Faith and Fear

Hi friends! This post is part of a 7-week series on overcoming fear in which a few friends will be dropping by as guest bloggers. Please visit their blogs, linked at the bottom of their posts here, if you’d like to hear more from them. Here’s to getting a little more free from fear together. – Bree

Faith and Fear by Connie Hellmuth

What scares you?  I am fearless in many ways.  I lived in Mexico for a year and I still drive in Juárez often, even at night, which many of my fellow El Pasoan’s consider lunacy.  I will eat street food in other countries.  I talk to strangers.  I have traveled internationally by myself and loved it.  But I have recently become aware of how fear has limited me in the past and I am trying to recognize when fear influences my decision making.  Fear can hold us back from what God is calling us to do.  In the Christmas story are two examples of people being called to do something, and their responses.   Let’s look first at the story of Zechariah in Luke Chapter 1, verses 12-20.  The angel says,

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.  He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 

Wow—this is great news!  A long-desired and prayed for baby, and an angel telling you that this child will bring you joy and be used by God in mighty ways.  Zechariah’s response tells us a lot about his view of God and his faith. He was a priest, and he would know about Abraham and Sarah.  This wasn’t the first time God had sent a baby to a woman past child-bearing age.  Instead of receiving this news with joy, Zechariah asked the angel,

How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 

For years I struggled with fear, just like Zechariah.  I struggled to believe that God loved me, that He was not disappointed in me.  I also struggled with the fear that I could not hear from God, that I would mess it up somehow.  For years I thought God might be calling me to get my master’s degree in Counseling.  I would inquire about what it took to apply, read the list of required classes, and then I would stop.  I didn’t know if I would be good at it, I was afraid to put all that work into a degree, spend all that money, only to find out I wasn’t good at it or I didn’t like it.  I finally identified that it was fear that was holding me back, and the only way to find out if I liked it, was to do it.  I absolutely loved the entire process.  Learning brought something to life inside me that had been long dormant.  It was life-giving to me.

As a young woman, I didn’t feel like God loved me.  I wanted to please Him and tried to follow all the rules to gain his approval.  I didn’t understand, at all, that there was nothing I could do to make Him love me more—or less.  When I finally came to understand God’s unconditional love for me, I was free from the fear that God was disappointed in me and that I couldn’t hear His voice.  God came into the world in humility as a baby, in the mess and muck of a stable, less than perfect conditions.  I don’t need to clean myself up before He loves me—He has always loved me, even before I surrendered my life to Him.  I came to understand as well that God’s ability to speak to His children was greater than Satan’s power to confuse us.  That understanding gave me a lot of peace.

When I was an early believer, someone told me that if I didn’t obey God, He would find someone else who would obey Him.  For years I lived with the fear that God would pass me over and abandon me because I didn’t respond to His call, or because I didn’t realize He was calling me.  Nothing could be farther from the truth!  The angel Gabriel sets Zechariah straight and gives him a consequence for not believing him, but I think it’s beautiful to notice that the angel’s message was true, and it did come to pass.  Elizabeth did conceive a boy and he was a prophet of God.  Zechariah’s doubt did not cause this important event to be canceled or transferred to another, more believing couple.  This story is a beautiful illustration of how God works with our frailties.  He knows us and our weaknesses and doesn’t leave us there.  He is always working for our good.

The next time in Luke that an angel is mentioned, it is with Mary.  Here is the passage from Luke 26-38.

“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

                 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.   But the angel said to her,

            “Do not be afraid Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
                 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.  For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

I believe Mary’s response was not one of doubt and was totally understandable.  She was a young woman, and she was not married.  Virgin birth had never happened before in the history of humankind, so she had reason to be confused.  But her response was based on her faith, not fear. Even though she might have felt afraid she chose to trust God rather than be led by fear.  Faith is the antidote to fear, and the more you exercise your faith, I’ve discovered, the greater it becomes. The more I know about God the more certain I am that He is worthy of my trust.  As I have obeyed Him, I have come to know Him better.  I might still be afraid, but when God is calling me to step out, I know He will go with me.   Mary believed God and His messenger and became the mother of the Messiah.  Fear comes between us and what God is calling us to do.  We miss opportunities that are life-giving when we give way to fear.  What are you afraid of?  What might God be calling you to do that scares you?  I will leave you with this poem an old friend posted on her Facebook wall.

I will not die an unlived life,
I will not live in fear
of failing or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise

by Dawana Markova

Connie Hellmuth is a Jesus follower who lives in El Paso, Texas with her husband of 38 years where they serve with Youth With a Mission El Paso/Juárez.  She is also a Licensed Professional Counseling Intern, loves kittens and puppies but has zero pets, and loves what she does.  She has seven children, ten grandchildren and loves to read, workout, and learn new things. 

Fear

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