Intro: Fear & its effects on trust: Identifying fears that lead us to not trust God.
I'll be posting this short book by parts: Intro. Part 1. Part 2. And Part 3. If you'd like to skip ahead, feel free to download all four parts here, now. Enjoy.
Is it possible that the patterns of brokenness (sin) you find yourself habitually agreeing with may not be your greatest issue?
Is it possible that you’ve become convinced your problems are one thing when they actually may be something else, something deeper?
And could life with God and people feel dry, no matter how hard you try to fix your problems, simply because you’re stuck in an unending cycle that you were never intended to live in?
I think so. Yeah.
May you continue to know God’s delight for you, and for those around you, as you explore this short three part study on fear and its effects on trusting God.
The story of the Scriptures is one of relationship – the ongoing exchange between two or more somethings.
The first, and main character we’re introduced to in the story of life (as seen in the Scriptures) to is the Creator God. We get a glimpse of what this God is like. Interactive, majestic, powerful, the Source of all good, seeking to give and be known, trustworthy, vulnerable, and the Great Instructor of how life works best.
God creates all that is, and along with it, people (our second characters).
Multiple platforms for relationship to flourish are now in motion. God. The universe (which include all things from space, to trees, to animals, to water, to gravity) and now people.
We learn that people are unique from all other creation, made not only in the image of God, but also in the likeness… or as the Message puts it, (God created them…) “reflecting Our nature”.
In this, we see God is relationship. And so, even before a tangible universe, or the creation of people, God lived a participatory life with “Himself”. But now, now that there’s a universe in motion, and now that people exist… God’s nature is able to be known and experienced by others. Humanity has just been invited to join into the participation, or dance, of God’s own being.
To know and be known.
In this place, the atmosphere is composed of trust, unity, and always believing the best. There is nothing better. God is the Source of all good things.
As the story continues, we’re given a most profound insight into the nature of God. A window into what God is, or is like. In the process of God forming people (in God’s own nature) the ability to choose is given.
The ability to choose in a world of God’s invitation. Or we could call it, a platform for relational participation. And, because the Scriptures are non-fiction, I believe this is the authors way of (among other things) helping us wake up to the story we find ourselves in. That not only the characters in the story, but us too, have been invited to participate with God and each-other in wholeness. This way of seeing life moves us from aimlessly bouncing moment to moment and sets us into an ongoing 24/7 relationship with the One who created us, loves us, and chooses us.
As the story continues, God doesn’t handcuff humanity to Himself, nor does God create a cold system of obedient oppression. Rather, the nature of God (as seen in the creation of people) is love. Love can only exist within an atmosphere of being able to choose for oneself. This not only shows us what humanity is now capable of, but more importantly what God is like.
As we explore the next three stories of God and humanities interactions with God (found in the first half of the Bible) we should remember something very important if we’re to continue building a healthy picture of God from the Scriptures. God’s nature looks like the ability to choose. God is perfect unity, and humanity has been invited to live in Unity as well. This is key to our understanding of God’s goodness because as we’ll find out, even when people reject God, God continues to choose them (or to love them.) God chooses to love humanity again and again and again.
The idea of choice leads us to participatory love. We see this, for example, in the story of Hosea when God uses the life of a prophet (someone who heard God’s voice and relays it to the people of God) named Hosea to be a picture of God’s painfully faithful commitment to love humanity even when their participation with Godself was often like a spouse willfully choosing to be unfaithful.
When we choose to reject God, we’re rejecting the very nature that allows us access to know God. So the question must be asked, “Why would anyone choose to reject Love?”
And while there are many layers to the question, I’d suggest a simple response: fear. What if fear is the real issue of our sin?
What if every time we choose something over God’s best we’re actually only fearing that God may not be as good as the Scriptures say He is? Could it be that simple? I think yes.
But how could fear be the root of all sin?
Well, let’s start with a story.
Over the past few years, I’ve grown in the conviction that God’s best for me is to learn to be content with what I have. From digital content I want to consume, to products I want to purchase, to how I spend my time… in each of these areas I feel His leading to slow down, smile, and be present and content.
Recently I was enjoying a coffee and noticed the watch that a man across from me was wearing. It was amazing, and almost immediately I found myself in an accelerated place of strongly wanting it. I was inching dangerously close to greed in my unseen inside world.
But why was I so quick to go there rather than simply appreciating its craftsmanship and being content with the watch I was wearing? At face value, the issue seemed liked greed, but I think fear was the far deeper issue at hand.
In that moment, sitting across from this man, wanting his watch, I feared the possibility of God’s word to me of being content may not be good enough. I began believing something else was better. I began to disagree with Love.
I could be wrong, but I’d suggest the root of sin is not “the action of sin” itself, but choosing to believe in the fear of God not being who He says He is.
