When things change quickly and drastically in our lives, it is common for fear to rise up inside of us. That especially holds true when it is a nationwide or worldwide phenomenon that brings it on. Fear can cause us to withdraw into survival mode if we are not careful.
According to Wikipedia, “Fear is an emotion induced by perceived danger or threat, which causes physiological changes and ultimately behavioral changes, such as fleeing, hiding, or freezing from perceived traumatic events.” Some of the fears we have may be imagined. They may come from worrying about what might happen. But many of them come from a very real perception of a very real threat that is not only possible, but is staring us in the face. We can be faced with some terrible circumstances at times. Will we take the option of “fleeing, hiding or freezing” in our circumstances?
Our best option is to withdraw into the presence of Jesus so we can find out what He wants us to do, how to handle the threats and bring good out of evil. Times of trials and turmoil can be used to drive us out of complacency and a form of religion. They can be used to invite us into the fresh flow of God’s Spirit if we will refuse to get caught up in fear and unbelief. As humans, we need something stronger than we are to help us continue in the faith. Only the Spirit of God can do that.
In reading accounts of the great revivals of past years, the fuel for the flame of the Spirit of God was the deep, selfless desire of the people to know Him, hear from Him, and stay on their faces before Him until He poured out His Spirit on them. In so doing, ‘self’ was consumed by the Spirit of God and He was able to do His work and carry out His will, not bound by men’s standards, time restrictions and schedules.
How we do ministry as churches or even as a ministry like ours has been pressed to change. That in itself can be frightening because the known seems so much more secure than the unknown. However, security only comes when we seek and find the will of God for our times. Ministry does not have to end. It can be made better by our dependence on the Spirit of God rather than our own ideas and strategies. These times can prove to be a catalyst to get us back on track doing what God intends His people to accomplish in the way He wants it done.
Over the course of time, churches and ministries can become settled in a rut and less apt to depend on God to reach people that are beyond their pre-set borders. We can get so wrapped up in the organization of ministry that we leave out God and the very people the ministry should embrace. And until we are forced to break our self-imposed boundaries, we don’t. We have a “good thing” going, and we don’t want to rock the boat.
Think about your church, your ministry or your personal walk with Jesus. Is there insight in the teaching and preaching of the Word of God? Probably so. Is there a thrust to talk to people about their salvation? Even that may be securely intact. Is there good music? Possibly so. But is there a deep longing and searching for more and more of the Spirit of God personally in the lives of the believers? Is there a conviction in those who come among us – both saved and unsaved? Are they challenged to surrender all to Jesus? Are lives being changed radically to follow Jesus without restrictions? We need to be cautious that we don’t carry on the ministry Jesus entrusted into our hands on auto-pilot.
Every once in a while God allows circumstances to jolt us out of complacency to a greater and deeper relationship with Him. That in itself will deepen our ministries. It is up to us to see our circumstances the way God wants us to see them and to respond the way He leads us. To be open to the changes He speaks to us to make and to broaden our interest in His Word and lessen our interest in the world.
If a teacher told his students that he wanted them to write a paper on a certain subject, what would happen if the students stopped listening before they heard what the subject was? They may write prize-winning papers with great passion and flair. But if it didn’t fit the criteria given by the teacher, they would fail. I have found it to be difficult on occasions to be still and quiet enough to hear the whole message God wants to give me. If I run off with the “good idea” He planted in my head and take it in a wrong direction, I have failed Him.
Our hearts need to be surrendered completely to Jesus and His directions. There is a lot we can learn from the experiences of Paul and Silas. They planned to go to the province of Asia but the Holy Spirit forbade them to go. They tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. They went to Troas. “[There] a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man from Macedonia stood pleading with him and saying, Come over to Macedonia and help us! And when he had seen the vision, we [including Luke] at once endeavored to go on into Macedonia, confidently inferring that God had called us to proclaim the glad tidings (Gospel) to them. (Acts 16:9-10) Certainly it was good to carry the gospel to those other places, but God knows the best time and the best person to do each work. That is why we need to be close enough to Him to hear His direction for us.
In planning ministry events and even articles and teaching programs, I am slowly learning that when something doesn’t seem right or it doesn’t work out the way I had planned, it could just possibly be God changing those plans. When I ask of Him, He redirects me in the right track. I am grateful for His corrections. Paul and Silas were careful to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. We should be, too. (Note: There are also times when the devil tries to distract us from doing certain things. We need to know the voice of God.)
Every believer is called to win the world, at least the part of the world in which they have influence. We all do that in different ways, but the call to make disciples is the same across the board. We cannot afford to allow fear to keep us from following the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we don’t want to be caught in the grip of fear and immobility, we need to seek God fervently and put aside our own agenda and plans.
Let’s not retreat in fear and cease to carry on the work that Jesus commands every believer to do. Instead let’s go deeper into the presence of God and not miss the calling He has for us today, tomorrow or any other day. Some directions may seem insignificant, but the Spirit of God in us makes everything significant. We can go out without fear when we know we are following Jesus’ leadership.
When the angel told Joseph to take Mary as his wife, he started that conversation with, “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not”. When the angel told Mary she would be the mother of the Messiah, he said, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God.” The Lord spoke these words to Joshua after Moses died, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” There are numerous other verses telling us not to fear but to go out in the power of the Lord God. He knows our name and tells us to “fear not” when we listen to His voice and are following Him.
In Psalm 56, the psalmist says, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in You.” Believe me when I tell you that fear will offer itself to your mind, your emotions and your spirit. But you can turn fear away by trusting in the faithfulness of God.
When we are faced with fearful times, God will be faithful to us as we are faithful to Him. Just as He was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, Daniel in the lion’s den, and even with Stephen as he was stoned; He will be with us in our times of trial.
Here are a couple more scripture verses that speak to any fear that may come to us.
“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4 NKJV)
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18 NKJV)
Listen for the voice of God to you and move ahead without fear.