No More Fear

kids hiding under the covers in a dark bedroom

One thing that causes us to make dumb decisions is fear.  Growing up, one my most irrational fears has to do with a light switch.  Now, you might think that I was afraid of the dark.  Nope, I wasn’t afraid of the dark.  I was afraid of what lived under my bed in the dark. I don’t know where this came from, but my greatest fear was of these two hands that lived under my bed.  No body, just two hands.  If I stood too close to the edge of the bed in the dark, these two hands would reach out, grab me by the ankles, and drag me under, never to be heard from again. Now, my brother and I shared a room and he had the same fear.  So, what we dreaded most was turning out the light at night.  Whoever had to turn out the light, had to somehow make it safely from the light switch to the bed without getting grabbed by the hands that lived under our beds.  Whoever turned out the light would take a running start from the light switch and leap onto the bed, that way we could avoid the clutches of the hands.  I know, it’s a completely irrational fear and totally dumb but that didn’t matter.

I remember one particular night, when it was my turn to turn out the light, I took a flying leap onto my bed, but I misjudged the distance.  My bed was in the corner, so the headboard was against one wall and the side of the bed was against the other wall.  When I jumped onto the bed that night, I jumped too far. I bounced, hit the wall and slid down the crack between the bed and the wall.  I’m telling you, I started screaming like a little girl and flailing around trying to get out of that crack!  As you can see, I successfully cheated death that night. I know my fear was completely irrational, but it was real to me and it affected how I lived.  That fear has stayed with me to this day.  Now, thankfully, I don’t leap from the light switch into the bed any longer.  Amy’s thankful for that too. However, I still don’t like looking under a bed.  Any bed.  I don’t even store stuff under my bed.  I know, it’s totally irrational.  But it’s something that has stayed with me.

There are things that stay with us our whole lives.  Fears, regrets from dumb decisions we’ve made and the pain that comes from some of those dumb decisions.  Like a big pile of junk, we end up towing those fears, regrets, and hurts around with us.  We mistakenly think that if enough time goes by, that like a pile of junk, they will rust away and disappear because time heals all wounds. But that’s not true, now is it?  The pain might lessen, but the wound is still there.  Time doesn’t heal ALL wounds.  Only God does that.

Our Heavenly Father is going to show us not only how He can heal those wounds of the past, but how we can make better decisions and quit piling up regrets that we’re going to end up towing around with us our whole lives.  He wants us to live our lives with no regrets! Every regret you’ve ever had is because of a dumb decision. One of the things that causes us to make dumb decisions is fear and sometimes fear causes us to do something that we regret. Most of the time, fear causes us to NOT do something that we later regret.  We are afraid of something bad happening, so we play it safe and DON’T do something, and end up regretting it.  Perhaps it’s the fear of taking a job at another company, switching career paths or starting your own business.  Perhaps it’s the fear of starting a new relationship or being totally honest in the relationship you’re in now.  It might be the fear of letting your child struggle and not rescuing him or her all the time.  It might be the fear of trusting God with money, taking a step of faith or even believing in God at all.  Sometimes our biggest regrets are not what we’ve done, but what we didn’t do when we had the chance.

Fear of what could happen can make me miss what could happen

God is going to show us how to live with no regrets by not letting fear paralyze us and missing out on something great God has for us.  God shows us how through a guy who was full of fear.  His name is Gideon.  Let me give you a little background so that when we read what happens, it will make sense.  For the last seven years, bands of Midianite raiders would ride across the land of Israel and steal livestock, grain, and set unharvested crops on fire.  They did this to keep the Israelites oppressed, impoverished, and from ever gaining strength to overthrow the Midianites. It is in this setting that we first meet Gideon.  There is nothing special about Gideon.  He’s not a king, a warrior, or especially strong.  He doesn’t even do hot yoga.  Gideon is a farmer, a scared farmer.  God offers him a chance to live with no regrets.  Let’s read what happens and I’ll explain some things along the way:

Judges 6:11-14 (NIV)

“The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites.”

