The last couple of weeks have been full of God’s instruction (discipline, conviction, correction, abundant mercy) in my life. There were several things that He told me to do at various times awhile ago, but I didn’t carry through on them. The past couple of weeks He not only reminded me of these items but also revealed to me the reason I didn’t do them – I put a fear of man over a fear of Him. (Fear of man meaning a fear of alienating others, having certain confrontations, and speaking particular things I hold as true) Each one was difficult to face and especially the overarching reason of misplaced fear. I desire to walk in God’s ways, and when I discovered I hadn’t been it was heart wrenching. But I was thankful for His instruction so I could turn back to Him.
The Bible tells us that the fear of God is to hate evil Proverbs 8:13 and the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 9:10 It is the beginning of wisdom because when we fear God we walk in His ways which consist of the only true good and wisdom there is. God told me to do certain things and those instructions were in accordance with His wisdom. Because I put a fear of man over my fear of God, I wasn’t walking in them and therefore not living in wisdom in those areas.
As believers we don’t have a fear of God in this sense that we fear judgment that is the unbelievers fear or should be. Our fear is one encapsulated in love. We fear Him because we love Him. And that fear is a fruit of the spirit that becomes ours as we draw near to Him in truth and grow in love with Him and His ways.
God illustrates this fear-love dynamic in the father-child relationship. Growing up I feared my Dad. Never once did I doubt his love for me, but I shook in my sneakers when I knew I acted against his will. My trepidation came from knowing what he could do and being totally dependent upon his mercy. If there had been no mercy I would have had another kind of fear. He was a big tall man. Yet, I knew he would never hurt me because he loved me. I had a fear that was a combination of his sovereignty in my life and love.
My dad and I shared a bond, which encompassed love, trust, honor, and respect. When I betrayed that bond by going against his will, I dreaded the disappointment I would face. My fear was grounded in how I would make him feel if I went against his will and my desire to show him my love in return for his. Now I didn’t fully realize the depth of this reason as a kid. I just felt the desire to not disappoint him, but this bond of love was the underlining factor.
As a good student, I remember when I brought home my first low grade in high school chemistry, a D. The terror of what my Dad would say but more the disappointment in his eyes made each step into the kitchen to hand him my report card near impossible to take. I went against his will by not trying my best and I knew that. He trusted me and I broke that trust. I knew what I deserved.
You know what he did? He hugged me. He said it was okay. He said he trusted me to do better next time. Wait a minute, no reprimand, no disappointing look? Unbelievable, his mercy washed over me. I depended on his compassion and it was always there. Instances like that made me love him more because he didn’t give me what I deserved and gave me what I didn’t. He showed me his love and my love for him grew. There was nothing I could do to break his bond of love with me, even when I did something against it. And the next semester I got an A.
Our relationship with God is very similar. When we come to know God as our Lord we develop a fear of Him but it is tied to love for Him because He is merciful toward us. His love doesn’t remove the trembling but just envelops it because we know what we deserve and what He could do but never would because He loves us. We fear Him because He loves us and we love Him.
Psalm 103:10-11 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
God’s immense mercy redeems us from the destruction we daily invite into our lives. If there was a single moment that His mercy retracted, we would perish. His perfect love for us drives out fear of His wrath and replaces it with a holy fear fashioned in love.
Psalm 130:4 But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared
As God showed me these past weeks how I had been blindly disobeying Him, a sensation of fear wrapped in love started to fill me. I remember the days I use to not have that sense of a loving fear – I’m thankful to feel this treasured fruit growing inside me. I am thankful for the passion and desire it creates to walk in His ways of goodness and wisdom. This is my prayer – Psalm 86:11 “Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.”
Psalm 112:1 Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments.
Who do you trust: John McCain, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Joe Biden, the government, religious intuitions, the media, the financial system, or big business? Trust in any man or system is building on a foundation of sand. Who knows when the wind will come and stir them up, tear them down, and wipe them out?
Times like these put our trust to the test. Once again we are being tossed about in a huge wind tunnel, this time a failing economy, to see who will trust what. The choice is between trust in people and institutions whose bottom line is profits or trust in God whose bottom line is love. If we chose the former then our sandcastles will fall because the wind is upon us. For further explanation read the Three Little Pigs .
When we trust God we don’t fear man or his ignorant ways but we fear God because He controls everything including money. And for His true flock they have nothing to fear. When the Lord is your portion, you have everything, He is on your side, He fights for you and He is your hope. Think about that for a moment.
Psalm 118:6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?
Lamentations 3:24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”
In these times and all times I chose to trust God, the One to controls the wind. That way any interaction I have with others and institutions, which it is unavoidable living in this world, I will be encased in the protection, love and the sovereignty of God. Otherwise, my life will be at the whim of the world. Ephesians 2:12
Psalm 91:2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
Trusting is Hard
However, trust in God is easy to say and hard to do with sincerity and conviction. It is difficult and it takes time. It is difficult because God’s ways aren’t our ways. It takes time because trust is the fruit of cultivating a personal relationship with the God.
