FEAR ISN'T A LIAR, IT'S A REALITY...NOW WHAT?
REVIEW: 1. Fear often leads us to disobey God. We saw this in the example of King Saul vs. Abraham. Both had fears, but one was overcome by that fear and sinned against God, the other chose to believe God rather than submit to fear. 2. Fear is an indication of what has authority in our lives. The thing we are afraid of is the thing that often controls us and our actions. Luke 12:4 says to not fear those who can kill the body but the one who can cast us into eternal damnation. 3. God tells us to be faithful unto death, Revelation 2;10. That means fear cannot enter into the equation when we say we believe in God. If we truly believe in God there is nothing we should fear. Part one of the "Fear v. Faith" series ended with some words from David from Psalm: Psalm 118:1-8 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! 2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 4 Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. 6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.What can man do to me? 7 The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. 8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. This verse speaks of David’s confidence in God, not because David never had struggles, but because time and time again, when David chose to trust God in those struggles, YHVH proved Himself to be faithful even in David's suffering and distress. It is important to note that God isn't deemed "faithful" because He gives us what we want, He is faithful because He honors His covenant and accomplishes His will in spite of our suffering..
After taking a deep dive into the reality of fear in the previous post, in part 2 we will focus on faith and its impact on leading us away from fear to hope in YHVH.
Paul teaches a great deal in his letters about faith. It was clearly a big question for the early church. Many of these believers were orthodox Jews, who had been steeped in man-traditions that led them to believe they needed to put their faith in the temple, the authority of the High Priest with their commands, teachings, and “revelations” rather than in YHVH who had led them out of Egypt and saved them countless times throughout their history. Paul's letter to the church in Rome spends significant time teaching on the topic of faith, but In Romans 4, Paul breaks it down beautifully.
Romans 4:18-25 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. This verse makes some pretty compelling claims about Abraham's faith in God. 1. He believed because of his hope in God. (V.18) 2. His faith was not weakened by his physical circumstances limitations . (V.19) 3. He did not waver in His belief that God would fulfill the promise. (V.20) 4. He grew strong in faith by giving glory to God. (V.20) 5. He was FULLY convinced of YHVH's faithfulness. (V.21) Paul then goes on to say that this wasn't recorded only for Abraham but for us as well. We will break down these different statements and explore how they inform, strengthen, and secure our faith in YHVH so we do not fall prey to the influence of fear. We will tackle these first two characteristics in this article.
1. He believed because of his hope in God. (V.18)
This is a critical starting point to this discussion. As we pointed out in Part 1 of this series, fear has power or control because of its ability to appeal to our flesh. Our flesh rarely guides us into hope in YHVH because of the tangible and real impact it has on our lives right now. Abraham too faced issues with his physical circumstances, that did eventually cause him to respond in fear concerning YHVH's command and take matters into his own hands to accomplish the promise YHVH made. However, as Abraham submits his life and his hope to YHVH, trusting once again that God is fully able to fulfill the promise He made, then Abraham was able to fully overcome his fear and trust YHVH for His finished work.
The writer of Hebrews tackles the topic of faith and hits at the reason why hope and faith in YHVH is critical to us overcoming the fear that plagues our flesh and fully trust in YHVH's will and instructions.
Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. The writer connects two key beliefs to frame our response to fear and strengthen our faith
1. We must first believe YHVH exists
2. We must believe He rewards those who seek Him It is these two beliefs that cause us to "draw near" to YHVH in our suffering, anxiety and fear instead of drawing near to other things. In Part 1 I explained my fear of snakes and how that fear of snakes causes me to react in a way that is abnormal for me. I will do anything necessary to avoid snakes, but if that confrontation is unavoidable, that fear causes me to draw near to my shotgun. Fear forces us to reconcile where our trust and hope is truly placed. If we truly believe YHVH exists and that He rewards those who seek Him, then every ounce of our spirit should run and hide in the refuge that is our God, YHVH. It is in Him that we find our security and hope. However, far too often that fear exposes our trust as we run to addictions, money, or other means to attempt to pacify our fear in that moment. The author of Hebrews explains the issues with unbelief earlier in the letter. Hebrews 3:12-15 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
Hebrews warns the reader not to fall into the evil of having an "unbelieving heart." The
choice of words here is important because most of us on the surface wouldn't call unbelief evil, we may call it "falling short" or "struggling" but calling it evil takes unbelief to an entirely different level. When we chase this statement down as the writer continues, it is clear why this claim is not only true but completely relevant to any audience. The writer states that it is unbelief that leads us to falling away from the living God. This is no small assertion, but as we explored in part 1 of this series, we witness time and time again as fear took hold in someone's life, every time its fruit led them away from YHVH not into trusting obedience to Him. As Hebrews 11 explains, belief leads us to draw near to YHVH, naturally unbelief would draw us away from Him. Why is that evil? Because goodness, righteousness and holiness are only found in and through Him. That is why no matter the circumstances our flesh may face, YHVH is and always will be our refuge and our peace. This is why understanding how fear impacts our faith, and when faced with these fears that continually challenge our flesh, we must fully invest in strengthening our spirit in truth so our faith and belief in YHVH remains resolute. This only comes from training ourselves in the Word of God and acting in obedience as His Spirit guides us in truth. How do we avoid the pitfall of unbelief? Numbers 14:5-12 5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel. 6 And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. 8 If YHVH delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against YHVH And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and YHVH is with us; do not fear them.” 10 Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of YHVH appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel. 11 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? 12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”
The account from Numbers 14 reveals 2 key factors in this discussion of fear v. faith:
1. Fear is a powerful motivator
2. Faith and belief in YHVH is our only hope to overcoming our fear. It is clear in this passage the difference between believing YHVH exists and that He rewards those who seek Him, and the sin of unbelief propelled by our fears. As we pointed out in part 1, fear exposes the Hebrews loyalties and instead of leading them to draw near to YHVH they run to what then trust as they always do, the might and power of men. In their disbelief the people even go as far to pick up rocks to stone Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb, the very people trying to lead them into drawing closer to YHVH. In glaring contrast, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb have such confidence in YHVH, remembering what He had already brought them through, they were willing to face certain death to deliver truth to their brothers and neighbors. After exhorting the people to place their faith in YHVH as a proven strength and refuge for them, the people hated them and despised the Word of YHVH. God even says they despise Him because of their unbelief. Understanding the sin of the Hebrews is critical to helping us process our own response to fear and truly engaging our belief in YHVH. One thing that has always struck me is the Hebrews have seen YHVH work in very real and tangible ways, yet at each difficulty and challenge they faced, the people succumbed to their fear, and rebelled against YHVH. Think about all He had already done: 1. 10 Plagues in Egypt 2. Saving them from destruction at the sea crossing 3. Witnessing His power at Mt. Sinai 4. Manna and Quail from Heaven 5. Water from a rock 6. Guided by the very glory of YHVH though a cloud by day, fire by night. Had God not done enough to earn their trust and faith? For us, we often excuse our unbelief because we don't see Him "part the sea," but the Scripture says we too are without excuse for unbelief. Romans 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
According to Romans 1:20 we, like the Hebrews in Numbers, have no excuse to reject YHVH, to despise Him in our unbelief. If we are honest with ourselves, YHVH has given us many reasons to believe Him and to put our hope in Him, but we too fail to recognize YHVH's deliverance in our lives just as the Hebrews did. Our resolve needs to be like that of Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb that we can confidently and boldly declare the Word of God in truth even if it means facing and overcoming our fears to do so.
Let's Review what we have discovered so far: -We must believe in God to draw near to Him -Our unbelief drives us away from God -God has given us many reasons to believe in Him and we, like the Hebrews, are without excuse for our evil unbelief.
2. His faith was not weakened by his physical circumstances. (V.19)
The Bible is full of examples of men and women who's faith was overcome by their physical circumstances King Saul, Peter, Jonah, Sarah, Lot's wife, Sampson, Gideon, Solomon and the list goes on and on. All of these people faced some physical challenge, hardship, or temptation that led them away from YHVH rather than caused them to draw near to Him. In their appeal to their flesh, their unbelief is exposed, and it bears the fruit of evil in their lives. Some eventually overcome these fears and challenges by remembering and trusting in YHVH, but others are eventually lost to them completely and never return to their Creator.
