Be Afraid...Be Very Afraid

Well, slowly but surely, I’m settling into the idea that my days of corporate aviation are over.

After almost 20 years of ‘tent making’ while pastoring GHCC, it is finally time to hang up my wings. Not for good mind you…I know and am convinced aviation will play a major role in our ministry again one day!

I have been putting it this way: “My days of driving other people's buses are over!”

My first priority this year is building the local Church. Goffstown Harvest Christian Church. And focusing my time on only a few of which is writing.

I have been going back through ten plus years of notes and articles I have written. I’m filing them a bit more orderly so I can have access to the material more easily. I know I have a lot more books to write and I’m starting now getting my 'desk' in order.

While going through some older files, I found notes from about eight years ago concerning a particular principle regarding faith. Those notes are the impetus for this article. As I went through them, they seem very appropriate for the season myself and my church are in as we prepare for and expect great things for the next year.

Here we go.

In this study, we are going to take some time discussing one of just a couple things the Scriptures inform us…actually ‘warn’ is a more appropriate word…that we are to have a healthy fear over. That's right. As the title says..."Be very afraid."

It is certainly true that “…God has not given us a spirit of fear…” and continually from Genesis to Revelation we are encouraged, rebuked, even commanded, not to be afraid.

In most cases, fear is absolutely off limits to the child of God!

We are prohibited from being afraid!

Having said that…there are some things we are without a doubt supposed to have a healthy, sober, fear of.

Let’s talk about one of those.

“And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see then that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as them, but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world...Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience..." Hebrews 3:18-4:3,11 (italics mine)

And for a little later:

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature…” II Peter 1:3-5

Based on the above quoted Scripture from the Letter to the Hebrews, I'll start off with this statement to get the ball rolling:

“It appears based upon the above passage, there is one healthy fear a Christian should have. After the fear of the Lord of course, it is that of being in it is the primary reason given for not participating in the promised graces of God!"

Continually the Bible warns us about fear and how detrimental it is to experiencing the various graces of God. Yet in this instance, the Bible informs us that there is something to actually be in fear over! For reasons we are about to discover, ‘unbelief’ must be so terrible, harmful, and debilitating, that we are told to be afraid with a goal to avoid being in that condition.

Notice in the above verses (3:18, 4:11), how unbelief and disobedience go hand in hand! That is a statement that ought to sober us all right up. The definition of 'disobedience' is: "failure or refusal to obey rules or someone in authority". Simply, we are given instructions and expectations, and for whatever reason, we refuse. The conclusion we should come to is obvious. Faith in believing God and His Word is not optional.

'Faith' is both a command and an expectation. As serious as "thou shall not commit adultery" or any other command. In the same way our kids disobeyed when we told them to keep their hands off the hot stove, and paid the price for not following our instructions, the Lord considers unbelief and lack of faith, in a similar way.

It is quite evident throughout the Lord’s interaction with men that both He AND His people have roles and responsibilities within His Kingdom. Believing Him is a responsibility we all share as we co-labor with Him. Faith is as much a main ingredient in the Kingdom of Heaven as yeast is to having a big loaf of bread to dip in that seasoned olive oil…with balsamic vinegar of course!

‘Exercising’ Faith

Here is an illustration that has really helped me grasp how faith works. This should help us see clearly why it is so important to the Lord that we grow in our faith and avoid unbelief like the plague.

Faith can be likened to a ‘muscle’ that is flexed to get something done. Whether working on your max bench press or hauling fertilizer out to your lawn to get it green and healthy. In the same way, faith is a vital part of our spiritual makeup. Faith 'lifts' or 'flexes' when the stimulus upon it is the Word of God.

This is my personal definition/description of faith:

Faith is the ability of God’s creation to decisively fix its attention on the will and purposes of God which causes the power, resources, energy, and substance of God, the Spirit of God, to be released into the situation and create it in the timing the Lord desires.

It is the flexing of the mind and will of the individual to remain in agreement with God’s will and purposes, ultimately resulting in the dispensation of God’s grace(s) into the desired situation in the same way an empty glass receives the release of liquid to fill it.

“No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised…” Romans 4:20-22

In the same way that Abraham had learned spiritual focus and discipline in the midst of contrary circumstances, the more focused and less distracted the heart and mind are concerning the promise of God…no wavering…the greater the conduit. This allows the virtue of God to be released by His Spirit causing what He promised to come to pass.

I contend that our greatest efforts within all our spiritual disciplines, should be to convene both intellect and conviction to align themselves with the promises and will of God, known primarily through the Scriptures.

