Make no mistake – fear is a dangerous and powerful enemy.
It is cunning and deceptive and can masquerade as a litany of emotions.
Anger, jealousy, unforgivness, anxiousness, intolerance, shame, bigotry, hatred, rebelliousness and selfishness share a single core – fear.
Whispers of doubt and worry that attempt to assail our thoughts are intentional attacks on our faith. And failure to resist these taunts will most definitely result in an entanglement of fear.
There is a popular adage “FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real”. I have loved this acronym from the moment I was introduced to it. It reminds us that we serve a God who is bigger than our circumstances. But the truth is,
Fear is real.
Many of us struggle with it on a daily, or even moment-by-moment basis. Often, we are not even aware of the struggle.
So, though in our mind we know that God is bigger than our circumstance, our heart trembles at the details of what we face. A very real question for many of us is this “How do we overcome the false evidence appearing real?”
For all those who like me, sometimes struggle with fear, I would like to introduce a new acronym:
FEAR: Faith Exposes Attacks of a Real Enemy
Fear will cause us to run from our difficulties, instead of trusting God to carry us through them. Fear, and the desire to escape it, can lead to anxiety, depression, and host of destructive coping habits.
No one is fully immune from fear.
Even those who have experienced great moves of God can be susceptible if they are not careful.
But, God, in His abundant mercy, has provided a way of escape from fear that is certain and true. Faith is the natural and far superior opponent of fear.
Fear is a tool of our ancient enemy. But faith is a gift from God.
It is graciously bestowed to His beloved children through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is is the supernatural fuel of our prayer life, and a worshipful demonstration of our love.
The decision to walk in faith must be taken up again and again. Every day can bring new concerns that attempt to allure us away from trusting in the Lord.
But God, in His great love, has not left us powerless.
Strength is found in seeking the presence of Christ through prayer, meditation and His Word. As we begin to understand His Will and Purpose, His Word becomes manifest through and in our lives, and our faith increases. As we grow in Christ, and mature in Spirit, we become able to more easily discern His truth. Faith acknowledges that our wisdom is as foolishness compared to the wisdom of God, and defers to His plan for every area of our life.
Faith also insulates us against the ravaging effects of fear, because faith exposes our situations, whether glorious, mundane, or challenging, as opportunities for our Savior to be glorified.
One of the reasons that fear is so effective is that it relies on us to do our very favorite thing: focus on ourselves. The more we focus on our hurts, disappointments, goals, interests and understanding, the more vulnerable we become. When we forget that our wisdom, protection, and provision must come through Christ, we are primed for an attack of fear.
God’s purpose for fear is that we acknowledge truth: we are not God. But, if we are not undergirded by faith, fear can drive us to find ways to cope with that truth –
Choices that separate us from God.
Habits that seek to replace God.
Many of us have abused ourselves, or others, in our attempt to replace God with people, things, or habits.
The enemy’s purpose for fear is not simply to make us afraid, it is to make us vulnerable to the suggestion toward sinful conduct.
A Real Enemy
Jesus claimed the existence of an enemy. Not a red boogeyman with horns and a pitchfork, but an ancient enemy of mankind, bent on our destruction and at odds with our God.
That enemy is real, and he will use others, situations, and even ourselves, to draw us away from the good will of Christ. Our enemy understands that fear causes us to walk limply, weak in power, as an injured Christian.
He understands that our prayers require the energy of our faith. Perhaps better than many of us, he knows that there is only one God – and He can not be replaced.
The Bible says the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy.
And He will use fear to accomplish that, if we allow him to.
Yes, it is true: Fear is real. But, we serve a mighty God, who has given us of His own Spirit that we might walk in victory over sin and death. As we shift our attention from our own interest, and endeavor to know and abide in Christ, we will find new peace, joy, strength, and power to overcome anything that seeks to subdue us.
For further study: 2 Timothy 1:7, 1 Peter 5:8-9, John 10:10
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No matter a person’s theological beliefs, I’m fairly certain we’d all agree with Solomon who wrote, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, ESV). Yet, while we rejoice when it’s time to dance, our times of mourning or weeping can cause us to scan the exits nervously, preparing if necessary, for a hasty escape.
