Fear and Worry are Actually Little gods. Don’t Worship Them

What, Me Worry?

We are living in the midst of the most stressful times most of us have seen in this lifetime. So, this passage is for everyone who has ever experienced fear or worry: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10, NKJV) Isaiah 41 warns about impending judgment, and warns against worshipping useless idols. (Interesting how often those two things intersect in Scripture…)

Unexpected Idols

God consistently warns against worshipping idols, and calls us to leave them to follow Him. So, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that if you live in fear and worry, you are an idol worshipper. Here’s why: Everyone has experienced the insecurity of walking into the cafeteria on the first day of middle school, or communal middle school showers. We have all experienced insecurity while growing up.

The fact is, however, that most of us get over adolescent fear and become pretty self-sufficient. We are taught from early on that we need to work to provide for ourselves, and we live our daily lives under the assumption that we control the outcome by what we do. Indeed, the Bible encourages us to work hard, to honor God with our effort, and to be good stewards of our time and resources.

But be aware that self-sufficiency has a dark side. It gives us the feeling of control (probably like Eve felt for a moment as she took a bite of the apple), and it provides a brief illusion that we have power. At some deep level, when we think we are in control. We feel like God. It’s inevitable, though, that in spite of our best efforts, there are times when life reminds us that we are not in control, and that perhaps our strength is not enough. These kinds of times can cause us to be discouraged and cynical.

fear and worry

Avoid the Natural Response

If I know anything about life, I know that every one of us will experience something difficult and heart-wrenching. In some season of life you will encounter a time when events are more than you can bear, and you are assaulted by fear and insecurity. At some point you will lose your confidence in the way you assumed things were supposed to happen, in circumstances, perhaps even in yourself. This is a natural response when disaster or tragedy enters our lives and turns our world upside down.

So, how do people deal with insecurity? You’ve heard the old saying that came out of World War II, “There are no atheists in a foxhole”. Even people who ignore God on a daily basis will seek Him when they face uncertainty or danger. Isaiah’s claim about God has been meaningful to millions of people in the midst of their pain, suffering, or affliction. It makes sense to turn to God when life is overwhelming.

Maybe Isaiah Was Right

But consider this: Isaiah 41:10 was not meant to be rolled out only when life is tough, or when misfortune strikes. It also works pretty well in the hum-drum activities that happen everyday… Think about how often you actually experience anxiety, all of those little times when you assume control, or worry about something that hasn’t happened… This verse is for THOSE times. Anxiety and worry are little idols, and it’s scary to think of how often we worship them instead of God.

When we assume control or when we worry, what we are really saying is that God is not sufficient to meet our needs. Jesus spoke of worry in Matthew 6:26-27, 33: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Isaiah is saying the same thing: when you are fearful, when you doubt, when you are dismayed, God offers you his strength and his help. That assistance is available not just when tragedy strikes, but every day when we experience doubt, anxiety or worry. You are not in control, but fear not! The God of the universe offers you his strength, and here’s what His Word tells us to do: “Cast all your cares upon him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7). Stop worrying. Start casting.

Try This

Fear thou not, for I am with thee, just as I have gone before
With Moses and with Gideon, and with David, and with countless more.
I understand your desperate need to handle things, to take control:
But follow me, and I will give you peace within your anxious soul.
Fear not! And be not anxious for the many things you have to do,
But cast your cares on me, because I deeply care for you…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Courage: Something You Can Have. Something You Can Take

Defining Courage

“Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD.” (Psalms 31:24 NASB) Courage is an interesting thing, and people try to define it in different ways. Many of us probably first thought about courage when we saw The Wizard of Oz, and listened to the Cowardly Lion wish that he had some.

Courage is not merely about being fearless or foolish, but it is a level of poise or resolve that some people have when things get tough, and in some measure it helps all of us to make our way in the world. Aristotle said, “You will never do anything in this world without courage.” Maya Angelou says, “Without courage, you cannot practice any other virtue with consistency.”

courage Maya

Dictionary.com defines it as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.” What is it in your life that requires courage? It may not always involve grand adventures or epic struggles but courage is something all of us need from time to time…

Who Needs It?

You’d think people in the Bible didn’t need it so much because they had, well, GOD. Yet there is enough uncertainty where the spiritual intersects our temporal, everyday world that 1) we still need faith; and 2) we still need courage. There’s that interesting story about Peter getting out of the boat to walk to Jesus out on the water.

“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (John 14:29-30). Jesus was right there, and Peter was doing something no other man had ever done! But Peter still got distracted and got scared. He needed courage.

“En” Is Better Than “Dis”

The Bible often uses the term as a means of encouragement before undertaking a daunting task. Moses exhorted Joshua and the children of Israel to “be strong and courageous” in Deuteronomy 31:6-7; David found “the courage to pray this prayer” and ask God about building the temple in 2 Samuel 7:27; and Hezekiah exhorted his leaders to “be strong and courageous” in the face of an Assyrian invasion in 2 Chronicles 32:7.

In the New Testament, the Spirit of the Lord encouraged Paul to “Take courage!” (Acts 23:11) before he was called to testify in Rome. In all of these cases, people had a right to be afraid. They were faced with uncertainty, danger, or impossible odds. So, they needed courage.

The Antidote to Fearful

Ambrose Redmoon (a beatnik and flower child back in the 60’s) said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” There are things in your life that you fear; what is more important to you than fear? I suppose that if I lived a life of true faith, and if I had real confidence in God, I would never be afraid. I’d be like Daniel in the lion’s den, or Shadrach in the fiery furnace, or Paul about to face shipwreck on a stormy sea. But like everybody, I am often distracted by the cares of the day, or the uncertainty of the future.

That brings up an important question for Christians who struggle with anxiety. Is it wrong to be fearful? If I worry, am I committing a sin?

Consider this: when I allow fear or worry to dominate my thoughts, I am actually practicing a little form of idolatry, because I am allowing something in my heart and mind to be bigger than God. I may not intend to, but the reality is I am inadvertently replacing God with my own concerns. Worry itself isn’t a sin, but allowing our worries to replace God certainly can be. What can I do about that?

Encouraging Words

In Psalm 31, David said we should take courage. It’s interesting to note that in this Psalm, David talked about traps, affliction, deceit, troubles, sorrow, grief, and tribulation… David knew firsthand about being besieged by circumstances and abandoned by friends. He speaks of lying enemies, conspiring schemers, and describes himself as a broken vessel. Because of all he had experienced, his closing statement about taking courage is not rose-colored optimism. It is a hard-fought insight about how faith in God can instill hope and confidence into believers even when many things turn against us.

If you are experiencing difficult times, think of David and what he said in Psalm 31. Own it. We find blessing and hope not in the absence of trouble, but in their midst. Be strong today, and let your heart take courage!

Advice From Thirty-One

Life is full of moments that can lead you to uncertainty,
And there are times you have to deal with worry and adversity.
Living as a fugitive, King David was no stranger
To enemies, affliction, sorrow, grief, and outright danger.
Life will bring you sorrow. It will take your heart and break it;
David offers this encouraging word for us to make it:
Hope is ever in the Lord, and you don’t have to fake it;
His courage is available to us. Look up, and take it.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread