Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Courageous Obedience...

Sometimes it seems that we live in an age of fear compared to the world I grew up in.  And yet, when I look at history and across cultures, I see that almost every age around the world has been an age of fear for vast numbers of people.

Today, large numbers of people live in fear of terrorism. Many were afraid of losing their rights and freedoms under the last administration, and an entirely different group is afraid of losing theirs under this new administration. Others are in fear of losing their jobs to immigrants or robots or "progress" or downsizing or corporate decisions. The age-old fears of losing loved ones, losing health, and losing security are haunting many as they always do.

Fear is, I think, one of the devil's most powerful weapons because it cripples us. So many of Jesus's instructions to us involve action that often must be done in defiance of fear.

Sometimes, to obey His directions, we must defy the fear of what others will think. Sometimes God says to offer to pray for a stranger in the grocery store, and instantly dread of what others around us will think fills us. Unfortunately, we are also sometimes afraid of what even those in our own Church will think if we do not go with whatever is considered acceptable in that particular denomination.  Somehow the fear of how your own Christian friends will judge you can be just as crippling... even if it's unjustified fear.

Then there is the fear of being harmed or taken advantage of in some way. This one can easily hold us back from reaching out to the hurting and wounded. It's hard to learn that God actually calls us to be willing to be taken advantage of, for He said,  "If your enemy (ie: the person who will harm you) is hungry, give him food. If he is thirsty, give him drink. If he takes your basement, give him your coast, too." We are even called to lay down our lives, for "He who seeks to save his life will lose it."

Are we to totally disregard safety? Not at all! The Bible has many commands to be wise. Additionally, there are those whose jobs involve maintaining the safety of others, just as a watchman on the wall and the guard standing at the gate were charged with keeping evil out of the city. Woe to those who have been appointed those jobs and do not do them! In addition, those of us who are not charged with that job should not be judging them for doing their job. We also need to be careful not to judge other people's motives for doing something or not doing something.

The point is to judge our own hearts. To allow God to show us if fear is holding us back.

Because fear changes our starting point. 

Even for those who are indeed appointed guards and watchmen.

Fear affects the willingness of our heart.

When fear rules us, then our own personal starting point is, "That's unsafe. That's embarrassing; besides it would do no good. I don't ____ unless God tells me to do it in a specific circumstance. Then I'm willing." I've been there too, and I know how easy it is to say, "Well, I'm not sure God really told me to do that." And so I hang back yet again.

Lord, help my unbelief!

Faith's starting point is, "God has already told me to do it over and over again in His word, so unless He tells me not to do so in a specific circumstance, I will obey. Lord, which method would You have me use? I'm trusting in Your grace and leading and protection, so here I go walking out my faith..."

When the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith, He responded by telling them to obey Him.

Even Paul once did not preach in Asia because the Holy Spirit stopped him.  But his starting point was one of obedience and trust, regardless of how he was taken advantage of, beaten, abused, talked against, etc. Even his own church thought he was wrong sometimes!  But even when the Holy Spirit told him that imprisonment was awaiting him, he still obediently continued on, since the Holy Spirit was not stopping him in those cases. He knew that he was being asked to testify before Caesar in chains, and that his death would likely follow. And still he obeyed.

The fact of the matter is this:

There will always be a valid reason to be afraid.

But... 

For the one who truly understands
the fortress offered by the Most High God
there will also always be an even more powerful reason
to be courageous in the face of that fear!

I opened my Bible to Psalm 27 this morning, which is one of my favorites. It is an absolutely beautiful Psalm describing describing fearless trust.

There isn't anything in this Psalm about evildoers being banished forever. No... the entire thing is about the safety and security of dwelling in God's presence, even though danger surrounds on every side.

David does not even ask for his enemies to go away, for he knew that God's presence was a place of safety, no matter what surrounded him. He wants to know God's will, and it appears that he feels his foes are affecting his ability to know God's way.

Here it is, with my favorite lines highlighted. In particular, I love verses 4, 5, and 6 because they are a progression. David asks one thing when he is afraid. As a result of that, God responds... and David's end result is joy and praise. 1, 2, 3.

A Psalm of Fearless Trust in God.

A Psalm of David.

27 The Lord is my (A)light and my (B)salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the [a](C)defense of my life;
(D)Whom shall I dread?
When evildoers came upon me to (E)devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they (F)stumbled and fell.
Though a (G)host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I [b]shall be (H)confident.
(I)One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may (J)dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold (K)the [c]beauty of the Lord
And to [d](L)meditate in His temple.
For in the (M)day of trouble He will (N)conceal me in His[e]tabernacle;
In the secret place of His tent He will (O)hide me;
He will (P)lift me up on a rock.
And now (Q)my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,
And I will offer in His tent (R)sacrifices [f]with shouts of joy;
I will (S)sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.
(T)Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and (U)answer me.
When You said, “(V)Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
“Your face, O Lord(W)I shall seek.”
(X)Do not hide Your face from me,
Do not turn Your servant away in (Y)anger;
You have been (Z)my help;
(AA)Do not abandon me nor (AB)forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
10 [g]For my father and (AC)my mother have forsaken me,
But (AD)the Lord will take me up.
11 (AE)Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a (AF)level path
Because of [h]my foes.
12 Do not deliver me over to the [i](AG)desire of my adversaries,
For (AH)false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as (AI)breathe out violence.
13 [j]I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the (AJ)goodness of the Lord
In the (AK)land of the living.
14 (AL)Wait for the Lord;
Be (AM)strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

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