“If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness…” I Timothy 4:6-7 (italics mine)

In one of our recent services, we took time to discuss the Greek word for ‘train’ i.e. “…to train in words of faith…to train in godliness…”

The word ‘train’ in the Greek is ‘gymnazo’. This is the word we get ‘gymnasium’ from. In the same way a gym has multiple stations for different exercises, so the Word of God has multiple 'stations' which address all the needs of mankind. Importantly, the word tense of the verb 'train' means to dedicate yourself to this training fully, with great intensity, and that this training will never come to an end!

Our God fully expects us to be familiar with spiritual training which certainly includes faith. We are to fully immerse ourselves in practicing to do it better, and we will be doing this until we go home to be with the Lord.

Sorry folks…no spiritual couch potatoes allowed!

A very effective ‘exercise’ I do regularly is to take times to meditate, to think over and over upon, the promises of God both in His Word, and those He has spoken specifically to me. I also make sure I thank Him for those I have already seen come to pass. There are quite a few things God has promised me through the years, many of which have already been fulfilled…to God be the glory! Remembering His faithfulness is one of the surest ways to keep yourself strong; knowing that if He did it before, He will do it again!

As I have said through the years, “This stuff is real!”

"The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." James 5:16

I absolutely love that verse. Another way to word that verse is "prayer is working because it has great power to drive and fuel itself to accomplish the required work!" Oh man...if we can get a hold of that!

When I look back on previous victories the Lord has brought me through, inevitably I find that with each instance, there was a period of time where all I could think about was the promise God had spoken to me. Even though there usually was no outward evidence anything was happening as far as the Lord's intervening. Yet the fact that God was truly working on my behalf would become so real to me that even my emotions reacted with great excitement as I considered the object of my attention. I found that without having the answer actually in my hand at the time, I could freely worship God as if I already had received.

This was James 5:16 in action!

I was simply doing the very things Abraham did. I would not allow distractions of contrary things to cause me to doubt what God had said and that in His time, I was going to see His promises fulfilled. And, to the degree I would not be distracted, I grew in strength; making it easier to hold on by faith to what He had promised He would perform. I have learned the reality cited in the above verses in Hebrews; that the Word of God does have profit…to those who mix it with faith!

As with any coin, there are two sides. And an obvious conclusion we can draw, and one I highly suggest we take ample time to consider, is that, based on these principles, we should come to terms with the unfortunate reality that not everyone is going to receive answers from their prayers. That answered prayer results from an active, diligent faith; not whining, complaining, even resignation.

Knowing these things...and even more great stuff contained in the rest of this about we decide wholeheartedly we are going to be the ones that learn how to pray effectively!

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature…” II Peter 1:3-5

As stated above, the Lord's divine nature...we could use the terms "His DNA...His constitution"... is accessed through our experiencing what He said He would do. The Scripture is clear that the knowledge of God’s promises is critical to having a vital relationship with Him personally and with His conformation in the Spirit.

Ahhhhhh…now we are discovering at least one reason why we should be afraid of unbelief. The less our ability to believe…the less we can partake of God. The "exceedingly great and precious promises", which are primary agents for us to experience the benefits of His nature, must be known and then actively believed if they are to be experienced.

To use another illustration; it is much like the electricity waiting dormant at every switch on the wall in your house. Almost unlimited electrical potential is available, as long as your utility company hasn't gone out of business and you have paid your bills. Yet with all that potential literally at your fingertips, you remain in the dark until you decide to flip that switch.

I wonder out loud how many of God's graces are left undiscovered not as a result of His will or lack of...but our inability or refusal to grow in the abilities of faith we are discussing.

Using the same illustration from a different perspective, we can liken each promise in the Word to a particular ‘switch’ for experiencing the glories of His kingdom. The Scriptures are full of these ‘light switches’ for finances, healing, relationships, and so on. These things and more are addressed in the Word of God, as the Scripture declares plainly: “…all things pertaining to life and godliness..” Our act of faith by "believing we receive when we pray" Mark 11:23-24, activates the inherent potential residing within the promise.

It is imperative that we are both detailed and focused concerning what we understand and actively believe. It is not enough to abstractly ‘believe’. I hear that one regularly. "Well, I just believe." Well, believe what? What benefit would it be to abstractly believe food is in the cupboard when I was starving? How much good would it do me to abstractly believe that there is power out there somewhere to light my house after I just cracked my shin in the dark?

“They could not enter…”

That statement...THEY COULD NOT ENTER... should be like our morning alarm...and wake us all up!!!!

