The reality TV show Fear Factor features people who are willing to face their worst fears for notoriety and financial gain. I need to tell you that I rarely watch more than a fleeting moment of the show as I surf with my remote. I find it tough to watch people eat cockroaches, immerse themselves in a tank full of creepy worms with legs, and stay under water far too long with slimy eels crowding around their heads. It’s just not my definition of high-value entertainment. But the program does remind me that fear is an emotion that we are all very familiar with. In fact, my discomfort with watching for any length of time probably has something to do with reminding me of things and events that I fear or at least find uncomfortable.
Yet thinking of the program does make me wonder: Would I be willing to conquer my fears to do what Jesus asks me to do, just as these contestants overcome their fears for a moment in the spotlight of national TV?
There is no doubt that fear is no friend of our effectiveness for Christ. We are often fearful about witnessing, giving our money away, saying no to our friends, forgiving a cruel offense, saying yes to a short-term missionary assignment, or risking being misunderstood if we speak up for biblical values at the water-cooler. If Satan can get us stymied by fear, he doesn’t have to do much else to shut down our spiritual progress and usefulness.
So, let’s talk about what it takes to succeed for Jesus in the face of fear.
First, let’s remind ourselves that fear primarily focuses on protecting and preserving “me.” Overcoming fear begins with deciding that some things in life are more important than ourselves. Things like the eternal destinies of others, the prosperity of the work of Christ in our world, the fact that the reputation of Jesus is more strategically important than my fleeting popularity, and that His integrity and righteousness showing up in my life is more important than cheating for some personal gain. Once you and I realize that a self-surpassing passion for others and Jesus trumps fear, we can understand why the apostle John wrote that love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
But loving can often feel like a risky, sometimes losing proposition, which is why we need another ingredient to release the power of the love that conquers fear. That ingredient is trust. Trusting that God will protect you when you are fearful, that God will reward you when you feel at risk, that God will give you guidance and courage when you feel lost and intimidated is what it takes to defeat the fear that holds you back. Are you afraid that when you love you will become vulnerable, misunderstood, taken advantage of, or misused? Trust God to watch over you, meet your needs, and give you His best, and those fears will become increasingly nonexistent.
- What does God want you to do but you are afraid of doing?
- List the advances you could make spiritually if fear were not a factor in your life. Be specific.
- What would it take for you to be more passionate about others and Jesus than you are about yourself?
- In Psalm 56:3, what did David say he would do in the face of fear? Are you ready to do the same?
- What specifically can you trust God for when fear threatens your walk with Him?
“. . . my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death” —Philippians 1:20
My Unstoppable Determination for His Holiness. “Whether it means life or death-it makes no difference!” (see Philippians 1:21). Paul was determined that nothing would stop him from doing exactly what God wanted. But before we choose to follow God’s will, a crisis must develop in our lives. This happens because we tend to be unresponsive to God’s gentler nudges. He brings us to the place where He asks us to be our utmost for Him and we begin to debate. He then providentially produces a crisis where we have to decide— for or against. That moment becomes a great crossroads in our lives. If a crisis has come to you on any front, surrender your will to Jesus absolutely and irrevocably.
When the twelve tribes first came to Egypt they were treated like royalty. They were embraced and showered with gifts all because their brother Joseph was Pharaoh’s right-hand man. Scripture tells us that after Joseph died, there was a new Pharaoh who hadn’t heard of Joseph. But how can that be?
The Sages explain there is no way that the Pharaoh of Egypt didn’t know who Joseph was or what he had done for the Egyptian people. Egypt had been on the brink of destruction by the famine that had hit the land. The Egyptians would have been long gone if not for Joseph, who had warned them and guided them to save food in the abundant years for use in the lean ones. Joseph was a national hero! It was virtually impossible to live in Egypt and not know who Joseph was.
So how could the Pharaoh be so unkind to Joseph’s descendants?
The answer is found in the verse. To the new Pharaoh, “Joseph meant nothing.” Sure, he knew who Joseph was. But many years had gone by and the significance of Joseph’s actions had faded with the passage of time. While at first, the recent memory of what Joseph had done stirred emotions of gratefulness and appreciation, now he was just a man from the past. Joseph’s memory lived, but the gratitude of the Egyptians had died. Once their gratitude was gone, it was just a matter of time before the Egyptians turned upon these alien people living in their land.
Pharaoh and the Egyptians sound horribly unjust to forget all of the good that had been done by Joseph and then to repay his kindness with cruelty – but are we so much better? Can we say that our gratitude lasts forever?
Think about it. So many people have been kind to us. Someone gave birth to us, fed us, changed our diapers, and took care of our needs. Someone taught us how to read and write and gave us the confidence that we could succeed. Somewhere along the way, we needed a friend to lean on and someone was there for us. The list goes on and on. And then, of course, there is God who gives us everything!
