If we do not make an entry into a life of faith we will discover there are so many things we can be afraid of. We will fear crime, sickness, failure and the future. The list goes on and on. Fear will paralyze and destroy. Just look at the churches and communities that say they are afraid to help the homeless in their neighborhoods because they are afraid it will bring in more homeless people.
Daily we are presented with the choice of whether we are going to let fear or faith rule our lives. If we are going to make an entry into a life of faith rather than fear, then we need to know how faith develops. Romans 10:17 tells us “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.”
The first letter in spelling out the word entry is E which represents the encounter with God that is needed. Karen Spears Zacharias writes, “Fear was making my world smaller and smaller. I knew if I let it continue that way, I’d eventually become a prisoner of my own soul. I began praying that very day that God would make me a woman of faith. I asked the Creator to give me the courage to move beyond the borders of my confirming imaginations and into the glory of God’s imaginings.”
In order to be a people who make an entry into life that overcomes fear we must daily be immersed in the Scriptures. There Jesus says: “Take courage. It is I, Don’t be afraid.” (Matt 6:50) He goes on to say, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John14:27).
Daily we are given the choice whether we are going to make an entry into the assurances of God’s word or the crazy tapes of fear and unbelief that Satan turns loose in our heads each day. Fear kept the children of Israel wondering in the wilderness for forty years and that is where it will keep you unless you let Faith in God make its entry into your life.
We can experience this entry because while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. No one can truly appreciate the fact that Christ died for their sins unless they first recognize the need that exists in their life. This need is a result of the reality that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
Unless we recognize we are sinners in need of a Savior we will continue to live in fear knowing we will never be able to encounter the Holy God of Heaven and Earth. It is our sins that separate us from God. The reality of this separation which is evident by the results of sin all around us further perpetuates our fears.
Sin has thrust us directly into battle with the God of the universe. As this battle rages around us and within us we find hope in the fact that a treaty has been provided for us through Jesus Christ. John 3:16-18 shows us how this treaty has been established. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because He has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
What assurance I find in these words as I try to provide for the homeless in communities like St. Louis City, St. Louis County and other communities where the powers-that-be try to frustrate my efforts at every level. Daily I have find strength in Scriptures such as Is. 12:2 which declares, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.”
I can either lie in my bed at night unable to sleep as fear haunts me concerning the future, or I can receive the promises of God’s Word. “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared” (Proverbs 3:24-26).
It is so easy for fear to wrap its snarling hands around me until I find myself suffocating in worry, anxiety and fear. In the middle of the storms of life, Jesus is asking you and I the same thing He did His disciples in Mark 4:40,”Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Karen Zacharias goes on to say in her book, “Where is your Jesus Now?” “Our nation, our world is in desperate need of a safe place to curl up and rest. But in order to do that, we are going to have to figure out who is the greater threat: some imagined intruder? Or the fear we bed down with each night and hang out with each day? How can we separate the imagined threats from the real ones? And even if we are able to distinguish between the two, as people of faith, should our reaction to them differ? Whether we are bobbing in deep water or cowering from a werewolf, shouldn’t our response be the same? Shouldn’t we be calling out to our Father for help?”
If we are going to conquer fear we are going to need to make an entry into a life of faith where we can be truly effective and productive. We need to recognize the deep water of fear and sin we are bobbing in and receive the life raft that God the Father has sent to us. That life raft both now and for all eternity is Jesus Christ. Now it is critical we make the entry into the life of Faith that Jesus provides lest we drown in the ocean of fear that we are thrust into daily.
Remember making an entry into a life of faith rather than one of fear involves as I indicated earlier spelling out the word entry. #1. The E reminds us of our need to encounter God. In His awesome presence we experience peace from the fact we do not need to fear for God is in control. #2. Knowing He is a Holy God and our sins separate us, filling us with fear and make this encounter impossible, we recognize our need for help. The N in spelling out the word entry stands for the need that exists in our life to overcome fear and the sin that contributes to it. #3. The next letter T in entry involves learning about the treaty that God has established through sending His Son Jesus. This treaty is necessary because sin has put us at war with the Holy God. The treaty between us sinful human beings and God is a result of the fact that Jesus died for our sins. After being resurrected Jesus established peace with God by paying the penalty for our sins. #4. The fourth step is experiencing the R in the word entry which stands for receiving God’s treaty of Jesus Payment for our sins.
Many who call themselves Christians are still paralyzed by fear. They desire to encounter God. They recognize the need in their life for a Savior. Some even give mental assent to the fact that Jesus has provided a treaty by paying the price for their sins but they continue to live in fear because they have not truly received Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The end result is they are Christians in name only, as their lives are directed by fear rather than faith. Such individuals are afraid to confront the principalities and powers that oppress the poor and elderly and as a result leave the homeless sleeping outside their warm churches and homes.
Fear paralyzes. It destroys and keeps those who have not received Jesus from stepping out in faith and obedience to all that God is telling them to do. That is why over and over the Scriptures say “fear not” “do not be afraid.” In Matt1:20 Joseph is told not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. Both Zacharius and Mary are told to fear not in Luke 1, while the angel declared to the shepherds “Fear not for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10). Throughout the gospels Jesus told his disciples not to be afraid no matter what the circumstances might be. The reason we can be a fearless people in the midst of adversity is the result of receiving Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
The night Jesus knew that He was going to be betrayed, beaten and put to death he said to his disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. ( John 14:27) Jesus knew His Father God was in control and now we are told to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith,” who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 13:2)
Where are the people of faith like Amos who after receiving the reality of the living God in the midst of injustices cried out, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream?” Where are the Shadrachs, Meshachs, and Abednegos who receiving God’s presence and love refused to bow down to the golden idol and with courage cry out to an arrogant leader like Nebuchadnezzar saying, “if it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us but if not we will not bow.”
