Facing Fear 2/28/22
I have a break from sermon preparation this week, thank you David Miller for filling the pulpit! This week is my “administrative break” week, this is one week out of every quarter or so that the Elders grant me time away from the pressure of sermon preparation. It gives me time to do some long range planning, to spend time in prayer over the direction of our church, to pray and think ahead for overall sermon plans, etc.
I’ve been thinking about my response to the things happening in the world. We are (I hope) coming to the end of the pandemic and all of the chaos that brought. It has been a frustrating two years, it’s been hard on all of the pastors I know (me included) as we tried to navigate state mandates, our own opinions, and the desires of our congregations. Most of the time, those three things never aligned and it left church leadership in a no-win situation.
Then we have a politically divided nation, one that has reached the point that I’ve concluded both of the major political parties are willing to sacrifice what’s good for the country in favor of what will bring their party more power and influence. It’s a dangerous place for us to be as a nation, and I fear that our economy may be hanging by a thread under the control of political leaders (both parties) who do not have the courage or integrity needed to bring the national debt under control.
We see a belligerent North Korea with ever expanding intercontinental missile capabilities. China seems to be wanting to push their agenda and is almost inviting a military response. Personally, I don’t see how that could end well.
And of course, now we have Russia invading a neighboring country. I had naively believed the international community had outgrown that kind of foolishness. To make it even worse, Russia has placed their nuclear missile sites on high alert. You can be we’ve done the same. If things escalate to another world war…
Gloom and doom. Fear, loss, suffering, hardship…
But… I’m a Christian. Is Jesus really the Lord of my life, or is all that just lip service? Do I really believe that the only things that will enter my life are things allowed by my sovereign and loving God, or is that just lip service? Even if it means death and suffering, am I still prepared to trust my God’s wisdom, or is that just lip service?
The lesson from the book of Job, after meandering through all of the monologues and dialogues, is God saying, “You’re going to have to trust me on this.” Am I willing to do that? God has given us this promise in Romans 8:28-30 ~
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Now, with that promise comes a question. Does what I believe in my head really affect how I feel, how I respond to dangers both real and imagined, or not? Am I willing to accept from the hand of God whatever He chooses to allow into my life, or not? He doesn’t ask me to like it, He asks me to trust Him. And if I choose to trust Him, He gives me some very specific instructions regarding how to face these things; Philippians 4:6-7 ~
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Many in our local congregation are facing heart breaking situations, some of these situations appear to be wildly unfair. Some situations will bring life-change that we do not want or like. Some situations will bring grieving, and feeling that grief is both normal and necessary. It is also very difficult to navigate.
In the push and pull of real life, not some sanitized version of church-life, but the real, ugly, difficult, and painful life that we all live, am I ready to lay all of these things at His feet and simply follow Him? Are you?
In that grief, in that suffering, in that loss, in the face of what appears to be an increasingly uncertain future… do you (do I) really trust God? Or is it all just lip service? That’s a choice, one that we’ll have to make over and over again. But honestly, it’s the only choice we have.
I know this all sounds pretty pessimistic. The truth is, it’s not. Our God is in control. Everything is moving toward the culmination of His purposes. It may seem dark right now, it may get darker. That’s OK, we do not walk by sight; we walk by faith. And we know that at the end of it all, it will have been worth it. God wins, and we win with Him!
So… instead of setting our eyes on the things taking place around us, set your eyes on Jesus. Certainly, we need to be aware of what’s happening around us, but our focus is always only Jesus. He is our deliverance, our goal, and our reward.