OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #265 Little Faith: Fear
We continue to look at the things which trip up our faith. 6 times Jesus rebuked lack of faith. Last time we looked at worry, and this time we look at it’s relative, fear.
A few years ago I went rapelling. I felt like I would shake apart as I backed over the edge of a 70-foot cliff. Even though I was afraid, the most amazing thing happened about half-way down. I realized I was doing it, and it felt great. I paused my descent, look around, looked up and down, and was truly surprised. I did not expect that terrifying experience of hanging so high above the ground to be so wonderful. I discovered I could trust the rope, trust the people holding the safety lines, trust my own ability to hold on. When I finished I ran back up the path to get in line again.
In Matthew 8 we find the disciples in the boat with Jesus, travelling from the area of Capernaum to the other side of the lake. A violent storm arose and when the waves started to fill the boat, the disciples (among whom were a number of seasoned fishermen) woke Jesus. "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!"
Jesus responded immediately, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (8:26)
In this exchange we discover that fear may affect our faith and hold us back from trusting God.
I don’t believe the issue was fear itself. This is a natural reaction. The issue was the impulse to think, “I shouldn’t have come in the first place.” Or perhaps, “Is this why God brought me here, only to abandon me at the worst time?”
The insight for this comes from the verses leading up to this episode. In verse 18 Jesus gave the order to get into the boat and cross the lake. Jesus was ready, evidently feeling that it was necessary to leave right away. One man offered himself, claiming he would follow Jesus wherever he went, but Jesus answered in a way which leads us to think the man was secretly afraid of the lack of security and comfort Jesus could offer: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (8:20)
Another man was willing to follow Jesus, but wanted to wait until he had the chance to bury his father (8:21). There was nothing wrong with wanting to fulfill this family duty, but timing was the issue. Jesus was leaving and so he had to make a choice. When it came right down to it, would he follow Jesus, or was he more afraid of how his family might react if he did?
The disciples followed when others had not (8:23). This was a good thing, but when the storm hit and the waves beat the boat, they really were not much different from those they left on shore. They gave the impression of faithfulness, but fears battered their resolve. “It would have been better if we had stayed with those on shore...” I think that’s what they were thinking when they cried out, “Save us, we’re going to drown!”
Fear is what we feel when we no longer feel safe, when we worry, when we move past our level of comfort, when we exceed our experience, or when present circumstances remind us of past trouble. It is a natural emotion and we all feel it.
The difference between fear and faith is this. Fear says, “I can’t go forward,” or “I wish I could go back.” Faith says, “I am afraid, but I will move ahead anyway because I trust God to bring me through.”
This is not about conquering our fears. It is not by our mighty strength that we do this. Sure, motivational speakers pump us up to make us realize that we were stronger than we thought. But even they have fears they cannot conquer. No one is fearless, but that’s not the point..
Faith is about being afraid, but moving ahead anyway because we trust that God is in it. Faith is about believing that it is better move ahead, even in fear, than to stay where we are or to go back. In this way faith is related to courage, but it is a courage grounded in the belief that God is good and that God goes with us.
I hope this helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a bi-weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published Sept 28, 2011. To subscribe or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives are located at www.onfireletter.com. Blog located at http://www.onfireletter.blogspot.com/.