Okay, pause right there.  Normally, you would thresh wheat on what’s called a threshing floor.  It’s a big wide-open floor with storage rooms on either side so that it creates a wind tunnel.  A farmer would take what’s called a winnowing fork, it looked like a pitchfork, spread out the harvested grain on the threshing floor, and then scoop the wheat and throw it up into the air.  The wind would carry away the husks, called chaff, which were light.  The heavier grains of wheat would fall back to the threshing floor.  After all the chaff was gone, the farmer would have grain he could use or sell. Because he was afraid of the raiding Midianites, Gideon was down in inside a winepress, which in this instance would have been a pit covered in plaster on the floor and sides, where workers would stomp grapes into juice which would become wine.  So, Gideon is down in this pit so the Midianites wouldn’t see him.  All they could have seen was this wheat flying up into the air and the wind caring away the chaff.  Gideon was doing this because he was scared.  And rightfully so, but then God enters the picture:

12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

I’m sure Gideon thought, “Who you talking to?  There’s no warriors here.”

“13 “But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”

14 The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?””

The strength I have is all the strength I need.

So here is Gideon, who is not a military guy. He’s not a strong guy.  He’s a scared guy.  All he has to show for his fears is a pitchfork.  It’s at this point that Gideon has a choice.  He can continue to stay in his pit, throw wheat up in the air, and spend the rest of his life wondering what could have been or, he could lay down his fear, get out of the pit, and move forward with God.  Now notice, God did not change Gideon.  He didn’t give Gideon superpowers or even more faith.  God said, “Go in the strength you have.” God tells you the same thing.  Go in the strength you have.  You can stay where you are in life and continue to throw wheat up in the air and wonder what could have been if you want to but if you want to live with no regrets, at some point you have to quit waiting on God to give you superpowers, more faith, or more whatever.  HE HAS ALREADY GIVEN YOU THE STRENGTH YOU NEED.  You are strong enough.  Now it might be just enough, but it’s still enough.

So, get out of your pit!  Stop living in fear of what could happen if everything goes wrong and think about what could happen if you trusted God!  God says to you, “Go in the strength you have.  The strength I have given you is all the strength you need.” Whatever God asks you to do in life, go in the strength you have because it’s all the strength you need.  Don’t look back at your life and think about what could’ve happened.  Think about what could happen if you trust God.  The first step is just to go in the strength that you have.  It’s enough. That’s what Gideon does.  He gets out of the pit and moves forward with God.

But that’s not the end of his fear.  Look what happens next:

Judges 6:25-27 (NIV)

“That same night the LORD said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of altar to the LORD your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”

27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the men of the town, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.”

God asks Gideon to get rid of some junk from his past. His family, especially his dad, worshiped idols. It’s pretty safe to bet that growing up, Gideon also worshiped these same idols but by this stage in life, Gideon has chosen to follow God.  So, God asks Gideon to tear down some junk from his past but Gideon is afraid because he knows his family and others are not going to approve.

The lesson is clear.  If I’m going to live with no regrets, I might have to tear down some junk from my past.

There might be some junk from your past that you need to tear down.  There might be some things that have dishonored God, that you know God doesn’t want you to participate in any longer, that divide your heart.  They keep you with one foot in the world and one foot in Christianity. If you give them up, it might offend some people, maybe even members of your family but if you’re going to follow God with no regrets, then follow Him with no regrets!  Don’t spend your life thinking about what could happen if you give it up, think about what could happen if you gave it up!

I have no idea what that might be for you.  Maybe you come from a line of alcoholics, and you’ve wondered what life might look like without alcohol in it.  Maybe the desire to accumulate and pile up money has been a stumbling block in your past.  God might be leading you to tear that down by being more generous than you’ve ever been.  Maybe you’ve been so obsessive about your appearance that it has become an idol in your life.  God might be asking you to spend less time looking in the mirror and more time complimenting and applauding other people.  It could be something totally different! What is it that comes to mind that draws your heart away from God?  Whatever you’re thinking about right now, that’s what God brought to your mind because He is asking you to tear it down so you can live with no regret.  There’s going to be some fear involved but it’s a false fear.  Tearing down the idols did not become an issue in Gideon’s family, and it won’t be an issue in yours.  You’ll never regret it.

What happens next is the most famous part of Gideon’s life:

Judges 6:36-40 (NIV)

“Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised– 37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” 38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew–a bowlful of water.”

Then, Gideon wonders if that would’ve happened anyway.  Ever ask God for a sign like, “God, if You really want me to do this, then let there be a front row parking spot when I pull in to the grocery store.”  Then, you pull in and there’s one front row spot available!  Then,  you wonder if that was really God or just a coincidence?  That’s exactly what Gideon thought.  So, here’s what he does:

“39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.” 40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew. “

Look, Gideon is real.  He’s just like me and you.  He needs some assurance from God because the devil was trying to get Gideon to doubt God and give in to fear.

