When Faith Overcomes Fear
Both my children are participating in FFA at their high school. My son, Ben, is raising a pig and my daughter, Libby, is raising a lamb and this lamb is seriously cute. I am willingly surrendering my man card right now because this lamb is really cute, and he even has a polka dot jacket!
Here’s a video of the lamb running toward me from across a pasture at the FFA barn.
How cute is that? A few weeks ago Libby was at the State FFA Officers convention and so, Amy and I had to cover the morning and evening feedings. On one of those mornings I was in his pen trying to clean all the poop that was in there. Most days the lamb is chill, but on this particular day, that lamb was being a stinker. As I’m trying to clean, that lamb comes behind me and head butts me right in the leg. I looked at him and said, “Dude! What are you doing?” I figured he just needed a little attention, so I took some time and I pet him, calmed him down, and then I got back to cleaning.
Then this lamb head butts me again. And not just one more time, but like 10 more times. “Dude, don’t you understand that I’m trying to help you here? Don’t you understand that if you will do things my way, it will be better? Don’t you understand that I’m trying to clean up so you don’t have to sleep in your own filth? If you will let me finish, I’ll lead you outside where you can run and play and hop around and have fun!” And then I realized I was talking out loud to a sheep!
Even still, that lamb kept head butting me. So, you know what I did? I packed up and left. He didn’t get to go outside to the grassy area, he didn’t get to hop around like he likes to, he didn’t get to do any of what he enjoys because he was fighting against me.
A few days later, the Lord reminded me of how similar that situation occurs in our own lives. There are times in life when God is trying to help us. Sometimes He’s even cleaning the mess that we’ve made, yet we spend our time fighting God by not trusting Him and by doing things our way and not His way. In effect, we are headbutting God. And God looks upon us and says, “Dude, don’t you understand that I’m trying to help you here? Don’t you understand that if you will do things my way, it will be better? Don’t you understand that I’m trying to clean up so you don’t have to sleep in your own filth? If you will let Me finish My work, I’ll lead you outside where you can run and play and have fun. But you have to let Me finish My work in you.”
I wonder how many times we are on the brink of something good; on the brink of God taking us to a place in life where we can run and play; a place where things are much more enjoyable? However, we’ve been headbutting God and doing things our own way and so, we miss out on the good things God has for us.
Many times, when we are on the brink of something good, whether that’s a new job, a new school, the start of the new relationship, or a new business, whatever it may be, it is God who has led us to the brink of that something good.
If we trust Him and do things His way, He will lead us into that good place.
If we don’t trust Him, if we do things our way and not His way, or if we get scared to do things His way because we are stepping out into the unknown, then the very thing that God wanted to do in us and through us, will not happen.
We will end up sitting in that same pen, sometimes sitting in the mess we’ve made ourselves, all because we didn’t trust God and to do things His way.
Our Heavenly Father doesn’t want that for any of us. He wants us to trust Him. He wants us to follow Him. He wants to lead us to a place in life where we get to bound across the grass and play in the sun.
Now look, that doesn’t mean that everything in life is always going to be “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.” (Remember, I’ve already surrendered my Man Card!) But even in the difficult times, God can do something good in us because He can give us an inner joy. He can shape our character and He can make us stronger in many ways.
When we are on the brink of something good, one of the biggest obstacles we face his fear.
Fear of the unknown.
Fear that because it didn’t work out last time, it won’t work out this time.
Fear that we will be alone.
Fear that we won’t have enough.
Fear of how it will affect my kids.
The people of Israel found themselves in that exact situation centuries ago. God had led them out of slavery in Egypt to the brink of the Promised Land. They were literally standing on the brink of something good, less than a half day’s walk away.
But they chose fear over faith.
Moses, the leader of these people, sent 12 spies into the Promised Land to see if it was really as good as God had promised. He also sent them in to spy out the cities and to size up their opponents.
After 40 days, all 12 spies return and here is what the spies report when they get back (It’s all found in a book of the Bible called, “Numbers,” which ironically, is not about numbers at all. It’s about what happens from the time Moses gets the 10 Commandments on Mount Sinai to when they finally enter the Promised Land.)
Numbers 13:26-31 (NIV)
They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there.”
