Joshua 1:9 – Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (HCSB)
Fear can give a quick jump in heart rate that soon passes or fear can be paralyzing. Fear can be amusing or life altering. Fear can take control of a moment or control of your life. Recently I realized I have allowed fear to become my idol, giving it more power than God in my life. Several years ago I felt God giving me a directive, but instead mimicking Isaiah’s “I’m ready to go” (Isaiah 6:8), I was more like Moses with “I can’t do that.” (Exodus 3:11). God answered me much like He answered Moses – “I’ve taken care of everything. Don’t worry about it.” (Exodus 3:12), but I allowed Fear to build on the foundation of my low self-esteem to create a wall of panic and doubt. Some of my fears proved to be true, which made the wall even more substantial. Time after time I was Gideon asking for a sign (Judges 6). Time after time God answered, but Fear told me I needed more. When I should have been fierce, I was frightened. I continued to question God and continued to point out the flaws in His plan. I was so focused on the “what if” my eyes lost sight of the “I AM”. In Judges 6:15 Gideon asks “How can I save Israel?” and then went on to explain his shortcomings. Instead of being electrified, Gideon was terrified. He used the words “how can I”, but he was saying “I can’t”. In verse 16 God answers “I will be with you.” Instead of thinking, “Well, that changes everything!”, Gideon is thinking “yeah, but” and begins to ask for proof that it really is God talking. Often, like Gideon, I feel that I need to explain things to God and give Him a clear picture of the situation. God answers and I ask for a sign ….. and another sign ….. and another. I may begin to march out with self-confidence and tenacity but Fear blocks my way and I become shaken and timid. I knew that I could not accomplish anything on my own, and I was right about that, but He never even hinted that I was on my own. Isaiah 41:10 says I don’t need to be faint-hearted because He is God and He is holding my hand. Peter was able to walk on water until he took his eyes off Jesus and then Fear took over (Matthew 14:29-30). Fear kept Gideon’s eyes focused in the wrong direction, but he had to turn his eyes away from himself to see God (Judges 6). When my eyes are on Fear, I am focused on people’s criticisms, comparisons, and even my own opinion of my abilities. When I turn my eyes to God those things are no longer in my line of sight. To paraphrase Paul in Romans 9: 31 “since God has my back, what difference does it make about what people think or do?” Fear is a bully waiting to pounce, but God says “Don’t worry. I’m with you and nothing can take Me away.” (Romans 8:35-39)
James 5:10-11 – As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (ESV)
Why do bad things happen to good people? Though the ages people have been asking that question. Multiple books have been written on that question. Counselors have spent countless hours trying to answer that question. We can understand why a heavy smoker gets lung cancer or a sexually promiscuous person gets an STD, but why does a person who seems to do everything right get a deadly disease? I have a friend who is having serious health issues. Every test brings more questions than answers. Every medication brings more side effects than were ever advertised. Every day brings new challenges and new obstacles. Why is this happening to her? Sometimes bad things happened to us because we are in the place where bad things are happening — Elijah endured years of drought right along with everyone else. Sometimes bad things happen to us because of someone else’s actions – Joseph spent a large part of his life in slavery because his brothers acted in anger. Sometimes bad things happen and we assume a reason – they must have done something to deserve it. Then a bad thing happens to us, and we aren’t satisfied that maybe its because of our location or maybe its because of someone else’s actions. We know we don’t like it and we want God to provide an explanation as to why He is allowing this, but Proverbs 20:24 asks why we are trying to understand God’s way of doing things. In John 9:2-3 Jesus and His disciples encounter a blind man. The disciples see the man’s blindness as a result of sin and ask whose sin caused it to happen. Jesus answers that it happened so that God’s works might be displayed in him. I can imagine that Joseph had many hours of loneliness and confusion, but God was faithful to him from the pit to Potiphar to prison to power. It is 42 chapters into the book of Job before the man Job understands the situation. James 5:10-11 assures us that we are blessed when we remain steadfast, that God has a purpose, and that He is compassionate and merciful. We don’t always have a clear understanding or know why this thing is happening, but we have a clear understanding of the One who knows all. He will not leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31). He has plans for us to prosper (Jeremiah 29). He is always with us (Matthew 28). We were created to glorify Him (Isaiah 43:7) and we glorify Him by trusting Him when we don’t understand, by obeying Him when we don’t see the reason, by acknowledging that He is God and His ways are higher and wiser than mine could ever be (Isaiah 55:9).