God often gives reassurance, but rarely removes fear.

Gideon still had some fear about fighting the Midianites.  God gave him some reassurance but did not remove his fear.  Why? God doesn’t remove fear because choosing to follow Him doesn’t have value if you’re not risking anything.  If God removed all fear, your choice wouldn’t have any value.  The choice only has value if it’s hard.  So, there must be some fear, some tension, some back and forth wavering.  Then, your choice has value because you are choosing to trust God instead of giving in to fear.  It shows our Heavenly Father that you genuinely trust Him. God will give you some reassurance if you ask.  He might encourage you through what other people say, He might speak to you through a sermon at church, you might receive a text from a friend, you might even have a dream.  I don’t know what God might do; He often gives reassurance, but He rarely removes fear.  If He did remove fear, your choice has no value. So, if you’re going to live with no regrets, then choose to follow God in the face of fear.  If you wait until there is no fear, you’ll never do anything for God and you’ll end up regretting it.

Next, God asks Gideon to reduce his fighting force from 32,000 soldiers to 300.  Now Gideon is about to face the Midianite army of more than 100,000 soldiers, with just 300 dudes.  Gideon is feeling some fear, big time! So, here’s what God does:

Judges 7:10-15 (NIV)

“If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah 11 and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.”

So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. 12 The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore. 13 Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”

14 His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”

15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped God. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The LORD has given the Midianite camp into your hands.”

God is at work on the other side of what I fear.

This is what we never take into account.  We rarely think about the fact that God would not tell us to do something if He wasn’t already at work on the other side, paving the way.  He is already at work setting the stage to accomplish what He wants to accomplish.  He is waiting for you and for me to say, “Yes” and follow Him with no regrets. I can look back on multiple times when God asked me to do something, and I felt plenty of fear, but when I trusted Him anyway, I discovered He was already working on the other side of my fear.  Which is why I’m so glad that I followed God’s leading in my late 20s and asked out a beautiful girl named Amy.  I was plenty fearful because I knew that she didn’t like me.  It’s a longer story, but it wasn’t until after we started dating that I found out that God had been working on her getting her ready for me, as much as He had been getting me ready for her.  Now, two kids and 20 years of marriage later, I’m so glad I didn’t give in to fear. I’m so glad I followed God’s lead to start Parkway Fellowship.  God asked me and Amy to start this church from nothing when she was seven months pregnant and I had to walk away from my job and insurance.  Little did I know that He was already at work on the other side of my fear, placing it on the hearts of multiple people to help us to start this church.  Two locations and 17 years later, I’m so glad I didn’t give in to fear. I don’t know the next thing God is going to ask me to do.  I’m sure there will be some fear involved but I’ve already decided that whatever it is, I’m going to do it.  I know God is at work on the other side of what I fear to accomplish His purposes.

What about you?  When God asks you to do something, would you do it?  Does that mean you won’t have any fear?  No.  You will but fear of what could happen can cause you to miss what could happen!  So, don’t give in to that fear!  Give in to God.  He’s already at work on the other side of what you fear. Perhaps one of the things you fear is what would happen if you chose to become a believer in Christ.  Maybe you fear that it would take all the fun out of life.  That you’ll have to follow a bunch of rules that just make life boring and dull.  I have found the exact opposite to be true.  Since I have become a Christ-follower, my life has more fun and less regret than I ever expected.  As far as the rules go, I have discovered that the closer I get to God, the closer I want to follow Him.  I obey Him out of love, not a sense of obligation or guilt.

It all starts by becoming a believer in Jesus Christ.  You do that by asking Jesus to come into your life, to forgive you and commit to follow Him as best you can from this day forward.  If you’ve never done that and would like to today, click this link.

By the way, God does a miracle and Gideon defeats the Midianites with just 300 dudes.  You’ll have to go read the full account on your own but just think, if Gideon had given into his fear, if he had listened to the devil whispering words of fear just once, he would have gone back to threshing wheat in a pit.  You would never have heard of him.  His life would have amounted to no consequence.  He would have regretted it and always wondered what could have been. That didn’t happen.  He put down his fear.  He trusted God.  When fear started to creep back in, he moved forward anyway.  No regrets.  God invites you to do the same.

by Mike McGown

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