The descendants of Anak is a reference to legendary giants, so basically, all these people are linebackers.
29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”
Why was Caleb’s response so different? All the spies saw the same things. They saw the same cities, the same people, the same land. They saw all the same defenses and the same oppositions. They saw all the same things, but Caleb said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” while the other guys said, “We can’t attack those people, they’re stronger than we are.”
Caleb’s response was so different because Caleb knew the size of God, while the others knew the size of the opposition.
When they saw the size of the opposition, they felt fear.
They chose fear instead of faith.
When Caleb saw the size of God in comparison to the size of the opposition, he knew they could do it.
He chose faith in the face of fear.
Look at what Caleb continues to say to the people:
Numbers 14:8-9 (NIV)
“If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
Caleb says to the people and he says to you and to me, “You are standing on the brink of something good. But whatever you do, don’t rebel against the Lord. The Lord is with you. He is stronger than what opposes you. You might feel fear, but don’t act in fear. In fact, choosing to act in fear is the same as choosing to rebel against the Lord. So don’t choose fear. Choose faith in the face of fear.”
Teenagers, you are standing on the brink of a new school year. It potentially could be your best year yet and one thing God tells you in the Bible in Ephesians 6:1-3, is that you should ‘honor your father and your mother so that it may go well with you.’ I know, you think your parents are some of the stupidest cretins who have ever walked the face of the earth. My parents were morons when I was a teenager too. But, if you want this to be the best year ever, the one thing that you cannot do is to rebel against the Lord. And one thing God explicitly says to you is to honor your mom and dad. You honor them by obeying them, by listening to them, and by at least considering their advice to you, because right a wrong, like it or not, God chooses to speak to you through your parents. If you ignore your parents, you are rebelling against God. The reason you discount what your parents say is because somehow you believe God is not big enough or strong enough to speak through your mom and dad, and even if your mom and dad are wrong (and there are going to be times they are wrong) when you honor them anyway, you are showing God that you trust His ways. When you honor your parents, I promise you, and He promises you, that He will bless you. You might be standing on the brink of something good. See how that works?
Let’s say that you are married, or one day you want to be married, or one day you want to be married again…one thing that God tells us in Hebrews 13 is that the marriage bed should be honored by all and kept pure. You might be on the brink of something good in your marriage or you might be on the brink of something good in a relationship. Some of you may be on the brink of God bringing a relationship into your life. Whatever the case, one thing God says is to honor the marriage bed by doing what He says when it comes to sexuality. God says that the marriage bed is to be honored by all people, not just married people, and not just single people. All people. That means that if you’re married, you are faithful to your spouse. If you are unmarried, you remain sexually pure until the day you are married. Culture depicts sexual activity as normal and makes it seem like it comes without consequence, but that’s not true. God says there are consequences for sex outside of marriage. Now, those consequences never show up on TV or in the movies, they only show up in real life.
Now, if you want to experience the goodness that God has in store for you in marriage or future marriage, one of the things you have to do is follow His direction when it comes to sexuality. You have to honor your marriage bed. And you have to honor the marriage bed of the other person. One reason why you would not do so may be because your fear of losing the other person if you don’t sleep with him or her is greater than your faith in believing God’s way is best. If that other person walks away because you’re not willing to have sex outside of marriage with them, then that person is not the right person. That person doesn’t love you for you; that person loves you for what you can give to him or to her. Don’t give in to fear. Choose faith in the face of fear. Because you might be standing on the brink of something good.
Let’s talk about finances for a moment. You might be on the brink of something good with your finances, and maybe you’re thinking, “Well, I need to be on the brink of something good when it comes to money, because it feels like I’m on the edge of the cliff.” One of the things that God commands in Proverbs 3:9-10 is that you honor God by giving Him the first of your income, and more specifically, the first 10%.
