369. Find Yourself a Hero

heroPhilippians 1:12-14 NKJV  But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel,  (13)  so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ;  (14)  and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

The way you respond to fearful situation will either encourage and embolden others or it will cause them to be discouraged, become fearful, and feel hopeless.  Paul’s response to the persecution, imprisonment, and threats he faced emboldened other believers around him.  It also served to prove the sincerity and conviction of his heart to all including unbelievers.

Paul wrote the Philippians to encourage them to be bold in the midst of the persecution and pressures they were facing.  Besides reminding them of the Word, he also told them of his fearful situation, how he was standing strong in the midst of it and how many other believers around him were becoming increasingly bold to live and share the Gospel of Jesus without fear.  The sincere example of faith and the unwavering commitment to Jesus that Paul provided inspired others to live fearlessly.

We should all have heroes and examples that we can look up to whenever we are tempted to become afraid.  People that withstood great adversity, overcame huge hurdles, or who boldly with civility stood up for what they believed in.  There have been a great number of amazing people like this: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Betsy & Corrie Ten Boom, Jim Abbott, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Apostle Paul, Daniel, etc…. Sometimes simply finding someone living or dead that has overcome a terrifying situation or is courageously standing in the midst of one is all we need to embolden our hearts to courageously press on.  Whatever may begin terrifying you, find someone who overcame something similar and let their story motivate you to write your own.  Then stand tall and courageous with sincerity and conviction as you begin to encourage and embolden those who are now being inspired by you to live fearless.

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368. Work Unto the Lord

fearEphesians 6:5-7 NKJV  Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ;  (6)  not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,  (7)  with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men,

A little bit of a twist on fear today as we look at this verse.  Although the Apostle Paul was addressing the attitudes of bondservants or slaves toward their masters the principles are applicable to our attitudes toward our employers or managers/team leaders on the job.  Paul’s command was to listen and follow the instructions or job assignments of our bosses, with fear & trembling “as unto Christ (KJV)”.  He isn’t telling us to literally cower in fear of those we work for but instead to treat them with the same dignity and respect that we would in service to Jesus.  Though this Scripture isn’t directly about living free from fear, applying the principle conveyed, may help you avoid the fear of being fired.

Paul begins by saying, “be obedient… in sincerity of heart”.  In other words, listen intently with an ear to sincerely apply and follow their instructions or vision for your company or department.  Paul thought this was so important he wrote it again to the Colossians (Col 3:22).  Then he writes, “not with eyeservies, as men-pleasers…”  This means don’t be the kind of employee that only works when the boss is watching.  Instead, Paul writes that we should work unto the Glory of God as if Jesus were your supervisor, with a good attitude doing what you are expected to do.

Too many employees are self-centered and looking only to complete as little as possible.  Others don’t mind working but believe that their way of doing things is better than their bosses.  It might be.  Maintaining the right attitude and proposing a new method or asking if you can do something differently is ok.  However, if they still want you to do it their way smile and say, “yes sir/ma’am.”  Then do the task or fulfill your duties to the best of your abilities in a way that would Glorify God.

If we fulfilled all of the duties on our job description as if they were assigned by Jesus, Himself (and you know you’d so things not in your job description for the Lord too), and looked for opportunities to be a blessing and sincere help to our managers, supervisors, or employers; your probably not going to have to fear getting fired.  Instead, you’ll probably get promoted.  Don’t fear getting fired, work as unto the Lord.  P.S. even if you were ultimately laid off, verse 8 tells us that if we served as unto the Lord, He will reward us for our good work.

Ephesians 6:8 GNB  Remember that the Lord will reward each of us, whether slave or free, for the good work we do.

367. Be a Person of Principle

oft-lending-principlesGalatians 4:11 NKJV  I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.

Principles are a precious.  They guide us through uncertainty, charting the course that we will follow.  Without them we are at the whim of the pressures of life as well as people.  The Apostle Paul feared that the Galatians had forsaken the Christian principles he had taught them after hearing that many were replacing their pagan feasts and traditions with Jewish ones.  They had previously followed dead rituals and now some were being convinced to leave the freedom in Christ to follow now dead practices in Judaism that have now been done away with through the fulfillment of the law by Christ Jesus.

We all have our principles tested and are pressured to bend or break them, how we respond matters.  It’s important to note that there are preferences and principles.  Preferences I can life without, principles I cannot.  It’s also good to note that although I believe all of my principles would be great for everybody, not all of my principles are matters of Scripture so someone else might not agree or follow the same ones, but we all need some.