The majority of us lack authentic trust because most have neglected to nurture a genuine relationship built on knowledge. God is God we can’t change Him to fit our preferences though that is what we try to do. It is personal battle to trust God, because we are facing the truth that we aren’t in control. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us prefer a god that we can bribe, influence and control to some extent – in other words for us to be God. It is a battle we all face but it is worth the struggle to come to a point of surrendering to His sovereignity, because that is the only solid ground there is.
Yet, most don’t bother to really engage God and they lack a personal relationship built on knowledge as a result. They trust in a two dimensional god-like image created by their minds and when times like this come that vaporware trust is worthless. Their trust is like clothes in the story The Emperor’s New Clothes. An artificial relationship with God creating false trust can’t protect, defend, or provide. It can only leave them naked and vulnerable. Therefore their trust is in vain.
Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
I don’t know about you, but I want a solid trust in the True God because this world in all areas has been screaming lately – YOU CAN’T TRUST ME! Going through the trials of putting self aside is nothing compared to the reward of a real relationship with our Creator. I am fighting my fear and lack of trust in Him, how about you?
Mark 9:24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
How to Gain Trust
How do we cultivate authentic trust? We abide in the words that God gave us about Himself. Like a spouse, we listen, cherish and long to spend time with Him in intimate conversations in His Word. Trust comes from knowing.
God is calling us to come to Him in truth and spirit. Are we listening? Do we really care what He has to say in ALL 66 books? Do we really want a relationship with Him or just to be bailed out? Christ came to give us a personal a relationship. He won’t settle for less. As Kay Arthur stated last night at a gathering of the Women in Christian Media, “the Word of God is lost in the House of God.” We have pushed the Word of God aside and put everything else above our first love including laundry. We have neglected Him and acted in self-righteous arrogance. But if we humble ourselves and come back to Him, not our images of Him, in His Word and put it as THE priority in our lives, then He will be our first love, the object of our trust and we will be safe in His hands.
Psalm 91:14-15 Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name. 15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.
Psalm 37:40 And the Lord shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, Because they trust in Him.
2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.”
By now, I am sure most of you have heard about the so-called healer/revivalist of Lakeland, FL Todd Bentley. Just google his name and you will find plenty of information.
Reading blogs, articles, and witnessing the responses of those around me including myself, two things stood out to me about this whole episode besides the insatiable unhealthy appetite for signs and wonders and a desperate hunger for hope:
1. Lack of Discernment in the Christian community
2. A fear of man instead of fear of God creating a lack of resolve to stand up for God’s truth
Discernment and fear of God are both required to judge others as God instructs us.
When Todd was making headlines and drawing crowds, an acquaintance said, Isn’t this great! Whether or not he is of God, God’s name is out there, He is moving, working, healing! My expression must have spoken volumes, because she basically told me not to be a kill-joy and stop being judgmental. I kept my mouth shut, but my spirit was whispering – listen to me something is wrong here. I rationalized I didn’t have the facts (that was the first time I heard about him) and I didn’t want to get into another “heated discussion” in an already stressed relationship, so I didn’t say anything.
When I got home, the spirit convicted me on my silence stance. The spirit gave me the discernment but I didn’t follow it and I put the fear of causing contention in a relationship over what the spirit was prompting me to say.
I should have trusted the spirit’s lead and whatever came out of my mouth was what needed to be said and leave the outcome up to Him. In silencing the spirit, I dishonored her, God and me by suppressing the spirit’s voice. I felt horrible afterwards. I started to beat myself up for being weak and pathetic, and then I turned to God. He patted me on the head and said, Don’t beat yourself up, but did you learn the lesson, don’t put anyone or anything above Me? Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple”. I and my truth come first. Trust what I tell you, you don’t need all the facts; I have them just trust my voice (discernment) and put me first always (fear of God).
In Luke 14:26, Christ is telling us to choose Him above everyone else. Who is first is who we fear, who we seek to please, and whose will we follow. I needed to listen to the spirit, trust Him, and speak up. By remaining silent people think we agree, people get hurt, and our witness for God is marred. And if we don’t act on our spiritual discernment, in time we will lose it as we are witnessing among the masses. Matthew 25:14-29
We need to stand up for God’s truth and heed the voice of the spirit. We are called to judge and discern among those who call themselves brethren. We are to judge the actions not the person. Judging the person whose heart we can’t see isn’t our role. Our part is to judge the actions, behaviors and words. Matthew 7:1-2, 1 Corinthians 14:29, 1 Corinthians 5:12-13
Without a spirit-lead judging community of believers the truth becomes watered down and perverted, people are hurt and led astray, and our testimonies are weakened and ineffective. This experience cut me to the core in regards to the importance of listening to the spirit’s whispers, putting God above every relationship, and speaking out against the actions of others when prompted to by the spirit.