What are you so afraid of?
Fear has a way of entering into the deepest recesses of our minds. There it sets up camp and occupies a lot of space. We can be fearful of little piddly things like learning how to use a new camera, or you can be fearful of much bigger issues like marriage and commitment, moving, sharing your faith, fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of this, fear of that. In 2 Timothy 1:7 we are told “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline.” Wow. That kind of puts a crimp in the fear camp.
I have found that often times we are most fearful of what we don’t understand and fearful of people or situations that are different than we are. Recently, I was shopping in the Netherlands and happened upon a very friendly woman who is Dutch, but lives in Germany. So she is fluent in her native language Dutch as well as German and English. As we spoke, she said that she loved meeting new people and often was praising of God for that opportunity. She asked me with curiosity if I was American (politely I am sure since I know my voice had long since given this away.) She then admonished me somewhat, and pleaded with me to be sure and talk to my neighbors. She added that she had some American neighbors who hurried into their houses and pulled their shades down when they got there. “Get to know others around you, and mingle she said. This is so important for you and for your German neighbors.” Her English was very good, but the message she was sending me was even better. Don’t be afraid of someone who is different than you. In the same manner, on many occasions, I have known of churches of different denominations that simply refuse to come together for a community mission or purpose, or even a potluck meal. Why? What in Heaven’s name are we so afraid of? If we go out of our way to speak kind words to our German neighbors, is that going to make us “un-American?” If we have a fellowship meal or a ministry project with the other local churches, is our faith or our witness going to shrivel up and die? Are we less of a Christian for joining hands with other church bodies or are we better for it? I know that my faith is contingent upon the blood of Christ, not on me or any other person I come in contact with. Let “us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”
What about you? Are you afraid of something or someone who is completely different from you? Does it render you helpless in some areas of your ministry? Maybe for you, it is a fear of commitment to a person or a ministry, or failure, or rejection. There are at least two kinds of fear spoken of in scripture that are worth addressing here. One is found in Deuteronomy 10:12 “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
Here the original Hebrew word for fear is Yare which translates to revere; be dreadful or to be held in reverence. And we know by reading this in context that this was a healthy fear, a fear that embraces and acknowledges God’s power and omnipotence.
On the other hand the original Greek word for fear in 1 John 4:18 is the word Phobos that translates “exceeding fear, terror, alarm or fright.” As we read this in context, we see that this fear is not connected to God or to His Son, but rather has a different source. Satan undoubtedly loves to inflict Phobos. (Yes, you can see where we get our word “Phobia.”)
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
So while it is true we are commanded to “fear the Lord” with a Yare or reverent fear, we are also taught that God is not the author of Phobos fear, a fear that holds us in terror and fright, a fear that renders us helpless and hopeless. Truly, this is the “fear of timidity” that as Paul stated in 1 Timothy God has NOT given us.
Finally, I want to add that your faith is not defined by what you know, but rather by your trust in the Savior. Your faith is not contingent upon knowing the outcomes of every venture, event, ministry, or other journey you undertake in this life. Our faith compels us to believe in the power of God working through us in all things as we DO his will, as we do what He has called us to do. At the same time, we understand that even though I don’t know how it all will turn out, God does. Fear, which we allow to set up a stronghold in our minds, will set up camp, and relegate our faith, our Hope in the Creator of the Universe, to a spectator position. We should be so bold as to ask God to remove this “Phobos” from our hearts and minds and replace it with “Yara.” For so it is true: “Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world.”
What are you so afraid of?