"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Breaking Through

When you feel the nudge of God to do a thing, to use your gifts to build others up and to glorify God, and you hesitate to do it because you fear failing, getting hurt, being judged or being misunderstood, those are examples of fear getting in the way of living fully for the King. Some people are very aware of their fears, others may tend to get irritable or angry or depressed, but underneath is fear. So it can sometimes be tricky to identify. Asking yourself, for example, “What am I feeling besides anger?” can help you identify the more vulnerable emotion behind it the anger. It will usually be hurt or fear, and even when it is hurt, there is usually fear that the hurt will happen again.

 As a counselor and as someone who has dealt with a lot of fear, I have come to the conclusion that one step is accepting fear as a God given emotion. Without it, we would walk into traffic or into the jaws of hungry animals. A rush of adrenaline gives athletes, performers, firefighters, policemen, soldiers and everyday citizens an edge to do their best. Successful people have learned to channel the fight or flight response into a healthy sense of fight, not flight. “I can do this, God is right here!” Our praise team has often discussed that we do better when we have some butterflies going in. So by welcoming it, we short circuit that potential “fear of fear” that feeds panic and anxiety attacks. Courage is not  the absence of fear, but the decision that something else matters more than fear.

More significantly, the reason we face our fears, as God’s children, is to do his will. In stepping out on faith, we do our best and let the Holy Spirit do his work in us and others. Focus turns from our own fears to the will of God and the needs of others. People need our gifts. Romans 12 and Ephesians 4 speak to the interdependence of God’s church:

In Romans 12:4-6 Paul has just encouraged them to offer their bodies as living sacrifices, conforming no longer to the pattern of this world. He goes on to say:

“4) Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not have the same function, 5) so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6) We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.”

Ephesians 4:11-12) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12)to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up.

These passages show it is God’s will that we use our gifts to build one another up. I need your gifts and you need mine. So, God is eager to answer our prayers to empower us to do his will. That is more important than our fears.

Courage is feeling fear and doing the right thing anyway. If we are full of confidence in self, where is there room for God to work? Thank God that you need him, and that he gives you challenges that require you to count on his strength and not your own! That’s the adventure of following Jesus!

Breaking through:  Often involves taking small faithful steps in the general direction of our goal. So for example if your goal is public speaking, you might read a scripture or lead a small class or discussion on a special occasion. Leaning hard into God, listening for his applause, being gracious with yourself as you make progress, meditating on his promises, remembering that others need your gifts and message,  all these things come together over time to cast out unhealthy fear.

Some helpful promises to claim:

Psalm 56:3

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.

In God, whose word I praise,

In God I trust; I will not be afraid.

What can mortal man do to me?”

This Scripture includes 2 steps: 1) acknowledging the fear, and 2) choosing to trust God and his Word.

Isaiah 41:10

“So do not fear, for I am with you;

do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

This verse reminds us of God’s presence (I am with you), of his relationship with us (I am your God), of his willingness and ability to strengthen us to do his will (I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand).

Philippians 4:13

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

I think it’s important on this one to acknowledge that the context of this verse, (what Paul was talking about when he wrote it) was being content in every situation (whether living in plenty or in want). He was testifying that he could be content, no matter what, because God strengthened him.  That is the interpretation of the verse. In application, I believe it means that we can do anything God wants us to do. It is not saying that God will strengthen you to do selfish things you have dreamed up for your own profit or glory, rather that he will empower you to do his will. So going back to identifying fears that are blocking God’s will for your life, if you become convinced God has something for you to do for his kingdom, he is ready, willing and able to empower you.

A note about easing into things: Sometimes, in his timing, God throws us into the deep end (rather than easing us into things) giving us a large audience right out of the gate. When he does this, he knows best and he meets us there. His grace is always sufficient for us on the day and hour we need it, to empower us to do whatever he asks of us.