Scripture Passage – Deuteronomy 1
Description – The second in the 2013 series on Being Empowered by God
What do people fear the most?
Well I did some checking this week and found a couple of lists that have been compiled over the past forty years and found some things that, via surveys, people are consistently afraid of.
…and the like.
And it is reflected in some of the comments on my Facebook page last week when I asked “What do people fear the most?” One said in large capital letters HYPODERMIC NEEDLES! Another said rejection. Still another being judged.
And recent lists of what people fear show a move toward the acknowledgement of some deeper fears which were also shared on my Facebook page. For example at the website listverse.com here is a recent (2011) listing of human fears from number 10 to number 1:
Losing our freedom
Where does this great fear come from, this fear of failure? From lots of places – a parent, the classroom, marriage, work, from lots of different places and voices that suggest we cannot do something because we will fail.
I suggest this morning as we continue in our series about being empowered by God to live for Him requires us to name our fears, surrender them to God, and choose then to move obediently forward so that in spite of them, we live empowered by the Holy Spirit to accomplish what God wants us to accomplish!
I need to make clear at this point that fear is two sided. The positive side of fear is protection. We grab a child’s hand that is ready to touch the hot burner on the stove. We put floatation devices on infants so they can learn to enjoy the water and eventually learn to swim without sinking to the bottom. We steer clear of bees in the yard or on the trail because we don’t want to get stung.
There is a positive side to and of fear. It is for our protection.
But there is also a negative side of fear and I believe, as I reflect on my own life and recall stories in the Bible, it is one of the greatest barriers in allowing God to empower us. And our chapter for this morning is an example of what can happen when fear is allowed to rule our hearts and decisions and not faith and trust in God.
From the Message version of the Bible is Deuteronomy chapter 1: (Click on link to read: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy%201&version=MSG )
Because of their fear and subsequent unwillingness and disobedience to take the land that they had been promised, and already given, through God’s covenant first made with Abraham, a generation of Israelites, including their leader Moses, were banished from ever setting a foot inside of it. Joshua, as we have just read and Caleb, who too believed God and his promise earlier, would become the leaders that would lead them across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land.
There is a pause in their journey as we come to this first chapter of Deuteronomy and Moses takes them back in time to remind them of their journey thus far. It is not a pleasant reminder.
Notice Moses says several times that God has already given them the land and to “go ahead and take it!” But fear rises up and the people respond, “We can’t!”
Can’t? or Won’t?
What were the Israelites afraid of that kept them from taking the land that God had already promised and given to them?
I think that we can make a case that all of these reasons are plausible ones for their fears:
Losing our freedom
They did not know what was going to happen to them. Perhaps they might end up in a situation like they did in Egypt? They were coming into a new place, just like their ancestors did in Egypt, and who was to say that they would not end up like slaves all over again? Could we call this the fear of losing one’s freedom and of the unknown?
“Maybe,” they thought “the difficulty of having to settle down all over again is just too much. Let’s go back to Egypt.” Or maybe they thought, “How much is this going to cost me? My life? My oldest son?” Could we call this the fear of misery and disappointment?
Or maybe they were afraid of the resistance and difficulty that might come their way when they began to settle in their new homeland. The slurs and the insults might just be too much to bear. Perhaps the fear of loneliness, ridicule, rejection, and/or death at work?
But our main text seems to point to the biggest reason for fearing:
But then you weren’t willing to go up. You rebelled against God, your God’s plain word. You complained in your tents: “God hates us. He hauled us out of Egypt in order to dump us among the Amorites—a death sentence for sure! How can we go up? We’re trapped in a dead end. Our brothers took all the wind out of our sails, telling us, ‘The people are bigger and stronger than we are; their cities are huge, their defenses massive—we even saw Anakite giants there!’”
… fear of Failure.
“We cannot win! They are too big! It is too hard! We’re trapped! It’s no use!”
And they did not go in. The disobedient nature of fear took over. They did not do these things: name their fears, surrender them to God, and choose then to move obediently forward so that in spite of them, they were empowered to do that which God had already planned for them to do. By the way one of the ways that we can begin to identify our fears is by what makes us angry.
This fear of failure is a deep rooted thing. We pick it up, I think, like a piece of intelligence amongst a bunch of meaningless chatter. We become convinced, sometimes in an ever so slight way that we are “not good enough.”
Where does that come from?
Parents, teachers, pastors, friends, bosses, our own insecurity, and ultimately from the Devil himself.
Forty years would pass before Joshua and Caleb led the people of Israel into the Promise Land. Forty years that were wasted because fear kept them from possessing that which God had already promised and given to them. It did not have to be that way. God certainly had not planned for that to take place.
What is your greatest fear in being empowered by God to possess the future HE has for you?
For some of us it is fear of failure. We do not want to fail at any cost and the fear of failure freezes us up and we stop short of allowing God to empower us. I also think that the fear of change is another one. Change creates uncertainty and as a result a fear that I might lose out or be disqualified in some way or… left behind fills our hearts and creates an unwillingness to move forward. The Lord does not want that to happen to us. He wants to help us take hold of our place of empowerment and ministry with HIS help and strength.
The Sunday School class I have been teaching since September has been on how the 12 Steps of AA can help us grow in our faith and experience God’s great grace and peace as well. One of the lessons was on step nine “Made amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.” The video for that day was inspiring and I realized that I need to make amends to a former boss of many years ago. I had tried to do so in the past but could not contact them. I tried one more time last month and found him and his wife, who was my boss as well, and make amends. They were both stunned and accepted my apology.
Then I realized that I need to make amends for a conversation I had with someone on Facebook several years ago. So I called this person and apologized for my words to her. She graciously was touched by them and accepted them.
I was afraid about doing this not knowing what would happen. But, in spite of my fear, I did it anyway and what a relief it was!
I know, I know, I know, I KNOW that there are many things to fear these days. Personal security is one of them. Financial instability is another. Employment uncertainty is a third. Health concerns are another.
But God has said to us, throughout the Bible, FEAR.NOT I.AM.WITH.YOU.ALWAYS.
Let us face our fears and surrender them to the Lord this morning. Let us allow Him to place courage in our hearts and wills so that we choose to believe and act for the advancement of His kingdom and mission. Amen.