110 Times

When my wife and I entered the ministry many years ago, we made a commitment to open up our lives to those around us. The good, the bad, and the ugly.  Don’t get me wrong, there are certain things that we keep between ourselves, but we’ve always wanted people to learn from our successes and failures.  As a result, we talk very openly about the things we’ve been through, and I would never expect someone to open up to me and share if I was unwilling to do the same.  Phrases like, “Don’t let them see the fear in your eyes,” or “Never let them see you sweat,” don’t quite sit well with me.  I’ve always thought, everyone has fear and everyone is going to sweat, so why pretend it doesn’t happen?  I want to relate to the people around me and learn from them how they overcame the fear and pressure.  I believe more people need to be transparent in that way.

I expect some to disagree with me.  After all, in a leadership position, there is definitely an element of steadfastness and confidence that you need to pass along to your team.  I get that.  I’m not going to be the ship captain that jumps in the life raft first, but I do want to teach those that put their trust in me that they are not alone when they experience times of fear, worry, doubt, or uncertainty. 

Last night, my wife and I met with our team and some close friends in our new studio space for Mended.  It was surreal to me because we have talked and prayed about it for so long and there we were!  I spent a little bit of time talking about the vision of our church and the strategy behind occupying a space downtown, and then I said, “We’ve laid a lot on the line to get here, and we’re scared.”  I didn’t do this to instill fear in the group; I did it to show the reality of the situation and the affect on my life.  As much as I’d like to say I’ve been a rock through this whole venture, the truth is that our leap of faith has come with a strong battle against fear.  What I really want my team and those watching to see is how to overcome that fear.  I can’t do that if they don’t see some fear in my eyes or if I don’t sweat a little.

I have always known that the command to “Fear not” or “Do not fear” occurred a lot in the Bible, so I decided to do a bit of research to find out just how many times it really was.  Although several variations of the phrase occur more than 360 times, about 110 are actually used in the context of God instructing His people to not have fear.  That’s a lot if you ask me!  More impressive than the sheer number of times it is commanded, is the message God is trying to get across.  This is actually one of those times in the Bible where there is no guess work…the message is: “Fear not!”  As comforting as that may be to some just by hearing those words, others are probably saying, “I can’t just shut off the fear.”  In the day to day it can be very difficult, but the method to deal with it is time proven and God directed. 

Fear is in direct opposition to the promises of God.  It is specifically designed to get you to believe that God is not who He says He is, and He can’t do what He says He can do.  Therefore, repeating His promises drives out fear.  It’s like spiritual conditioning - say it, rest, repeat. 

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

This passage from Isaiah is only one of God’s many commands to fear not, followed by a promise.  If you continually fill your mind with the promise, fear cannot gain a foothold.  That’s how God’s Word works.

God specifically told me to step out in faith, follow His guidance, and start Mended…and He would provide.  That’s the promise.  Because I can’t yet see the entire future of this church before my very eyes, I’ve looked to the things that I can see around me for indications and footing.  I’ve spent time entertaining the “what ifs” from myself and others, pouring over the checkbook, and analyzing costs. Anything to try to shed some light on what might happen in the weeks to come. According to those tangible things, a person might conclude that God can’t do what He said He can. It doesn’t add up! It doesn’t make sense God! I’ll admit that my fear has stemmed from this line of thinking. However, I’ve come to understand that God’s promises are seldom tangible in the beginning.  They are usually a truth spoken in our hearts that is used to guide us - like getting coordinates to a destination but still having to move forward to get there.  When we get lost using our GPS, the first thing we check is whether or not the destination was entered correctly!  We put our “faith” in the fact that our phone is not lying, and we keep checking it to make sure we’re on track. The same goes for God’s promises…always go back to the promise!

This has been a struggle for people for a long time, and I want to share another story in order to help you along your journey.  In Mark chapter 9, we find once again a large crowd surrounding Jesus to see him and hear his teachings.  This time, a man emerges from the crowd bringing his son to be healed and delivered from a spirit that is robbing him of speech and tormenting him.  As the boy draws closer to Jesus, the tormenting spirit recognizes him and immediately throws the boy to the ground in a convulsion.

“Jesus asked the boy’s father, ‘How long has he been like this?’ ‘From childhood,’ he answered.  ‘It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.  But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’”

Here we get a glimpse of the true fear that the father wrestled with.  He wasn’t fearful of what was happening to his son in that moment because he had seen it several times before.  He was fearful that Jesus wouldn’t be able to heal him, or do what he said he could do.

“If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

As Jesus repeated the father’s own words, he could now hear the doubt in his voice and grappled to take his words back: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:21-23

Jesus went on to heal the boy, but not until he made sure the man understood that his fear had led to doubt in the promise of Jesus – who he was and what he could do.  Did you catch what else Jesus did?  After he pointed out the fear, he taught the man how to overcome it by leaving him with a promise to repeat... “everything is possible for him who believes.”  I can hear it in my mind now.  Can you?