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When Faith in Jesus Turns to Fear

Posted on August 13, 2018 By In Encouragement , Religion With no comments

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Matthew 14:31

You remember the story. Jesus surprised His disciples by walking on water to their boat. Peter was so excited he climbed out of the boat to meet the Lord. Then he began to sink and Jesus “reached out his hand and caught him.”

What caused Peter to sink? He was, after all, successfully walking on water. In the previous verse, we find the answer. … when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (v30)

Peter was distracted by the wind. He changed his focus from faith to fear.

Who among us has not done something similar? We trust God for the impossible or improbable, and then we are frightened by perceived reality.

My mother used to tell me, “focus.” My mind frequently wandered. “Earth to Dickie,” she would say.

Faith requires focus, trusting like a laser on Christ, the object of our faith.

The most succinct and helpful definition of faith is found in Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

There’s a line in or focus text that is easily missed, yet it is essential to understanding when we should step out confidently in faith. It’s found in verses 28 and 29. 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said.

Notice that Peter didn’t step out of the boat UNTIL he was granted permission. He asked, and the Lord told him to come. When we step out on faith without the Lord’s approval, we are setting ourselves up for a faith failure. Conversely, when we know the Lord is in agreement, we will succeed.

The obvious question then is, “How can you know the Lord will support your faith inclination?”

(1) It is not contrary to God’s word.

God will never support efforts intended for evil nor will He assist those who distort or misapply His word.

(2) There is peace in your spirit.

If there is restlessness in your spirit, then trust that feeling. Don’t get ahead of the Lord or try to force a resolution to a concern or problem until you since that inner green light.

(3) It honors God.

Will this step of faith bring glory to God and strengthen your testimony? Will it serve to encourage and inspire someone else to trust the Lord with their burdens?

(4) It stretches your faith.

We are people of faith. Christianity is lived by faith. But sometimes we are challenged to accomplish the extraordinary or endure and overcome hardship. Like pro athletes, sometimes we have to step up our game.

(5) God confirms it in your heart of hearts.

I hope I can effectively communicate this point. There have been times when I have been praying about something, and I sensed confirmation that what I had been praying for had been answered. It’s like God said, “Your request has been granted.”

Several years ago, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t push the panic button. Even when the cancer specialist told me that all of his testing confirmed the diagnosis, I didn’t worry. Then one day, the doctor sat down beside me, shook his head as if amazed and said, “Your cancer was off the charts, but you don’t have it and I don’t know why. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The first time I prayed about it, I sensed confirmation from the Lord that I wasn’t sick. After four months of testing that divinely inspired confidence proved to be right.

The first church I served in a ministerial capacity was as an interim pastor. They had a rule that the interim couldn’t be hired as their pastor. But I really liked working there, and the people had responded favorably to my ministry. One morning before the start of the worship service, the chairman of the Pastor Search Committee stopped by my office to tell me they had decided to abide by their original plan and continue their search for a pastor. He wished it could be me but “rules are rules.”

I was devastated. Next morning during my quiet time, I poured out my heart to God, shared my disappointment and desire to pastor that church. Then came that feeling, confirmation in my spirit that I was going to be called as the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church.

Later that day, the chairman called me to tell me of the results of their meeting and their change of heart. “We want you to be our pastor.”

I could write a book about those confirming experiences, when God says, “yes.”

Just remember. When you step out of the boat into the water, don’t take your eyes off Jesus. And if that happens, He’ll still take care of you. Jesus grabbed Peter and pulled him from the water. Acts of faith are seldom carried out flawlessly. But if the Lord’s in it, we can count on Him seeing us through to victory.

For more on this topic check out this article: Walking the High Wire of Faith

Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.

 

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Why You Don’t Have to Be Afraid

Posted on May 4, 2018 By In Encouragement , Religion With no comments

For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Isaiah 41:13

In ancient times, the right hand was highly favored. You blessed with it, ate with it, and fought with it. The right hand was a symbol of power, authority, and strength. Dishonor and weakness were attributed to the left hand.

For those of us who were taught cursive writing, (no longer taught in our schools – don’t get me started) right-handedness was an asset. Remember, cursive letters slant to the right which makes left-handed writing uncomfortably difficult. Could it be that living in the computer age wasn’t the only reason for dropping cursive writing from the curriculum? Maybe it was an overdue concession to the left-handed among us.

