Fear is one of, if not the most common and pervasive struggle in the western church today. It distracts us, paralyzes us, and anesthetizes us from the abundant work of God. The enemy loves playing with fear because He knows that it is in opposition to faith, and it is faith that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). Remember, he's only your enemy because he is God's enemy. He also loves fear because it's so versatile. He doesn't care what you're afraid of, as long as you stay stuck in fear. From straight up phobias, to fear of man, fear of failure, fear of intimacy, fear of rejection, you get the idea. Fear can be applicable in every season of life, every circumstance, it can be a shadow over every blessing that God has for you. I've struggled with fear, some types more than others. Fear of rejection has been my biggest battle, because rejection has been a consistent theme in my life. And every time I was rejected, that fear got ingrained in me just a little bit more. But I got smarter, learning how to avoid it and control it so that it wouldn't take me out again. I learned the early warning signs for rejection - things no one else would see, but I knew, get off the road because that semi-truck of rejection is around the corner.
The reason fear works so well, is that it uses things that are true. If you have a fear of flying, it's because you know that it is possible the plane will drop out of the sky and explode into a fireball. With my fear of rejection, it was totally justified because I had experienced the pain and trauma of rejection many times by the very people I trusted most. We agree with fear because it's logical. It makes sense to be scared of something you know can hurt you. Of course you have a fear of failure, who would want to fail?! That's what the people of Israel thought when they first stepped into the promised land. Sing with me now - 12 men went to spy on Canaan, 10 were bad and 2 were good! Israel is finally at the border of their promise, after all they've been through. Rescued from Egypt, the land of slavery and persecution. Saved from their enemy by the sea literally swallowing them up and spitting them out, dead at their feet. Literal bread raining from heaven to meet their hunger. Forgiven for countless sins and grumblings against the Lord. And God has reminded them of His promise countless times about this land of milk and honey. They send in 12 sons to spy it out, and they come back saying yes, this is the land flowing with milk and honey! It's beautiful! Taste these delicious grapes! But... there's also some large giant types camped out on their promise. Israel follows their very logical fear to this response:
Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt? And they said to one another, Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt. Numbers 14:1-4
Is what they say true? Yes. Is it the whole truth? No. Here's how we know - this is God's response:
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? Numbers 14:11
Fear is us despising God. Ouch. God's heart is that we would trust Him, even when fear makes sense. Check out Joshua and Caleb's response - they were some of the sons that spied the land but they chose faith:
The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them. Numbers 14:7b-9
Do not rebel against the Lord.
Do not rebel against the Lord.
Do not rebel against the Lord.
Fear is rebellion. Even when it's true. It's rebellion. Suddenly it doesn't seem like the smart choice anymore. Suddenly it seems like faith is a lot safer than fear.
Where fear sees only pain, faith sees provision. Joshua and Caleb looked at those giants and saw bread. They saw the same thing the other 10 did, it's not like they just chowed down on grapes and figs and came back to say nah, we'll be fine. They saw those giants across the land, they felt like grasshoppers, but they chose faith. And they are the ones who got to enter that land of milk and honey.
Here's the thing, Beloved. We're living on the other side of this story. We're living in the New Testament, where we not only have the God who keeps His promises, but we have Jesus, who conquered our enemy on the cross. All these things that we're afraid of, these totally rational fears of rejection, failure, loss, death - every one of those things was conquered by Christ. There is no pain or difficult circumstance that can come your way that Jesus has not already conquered. But you can choose to still fear these things, and that fear will do more damage than the thing you're fearing ever would.
The gospel is not good news because it stops bad things from happening. It's good news because our Saviour conquered every bad thing. It's good because that Saviour will be there for you in every bad circumstance, every painful loss, to show you the bread in your promised land.
I no longer have a fear of rejection. I will probably be rejected in the future, but I know that Jesus will be there for me when I am. I'm not willing to rebel against God because fear makes sense to me. I am choosing to rebel against fear, and that has completely changed my life.
One more note - please know that having fearful thoughts or feelings does not mean you have sinned or failed. You are only responsible for your response to them. You can choose to agree with fear, or put it down and walk away. The less you agree with it and follow that fearful line of thinking, the less of a hold it will have on you. Praying for each of you now, that God would show you the bread in your promised land, and that you would join me in a fear rebellion.