Summary: One of the ways we Edge God out is when when we ignore the fear of the Lord and fall prey to fear of men. How does fear impact our relationship with God? What is the antidote?
EGO _ Edging God Out through Fear
There is a reality show on TV called the Fear Factor. The participants are challenged to conquer their fears across many things and then one person wins a good amount of money. The “activities” include, staying in closed spaces, being with disgusting creepy crawly creatures, eating rotten food and many times worms, staying under water for a long time, doing stunts at high places, doing things on moving trucks etc etc. Overall it is about making money by overcoming fear. Good idea isn’t it? The show also gives an idea about what human beings can be afraid of. It is a fascinating area of study. So you know the topic of today’s sermon.
This is the third sermon on the topic of Edging God out. We have been discussing on the topic if what prevents us from experiencing God’s Presence, Abundance , Love and Grace in our lives. We have examined two issues, the issue of our own ego, and one of the things that causes that, namely Pride.
We defined Pride as something when we start thinking more about ourselves than we ought to. We saw that the antidote to Edging God Out through Pride is Exalting God Only, through true Humility.
Today, we are going to examine another characteristic that causes us to Edge God Out. It is called Fear.
So let us start with the basic question. Is fear a bad thing? I guess all of us know the answer. Like pain, Fear is also a gift from God. Without fear we would end up doing unimaginable things. We would get into dangerous situations, we would end up hurting ourselves and others if we do not have the feeling of fear. So fear is given by God for a purpose.
The Bible clearly tells us to fear God. Psalm 111:10 (NKJV) 10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever. Proverbs 14:26 (NKJV) 26 In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, And His children will have a place of refuge. After having spent 12 chapters of the book Ecclesiastes in lamenting the meaninglessness of things around us, King Solomon concludes the book thus Ecclesiastes 12:13 (NKJV) 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all. So fear of God is something that we are all asked to exhibit. The reason is simple. When we fear God, we are more likely to stay out of trouble.
So, when does fear become a bad thing? How does fear end up being toxic? Fear becomes toxic when it is of men. Proverbs 29:25 (NKJV) 25 The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe. Jesus wraps this issue of whom to fear and whom not to fear nicely when he says Luke 12:4-5 (NKJV) 4 "And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!
So what is toxic fear? You know some examples. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of being overlooked for a position, fear of future, fear of being alone, fear of inadequacy.. the list can go on and on. There is a latest in this list it is called FOMO, fear of missing out. It became so prevalent that in 2013, Oxford dictionary included this as a formal word, and defined it as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.” It is understood that most of the social media addictions are due to FOMO. Statistics show that almost half to three fourth of teenagers are badly affected by FOMO. Sometimes, FOMO happens even without social media. Why was I not invited to a particular event, or party or something like that.
Why does this happen? Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges say that “The root cause of toxic fear is a life built on a lie that tells us we are not safe playing things God’s way and we are going to miss out on something good. It is FEAR. False Evidence Appearing Real”
Let us look at Bible character to understand this better. Let us take Pontius Pilate. What is your opinion about Pilate? Is he a good guy or a bad guy? Was he a confident man, courageous man? What opinion did you hold of him?
Actually, initially when I heard the story of Pilate, I had thought of him as a strong, confident, courageous and evil ruler. After all he was the governor of a Roman province and he was the one who sent Jesus to the cross. But as I studied the events more, my impression about Pilate changed. Want to know how? Let us look at some of the instances. The story of Pilate is told in all the four Gospels. Let us look at the narrative by Luke first, given in Luke Chapter 23. You would notice that the first reaction from Pilate is to dismiss the case because he cannot find anything wrong with Jesus’ actions. And then when the crowd insists that he is stirring up people even in Galilee, he decides to send Jesus to Herod, who was the governor of Galilee. Herod also does not find anything wrong in Jesus’ actins and hence he sends him back to Pilate. Pilate examines the case again and finds nothing wrong with Jesus again. He even argues Jesus’ case with the chief priests, rulers and the people. Luke 23:13-16 (NKJV) 13 Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, 14 said to them, "You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; 15 no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him. 16 I will therefore chastise Him and release Him". After this he tries once more to establish Jesus’s innocence (v 22), but finally gives in.