As a parent, I pray I never fear that my children have forsaken the principles I’ve worked so hard to impart to them.  As a pastor, I know Paul’s pain having poured into people only to see them rationalize, and justify sinful behavior.  In the political realm principles even affect how people vote, often choosing personal privileges and desires over the principles they profess.  How do we avoid fearing that our children and loved ones will back off of the principles we cherish and long to pass on to them?  We live them.

Paul wrote in verse 12, “Brethren, I urge you to become like me….”  Paul not only told them how to live, but he provided an example and challenged them to live like him.  Jesus, himself, is recorded 21 times challenging his disciples to “follow (Him)”.  Principles will keep you from fearing and they also keep others from fearing too.  Living them openly will help others do the same.

“I have principles and I am not going to be forced to compromise them.” –  Alan Sugar

“Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour … If at my convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?” – Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

 

Elisabeth Elliot said, “Fear arises when we imagine that everything depends on us.”

366. Enosiophobia – The Fear of Criticism

fear-of-criticism-1050x600Galatians 2:12 NLT  When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision.

Although you’ve probably never heard of enosiophobia before, you’ve most likely experience it to some degree multiple times in life.  Enosiophobia is the fear of criticism.  It is also a term used to define the fear of having committed the unpardonable sin, but we’re not going to touch one at least not today.

Here in Galatians chapter 2, Paul wrote that Peter fell prey to the fear of being criticized by Jewish Christians for eating with Gentile Christians.  This also means that he wasn’t enjoying any carnitas or BLT sandwiched either.  Paul wrote that even Barnabas gave way to the pressure and succumbed to this fear.  Paul was probably shocked that Peter, the Apostle who was convinced that the wall of separation between the Jew & Gentile had been torn down saying, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” after the Lord gave spoke to him in a vision 3 times and then he witnessed Cornelius and his household be baptized in the Holy Spirit speaking in tongues and magnifying God (Acts 10:1-23, 46-47).  He was undoubtedly further shocked that Barnabas, who he had previously traveled with to many Gentile nations proclaiming the Gospel of Christ and seeing thousands of gentiles saved and filled with the Holy Spirit.  This is what fear will do.  Fear will drive you act in ways you wouldn’t normally and do things you don’t believe is right.

The fear of criticism has a horrible effect on the lives of believers.  It causes us to not be “straightforward about the truth of the Gospel” (Galatians 2:14).  We must guard against it.

Nobody enjoys being criticized.  It’s not fun.  But the fear of criticism will try to keep you from speaking up regarding the truth & pressure you to avoid taking action and do the right thing in the face of opposition at work, at home, or in the supermarket.  Like Peter, Barnabas and those with them, it will cause you to violate your conscience and be carried away with hypocrisy.  So what can we do?

Paul gave us some good things to remember that will insulate us against enosiophobia and empower us to be courageous in the face of this fear.  He told us to remember, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  In essence he told us instead of fearing what others will say about you; Remember who you are, remember whose you are, & remember the price that was paid.

365. Quench Your Pastor’s Fears 2

0306_market_fears_400x400-300x3002 Corinthians 12:20-21 NLT  For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behavior.  (21)  Yes, I am afraid that when I come again, God will humble me in your presence. And I will be grieved because many of you have not given up your old sins. You have not repented of your impurity, sexual immorality, and eagerness for lustful pleasure.

Last week we touched on Paul’s greatest fears that your pastor shares.  Your pastor fears that the people he pours his life into will lose the purity and simplicity of the Gospel message and their devotion to Jesus.  In 2 Corinthians 12:20-21 Paul lists a number of things that he was afraid he might see upon a visit to the church in Corinth.  Honestly, there have been a number of days I’ve been afraid about what I was going to see or deal with when I arrived at our local church.  Today I want to help both pastors with this fear and empower congregants to help their pastor too.

If you’re a pastor or serving in any ministry, you’ve experience that fearful thought sometimes too.  Here is what you can do.

  1. Stay steady. Keep it simple.  Keep doing what you are doing and don’t quit.  You are making a difference. 2 Corinthians 11:12
  2. Never preach people into bondage with fear tactics. Preach God’s grace and never put people down when they fail. 2 Corinthians 11:20-21
  3. Serve Jesus. Your faithfulness will pay off. 2 Corinthians 11:23
  4. Work hard. Give it all you’ve got and leave it all on the court. 2 Corinthians 11:27

If you aren’t in ministry… wait, what? Stop right here. You should be. Jesus gave the Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher to the Church for the purpose of preparing and equipping you to fulfill the ministry you are called to.  It might not be a church or Sunday morning ministry, it might be a ministry to other business leaders, lawyers, or sales clerks, but you have been called in the ministry and you have one.  That said, live a life of repentance.  Get right with God and stop it!  If you need help, your pastor and church leadership are there to support you.  Be faithful to your local church, support the vision there, grow up in the Lord, and help your pastor raise up more leaders that will do the same.