Do Your Job

An all too common mistake I see with many folks, and which I certainly have made myself, is that we can have a tendency to think "It's all up to God", as if we have no part to play. We conclude that since He is ‘sovereign’, there is nothing for us to do because it’s all up to Him anyway. That it’s simply a matter of the Lord arriving like the Lone Ranger on His white horse to bail us out according to some whim and timing of His choosing. We relegate ourselves to hoping He will eventually feel so sorry for us that He will randomly do some great work on our behalf.

note: I’ll grant that the Scriptures certainly inform us that God has pity and compassion on us. But think about it… to receive from that particular mercy as any other grace, you have to believe that too!

The Scriptures are clear…God is not moved by our complaining….even resignation…but by our faith!

Yes, He is sovereign. Meaning He can do what He wants whenever He wants. That He expects us to have our own personal responsibility in the deal in no way invalidates the idea of His sovereignty. He had to be ‘sovereign’ to design the entire system of creation in the first place. No one else was around to do it for Him. Our creation is a result of His sovereign design. And He sovereignly designed it so we are going to do our part with Him… or it doesn’t get done!

Once again…the Word says they “…could not enter…” because they wouldn't' do their job...which was to believe.

Imagine being invited to a huge Thanksgiving feast and as you arrive wonder if there will be anything to eat. There can be enough food to feed an army. But if you don’t get in line and grab a plate and dig in, though everything may look and smell amazing, and you watch others stuff their face for hours, you’re going home empty handed. And starving.

And you would be completely out of line claiming it was not the hosts 'will' that you have any food...or that it was his 'will' that you leave hungry!

In the same way, the Scriptures and the promises contained within them can be likened to a Thanksgiving meal we have been invited to enjoy. The Scriptures and the promises contained within them make clear “…His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory…” II Peter 1:3 Yet with the entire Kingdom of Heaven made accessible in His name and by believing in His name, we walk away hungry when we refuse to cooperate with His designs. We suffer needlessly when we do not do our part in believing the promises we would like to receive.

“…although the works were finished from before the foundations of the world.” Hebrews 4:3

That statement is incredibly powerful if you can grasp its implications.

Notice that the 'works of God', and this certainly would include the promises of God toward His children, have been around from before the foundations of the world. Consider then that what we are asked to believe are principles that not only were here before our creation existed, they are the very same that framed our world we exist within today!

“The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” Psalm 12:6

We can look at the majority of these "exceedingly great and precious promises" as principles by which His creation is governed. Statements of laws through which God governs even His own soul. Ever heard the term “Think before you speak?” Well, God did. He thought out every variable before He spoke. And once He did…those communicated thoughts through His speaking became law. Eternal law.

Our responsibility…remember, we have our part to play…is to believe in the “finished work” declared in His Word. What I mean by that is once He said it, there are no addendums. Don't even bother trying. Cooperate and benefit or doubt and pay the price. To be blunt, there are some folks that 'get it' and will be blessed. And there will be some that don't and won’t.

I suggest we use the same filter Jesus used when the two blind men came to Him: ”Do you believe that I am able to do this?” and “Be it done unto you according to your faith…”.

The Ability of the Mind to ‘Evolve’ (Creationists, don't get nervous!)

I’ll finish up by discussing where it is we should start our ‘training’. Once we grasp that we can have as much of God as we desire...He's not running out of anything nor is He selfish...we can purposely implement His instructions and grow in grace.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” Romans 12:2

The Greek expression for “transformed” is where we get the English word “metamorphosis”. God has created our minds to be pliable…to change and morph into the environment it finds itself in. It is clear above that the responsibility for instigating this ‘metamorphosis’ is us. God is not going to do this for us.

Consider that being “transformed by the renewing of our mind” is the same to say we are "transformed by choosing the right environment our thoughts can thrive in".

I heard a man of God say once: “You know your mind is being renewed when the impossible starts to seem possible.”

It's actually kind of cool to consider that in the same way you could be dropped off in London, England for a few years...come back to the States probably with a British accent...we can do the same thing in the Word of God. We can be "dropped off' into the middle of the Scriptures, and if we stay there long enough not allowing distractions to hinder us, our minds will begin to take on the nature of that which we are subjecting it to. The Word of God together with the Holy Spirit can 'morph' our thinking processes into the very world the writer of the time was in. (Don't forget, God was there. He remembers exactly what was going on at the time...and He can give you the very same insight.)

"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." Romans 10:17

Here's some really good news. Faith is a vital part of the 'environment' of God's kingdom. You will not be able to stop your growth in faith, as it will become the atmosphere surrounding your thoughts while being grounded in His Word. The Word of G