A Three-Part Formula for Fear

Israel refused to enter the land.

After years of wandering in the wilderness, and after freedom from slavery in Egypt, God’s people should’ve been thrilled to draw ever nearer to the land flowing with milk and honey, the land God had promised them. Finally to be home! Finally to be settled.

Instead, they were afraid. Between them and the promised land stood the Amorites, an enemy God commanded them to defeat, and promised they would defeat, with his help. The Israelites couldn’t see a vibrant, good land for their possession, but only the obstacles. Nor would they take God’s words to heart: “Do not fear or be dismayed.” I will be with you.

In looking at Deuteronomy 1, where Moses recounts the story to his people, we see a three-part formula for fear that’s most likely at the root of our fears today.

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Answer Your Inadequacy with the Gospel

Have you felt lately that you’re not good enough?

Have the dirty dishes, the unmade beds, and the unwashed laundry piles made you to feel inadequate? Has the passed-over promotion at work, or the forgotten invitation to tea, made you to feel insecure?

Oh, sister, you’re not alone. I am with you. “Not good enough” is a haunting phrase and I, too, have felt its unwelcome presence in various seasons of my life…and especially lately.

But, praise God, inadequacy and insecurity are not the end for those who are found in Christ. They will not have the last word. We must answer them with God’s final, authoritative Word.

Truly, the gospel provides the answer to soothing our troubled hearts, calming our fearful insecurities, and redirecting our gaze to the truth of Christ.

Why We Need the Gospel

Jerry Bridges spoke to our church last weekend on the topic of preaching the gospel to yourself. (He has so wonderfully shared this truth over the decades in his multiple books, so start reading!). Mr. Bridges says that his go-to gospel verse is 2 Corinthians 5:21 which says:

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

This gospel-verse, authored by Paul, speaks directly and wonderfully into our struggles with inadequacy and, consequently fear, in a few ways:

The gospel reminds us that we are inadequate beings. Paul begins the verse with the phrase “for our sake,” meaning that something has been done in our interest and on our behalf. The fact that this phrase is used here reveals that we, as human beings, carry in ourselves a sort of lack; otherwise, nothing at all would have needed to be done “for our sake.”

Coming to terms with our own inadequacy is actually quite a comforting thing; remembering that I am but a breath, that I am not God, helps me to admit my weaknesses and that I cannot do anything of eternal value for myself. This is actually quite relieving to admit! (deep breath) The Bible often reminds us that we are inadequate because only then will we see our need for someone to become adequate on our behalf…

The gospel reminds us that all that was, is, and will be inadequate about us was cast upon Christ. “He [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin,” Paul writes. We learn next that our inadequacy — all the sin and weakness that makes us fallen beings — is shouldered by Christ. The Son of God “knew no sin,” meaning he was perfectly adequate, and more than that, righteous in God’s sight, having lived a sinless life for 33 years on earth. All our sin was poured out upon the sinless Son of God.

This tells us that what once defined us as people — sin and death — no longer defines us because it was cast away from us, and onto Christ. So what are we left to stand on, now that this burden has been removed?

The gospel reminds us that Christ gave us his perfection in return. “…so that in him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.” What have we to stand on, sisters? The righteousness of Christ, himself! The perfect, spotless, untainted, unblemished, holy, awesome righteousness of the King of Glory. Jesus’ righteousness, his identity, his holiness, is ours. Every time the Father looks at us, he sees the heavenly, divine covering of Jesus. In Christ, we are precious in God’s sight and dearly loved!

Finally, the gospel reminds us that our glory is not in being adequate, but in being in Christ. Let’s return to the phrase “for our sake.” Because we could never be righteous enough on our own merits, Christ exchanged his righteousness for our sin, and we are united to him by faith. This is now who we are, our approval no longer being established by what we do.

The Gospel is the Answer

It is so easy to get wrapped up in our culture that exclaims at every turn, “You are what you do!” But don’t believe the lie. You are not what you do. You are in Christ. So when you feel the phrase “you’re not enough” coming to haunt you again, remember 2 Corinthians 2:15. Remember your approval in Christ. Remember your need for his grace, and that he made the Great Exchange for your sake.

Answer your inadequacies, your insecurities, and your fears with the gospel.

Three Reasons to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Grab a pen and paper.

Write down ten of your favorite things in the world.

Go ahead – list ten things.

What did you write?

My guess is that your list is mainly comprised of activities, people, events or possessions that bring you some sense of comfort, some sense of feeling “at home” in yourself, or very much at ease.

By nature, we gravitate towards ease and we like comfort. Now, in and of themselves, ease and comfort are not bad; moments and seasons of comfort are God’s gift to us. By his common grace, our nation is abundantly blessed: we have food in our bellies, roofs over our heads, people with whom we commune, and a bed upon which we lay our tired heads at night.

