What is your fear doing?

no fearWhat does fear look like in your life?

Zombies, ghosts, vampires, and evil witches (as opposed to the good ones) — only get to me when I read stories or watch movies containing them. My solution? Avoidance. No matter how much I tell myself (and truly believe) they aren’t real, I still get nightmares. So while I’m not exactly afraid of them (seriously, I know they’re not real) they somehow get to me on a subconscious level. But these fears really don’t affect the way I live my life much.

But many fears do affect daily living and life choices to varying degrees. For example, those afraid of heights avoid skydiving and climbing ladders, and a fear of spiders causes entertaining reactions from many people. These fears are manageable though, and not usually significantly life-altering.

Then there are the fears that keep us from progressing in life.

Fear of failure makes us not even try. Fear of what others think leads to dangerous conformity. Fear of rejection prevents relationships from blossoming. Fear of the future causes staunch routine and vehement resistance to change. Fear of what might happen motivates many to seek relationship-damaging control. These fears I know well either through observation and/or personal experience. How about you?

To some extent, every fear holds the potential to limit life and keep us from following God’s will, but some fears certainly seem to have more power for doing so than others. So what can we do when fear grips us, and we simply want to hole up somewhere and live a safe, comfortable life?

The Bible says numerous times — someone counted 365 times, one for every day of the year — to not be afraid. God obviously knew fear would be a stumbling block, so he gave an abundance of encouragement for overcoming it.

Overcoming Fear

For me, overcoming fear lies with the examples found in God’s word of how others handled fear. These stories help change how I think about fear.

My favorite example is when Joshua became the leader of the Israelites and then faced the daunting task of leading God’s people into the Promised Land. God encourages Joshua by telling him to “not fear” and “be of good courage” multiple times (Deuteronomy 31 & Joshua 1:5-9).

The same God who encouraged Joshua and promised to never abandon him — and Scripture  shows God followed through on that promise — is the same God who will do the same for me today. That gives me courage to keep moving in spite of my fears.

Benaiah is another example of courage in the face of fear (2 Samuel 23:20-23 & 1 Chronicles 11:22-25). He faced a lion, two great warriors, and a man with a spear when he himself had only a club, and he came out victorious. In fact, his bravery (as well as many other positive characteristics) moved him up the ranks in both David’s and Solomon’s armies. Benaiah must have felt fear (who wouldn’t?), but he still did what was necessary to achieve victory.

We can’t stop fear. We will face it, and it will grip us. And while we may not be able to control the circumstances surrounding our fear or often even our reactions to what we fear, we can choose to pursue freedom from all fear (Matthew 6:25-34 & John 11:25-26).

Remember that focus determines reality, and with the power of God working in and through us, we can face our fears and push through to accomplish the will of God. We can focus on the fear itself or on the one who conquered sin, death and the grave. That choice determines the impact fear has on our lives.

DISCUSSION: Ask yourself what you’re afraid of. How does that fear shape your life? Are you focusing on the fear or on the one who calms all fears?

Sunday Reflections – Stumbling Blocks

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My kids have often heard me say, “Be aware of how what you’re doing affects others.” My point in telling them this begins with simply having good manners in public places. But I also want them to understand that their every attitudes, actions and words always impact others in some way.

We also talk about preferring others and being willing to do what another wants for the sake of the relationship. They are beginning to realize that putting aside personal preference is often one of the most powerful ways to build a relationship.

I wish I could say that these talks come from me simply wanting to share biblical truth with my boys. But, my purpose really goes much deeper and gets more personal.

You see, I too struggle with being aware of how I impact others with my moods, preferences and habits. I too have comfort zones that cause me to overlook some people. And, yes, I also let my feelings and preferences determine my actions at the cost of relationship sometimes.

In 1 Corinthians 8:9, Paul speaks to setting aside preferences in order to not be a barrier to others seeing Christ. And Romans 14:13 speaks to a determination to constantly monitor the affect of your behavior on others. What both of these scriptures get at is that we must do what we can to not place a stumbling block in another’s path.

We don’t actually cause another person to stumble since every person has a free will. Yet, we sure can trip someone up, which can take their focus off of Jesus just long enough for them to stumble. In doing so, we can certainly make their walk more difficult.

For me, application of this scripture involves making sure I am approachable while at the same time realizing I must sometimes do the approaching. It means getting outside of my comfort zone and talking to those outside my circle of favorites. And, it also means getting over my own feelings of inadequacy and not fitting in and instead helping others to feel like they are adequate and fit in.

Avoiding placing a stumbling block in another’s path requires having a strong faith that trusts God with every step. At the same time, it means being sensitive to the needs of others and doing our best to meet those needs. In other words, it means following Jesus’ example of humbleness and obedience (Philippians 2:5-8).

DISCUSSION: What changes might you need to make so as to not put a stumbling block in another’s path?

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