Regardless of the reason, the point is that in Biblical times, the right hand was held in high regard. Consequently, when you’re told that the Lord “takes hold of your right hand,” that’s a big deal. He doesn’t just tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hey, buddy. Call me if you need me.” God wants you to know He is with you and places the highest priority on your most cumbersome burdens.

Consider the power of hand holding. Couples who walk hand in hand demonstrate a special bond that conveys comfort, trust, and  care.

We hold hands to comfort the bereaved, the infirm, the worried, and those who are frightened.

I’ll never forget that feeling of holding my boys’ hands when they were little. Helping them to walk and later on, keeping them close while crossing a busy street. In fact, that’s a picture of what God does for us when we’re struggling, frightened, or in need of protection. He holds our hand.

Sure, this divine hand holding is figurative, but it has a very literal effect. Strength. Comfort. Assurance. Help.

Have you ever told someone, “Don’t be afraid. Everything will be okay?” Sometimes we say those words to offer encouragement, but in our heart of hearts, we’re not sure things will really get better. I’ve even had people reply to me in those times with, “That’s easy for you to say,” or “You know that’s not true.”

I can understand why you wouldn’t want to take my word for it. I’m a mere mortal, very limited in my abilities to help. But will you take God’s word for it? He says, “Do not fear; I will help you.”

You say you have faith in God, but do you have faith in His words?

A common response to passages like Isaiah 41:13 is to discount it as not having been written for you. “God did that for somebody else back in the old days, but I don’t think he intended it for me. He meant that for one of His prophets.” If that’s what you believe, then which words of God from the Bible do you trust and how did you select them? There’s a name for that. It’s called Cherry Picking Faith.

Think about this. You believe you can trust God for your salvation and that you will go to heaven when you die. And then you’re not willing to believe that the God of all power, knowledge, and wisdom can help you here and now?

God is unchanging and unchangeable. Same today, yesterday, and forever. That means that God has not and will not change his mind. He will remain faithful to His promises.

Without faith, it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) When you believed Him for salvation you entered into a faith relationship that says “I trust in You, believe You are who You say you are, and You will do what You say You will do.”

For more on this topic, check out this article: Your Thorn of Trouble that Won’t Go Away

Reach out to Him today. The Lord is ready to help. You don’t have to be afraid.

Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 2 (April – June) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.

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God’s Perfect Love Drives Out Fear

Posted on February 22, 2018 By In Encouragement , Religion With no comments

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:18

Often I go through a period of Bible study in which a theme takes on special meaning in my life. It is like God has held up a giant banner with words that have powerful relevance for the time and place in which I live. Sometimes these themes have lasted a year or more. In recent weeks the theme has been… “God loves me.”

It’s not that I didn’t already know that God loves me, but lately God has emphasized the precious power and magnitude of His love.

God wants us to do more than just know about His love. He wants us to be so immersed in His love that we rely upon it. “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” (1 John 4:16) The light of His love is always burning and shining brightly upon us.

“God is love” (v16b) and His love is completely reliable. Think of those that you truly love…the ones you love from the depths of your heart. You would climb mountains for them…sacrifice for them…even die for them. They know you love them and that they can rely on you whenever they need help.

My sons know that they will always have their back. To the best of our ability we will always be there for them and help in any way we can. Of course, our help is limited to our available resources, yet nothing is impossible with God. God’s love opens the door to unlimited resources, wisdom, and knowledge for every need. You are His child and He loves you as no one else.

“Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (v16c) To truly know God’s love is to live in God’s love. When we give our lives to Christ we enter into a continuing and unending cycle of love. God loves us, we love others, and we love Him.

As our part in the love cycle grows in love for others and our Lord so does our confidence in our standing with God. “In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment because in this world we are like him.” (v17) Loving others and loving God locks in the blessed assurance that on the day of judgment things will be right between you and God. The result is something more than just head knowledge but also heart knowledge.

When we grow in love we take on an important quality of the character of God. “In this world we are like him.” (v17) Genuine love for others is god-like behavior.

Here is where this theme, God Loves Me, has really spoken to me: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” (v18) Life is filled with frightening events and circumstances. The older I get the more aware I become of the fragility and vulnerability of life on this earth. But I don’t need to be afraid because God loves me. I know His love. I know He loves me and I know I can rely on Him. No matter what happens and no matter how difficult the challenges I may face, my God loves me and cares for me.

Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. In fact, one test showed that, as my doctor put it, “you have cancer that is off the charts.” In those four months of testing I was never frightened or anxious. I just had confidence that my God who loves me had everything under control. Finally, my doctor looked at me and said, “I’ve seen many people with cancer and I know what it does to people. You don’t have cancer.”