364. Quench Your Pastor’s Fears 1

preaching2 Corinthians 11:3-5 MSG  And now I’m afraid that exactly as the Snake seduced Eve with his smooth patter, you are being lured away from the simple purity of your love for Christ.  (4)  It seems that if someone shows up preaching quite another Jesus than we preached–different spirit, different message–you put up with him quite nicely.  (5)  But if you put up with these big-shot “apostles,” why can’t you put up with simple me? I’m as good as they are.

Reading through the book of Acts and Paul’s letters to the churches you quickly see his passion for the Gospel, reliance on the Holy Spirit and his love for the Church, the Body of Christ, especially the churches that he was instrumental in their founding.  In those letters he also shares his greatest ministerial fear.  It wasn’t ridicule, persecution, imprisonment, beatings, or even death, though Paul certainly wasn’t excited about those things he didn’t fear them (Philippians 1:23, Acts 21:13).  So what was it that kept Paul up at night?  Paul’s greatest fear was that the people he had poured his life into would be lose the purity and simplicity of the Gospel message and their devotion to Jesus.  Your pastor shares that fear and deals with it regularly.

He had this fear, because even in the early church there were people that preached with the wrong motivations.  Some used ministry as a way to get prestige, popularity, power, & money.  One way they did this was to preach NEW STUFF, extra Biblical stuff, their own ideas, and even made up stuff.  Paul’s heart broke when he heard these bogus doctrines and saw it corrupt the faith of some Believers.  Today there is even greater access to more bizarre and weird teaching.  It breaks my heart when I hear people repeating weird non-scriptural or contextually accurate ideas they heard at some church or on the internet.

Here is how you can help your pastor avoid falling prey to this fear.

1.   Show up to your home church regularly.
2.   Take notes.
3.   Be a Berean and study out what you’re taught.
4.   Put the WORD of God first and not just the words of somebody on line or on TV.
5.   Pray.
6.   Read the Bible for yourself.
7.   Remember your pastor isn’t perfect and is still growing too, it’s possible for even the best pastor to be wrong sometimes. Extend grace.

There are some other things we could mention, but this is a great start to help protect your pastor from fearing you will fall away from the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ.

363. The Fear that comes after Pressing SEND

Send button on keyboard2 Corinthians 7:5 NKJV  For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.

Have you ever sent a difficult email?  One of those emails, in which you needed to address some tough issues or relay some complex ideas and information.  Immediately after clicking send you begin to wonder… was I clear, did that make sense, will they read that with the right heart, it needed said but was I too direct?  After a few hours you check your email to see if you have a reply… nothing.  Then you think, “I wonder if they’ve got my email? I wish I knew what they were thinking right now.”  This can go on for hours or even days, depending on how frequently they check their email and of course how they reacted to your message.  During that time fearful and anxious thoughts flow through you mind.  This is what the Apostle Paul is referring to here in 2 Corinthians 7:5.

After Paul had sent 1Corinthians, which though we learn such empowering lessons from today and are encouraged by is also full of some very direct correction to people in the church and the churches leaders.  He had hoped and planned to make a stop through the area to see them face to face, but circumstances hindered him from doing so.  During the months that followed sending his letter he experienced fears regarding how it would be received.  He even regretted ever writing it (2 Cor 7:8).  That was until Titus returned safely and with news from Corinth.

Reading the rest of 2 Corinthians chapter 7 we find that Paul was ultimately please with how the letter was received, even though it did cause “sorrow” and upset the people, it pricked their hearts and led them to repentance.  Paul wrote the letter not because he wanted to punish certain people, but because he loved the church.  Even though his fears made him regret sending the letter for a moment, his love compelled him to do what was right.  But it was his friend co-laborer Titus that encouraged Paul he had done the right thing.  In this circumstance the Corinthians allowed the conviction of the Holy Spirit brought on by the truth in Paul’s letter to lead them to repentance, but not every situation always ends that way.  Still, Titus brought an encouraging word to Paul that relieved his fears and worries.  We all need people in our lives that when we have to do difficult things with the right motives, whom will encourage us and let us know we did the right thing.  You could be one for someone else. 

The next time you need to write a difficult email or are planning a difficult conversation: Check your heart and make sure your motives are right, Take time to plan and prepare what you will say, & talk to a trusted friend or mentor.  They’ll either give you advice or correction you need or will encourage you so you can proceed without fear.