If we have received Jesus than we must ask, why are we so easily intimidated by the power brokers who fight efforts to create affordable housing, help the homeless and make available health care for those in need? Why has fear paralyzed our churches to the extent that they are afraid to open their doors to the hurting and homeless? It takes receiving Jesus as our Lord and Savior and letting His love work through us in order to conquer fear. 1 John 4:18 declares, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”
In the USA much of the war on terrorism has become an excuse for perpetuating fear and putting the countries trust in its weapons. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his sermon, “Antidotes for Fear” stated, “Expenditures for defense have risen to mountainous proportions, and weapons of destruction have been assigned priority over all human endeavors. The nations have believed that greater armaments will cast out fear. But alas! They have produced greater fear. In these turbulent, panic-stricken days we are once more reminded of the judicious words of old, ‘Perfect love casteth out fear.’ Not arms, but love, understanding, and organized goodwill can cast out fear.”
These prophetic words are being fulfilled before us as we witness the US attack on the nation of Afghanistan. The result is the production of more terrorists then we have conquered. At the same time our national fears of replacing our dependence on oil with renewable energy has caused this country to fund the very terrorists we hope to conqueror.
Whether it is a nation or an individual; fear destroys, paralyzes and immobilizes. This answer to the problem of fear is faith.. As I John 4:4,5 declares, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
Those who truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God are a people liberated from the world’s system and all it holds dear. No longer do they live for money, power or prestige. Their driving desire is to obey God at all costs. As a result the threats and bribes of the power brokers no longer intimidate them. As believers who have received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior they have experienced God’s power and love to the extent that the world’s sinful pleasures and ungodly ways have no attraction to them. Jesus, ‘the way, the truth and the life”(John 14:6) fills the believer with His love until fear is driven out.
Many who have not truly received Jesus as their Lord and Savior will try to hide their fears under a cloak of spirituality that is far removed from the very real issues of daily living. Dr. King stated, “Any religion which professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned with the social and economic conditions that scar the soul is a spiritually dead religion only waiting for the day to be buried.”
The hour has come for us to break free from the entrapment of fear of what will happen if we step out in faith, radically helping those in need. James declares, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless ”(James 2:14-20).
Faith demonstrated through deeds of love will be the result when one truly receives Jesus as their Lord and Savior and then yields daily to Him in prayer. Without such fear will creep back into their lives and paralyze them when it comes to helping the poor and homeless. How critical it is that each one of us receive Jesus, pray without ceasing and let His love flow through us.
Henri Nouwen in his work entitled “Compassion” explained it this way. “Prayer requires that we stand in God’s presence with open hands, naked and vulnerable, proclaiming to ourselves and to others that without God we can do nothing,”
Prayer helps us daily to yield to God. Without implementing this final letter Y daily which stands for yield in the word entry we will find fear trying to take over in our lives.
Unless I be found among the cowardly, the unbelieving and others described in Rev.21:8 whose place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur, I must be daily yielding to the Living Christ and the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit. This yielding is a result of God’s grace leading me to read the Scriptures and observe creation along with praying, fellowshipping with other believers, and directly helping those in need.
Throughout the Scriptures we see ordinary people who, instead of fearing, chose to make the entry into a life of faith. Whether it was Abraham believing for a great nation, Moses leading the Children of Israel through the Red Sea, David facing Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den, the list goes on and on. These heroes of faith chose to fear not and instead made the entry into the arms of our Loving Heavenly Father. Hebrews 11 describes over and over those who heard the admonishment to fear not and chose to face adversity with faith.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
There are so many things that can feed our fears. The time has come for us to rise up from our fears and move forth making the entry into constant faith in God. For too many years we have allowed fear to paralyze and immobilize us when it comes to doing the great things that God desires to take place at this time. Has not God told us in Is. 44:8 “Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides Me? No there is no other Rock; I know not one.”
In conclusion, as we are making the entry to the life of faith I would like to close with a quote from Dr. King’s work entitled “Shattered Dreams”. “There are times when the winds are in our favor—moments of joy, moments of great triumph, moments of fulfillment. But there are times when the winds are against us, times when strong head winds of disappointment and sorrow beat unrelentingly upon our lives. We must decide whether we will allow the winds to overwhelm us or whether we will journey across life’s mighty Atlantic with our inner spiritual engines equipped to go in spite of the winds. This refusal to be stopped, this courage to be, “this determination to go on living” in spite of, is the God in man. He who has made this discovery knows that no burden can overwhelm him and no wind of adversity can blow his hope away. He can stand anything that can happen to him.”
We can stand anything that comes against us as we constantly make the entry and remain in God’s love and powerful presence. This means we must not let fear control us by letting the ego take over. Ego stands for Edging God Out. This will happen if we don’t stay in the Bible which is Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Remember the word Frog. It stands for Fervently Relying On God. As we do this trusting our Lord Jesus Christ every moment of every day we will be making an entry into a life where fear does not control us. This will be a life that will be truly effective and productive (see II Peter 1:3-8).