Do Not Feed The Fears

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“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

I’ve been on a mission lately to rid myself of fear in my life. I wish I could say that I have now been bungee jumping and held a python without wincing but I have yet to do either of those things.  We watch shows like Fear Factor and tend to think that if we eat cockroaches and swim with hungry sharks then we are that much closer to being fearless. However, over the past couple years I’ve realized those aren’t the fears that are the most weighty.

The fears that carry the most implications are the ones that stand in the way of our God-given destiny. They come subtly, and slowly grow inside of us. If left alone, they form lies that paralyze us.

Did you know that it says “Fear not!” 365 times in the Bible? That’s one reminder for every day of the year! I recently spoke at a women’s retreat about productivity/being fruitful with our time. However, I couldn’t get to the heart of fruitfulness without first addressing the fears that hold us back from actually doing what God is calling us to do. Here are some fears I heard many people struggle with:

  1. Fear of the unknown.

I think God knew that this whole FAITH thing was going to be hard for those of us who like to have it all planned out and like to know all the answers. If you are like me, your agenda is always within arms reach and you sit in the same seat at church each week because you are a creature of comfort. Then God puts it on our heart to do something that requires us to go out of that comfort zone. We internally squirm because, simply, we don’t know what will happen. The reality is, God never called us to be comfortable. There are coffins for that. He called us to live a life of faith, constantly on the journey of trusting him and acknowledging with every step that He is sovereign and omniscient and we are not.

All type-A personalities take a deep breath, I know.

2. Fear of the vastness of the responsibility or task

My shed is a mess. It’s the place that all things I don’t know what to do with go. Boxes, items I’m undecided about, books I will probably never read again, you name it. It’s in need of a good purge. So why haven’t I done the big overhaul? I take one look at the big giant task and say, “Uh-uh. There’s always tomorrow!”

I used to read Matthew 7 about the wise man who built his house on the rock and think that it must have been a very large flat and conveniently placed rock that was the obvious better choice for house-building. Poor guy who built his house on the sand just didn’t get to the prime real estate lot fast enough. After further study, I realized the rock was found only through a painstakingly long and arduous process of digging deep enough and wide enough into the sand for a foundation to be laid.

It must of been hard for the wise man to keep digging when the sandman already had upgrades added to his model home. Doesn’t life feel like that sometimes? Doing a lot of work with not a lot to show for it yet. The guy next door seems to have his tent set up in a jiff while we are still reading the instructions. Well, that’s life God’s way. It’s a longer process but in the end will have an unshakable foundation that no storm will be able to sweep away.

  1. Fear of failure.

When my children were learning how to ride bikes without training wheels, I let them fall a bit. I really had no choice, at some point we had to let go of that bike so they can feel true balance. A few tears were shed, but the smiles created from the joy of learning to ride a bike far outweighed them. The falling isn’t a big deal because the falling is not failing, it’s learning. Falling is not failing, it’s learning. I’m not sure why as adults we get so bent out of shape about falling in life. We struggle to see it as learning and often look at our moments of falling as if it a big red F was written on the paper of our lives. Trying, failing, and trying again is called learning.  God is okay with us being in the process of learning, what He is not okay with is those who don’t try at all (In Matthew 25, the servant who didn’t try at all was called wicked and lazy!)

  1.  Fear of disapproval

Recently I had the privilege of hearing Rick Warren speak at Pastors Day. One of the first things he said was, “You will never fulfill your God given purpose so long as you are concerned about the approval of others.” Ouch. We’ve all been there. We want to take a step of faith but one of the first thoughts that comes to us is, “What will people think about me?” The real questions we should be asking ourselves is, “What will God think about me?” That is a better indicator of who we are truly living for.

You might pride yourself in being a skydiver or fire-eater but how about the other fears in your life – the weighty ones that hold you back from your God-given destiny? I know for me, it might take me some time–and some falling–but I am determined to cast off these sneaky fears. I will quiet the lies and make the truth louder:  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

The Courage to Love

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When I was fourteen years old, I was taken in by my best friend Brittany’s family. Due to some challenging circumstances at home, it was the best place I could be at that time in my life. They welcomed me into every aspect of their lives; meals, sports functions, family functions and even holidays.

The first Christmas I spent there, I was shocked to see my name hanging on a stocking on the mantle. I literally did a double-take. I did not deserve that place – right next to all the biological children, there was my name. It will pass, I convinced myself. They will be sick of me and regret the decision to take me in once they see all my faults and failures.

To make a long story short, it’s been over twenty years and I still have a stocking up. For many years it was hard for me to wrap my heart and my brain around such unconditional, extravagant love.

I recently was asked to speak at MOPS and the topic was “The courage to love people extravagantly.” It is a thought provoking topic and I couldn’t help but think of Brittany’s family and the extravagant love they showed me.

Extravagant means: exceeding what is reasonable or appropriate, absurd. More than usual, necessary, or proper.

Yes, I was certainly loved exceedingly by this family…I was loved more than what was reasonable or appropriate. I was loved absurdly. I was loved more than usual, necessary or proper. I was considered family, and still am considered family.

Then, I thought about the Lord and how extravagantly loved I am by Him.

Ephesians 5:1-2  in the MSG translation says,

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”

“His love was not cautious but extravagant” is the most beautiful part of this passage for me. Perhaps it is because I, along with many others I know, sometimes love cautiously for fear of getting hurt or rejected. I believe if more people had the courage to be vulnerable, we would see a lot more extravagant love happening in our world.

C.S. Lewis says in his book Four Loves,

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

So, I guess the first question isn’t if I have the courage to love extravagantly but do I have the courage to be vulnerable? Do I have the courage to love others so much that it puts me at risk of being hurt?[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@MelSMiller, @SimpleScripture”]Do I have the courage to love others so much that it puts me at risk of being hurt?[/tweetthis]

Will you join me in tearing down walls and taking off masks?