“There is no fear in love.” (18a) When you come to that place in your life when you grasp the magnitude and magnificence of God’s love for you then you will discover this amazing truth: “Perfect love drives out fear.” (v18b)

Try this exercise. It has worked for me. When you hit a frightening situation, quickly turn your thoughts to God. Offer that circumstance to God in prayer. Turn it over to Him and then just think on His love for you. As you meditate on His love a most amazing thing happens. Your fear will disappear. Through the day whenever fear again rears its ugly head, repeat the process. I have never seen it fail. God’s “perfect love drives out fear.”

For more on this topic, check out this article: What It Means to Hope in the Lord

Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 1 (January – March) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.

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Do Not Be Afraid, Faith in Christ Conquers Fear

Posted on December 15, 2017 By In Encouragement , Religion With no comments

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”-

Luke 1:30-33

Do not be afraid. Easier said than done, right?

A friend contacted me recently and shared he was afraid he was about to lose his job. The potential loss of anything or anyone of value to us produces fear.

Bad news can cause fear. Many of us have received an unexpected phone call that broadsided us with disturbing news. A loved one in a wreck. A life threatening medical diagnosis. Death of a child.

Whenever something threatens our well-being, jeopardizes our normal existence, or thrusts us into an unexpected, unplanned, and unwanted direction the natural result is fear.

Mary’s fear was produced by the sudden appearance of an angel from God. In an instant, she was hit with the unexpected and the unfamiliar. Just an unexplained noise in the middle of the night can cause fear. Imagine the sudden appearance of a heavenly being. Additionally, Mary had to deal with a message from God that would radically change her life.

Before the pronouncement of God’s message the angel declared, “Do not be afraid.”

Throughout the Bible, God comforts His people by exhorting them to “fear not.” (Isaiah 41:10)

When Joshua faced the challenge of leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land, God told him to be of good courage. “Be strong. Be courageous. Be very strong. Be very courageous.” (Joshua 1:6-7) In other words, “Do not be afraid.”

In the story of the nativity, when the angels appeared to the shepherds in the field they were told, “Fear not!” (Luke 2:10)

In the early 80s, I was a morning radio DJ in Tampa, Florida. I had built up considerable vacation time and planned my first 2-week vacation ever. Janet and I had laid out an elaborate travel plan that would include stops at the homes of friends and family scattered across the eastern United States. We expected a great vacation experience.

A day before we left on our trip ratings came out. And they weren’t good. In fact, they were horrible. In radio, bad ratings generally meant loss of job. It was frightening news.

We still continued with our vacation plans but all along the way, I was gripped by fear over my fate. I expected that when I returned, I would be greeted by an empty desk and no job.

As we visited family and friends, I was distracted by fearful anxiety. It was the inner turmoil that makes you physically sick. I went to bed with fear, and I woke up with it.

One of our stops was at my grandmother’s house. My mother was in a nursing home, and many of her belongings were stored in an upstairs bedroom. It was there I sought a place of solitude to sort out the many thoughts racing through my mind. I prayed for God’s help.

On the bed sat a metal box. Inside, there were documents, cards, and papers of value to my mother. As I sorted through the contents, my eyes were drawn to three words on a piece of paper. “Faith conquers fear.”

As I considered those words, my fear lifted. I realized that greater than my fear problem was my faith problem. I was suffering from a faith failure, looking at my circumstances and not at God.

On the way home, early in the morning, we were driving through the mountains near the Roanoke Valley of Virginia. My wife and son were asleep, and I was taking in the beauty of the misty landscape, all the while praying. Before me was a giant God-made cathedral in which I worshiped the King of Kings. I was overwhelmed by the presence and magnificence of God. Faith had conquered fear.

On my first day back at work, I was called into my boss’s office. He said, “We had to let the Program Director go. I want you to take his place.” No, I didn’t get fired. I got a promotion.

The angel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” Or as this verse is rendered in the KJV:  “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.” 

God honors our faith with favor. What are you afraid of today? Remember, “Faith in Christ conquers fear of circumstances.” Do not be afraid.

Here’s a little assignment that emphasizes how faith conquers fear. Reference the following verses:

This theme has stuck with me through the years, enough to write a novel about it. It’s called In the Valley of Hope: Faith Conquers Fear.

Again I say, “Do not be afraid. Have faith in God, because faith conquers fear.”

For more on this topic, check out this article: How to Find Peace in a Chaotic World

Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 4 (October – December) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.

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