Let me tell you about two people in our church, Doug & Brianne Parker. About a year and a half ago, they decided they were going to doing things God’s way by giving Him 10% of their income. They trusted that God was big enough to bless the 90% left to make it cover the 10% they were giving Him. After 2 months, Doug lost his job. So, all of a sudden there was a lot of fear about the future and wondering if they had done the right thing by trusting God. But the good news is that since he wasn’t making any money, giving 10% of zero is zero. To make a long story short, after a few months, Doug found a better job, making more money, with a better company. Brianne also started working part-time, which has now become full-time. and both of them will tell you that they 100% believe that if they hadn’t trusted God earlier, God would not have blessed them with better jobs later. All during that time they were without income, they never missed a payment, never went without food, and had enough for what they needed. Yes, there was fear, yet, they chose faith in the face of fear. And that’s what you need to do. Especially when it comes to finances, choose faith in the face of fear.
Let’s do one more. Let’s say that you are starting a new job, or that you on the brink of something good in your career. One thing that God commands in Matthew 7:12 is that you ‘do to others as you would have them do to you.’ It’s known as the Golden Rule. I know, you think your grandma came up with that. It was actually Jesus. So, in your new job, or in your current job, do to others as you would want them to do to you. If you want them to be kind to you, be kind to them. If you want them to work hard for you, work hard for them. If you want them to deal honestly with you, deal honestly with them. The reason you wouldn’t do any of these things is because somehow you believe that the only way to get ahead is through deceit and self-promotion. Come on, God is powerful enough to advance you as far as He wants to! If you want God to advance you, then be the kind of person worth advancing! Now, it will be in His timing and you might have to wait; and where God advances you may or may not be where you think He will advance you, but you just have to trust Him. You might be standing on the brink of something good so, choose faith in the face of fear.
Essentially, in all these scenarios and pretty much any scenario that you can think of, God asks you to trust Him and choose faith in the face of fear.
Bottom line: how big do I really believe God is? Do I really believe God is big enough to overcome the giants I might face? If you do, then trust Him. Obey what He says, knowing that He will lead you into your Promised Land in due time.
Don’t be like the other 10 spies who looked at the giants in the land and chose to give in to fear. They died in the desert 11 miles from the Promised land. Look at how things wrapped up for the people of Israel:
Numbers 14:29-30 (NIV)
In this desert your bodies will fall–every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.
So out of the more than 2 million people, only two guys over 20 years old and their families made it to the Promised Land. Caleb, whom we’ve talked about, and Joshua, one of the other spies. Joshua is the guy who eventually takes over from Moses and leads the people into the Promised Land. These are the only two guys who chose faith in the face of fear. Why? Because they believed God was big enough.
Caleb gets most of the credit because he did most the talking, but Joshua had the same faith in God. Why is that so important? The name “Joshua” means “God saves.” It means that God is the One who saves you from whatever calamity might await. God is the One who saves you and takes you past the brink and into the land of something good.
But it’s even better than that; “Joshua” is the Hebrew form of the Greek name “Jesus.” Kinda’ like Maria is the Spanish form of the English name “Mary.” It gets better… The Hebrew pronunciation of Jesus is Yeshua. Sounds kinda’ like Joshua, right? That’s because Yeshua is actually the shortened form of Joshua. Kinda’ like Mike is the shortened form of Michael.
The message for you and for me is this: even from the mid-1400s BC, when Joshua and Caleb went to spy out the Promised Land, our Heavenly Father has been planning to save you. He foreshadowed His plans to save you spiritually through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He planned to save you to a better and more abundant life by taking you to the brink of something good, and then asking you to trust Him to carry you over the line. All He asks in return is that you trust Him, follow His ways, and believe that He is big enough to overcome anything you might face.
Choose faith in the face of fear.
The same choice is before you as before all 12 of the spies. You can choose to follow God with all your heart and follow His lead into the Promised Land, whatever that would look like for you. Or, you can give in to fear and remain on the brink of something good.
You are going to feel fear, but would you choose faith in the face of fear?
Would you choose to believe that God is big enough to provide for you whatever He needs?
Would you choose to stop headbutting God by fighting against the things He asks you to do?
You might be on the brink of something good, and God is waiting for you to choose faith in the face of fear so He can bring you into that place of something good.
If you have never asked Jesus Christ to come into your life to spiritually save you from your sins, you need to do that today. Ask Jesus to forgive you for everything you’ve ever done so you can have a relationship with God, so that you can go to heaven when you die, and so that He will work in your life while you are on this earth.
Pastor Mike McGown