Unfortunately, life offers no shortage of new obstacles or difficult seasons.
If our faith falters, extended seasons of struggle can cause our vision to mislead us, casting a mirage of unending sorrow that leaves us almost dazed.
The weary from our past and the worry for our future is toxic to our faith.
During these strenuous seasons, when the road seems both unbearable and unrelenting, we must remember that
Every Season Must Come to an End
No trial lasts forever. Our circumstances, like us, are continually in a state of flux. Our daily lives are made of a thousand little intersections with many different people. In turn, each individual is also facing countless interactions within their personal situations.
We do not live in isolation, but are connected in ways that we often overlook. We may not be able to discern the reason behind God’s timing, and that’s understandable.
We are only human.
But we serve a great, big, amazing God, and
He Uses Our Difficult Situations For Our Good
God is continually moving and busily working through the situations in our lives, and the lives of others, to bring His good will to pass. We are unable to see into the hearts, minds and walks of those around us. But, He who walks with us works through all things to see His good purpose for us – and the world – fulfilled.
And He is more than faithful.
Although some trials may have lasted days beyond days, if we look closely, we will find that
He Gives us Gracious Rest Even in the Desert Places
Often, unexpected blessings and life’s little joys are overshadowed by life’s more challenging moments. When we focus on fixing or dealing with our problems, we take our eyes off of Christ, and can miss untold miracles, both big and small – like the unexpected answer to unspoken prayer or the adoring smile of our children.
If we have undertaken a walk of submission to God’s will, and our feet have begun to ache in our journey, it is a signal that we are in need of rest. Yet, not necessarily rest from our burden, but a rest from focusing on it, and from carrying it.
If we can refocus on the One who gives us strength for the journey we will find that
The Struggle is an Opportunity to Grow Closer to Christ
Humans have an amazing ability to adapt and adjust. However, because of our tendency toward pride, many of us grow best through our troubles. When all is well, life seems manageable. This illusion of control often leads us to rely on our own wisdom and understanding.
But a real good complication can send us quickly to our knees.
Maturity teaches that we can only control our own choices.
Then we begin to realize how desperately we need the only One who holds control. Hopefully, our realization leads us to submission, and as we submit to our Creator, trusting in His love and power
Our Faith Makes Room For God’s Abundant Provision
Fear and worry are in direct opposition to our faith. We can not stand on both.
God’s Word is clear: without faith it is impossible to please Him.
But, He rewards those who choose faith.
God longs to hear and answer our prayers. They are a declaration of our trust in His provision.
Our heartfelt petitions are like love-songs that proclaim our confidence in a devoted Father.
As a shift in our focus fuels a shift in our faith, we find that we have become uniquely positioned so that
Our Struggles are an Opportunity to Display God’s Glory
God does not waste a tear, nor a single bead of sweat. He sees us in our private places, and like a good Father, He grieves when we mourn.
But, God is so much than a good Father. Unlike our earthly fathers, who can only offer comfort,
God desires to use the suffering in our lives to reveal His glory.
The abundant provision and mysterious intervention demonstrated through faith-filled lives are specifically designed to draw others to Him.
However, the love of Christ is also intimate and personal, intricately assigned in a manner that reveals
God’s Power is Made Perfect in Our Weakness
Our suffering not only serves to bless others, but has a specific purpose in our individual lives.
Through the process of overcoming we grow both in meekness and in power.
As we embrace a heart of humility that recognizes our need for Christ, and submit to His unfailing love, He replaces our weariness with renewed strength.
And where there was once weariness, we will find that indescribable peace that is only found by resting in the power and provision of the Lord.
For further study: Romans 8:28, John 11:4, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Mathew 4:11
Life can be loud.
