Fighting Fear

July 24, 2008

In about 60 hours, 18 people from Concord are going to take a risk for the Gospel. We are going to board a plane, weighing hundreds of pounds, filled with flammable jet-fuel, and sit quasi-comfortably as we are rocketed hundreds of miles an hour toward a resource-rich country with hundreds of thousands of impoverished people called Peru. We are then going to get on a bus, trusting the competency of a person we don’t know, who will drive a massive charter bus up guardrail-less rocky roads resting on the rugged landscape of the Andes Mountain range, leading us up the side of countless mountains on our way to Huaraz. We are then going to strap backpacks on our backs and hike at elevations reaching 13,000 feet for the joy of bringing the sin-liberating, soul-satisfying Gospel to people who may have never heard about Jesus.

We are leaving behind comforts. We are leaving behind loved ones. We are leaving behind the mirage of safety and security. Yes, a mirage.  18 people are going to take a risk for the Gospel next week. Here is the thing about taking risks: they often inevitably produce anxiety in our hearts. We will be in a place where we are outsiders, where are confronted with real language and cultural barriers, and where we are at the mercy of others. The removal of such obstacles, living in a place where we are known, accepted and have values in common are just some of the things that cause us to feel safe and secure within the confines of our homes nestled here in the valley we call Chattanooga. But the reality is that even though we may feel safe and secure, there are millions of unforeseen variables that threaten both our safety and security at this very moment. As much as we like to think we are, we are not in control right now. Right now God is maintaining your health. He is the only thing keeping you from slipping into cardiac arrest at this very moment. Hopefully you aren’t driving and reading this, but as you travel this weekend, it is God who will keep your car on the road. The spiritual forces of evil in this world seek your destruction at this moment; God stays their hand.

The mirage of safety and security are our man-made antidotes to fear. We innoculate ourselves to the uncertainties of life by playing it safe. We live in the suburbs in our gated communities. We buy cars with 7 air bags. We have trust funds and savings accounts. We practice preventive medicine. We never dare to make seemingly “reckless” decisions such as taking our children to live on hostile foreign soil for the sake of Jesus. None of responsible aims toward security are inherently sinful. However, there is a fine line between belief in God’s sovereign care and being seized as captive to our fear by trying to control our circumstances. As a people who love comfort and security, we rarely venture out into the deep as high risk, high reward people.

And to be honest, I’m right there with you. This is one of the first mission trips I’ve ever taken where I haven’t felt overwhelmed with fear. What was the fear? Fear of what I might lose. My family, my health, even my life. I’ve rarely been fearful of being rejected by whom I am bringing the Gospel to, but confront me with the reality that in this commission to take the Gospel to the nations I might lose something tangible or personal to me, and suddenly fear grips me. In that instant I’m confronted by all the variables that I can’t control, yet I desperately want to control.

So how do you fight this paralyzing fear, the kind of fear that causes us to settle for a safe, comfortable life in the suburbs (and you might ask, “Is that life wrong?” I’m not sure that it is – unless of course our love for that kind of life compromises our obedience to the Gospel)? How do we fight the kind of fear that would keep us from doing hard things for the sake of the Kingdom?

I found several helpful words of wisdom in John Flavel’s great book called Keeping the Heart about how to keep the heart from being tormented and distracted in the face of threat, danger or even anxiety. I’ve tried to translate/interpret them into more common language.

  1. Look upon every creature as one in the hand of God, who manages them all in every motion of life, limiting, restraining and determining each one according to God’s good pleasure.
  2. Remember that God, in whose hand are all creatures, is much more tender and loving toward us than we can be of ourselves.
  3. Don’t tremble at the voice (or threats) of men when obedience to God is at stake. Never away from any circumstance which God has commanded that you run towards.
  4. Remember how much trouble your former fears have brought into your life.
  5. Fear can lead to unbelief. Therefore, we must remember that there is more evil in our fears than there is in what we fear itself. Fear presents troubles as much greater than they are, and so tortues the soul more than the suffering itself.
  6. Consult the many precious promises in God’s Word meant to comfort us in every danger or hardship.
  7. Quiet your troubled heart by remembering the many past experiences of God’s faithfulness in your former distress.
  8. Repent of anything that leads to a guilty conscience. A guilty conscience is more terrified by imagined dangers than a pure conscience is by real ones.
  9. Consider the honor of Jesus of greater value than personal comfort or safety. If we trust in comforts and safety the same as those who do not believe in Jesus, have we not put before a blind world a severe stumbling block?
  10. Pour out to God in prayer any fear which the devil and our own unbelief pour upon us in our fear.

We covet your prayers this week, and as you pray, pray that we would fear no evil, for our God is with us.

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