Thursday, July 28, 2016

Fear vs Faith

Fear. It is with us from our very beginning moments after delivery. It fills many in the final days of life. At our birth, we may not be able to articulate the words, but certainly the fear stems from several questions related to our new setting:  “Where am I? Why is it so bright? Why I am so cold?” Nearing death, we may be able to articulate the words, but rational answers may be as distant as they were when we were newly born.

Fear. It is often very powerful. It is often irrational. I am not making light of the reality of someone’s fear, but consider how fearful we can be of something like a spider. Most any spider is less than the size of an average adult’s hand, and yet despite the massive size advantage that human’s have, many humans have a very real fear of these smallish creatures. Such a fear is largely irrational based upon the facts, but that does not diminish the reality or the power that fear has.

Fear. So what comes to mind for you? What is your greatest fear? How did you come to have that fear? What triggers it now? Perhaps it is emotional. Perhaps it is financial. Or perhaps something else. Perhaps a certain fear has gripped you for years. Or maybe it has been a recent development. As the previous paragraph stated, fear is irrational, so perhaps none of these questions makes sense. All that is certain for you is fear.

Fear. This past Sunday, I preached on the fear of two individuals from Mark 5. One was an important official, the other a nameless woman. Both had their reasons for fear (a dying daughter, further ostracism), but both overcame their fear by having a faith that allowed Jesus to do more than they had first imagined. Certainly, both wanted health restored (for Jairus, his daughter; for the woman, her issue of blood), but Jairus also developed an understanding of Jesus that was counter to what his usual friends and coworkers thought, and the woman received peace with God. Why? They pushed through the fear of the moment by exercising a faith that they were unaware they, themselves, possessed.

Fear. Of course, one kind of fear is warranted. A fear, or reverent awe, of God is commended throughout the Bible (see Psalm 111.10, cf. Proverbs 15.33). This kind of fear is rational because of the greatness of God, especially considering the relative nature of that greatness to humanity (maybe something like what the spider thinks about us). However, some people fear God as one who is full of spite, instead of fearing Him as the one who loves beyond our faults (1 John 4.18). To revere God, to hold Him in awe, is to fear Him in a way that can deepen our faith in Him. Again, this is the kind of fear we are to have to allow us to gain wisdom and live our lives as He wishes.

Faith. Faith is the true opposite of fear. Thus, as we learn to exercise our faith, we are able to overcome our fears. This does not mean that our fears cease to invade our minds, but it does mean that these negative fears do not have to be in control. Only one kind of fear can reside in your mind at any given time – a fear of circumstance or a fear of God. Paul writes that we are more than conquerors (Romans 8.37). A conqueror is one who may have had fear, but has learned to overcome it. As a follower of Jesus, we place our trust in the One who conquered for us, and yet those whose faith is in Jesus are called more than conquerors. Just as Jairus and the bleeding woman in Romans 5 exercised their faith, we will find that when we exercise ours, not only do our fears subside, but Jesus can provide a greater hope than we might have first imagined.

Faith or fear? Life is filled with many choices, and considering the outcome of a choice is often very wise. Such is true for the choice between faith and fear. While choosing faith in Jesus over fear is certainly easier said than done, the eternal benefits far outweigh any short-term costs. I hope you will remember that. I hope I remember that too.

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