Often it can seem like we are busily chugging through life, weighed down by an unending list of to-dos, and an ever-growing list of not-yet-dones. We live in a society that thrives on busy. Fast-food drive-thrus, microwaves, supercenters, and the growing demand for online and televised church services are only a few by-products of our need-it-now culture. Yet every moment gained by utilizing some time-saving device is quickly filled with another task. The mental and emotional capacity required to successfully complete, or even attempt the goals we have set, can leave us feeling like we are living out the latest zombie movie as one of the title characters –
zoned out, hungry, tripping over our feet, falling apart, and overflowing with all the wrong emotions.
Hearing from God amidst the busyness of life can prove challenging to even the most organized and focused person. For those of us who tend to try to juggle eight tasks while uni-cycling backwards and blindfolded, hearing from God will prove infinitely more difficult.
Living in such a busy manner without divinely apportioned direction is a sure-fire recipe for the loss of peace and joy.
Contrary to popular belief, a joyful and peace-filled life is not dependent on our circumstances. It has already been secured by the sacrifice of a risen Savior, and can only be accomplished by consistently engaging in two-way conversation with our Lord.
Our lives are full of decision-making opportunities that require us to utilize our direct-line access to Christ.
As we grow in faith we learn the value of praying both continually, and about all things. God’s faithfulness and wisdom teaches us that we can and should trust Him with our choices, big and small. Yet over and over again we may find ourselves struggling with the ability to discern His voice through and above the endless litany of issues and people vying for our attention.
Trusting God to guide us in correct decision-making is only possible when and if we are able to hear and distinguish His voice.
I find it helpful to refrain from making choices that could impede or delay the work that God strives to perform in my life. So, instead of just writing all my choices down on a piece of paper, throwing the lot of them into a hat, shaking vigorously and choosing one to live by, I have learned that it is much more effective to submit the situation to God, and allow Him to direct my steps. Through the years, there have been many ways through which the Lord and I have communicated. However, three methods have proven to stand head and shoulders above the rest.
It never fails to astound me that the Creator of the universe desires to hear from me. As foolish and stubborn as I am, it continually amazes me that He would care about anything I would have to say. Whether I come before Him with a contrite and broken heart pouring out my latest confession, or a proud and finger-pointing mindset ready to call down fire from heaven onto my husband, He mercifully and patiently engages, encourages, corrects, teaches, rebukes, and reproofs me in spiritual communication. We serve a God who not only hears and answers us in prayer, but who also leads and guides us through prayer.
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Although my flesh struggles against it, the spirit within me desperately needs these times of intentional sacrifice. There is considerable debate regarding the effectiveness of fasting, what can or should be abstained from, and the proper manner to abstain. I will forgo each of these for the moment. Instead, please allow me emphasize a point that might encourage you when your flesh wrestles against the idea of endeavoring to fast. Anytime we deliberately abstain from something our flesh desires, while pressing closer to Christ, we release our hold on worldly entanglement even if only momentarily, and are certain to hear Him more clearly than we had before.
One of my favorite things about journaling is that there is no one proper way to do it. It is difficult, though not impossible, to become legalistic about it because there is no biblically prescribed manner through which to accomplish it. Whether we are recording our experiences like Matthew, our visions like Isaiah, our heart’s cry like David, or wisdom that, like Solomon, we have acquired, we are free to write as the Spirit moves us. Journaling offers us an opportunity to see what God has accomplished in and through our lives. It can also enlarge our vision, as we are able to examine and reflect on His purpose fulfilled through our everyday walk.
The most magnificent thing about seeking to hear and understand the leading and will of God, however, is this:
if we seek Him, we will find Him.
That’s a promise we can count on.
“When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” Jeremiah 29:13 (MSG)
For further study: 2 Timothy 4:1-3, Habakkuk 2:2, Philippians 4:6-7, Matthew 17:21, Proverbs 2:1-5
All scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
I’ve heard it said, “Life is a journey, not a sprint”.
Ain’t that the truth.
Life is amazing and complicated, full of twists and turns. One moment you’re on the mountaintop feeling like the luckiest person on earth. Two seconds later you’re flat on your back, wondering how in the world that giant speeding train made its way off the track and straight into your living room.
30 seconds can change your life forever, and sometimes it does so in ways that you never saw coming.
