Summary: God never intended His people to operate in marriage, home, work, church, life, etc, in fear.
To Follow or Fear
Woodlawn Baptist Church
November 4, 2007
I live in fear. Do you? Though most of you’d never know it, I fear a lot of things. I am afraid of deep water. I am afraid of needles. I fear growing old in this body. Some of you are twice my age and get around better than me. I fear losing what mind I have. I want to think and communicate clearly right up to the day I die. I fear criticism – it drives my perfectionism and a lot of sleepless nights. I fear failure. I say numbers don’t matter to me, but low attendance and offerings and souls saved sound like failure to me. I fear financial failure, pastoral failure, associational failure, and sometimes moral failure. I fear rejection. I want to be liked. It keeps me from saying no to some people and yes to others who are important to me. I fear the unknown. I’m anal that way. I fear messing up at raising my kids. I fear intimacy. I fear that I might not be prepared for retirement. Now I fear not being able to make my mortgage. And to add to it, although I pastor and believe we serve the God of no limitations, I fear that I will miss what great things God has in store for me because of my little, shortsighted thinking.
Are you starting to get the picture? Do you share any of those fears? I suspect that you do. Some of you are afraid of those same things. Some of you fear growing old alone, so you make choices to be with people who aren’t good for you just to have someone. You’re afraid of confrontation, so you put up with a bad job situation when you know you don’t have to. Cancer makes you afraid. You may be afraid of dying, or of your spouse dying. Afraid that after all your work your kids will still make the wrong choices. Afraid that life’s going to pass you by, that you’re going to miss that shot at greatness or fame, afraid that your parents are holding you back, afraid that you’re wasting your life. We ask ourselves a million questions: Am I marrying the right person? Can I really succeed in this venture? What if I screw this up?
Our church can be gripped with fear. We fail to practice discipline because we’re afraid someone might leave. Afraid to try something because we’ve not done it before. Afraid to let something go because we’ve grown comfortable with it, or because it feels too much like we’re losing our heritage. Churches can be afraid to follow God for fear of the unknown, what it might cost, or what it might require. You may have passed up a ministry opportunity because you’re afraid. Afraid the kids won’t respond to you. You may be afraid of speaking in public. Afraid you don’t have anything worth saying. Afraid you don’t have what it takes to do a job. Afraid of falling and losing face.
Our culture thrives on the thrill, anxiety, heart-stopping action, living on the edge. It profits from our fears while we all too often live enslaved to them: at work, at home, in your private life. We’re consumed with safety. Have you noticed it? Some of it is good. We buckle up behind our airbags and safety cages. We put our baby bed rails closer together. The high school track is rubber now instead of rock. We’re insured to the hilt, we’ve got answers ready and waiting in case the preacher asks us to volunteer for a ministry, and we fight tooth and nail against what is slightly unfamiliar or uncomfortable.
Today I want you to know that you’re not alone. Whether we’d admit it or not this room is full of people who live with our silent, private fears, whatever those fears might be. From the very beginning fear has dominated people’s lives, to their own detriment, but I also want you to know that God never intended for us to live that way.
Do you remember the story in the Bible about God trying to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land? The book of Exodus tells us the story of God’s delivering Israel from Egypt and their journey to Canaan. He told them over and over He was going to give them that land: a land flowing with milk and honey. It’s a beautiful piece of real estate that has been reserved just for you. I’m going to kill your enemies, drive out all the land squatters, bless you in every way, and all you have to do is move in and take the land.
Numbers 13 tells us how God instructed Moses to send 12 spies into the land to search it out, explore it, see if it wasn’t all He had promised. And He repeated the promise. I’m giving you the land, the key word being GIVING. So they did. Those twelve representatives went, and they explored. We’re going to read Numbers 13:25-33 and see what happened as a result.