to live with faith. If we assume we understand what is best, we may chose the wrong path. How well are we listening to scripture?

We know the stories. Perhaps the familiarity trivializes the impact they should have. Have we become deaf to the embedded fear?

Forward looked impossible. If ever there was a moment for an anxiety attack this was it. Trapped between the sea and a vindictive charging Egyptian army, the end seemed inevitable. Where was God? Whatever hope had existed for tomorrow was a dissipating mist.

God’s instructions were clear regarding the land of Canaan. But the walled cities were fortified. The land was filled with giant people. Nearly everyone was thinking the same thing. Crossing the Jordan would be suicide. That choice made no sense. Fear dominated their hearts and their mind’s decisions.

The stories continue.  Who in the world would engage in one-on-one battle with a life-long military champion giant? What made sense involved huddling in fear with the other Israelites.

With the combined armies of Israel and Syria threatening the king of Judah’s life, the reasonable response involved requesting Assyrian aid. The prophet’s encouragement to trust in God’s deliverance and “If your faith does not remain firm, then you will not remain secure” (Isaiah 7:14) sounded like nonsense.

Fear thrives on human reasoning. Fear feeds on looking at life’s next step through human eyes. The fixation is upon limitations and what seems reasonable based on statistics, size, projected outcomes, dominant cultural forces … the list goes on.

Faith, on the other hand, sees the world through the eyes of God’s promises, commands and teachings. It trusts in his deliverance. It obeys even when the fire is seven times hotter while proclaiming:

 “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” Daniel 3:16-18.

Faith charts one path … fear another.

And so today’s church leaders face their own giants and seemingly impossible situations. When society’s values differ from God’s will, then God’s ways appear increasingly exotic, untenable and not realistic. Leaders perceive white hairs filling the pews. Simplistic explanations counsel appeasing societal forces and acquiescing. Will the leaders approach their decisions with fear or with faith to obey God?

Nothing is new under the sun! What do today’s giants look like? Each person seeks to do what is right in his or her own eyes. Evil is called good and good evil. Nothing is new under the sun!

If nothing is new under the sun, then neither is the uncommon faith of a Joshua, a Caleb or a David standing tall when human eyes only offer fear. Unless we stand in their shoes aware of how others trembled with fear, we may not realize our story is nothing new. What will we choose? Fear and accommodation or faith and obedience?



Barry Newton
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