Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fear--Not Always A Great Motivator ~ Part 1

You have probably heard the line... "fear is a great motivator”. While I agree that fear does have a tendency to motivate us, it is not necessarily in a great way. Usually fear gets us moving on an emotional level. Smart decisions are not typically made based on emotions. Depending on the type and intensity of the fear, it may get us moving before we even know where we should be going.

God does not use fear to motivate us. We choose—consciously or unconsciously—to respond in faith or in fear. It’s another one of the “free-will” opportunities that we are given.

In fact, the Bible is full of instructions for us to NOT be fearful.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“Say to those with anxious heart, ‘take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; the recompense of God will come, but He will save you.” Isaiah 35:4

Now, there are the references to fear being a good thing...true. But they are referring to having fear of God.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Psalm 111:10a

We should also have a healthy fear when it comes to willfully disobeying and sinning against God.

“Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also may be fearful of sinning.” 1 Timothy 5:20

I am not trying to conclusively look at all the different kinds of fears and references in the Bible. That would be too exhaustive and I’d lose you (as well as myself) within the first few paragraphs.

God has been showing me how easy we fall victim to responding in fear over real or imagined scenarios. Now I know my own easy targets, but I’m sure it wouldn’t take long for you to pinpoint yours.

Just spending a few minutes perusing the news can stir up a tad bit of anxiety with wars, the election, the economy and financial markets. Maybe it’s a scary health diagnosis. Perhaps it is a struggling business or a job that is looking a little shaky right now. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what we do know could happen. Fear of past failures. Fear of known temptations. Fear of ______________.

Our fears are as alike as we are human and as unique as we are individuals.

We are not left out here on our own to fend for ourselves. That is why I believe so strongly in searching through His word to align our lives with Him. It is in His word that He promises never to leave us nor forsake us. Christ is within us—what can man or economy or disease do to us that He does not have control over.

Knowing the word of God empowers us as we realize what power has been made available to us. If we don’t know what we’ve been given, we will walk anxiously not peacefully.

He is Sovereign. He is God. We are His beloved bride.

So what we fear is actually what we wonder God may or may not allow in our lives. I believe all that I know about Him and in His promises made to me. I believe that all He could and would allow would be for my good and His glory.

That’s were I can get stuck—on that last part. What could, would...IS He going to allow?

We don’t know. We don’t get to know. We get to respond to the idea of the unknown either in faith or in fear. We choose to respond to a difficulty allowed either in faith or in fear. Can we respond faithfully, but still have fear? Can we respond fearfully, but still have faith?

I believe that we can. We are human and God is not surprised when we respond as such. Just as we desire to grow and respond more maturely, faithfully...so does He hope to see the same growth within us. But to not have any fear at all...that could be unrealistic.

I have a dear friend who is facing another surgery related to her breast cancer fight that began 5 years ago. To not have any fear would be impossible! She knows the course with which this prognosis could take her. So she waits, she trusts, she hopes, she prays, she asks, she grows in her faith because that is who she is...a daughter of faith. Her fear response is humanly honest and yet it is laced up in her trust in her God.

So the question is what do we do when fear is the motivator?

We consciously choose to trust. We choose to believe in that which He has sewn in us over the years, that which He shows us in the Bible, that which He speaks to us through the Holy Spirit. We claim His promises. We believe in His faithfulness. We cling to His love and kindness. We trust in His Sovereignty. We walk in our faith and not in fear.

If you are finding yourself being motivated by fear, cry out to Him. Lay those fears at His feet and ask Him for the strength that He has promised to give in your weakness. Don’t beat yourself up for lack of faith! Choose to grow your faith and repeatedly lay those fears down—out loud and verbally—whenever you find yourself picking them up again. Sing songs of worship and praise. Spend time in the word, especially in the Psalms. Confide your fearful struggle with an accountability partner and pray together.

Ardently pursue knowledge in and wisdom from God! Doing so will unbridle the fear that is controlling you!