In one of my quiet times this week, I listened to a great audio message by Beth Moore that is part of her “Esther: It’s Tough Being a Woman” study. While her message was not intended to be directed towards parenting per se, I couldn’t shake how important this one key point she brought up was to us as parents. Something we should definitely be praying for and something we should seek to talk with our kids about…
So, here goes:
In this particular part of the audio message, Beth quoted N.T. Wright (author of “Following Jesus”) as stating the following, “Do you know what the most frequent command in the Bible turns out to be? What instruction, what order, is given, again and again, by God, by angels, by Jesus, by prophets and apostles?…the most frequent command in the Bible is not ‘Be good’ or ‘Don’t sin’, but rather, ‘Don’t be afraid.'”
This was the first time I had heard this, and I’ll admit I was a little shocked. But it makes perfect sense. This is probably one of the easiest ways “the evil one” manipulates us.
To quote Donald Miller (author of several books I own such as “Blue Like Jazz” and “Searching for God Knows What”) – “The most often repeated commandment in the Bible is ‘Do not fear.’ It’s in there over two hundred times. That means a couple of things, if you think about it. It means we are going to be afraid, and it means we shouldn’t let fear boss us around. Before I realized we were supposed to fight fear, I thought of fear as a subtle suggestion in our subconscious designed to keep us safe, or more important, keep us from getting humiliated. And I guess it serves that purpose. But fear isn’t only a guide to keep us safe; it’s also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.”
Now obviously, the devil wants nothing more than for us to be so afraid of being humiliated, or losing security, or whatever it may be that we live a very “boring” Christian life (with minimal “Christian” impact on others). It’s quite possible that we may not be committing adultery, murdering people, doing any of those “blatant” sins, but that we’re missing out on God’s best for us because we are “afraid.”
When I think back over my own life, undoubtedly I know there are many decisions I made, things I did, things I said that were contrary to that “prompting” from the Holy Spirit that were easy enough for me to overlook because they were not “blatantly sinful” decisions, but they were certainly decisions rooted in fear. I know it, I admit to it, and now, in my “a-wee-bit-closer-to-sanctification-self,” I hate it and regret it. Of course, I know God can always “use me where I am”, but how much have I missed out on? How much more could I have done for His kingdom if I wasn’t so wrapped up in fear of approval from others?
As stated in Proverbs 29:25, “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.”
Or Isaiah 51:12, “I, yes, I am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear?”
Ouch. I’ll admit it, been there….still struggle with it…
Thankfully, though, for me – I feel like I struggle with it a lot less than I used to. And as Beth was talking about this, I was thinking through and wondering why that would be so when she spouted off the following, “Perfect love casts out fear. Courage comes from a heart filled with LOVE.”
Ah, of course – the much less fear-filled me (although let’s be honest, I still consistently struggle with this a lot!) has a greater understanding of God’s love. I feel more much loved and approved. My teenage/young adolescent years I really grappled with a very legalistic view of God. I had a very hard time feeling totally “approved” before God. I remember when I first read through “The Jesus Storybook Bible” that I purchased for my son. The following passage really rocked me:
“As soon as the snake saw his chance, he slithered silently up to Eve. “Does God really love you?” the serpent whispered. “If he does, why won’t he let you eat the nice, juicy, delicious fruit? Poor you, perhaps God doesn’t want you to be happy.” The snake’s words hissed into her ears and sunk down deep into her heart , like poison. Does God love me? Eve wondered. Suddenly she didn’t know anymore…..And a terrible lie came into the world. It would never leave. It would live on in every human heart, whispering to every one of God’s children: “God doesn’t love me.””
Every time I turned from God, disobeyed, ran from him, etc., it was because, deep down, I didn’t think God really loved me. Why wouldn’t He allow me to do X or Y (similar to how He wouldn’t allow Adam or Eve to eat of the fruit)? It must be because He doesn’t love me enough, trust me enough, etc….
Scary how simple it can be, right?
So, here’s what my prayer is for/what I plan on discussing with my son (and maybe you will find it helpful for your children too) –
1) That he will be brave for the Kingdom and be ruled by Christ, not fear (“The Lord is my light and my salvation – so why should I be afraid?” – Psalm 27:1)
2) That he will understand how much God loves Him (“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:18-19)
To wrap this post up on an encouraging note (excerpted from Stephen Lang’s article, “Overcoming Fear”) – “Franklin Roosevelt assured people that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The Bible makes an even bolder promise: We have nothing to fear, period.”
Amen to that!!!!