Conversely, the Bible is replete with those who when faced with significant physical fear or circumstances respond by demonstrating that their faith was in YHVH by drawing near to Him and obeying His commands Abraham, Paul, Peter after Pentecost, Job, and Samuel.
What sets these two groups of people apart? Why does one group weaken and the other strengthen? I believe the answer is fear. The thing they feared the most wasn’t God. When we believe in God, then we have proper fear and awe of Him. We realize He is the greatest thing out there and despite our physical circumstances, YHVH is eternal, secure, and faithful. Joshua and Caleb had a proper fear of God, which led them to not fear the Canaanites, but the rest of the Hebrews did not have a proper fear of God which led to their improper fear of the Canaanites. Remember the verse we explored in part 1:
Proverbs 29:25 esv
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.
Despite their circumstances Abraham, Paul, Peter, Job all had this great trust in God, they believed He was who He said He was. They believed the evidence all around them, that He not only exists but that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. Throughout my life I’ve noticed people with more difficult or tragic histories tend to have a radical and unwavering faith and belief in God. One that is far more unshakeable than someone who has never really experienced major problems or adversity in their life. This is definitely not a “rule”, but in many cases it’s true. Why do you think that is?
When our physical circumstances lead us to fear of something other than God we are in danger of having a weakened faith. This is why even our physical difficulties and trials can actually have a benefit to us. Paul says it like this:
"3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
Through the fire of facing fear and difficulty our faith and hope is refined and hardened in a
way that is unbreakable. Should we willy-nilly run out and do something stupid to challenge our faith through physical difficulty? No, that's not the lesson here. But as we readily accept the reality of fear, respond correctly to that fear in the small things, then as we see YHVH remain faithful in our obedience, our faith grows and becomes more and more unshakable. Paul is such a fantastic example of this lesson, but one account in particular drives the point home. Acts 20:17-25 "17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again." Knowing that his life is in danger and that he is sought for arrest in Jerusalem, Paul follows the direction of the Holy Spirit, obeying YHVH, even though it eventually leads to his death. Paul makes no indication that he is afraid, instead you see this calm, comfort and peace as Paul tells the Ephesians this will be the last time he sees them and commits his life to full obedience to YHVH. Paul makes it clear he is aware that his time in Jerusalem will lead to his imprisonment and affliction, but he says he does not account his life of any value to himself. His aim and goal is to serve YHVH and to finish the race that was set out for him. It is that kind of faith and hope we can all actively partake in. Paul's resolve came first from knowing the Word of YHVH, then experiencing God, then through faithfully walking in obedience step by step, day by day. As he continued to follow in the little things his confidence grows as he witnesses the mighty work of YHVH in his life. Paul demonstrates to us why unbelief is evil, but more importantly how critical belief is in overcoming even the most compelling fears we will face.
According to these passages:
-People of faith are not weakened by their physical circumstances
-Fear of the wrong things leads us to the evil of unbelief
-Overcoming physical fear is directly related to fearing YHVH
-Difficulties benefit our faith by developing: endurance, character, hope, and faith in God.
Maybe the most difficult truth of this fear v. faith topic is we cannot conjure up faith and overcome fear on our own efforts. When we place our trust in ourselves, it is always a losing battle. Our flesh has a breaking point, all of us do and no matter how hard we try we cannot overcome that reality. Fear is a reality of being human and fleshly, because fear has its full effect by appealing to that flesh that we cannot escape.
This is why understanding it is through the Word of God alone that we develop our hope and trust in Him. In that hope we obey (even with the small things) which strengthens our faith and causes us to be more and more resolute in our faith. Finally, in fearing YHVH, we find the ultimate security to face our fear even to the point of death. It is that full belief and reliance on YHVH alone that equips us to overcome our fear each time it attempts to find a foothold in our lives.
I’ll leave you with one promise to meditate on this week. Write this verse down, hang it up, and read it, pray about it, and let God through His Spirit bring you to full conviction of this truth in your own life.
According to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. If you are in covenant relationship with the King of kings and the Lord of lords, YHVH, then you have nothing to fear. If you are not in covenant with YHVH, do not wait, now is the time. repent of your unbelief, trust YHVH, and begin walking in covenant obedience to Him. Shalom.