Yet, lately I’ve been confronted with the back-side of comfort’s allure: the fact that it can promote stagnation in the Christian life because of its tendency towards self-protection and self-interest.

Comfort can so easily become about control.

Consider the last time you shrunk back from talking to an acquaintance about Jesus because the conversation felt awkward. Or the time when you were asked to exercise your gifts in a public setting but felt embarrassed and ill-equipped. Or what about that time at work when being honest about a mistake you made meant some serious consequences would come your way?

Attempting to take control in order to protect ourselves from discomfort simply does not work; actually, it has the opposite effect:

Then Jesus told the disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?” (Matthew 16:25-26)

Deny ourselves? Take up our crosses? Follow Jesus? Let’s be honest; all three of these are much easier said than done. When the rubber hits the road and we are presented with an opportunity to step outside our comfort zone, what is our response?

Rather than discomfort having a bad connotation, we need to reimagine its purpose in light of eternity: Discomfort is actually a tool that Christ uses to mold us into his image and to bring himself ultimate glory.

Our fleshly reaction is to self-protect and stay safely within the confines of what we are familiar with. But Christ teaches his disciples that there is another way. Giving up control and leaning into discomfort are the means by which our lives become most fruitful and most glorifying to God!

Here are three reasons to step outside our comfort zone:

Discomfort will expose our weaknesses, and we desperately need this exposure. When we are made to feel uncomfortable, suddenly we are confronted with all the ways we have yet to grow, as well as the limits of our own abilities. Think about a person starting to work out with a personal trainer at the gym; after day one, their muscles are sore and tired because they are weak in certain areas. Knowing what specific muscle groups are weak will help them to prevent injury in the future, as they seek to strengthen those areas.

Since the fall of man in the garden, we have hidden our faults and weaknesses. We have shied away from exposing them, in fear that God and others would reject us. But Christ explains to us that the only way to save our lives is, in fact, to lose them! We need to step outside our comfort zone in order to see our weaknesses clearly, as well as the way we react to our weaknesses in pride, self-interest, and self-protection.

Discomfort refines us by exposing our sin.

The exposure of our weaknesses compels us to lean on the Lord for help and strength. Once we come to terms with our weaknesses and confess our sinful nature, there is a decision to make. Will we rely on our own strength to sustain us? Will we run away? Or will we ask for God’s help and obey him, no matter what the cost?

Consider Abraham, who was instructed by God to sacrifice his only beloved son, Isaac, as an offering. Abraham was ushered into one of history’s most uncomfortable situations by the Lord, himself! How did he respond? “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8). Instead of fleeing the scene or attempting to hide from God, Abraham embraced the uncomfortable command and trusted the Lord for help, almost performing the deed – until God, himself, stopped his hand and commended him for his great faith (22:12).

It is only in our weakness that we can clearly see the strength of God and his ability to come through on our behalf.

Leaning on the Lord teaches us that nothing is too hard for him. Just as God provided the offering of a ram for Abraham that day, so he provided his very own beloved Son for us. The offering of Jesus Christ for our sake, who bore our sins in his body on the cross, is proof that God will never leave or forsake those who trust him. If God would send his very Son into the world as a sacrifice for sin, how much more will he sustain and help and grow us in our moments or seasons of discomfort? How much more will he use these times to fulfill his promise to conform us to his Son, bringing glory to his own name?

Before Isaac’s birth, which came unexpectedly in the very old age of his parents, God says to Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14).

He asks us to remember the same truth: Nothing, nothing, nothing is too difficult to him – especially the molding of his children’s’ hearts, minds, and will unto his own.

This is what Christ wants when he asks us to trust him in discomfort by denying our own desires and control, taking up his will and purposes, and following him. Step outside your comfort zone because you never venture into the uncomfortable alone!

How to Put Your Fear to Good Use

I’ll never forget the phone call.

“Really? You’re absolutely sure?”

I questioned the nurse because I could not believe my ears.

The diagnosis was Lyme disease.

After five years of battling chronic pain; after numerous visits to various doctors and mysteriously normal blood test results; after diet changes and lifestyle changes and exercise changes, I was finally given my answer. The illusive malady was Lyme, and it was a diagnosis I never saw coming.

Perhaps you understand this feeling, but my emotions were torn. A part of me rejoiced with relief. Finally, a diagnosis! No more meandering from doctor to doctor, and no more guessing. But the other part of me was immediately weighed down with troublesome thoughts of the road ahead of me. Would my body respond to treatment well? What will my husband’s reaction be? How will this affect us financially? What if this never goes away?

Can you relate?

The troubles of our lives are usually unexpected obstacles to be faced, and typically they produce in the human mind our unwelcome friend, Fear. I am no stranger to it. Fear has reared its ugly head many a time before now. Fear can be crippling. It can be paralyzing. It can seem altogether negative.

But fear can also be put to good use…  READ MORE

[Post / Photo Credit: iBelieve]