The enemy of God enjoys confusing us about the root of our problems. It leaves us in a constant state of feeling behind, ashamed, and irritated that we can’t fix the problem. And how could we, we’re giving our energy to the wrong issue, often resulting in us giving up and giving in. This sneaky mirage of confusion keeps us from seeing the root issue in that moment. So we try and stop sinning without recognizing the relational fear involved. But it’s like trying to put out a gas fire without shutting off the pump, we’ll lose every time.
If sin is the rejection of God’s way, or choosing to disagree with (or “disobey”) God, then it’s first and foremost a relational issue between the two parties. Us and God.
So before I expressed greed (in my story above), I moved through disagreeing with what God told me about contentment.
Before we act on our wrong desires, we’ve passed through (often unknowingly) the fear that God’s way is not best. In turn, it produces greed (in this example) so quickly that we may have missed the relational aspect of the moment at all.
If this is true, and I believe it is, then our first step is not to fight the action of our sin, but to slow down and recognize we’re in an ongoing conversation with God about what we’re doing or about to do. And it’s our turn to respond. Will we agree? Or will we turn our face and disagree with the One who is Love?
We’re not animals led by our desires, but made in God’s image and likeness... which means we’re knit together by relationship, unity, and love. All participatory realities, each making us human.
So why does all this matter?
It matters because if we grasp that the root of our sin is us fearing God isn’t as good as He says He is, then we’ll understand that we’re a holy people by God’s character, not by our success of sin management. And this will in turn change the way we live.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2v8-9.
It puts our mess of sin in perspective of God’s grace. Grace is God’s character known through His action. Faith happens as we recognize that God’s grace is the glue that holds us close to Him. Or in other words, our attention is drawn to God rather than ourselves... the only real way to deal sin in the first place. This way of thinking leads us away from living in patterns of sin.
If you’ve spent any time reading through the Scriptures, you may have noticed a phrase that comes up often when God is speaking to people: “fear not,” or “do not be afraid.” It shows up a ton, 80+ times in-fact. But why?
Is it for comfort? Sure. But I also think God wanted them to remember He is good, safe, and what they long for. He’s remind them that they can trust, or agree with Him in all things. Every moment.
Everything we do passes through our relationship with God. But we can miss this because we so often use a scientific lens rather than a relational one. We ask, “what’s wrong?” looking for a list to work through our problems.
We love data, to-do’s, and the format of being able to fix or accomplish tasks on our own… but this way of thinking so quickly moves past any sort of relational issues (between us and God, or us and others) that to us, they become nearly invisible. We’ve been trained to move past the elephant so quickly that we’re convinced it doesn’t even exist. But it does. And the elephant is the issue.
Oh how much time and energy do we waste trying to stop sinning while the issue is remaining in Love. Recognizing and believing God for us. And returning to the simple Gospel of God’s grace made known in Jesus.
May we recognize God is in all of our moments. Choosing to slow down in the times we feel a pull toward sin (greed, anger, lust, etc.) and ask the question, “if I go in this direction… a direction God says is not good, not best, then what is it I’m fearing about what God has told me?"
The entire story, from cover to cover, is of God’s love for humanity. God calls all people to come close, to become family, to be God’s people of love… or in Love. And because our own DNA makeup was birthed from God’s own nature, we’re given the choice to receive God’s way or reject it. Each moment, each decision, each breath… a choice to receive or reject God’s best.
My hope is that as we look at the following stories, we’ll wake up to the danger of choosing to believe the lies of (unhelpful) fear that convince us to reject God’s best.
May we be drawn to the nature of God’s consistent goodness toward us. And that the moments God speaks for us to trust… to participate with Him in a certain way… that no other desire, lie, or distraction would get in the way of saying yes.
As we work through these following three short stories, let’s use a framework:
Simply read the text.
1. What does God say?
2. What does the person do?
3. What fear did the person/people trust more than God that moved them to reject God’s way?
4. What happened?
This will vary for each story, but the idea is to take what we’ve seen and adopt it into our thinking and living.
This kind of framework can be a helpful one to use as we read through the Scriptures. It offers us questions to ask that help us learn both the ways of God and identify those of the enemy.
The Bible offers us insight to life’s deepest, most concentrated fears. These stories, plus our growing awareness of what’s really happening in our minds and hearts, can be helpful when we come face to face with having to choose what to believe.
One warning: Our goal is to uncover a few fears that led people to not trust God. A negative. But the Scriptures are include stories of people obeying God. It is possible to trust God.
We simply want to shine light on the lies that produce fear so that we can see them for what they are. Lies. Only then will we be able to choose with a proper perspective.
Also, when we look at a story, it’s most often be an isolated incident. The person in the story may also have trusted God at other moments. We’re not attempting to fit people into “trust” or “fear” people boxes. We’re simply highlighting moments of choice between people and God.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it. Part 1 will be posted soon, stay tuned :)
My prayer is that we’d continue to allow the Spirit of God to form the way we see and know all things.
That we’d be honest about our weaknesses, both with God and each other.
And that together, we’d learn to recognize the fears that lie at the foundation of our brokenness, and have the courage to agree with Love to move through them.