But, more often, life is full of varying shades of green and grays in between the touch-the-sky ‘blues’ and soul-rendering desert-experience ‘yellows’.
Our more difficult seasons seem like they might never end, and our winning heavyweight championship seasons usually seem like they are far too few. However, the truth is we typically live in the everyday mode, where every day is made of
a million moments, and innumerable choices.
Often we give little thought to those daily minute choices, and how they come together, and work together, to form and fuel the greater unintended decisions and unseen events in our lives.
Hindsight is never really 20-20, but the view is truly and considerably clearer.
Yet, regardless of our inability to understand the full impact of our choices, we are responsible for how our decisions shape our lives and affect the lives of those around us.
Like a never-ending symphony, our choices come together to formulate the music of our lives in sometimes beautiful, and sometimes completely discordant ways. Rare are the occasions when our decisions are completely random and uninfluenced by outside or inner motivators. Further, we may or may not be able to easily identify those motivators.
There are times when we feel certain of why we are inclined to a particular choice. Yet, a closer examination will reveal hidden agendas and deeply embedded feelings that we have yet to examine or honestly confront. Childhood pain, parental rejection, abandonment by a spouse or partner, betrayal by a loved one, personal and professional failures, self-disappointment, low self-image, fear and pride are just a few examples of the types of obstacles that we may face as we go about the daily task of decision making.
Our past serves as a critical component of the lens through which we view our lives, our future and the world around us.
Sometimes our feelings about a particular issue are so confused and convoluted that we grow weary simply contemplating how to begin untangling them.
Our emotions can make it difficult to make a rationale choice, or to understand why we are having trouble making the choice. If we are determined to walk in a Spirit-led manner, living according to biblical principles, we may find our decisions further challenged!
What’s a humble but exacerbated Christian to do when an important situation arises that seems to demand a choice, but no pleasing or easy answer seems forthcoming?
At least for the moment.
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I have learned that when I am at the crossroads of indecision, it is best to
This includes talking. Often our emotions will try to lead us in a particular direction to avoid potential harm or difficulty. In an attempt to justify a decision, we may find ourselves rehearsing past mistreatment or abuse to others and ourselves. While these grievances may be real, focusing on and reliving them may not be conducive to that which God desires to accomplish through the situation and within our lives.
Having to wade through and wrestle with negative emotions and an uncertain future can lead to feelings of fear, and then anger. Appropriately applied these feelings allow us to walk in an upright and holy manner before God. However, when given into, these feelings allow the enemy of our souls to lead us away from the peace that only comes by trusting in an All-powerful, faithful and loving Savior.
God loves you and He loves me. He loves us passionately. He loves us wholly and completely and more than we can imagine. And like a loving Father, He longs to give us good gifts. His eyes are continually on us, and He knows what we need, as well as what we desire. When we were separated from the family of God because of our sin, we were not adopted as sons and daughters. But, once we have accepted the gracious gift of salvation, and taken our place as heirs, we have the right to come before Him with praise and petition. But even more magnificent is the knowledge that He is attentive to our prayers. So we can pray and then we can
Truthfully, this step might prove the least easily accomplished. But, each new victory and answered prayer strengthens our faith as we are reminded of God’s faithfulness. Therefore, with expectant hearts and hands raised in ready praise, we can trust that His answer on it’s way. From the moment that our prayer leaves our lips, our petition is heard, and God begins to respond. If our vision is limited in regards to our own ability to make decisions, how much more limited is it in regards to the millions of choices and decisions that make up the many interconnected lives of those individuals who directly and indirectly affect our destiny? We may not see a reason for the delay we experience when waiting on God. But, we can trust that like the waves in the ocean, God’s provision and promises are continually and powerfully moving and manifesting in untold directions, affecting us all an unimaginable ways.
God is amazingly adept at answering our prayers while we patiently trust Him for the outcome.
As a matter of fact, He not only agrees to help us, He loves to help us!
If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open. James 1:5-8 (MSG)
For further study: Proverbs 3:5-12, Ephesians 4:26-27, Isaiah 41:8-10, 1 Peter 3:12, Daniel 10:12
All scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.