Pastor Jeff Needleman, New Beginnings Church
Remember our list of 46 synonyms for fear? There were three I didn’t mention: reverence, awe and respect. That’s the Christian fear of God that we read about in: Hebrews 12:28-29 NIV Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire”.
Biblical fear means we trust God; we worship Him in awe and revere Him through obedience and submission to His will and His discipline. And discipline isn’t a bad word. As kids, the fear of discipline prevented a lot of misbehaving while it helped us to love and respect our parents.
As God’s children, the same should be true in our relationship with Him as our Father. There’s a childhood story that 19th Century Scottish preacher John McNeill shares about the long route he had to take to get home. It was through a forest with a shadowy ravine and spooky trees. Wild animals and gangs of robbers were often reported in the area. Great fear would overcome him as he walked.
He wrote: “1 night it was especially dark, but I was aware that something or someone was moving slowing and quietly toward me. I was sure it was a robber. When a voice called out, its eerie tone struck my heart with fear. I thought I was finished. Then came a 2nd call. This time I could hear the voice saying, ‘John, is that you?’ It was my father. He had known of my fear and had come out to meet me.”
It was McNeill’s trust in his father that calmed his fearful heart. When we’re in fear, we need to turn to and hear our Father’s voice. God our father is able to expel our calm our fears and diminish our worries when we remain faithful and place our trust in Him. Amen?
Back to Ananias: Fear of God doesn’t mean that we cease being afraid of the thing God is calling us to, but it does mean that our vertical fear of God overcomes our horizontal fear of people, places and things. The bottom line is: give our fear over to God and trust Him. Otherwise we might just end up in our own personal desert.
Ananias overcame his fear and was obedient to God’s command. Did he do so fearlessly and without trepidation? Probably not! Did he nervously pray non-stop for safety and direction the entire time? Probably so! Perhaps he turned back a few times, but then reconsidered. I know I would… and I have on several occasions. But even the fear of death didn’t stop Ananias from traveling to where blind Saul waited, and each step was a step of true faith. Each step moved him away from fear of man and into fear and trust in God.
Now picture Ananias as he enters the house where Saul is waiting for him. Surprise! He wasn’t arrested, bound in shackles and dragged off to be executed. Instead Ananias finds a murderous enemy changed by God and a man who needs him. Ananias calls him brother, and through him Saul is healed, receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, and is baptized.
Pastor Paul Tripp writes: God robbed Saul of all his own power and filled him with the Holy Spirit. God blinded Saul so that for the first time in his life, he could truly see. This bringer of death was called to a new life in the death of Jesus. So although Paul was passionately committed to destroying the church, he radically spread Christianity and built it the Church from the ground up.
Ananias’ story is a picture of faith overcoming fear and what God can do through the willing obedience of one fearful but trusting believer. Ananias allowed the fear of God to rule his heart and became the instrument of the transformation of Saul to Paul, who has shaped the faith of every person who’s ever believed in Jesus.
The Lord doesn’t need us to be strong, because He is. The Lord doesn’t need us to be to be capable, because He is. He doesn’t need us to be fearless; He just needs us to be willing. Willingness allows Him to send even the most timid of us into battle and through us display His power, love and grace to a needy world.
We don’t find Ananias in Scripture before or after this event. Yet he doesn’t fade from view because God calls unlikely people, you and me, to be like Ananias; to do extraordinary things through our willing obedience to Him. He only asks us to be willing even when obedience makes life seem unsafe and fear would steal our hearts.
I was afraid when I left the corporate world to go back to school full time. I went from highly compensated to way below poverty level. It was wonderful. I was afraid to move from an area I knew and loved to a stopping point on our trips to Oregon called Redding. It was incredible.
Then I was afraid to move from this most wonderful and amazing place I called home to an out of the way little rural town in the desert called Fernley with only a couple of lights and a single Starbucks.
Our time here has been unbelievable. With each step God was and is with me, proving Himself to be real, trustworthy and in charge over and over again.
And as I took my steps of faith, I began to embrace the Scriptures that told me to fear not! Verses such as: Proverbs 14:26-27 HCSB In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence and his children have a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning people from the snares of death. And:
Isaiah 41:9-10 NIV I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, you are my servant I‘ve chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I‘m 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.
We’re all human, which means fear is a part of our everyday lives. But God says to trust Him through the fear. And when our trust grows, away our fear goes. Fear doesn’t rule me anymore… God does. And He does write happy endings in the long haul.
These are the exact words that Pastor Paul Tripp wrote about this passage and how it can apply in our lives:
We’re afraid of what people will think if they really get to know us, so we find it more comfortable to hide rather than be open and vulnerable… [or] Has God ever asked you to do something that you dreaded? Or, is there one thing lurking that if God asked you to do, you would be inclined to say no and run far away?
Our hearts are constantly torn between fear and faith. It’s the bipolar nature of every Christian who still has sin inside of them, no matter how long we have walked with the Lord or how many feats we have seen our God accomplish. These are the Lord’s commands! And He says to take courage; He is with us to the very end of time… Maybe you can relate to some of these:
- We’re afraid that we won’t be able to pay our bills, so we don’t give joyfully and liberally to God’s kingdom.
- We’re afraid of what others will think, so we don’t share our faith as vocally as we should.
- We’re afraid that we’ll be rejected, so we don’t lovingly confront a brother or sister in Christ when we need to.
- We’re afraid of looking stupid, so at Bible study or small group, we don’t ask the questions that have been plaguing our faith.
- We’re afraid of failure, so we don’t attempt to make the most of the gifts that God has given us.
- We’re afraid to leave the comforts of our predictable lives, so we don’t step out into that ministry opportunity.
Pastor Paul didn’t “trip” over his words and tells us exactly like it is. The root causes of so many mistakes and spiritual pitfalls in our lives will usually be one of our greatest enemies- fear. Fear will control us and cause us to rebel against what God has in store for us. It will dilute our trust in Him, and rob us of our joy, peace and contentment. But fear not… take to heart what the Bible says in:
Deuteronomy 31:7-8 NIV Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Let me close by repeating this… We’re all human, which means we’re all going to face fearful things, a lot! But God says to place our faith and trust in Him through the fear. And as our trust grows, away our fear goes!
Editor’s note: this is the second part of a two-part series.