Fear of the imagined
One summer my Dad took my brothers and me white water kayaking. Since this was our first time kayaking we had an instructor. On the shore he had explained to us how to guide the kayak through the different types of rapids that we would face. We were each given a wetsuit and warned us that the water would be cold. I slipped into the wetsuit and quickly forgot about the cold. I couldn’t wait to battle the rapids. As we pushed off the shore into the river I was almost bursting with excitement. In the calm water the instructor taught us how to paddle correctly and explained how to get back into the kayak when we fell out. Our guide’s final instruction was, “Now, tip over and get back in the boat.” I remember thinking, “No way the water is freezing.” my Dad and brother Jon must have been thinking the same thing because we didn’t budge. We looked at the instructor like he was crazy, didn’t he know that this river was at best 45 degrees. Luke, my youngest brother, on the other hand heard the instruction and simply rolled into the river without a second thought. It took Jon, Dad, and me anther minute or two to overcome the fear and anticipation of the icy cold water. The funny thing was when I finally manned up and rolled into the water it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. The worst thing about the cold water was not the actual temperature but the fear and anticipation of just how cold that water would be.
The crippling effects of fear
So often as Christians we choose not to get serve or get involve because of the, anticipation of what might happen, the fear that we are not prepared, we might do it wrong, or that we might fail in our attempt. We choose to be conservative in following Jesus because our fear of what might happen. We fear that the water will be cold so we hesitate or balk at God’s call to recklessly abandon all and passionately follow Him. David responded to last week’s blog with a question on this point.
“Would it be that risk taking and fear are acceptable if associated with expected physical (weather) events, but risk taking and fear associated with personal expressions of our beliefs are more emotional, mental expressions of our faith and are more difficult to acknowledge.
I ask this having survived three hurricane events and now struggling with my own expressions of faith. Hurricanes, like blizzards, are expected and we accept the consequences. When I think about witnessing, I hesitate because of the fear that I won’t “do it right”. Trembling, in anticipation my witness becomes my excuse for not doing what the Bible says is one of my service opportunities. (You can read this response in its entirety by clicking here).”
I think David hit the main reason that Christians choose not to passionately get involved in God’s call to us. This is why we are too conservative in our pursuit of our master Jesus Christ. We have a fear of what might happen if we jump into Gods call with reckless abandon. This fear of what might happen is the most crippling of all fears. David Jeremiah writes about this fear of what might happen.
“Our greatest fear is the conditional might—the threat of what might happen. Fear trades in the market of possibility. Or even impossibility—for fear is the tyrant of the imagination. It imposes itself upon us from the shadows, from its hazy mirror of maybe.” (What Are You Afraid Of?)
The fear of maybe cripples the Christian to a life of inactivity. This is the difference between the natural disasters that David mentioned and our fear of obeying God’s call. Our fear of what might happen with a natural disaster forces us into activity. We prepare by protecting our homes and possessions as best as possible and evacuating. There is an impending storm that we cannot stop. The storm is coming regardless of our preparation. There is still that fear of what might happen but the storm is out of our control.
Pursuing Christ with reckless abandon is different. In a way this storm of anticipation and fear is in our control. If we fear what will happen as a result of witnessing we can simply chose not to and the storm is avoided. We choose to be inactive instead of serve and dodge the “hazy mirror of maybe.” Through inactivity we can be comfortable and avoid what we perceive as an impending consequence. We can simply choose not to jump into the cold water out of fear and remain comfortable in the kayak of inactivity.
Is all fear bad?
Fear is a natural human emotion, and in most situations we have no control over that emotion. Whether it is fear of an impending storm or the results of following Christ. The fear doesn’t go away. It is our reaction to the fear that makes us. Paul told Timothy, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).” Remember the circumstances of Paul writing this to Timothy, his son in the faith. Paul was serving his last prison stint in the worst conditions imagined. Ultimately Paul would be taken out of this prison and beheaded for preaching the gospel. You can imagine why young Timothy feared preaching the gospel. His spiritual father was about to be executed for the cause of the gospel.
You may ask, “Is it wrong if I feel afraid?” The answer is no. What is wrong is when we allow that fear and anxiety to cripple us into inactivity or following Christ conservatively. Paul encourages Timothy in the next verse, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, (2 Timothy 1:8)” You and I must respond to our fear with this same resolve. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel. Don’t be ashamed of those who are passionate about following Jesus. Be willing to suffer for the sake of the gospel.
Understanding our fear
The emotion of fear is powerful. It drives each of us to react differently. Many people are driven to action and prepare for what might happen, some simply ignore the fear and go on as if it didn’t exist, and others are crippled by the fear and feel unable to respond. If you’re like me you may say, “how do I deal with this crippling fear of maybe? I don’t want to be ashamed. I want to be willing to follow Christ, but I am so afraid.” That answer is found in the end of this verse in the simple phrase, “by the power of God.” That simple answer doesn’t always seem so simple. Paul understood this when he wrote to young Timothy and he expounds upon the character and power of God in the next few verses. “Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, (2 Timothy 1:9–10)” This powerful God saved us and He calls us to passionately follow Him, which is a holy calling. Not because of your works, worth, talent, or even bravery in the face of fear, but because of His grace provided through the person of Jesus Christ. This grace has been made available to the followers of God from the very beginning of time.
Overcoming our Fear
The first time God called the nation of Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land they were crippled with fear. This fear caused an entire generation to die wandering in the wilderness. (Numbers 13-14, Deuteronomy 1). 40 years later the next generation was lead into the Promised Land still full of the same things that crippled the previous generation. They were able to over come their fear because they chose to, “fear the Lord and serve him” (Joshua 24:14).”
Recklessly abandoning our conservative attitude toward following Christ is scary. I will be the first person to tell you that every time I volunteer to serve, step out of my comfort zone, or open my mouth to witness I’m afraid. But I have determined that I will not allow that fear to cripple me. I will fear the Lord. I will trust in His power. Will you allow the storm of fear to cripple you or make you? I pray that your reply will be like Joshua, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”