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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 God carries within its nature fuel for believing.

I once saw a special on TV investigating Tibetan monks and the metaphysical things they were able to accomplish. They showed how they could sleep out on a mountain in the snow with only their underwear on. No frostbite. Not even hypothermia. Scientists measured how the heat of their skin actually rose just at the command of their consciousness. I have seen kung-fu practitioners that can have swords shoved into them and not penetrate their skin. No, not WWE stuff either. Real.

The capacity the human soul and spirit possesses to override certain laws in the material world has been clearly demonstrated for thousands of years. This has brought confusion to some in thinking just because something seems “spiritual”, it must therefore be God. That’s not true. God does have a spiritual force…but so do devils…and so does the human being.

Let's consider the advantage you and I as children of God have, as a “new creation created within Christ Jesus.” II Corinthians 5:17. What if instead of catching your skin on fire after sleeping all night in the snow naked on a freezing cold mountain on the other side of the world like those monks, you learn to believe God’s Word and His promises? You prioritize the Word of God more necessary than practically anything else. That your mind would be given over consistently and with great determination to the Scriptures. This would develop such vigor and confidence that verses like "all things are possible to him who believes" Mark 9:23 would become attainable.

I would ask this question...certainly to myself as well being a minister:

Is it possible that though we spend enormous amounts of time teaching God’s Word, we spend drastically less amount of time teaching people how to believe it?

We should be continually reminded that faith is a skill. It can be developed…strengthened…or atrophied.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:5-8

‘Pastor Jim’…the Book of James…provides for us another in a long list of “laws” governing the operation of faith, and the necessity of approaching God with it. When we ask something from God, in this case wisdom, we are instructed to ask in faith. That means that we are to be in faith before we ask. Expecting Him to answer as He promised. With no doubting.

James fortunately gives us specific indicators or 'symptoms' as to whether we are in faith. Basically, a checklist of what unbelief looks like so we can avoid it. He describes doubt as “…a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind…”. The picture is an individual totally at the mercy of strong forces which he is unable to resist. Or imagine a bobber out in the middle of the Atlantic during a hurricane. How secure does that bobber feel out in the middle of the ocean tossed around on ten foot waves and gale winds blowing on it?

That’s not all. Another word he uses to describe the unbeliever is “unstable”. Ever seen an excessively drunk person take a sobriety test? Now, that is instability!!! The Scripture informs us we are just the same when we ask from God, and yet cannot resist the temptations to doubt and begin to be in unbelief.

Putting this together, the Word of God is informing us that when you or I are continually buffeted by contrary circumstances and choose to believe them instead of the Word of God, we are likened to a helpless man in the middle of the ocean with absolutely no stability or anchor to remain in place.

Bummer dude.

There is good news though!

Your mind can be transformed, growing faith as easily as your home garden grows tomatoes!

As surely as in ninety days your entire body will change for the better with diligent, regimented exercise, so your ability to believe through a transformed mind is just as real and dependable.

Primary Indicator of Faith

“For we who have believed do enter that rest…”

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (italics mine)

The primary evidence of whether we are in faith or not is 'rest' and an undeniable peace that “it is finished” concerning what we are asking of God. To the degree that you are free from worry, fear, and torment is evidence of the degree that you are in Biblical faith.

It is amazing the signposts that God gives us to know what condition we are in!

The world would have you believe stress, worry, fatigue, and being completely worn out, are the indicators you are accomplishing something great. That these things are normal and to be expected. I know even ministers that do not think they are ‘spiritual’ unless they are nonstop wearing themselves out. I agree you’re accomplishing something all right…preparing for a heart attack or stroke!

The Word of God is clear…rest and supernatural peace are the primary indicators a person is in faith.

Let’s take a lesson from Jesus.

“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.” Matthew 8:23-24

When Jesus and His staff were in the boat and the storm was ready to drown them, the disciples found Him sleeping. The fact that He could sleep in the midst of all that ruckus is an indication of the 'rest' He lived in every moment. After this lesson, it should be easy to know how He could pass out sleeping so easily. He knew His Father…what He was sent to do…and that nothing was going to harm Him. He had perfect faith in His Father. The boat was tossed and turned in the rage of the sea, but not Him.

Soooooooo...learn from the Master.

Take time with God, and ask Him to help you with a specific area you need work on. Find out what the Bible says about your situation, and meditate the Word by studying and thinking over and over the promises concerning it. Then after asking God to hear and answer your prayer based solely upon what He said, thank Him over and over believing the answer is done. Pay no attention to the storms whose sole purpose is to get you to unclench your fist holding on to God and His Word.

Oh...and practice and train in these things over and over until your dead.

Now go to bed.

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