But do we actively remember all of the kindness done for us? Have we properly thanked those who have helped us? Sometimes, we forget the good done to us, and we even repay kindness with anger or resentment. Judaism teaches that we must be grateful for the good done to us even if the same person also harms us. We can’t let their misdeeds cancel out their good ones!
So, let’s begin this new year with a focus on gratitude – toward our family, our friends, and our God.
There was a rich Benjamite named Kish, who lived at Gibeah. He had a son named Saul, a man full grown and handsome; no one among the Israelites was more handsome than he. From his shoulders and upward he was taller than any of the people.
Now the asses of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost. So Kish said to Saul, “Take one of the servants with you and go, look for the asses.” They went through the highlands of Ephraim and the land of Shalishah, but did not find them. Then they crossed into the land of Shaalim, but the asses were not there. They also went through the land of Benjamin, but did not find them.
They had come into the land of Zuph when Saul said to his servant who was with him, “Come, let us go back, that my father may not stop thinking of the asses and be anxious about us.” The servant answered him, “There is a man of God in this town who is held in honor; all that he says is sure to come true. Now let us go there; perhaps he can tell us the way we should go.”
Saul said to his servant, “But, suppose we go, what shall we take to the man, for the bread is gone from our sacks, and there is no present to take to the man of God? What have we?” The servant answered Saul again and said, “See, I have with me a quarter of a silver shekel. Give it to the man of God that he may tell us our way.” Then Saul said to his servant, “Your advice is good; come, let us go.” So they went to the town where the man of God was.
As they were going up to the town, they met young women going out to draw water and said to them, “Is the seer here?” They answered them, “He is there; he is before you. Make haste, for he has just come into the town, for the people have a sacrificial feast to-day at the sacred place on the hilltop. As soon as you come to the town, you will find him before he goes up to the high place to eat, for the people will not eat until he comes, for he blesses the sacrifice, and then the guests eat. Therefore go up now, for at this time you will find him.”
So they went up to the town, and when they came inside the gate, Samuel was just coming out toward them to go up to the high place. Now Jehovah had told Samuel the day before Saul came, “About this time to-morrow I will send you a man out of the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be a prince over my people Israel. He shall deliver my people from the power of the Philistines; for I have seen the suffering of my people, because their cry has come to me.”
When Samuel saw Saul, Jehovah told him, “This is the man of whom I spoke to you! He it is who shall rule over my people.” So when Saul met Samuel in the gate, and said, “Tell me, if you will, where the seer’s house is,” Samuel answered Saul, “I am the seer; go up before me to the high place, for you shall eat with me to-day; and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is in your mind. As for your asses that were lost three days ago, do not trouble yourself about them for they have been found. And to whom belongs all that is best in Israel? Does it not belong to you and to your father’s house?” Saul answered and said, “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and is not my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak to me in this way?”
But Samuel took Saul and his servant and brought them into the hall and made them sit at the head of the guests (who were about thirty in number). Samuel also said to the cook, “Bring the part which I gave you and told you to put aside.” So the cook took up the leg and what was on it and placed them before Saul. Then Samuel said, “See what has been kept for you! Set it before you and eat, for it was kept for you until the appointed time, that you might eat with the people whom I have invited.” So Saul ate with Samuel that day.
After they came down from the high place into the town, they spread a bed for Saul on the roof, and he lay down. Then at daybreak Samuel called to Saul on the roof, saying, “Rise, that I may send you away.” So Saul rose, and he and Samuel went out into the street. As they were going out of the town, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the servant to go on before us, but you stand here that I may tell you the message from God.”
Then Samuel took the flask of oil and poured it on Saul’s head, and kissed him and said, “Has not Jehovah anointed you to be a prince over his people Israel? You shall rule over Jehovah’s people and deliver them from the power of their enemies on every side. This is the sign that Jehovah has anointed you to be a prince over his own people: when you go from me to-day you shall find two men at Rachel’s tomb; and they will say to you, ‘The asses that you went to seek are found, and now your father is thinking no more about the asses but is worrying about you, saying, “What shall I do for my son?”‘ Then you shall go on from there and come to the oak of Tabor. There three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you, one carrying three kids, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. They will greet you and give you two loaves of bread which you shall take from their hand. After that you shall come to Gibeah. As you come to the city you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the high place with a lyre, a tambourine, a flute, and a harp before them, while they prophesy. Then the spirit of Jehovah will come suddenly upon you, and you shall prophesy with them, and shall be changed into another man. When these signs come to you, do whatever you can, for God is with you.” So when Saul turned away from Samuel, God gave him a new heart, and all those signs came to pass that day.
Saul’s uncle also said to him and to his servant, “Where did you go?” He said, “To seek the asses; and when we saw that they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.” Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me what Samuel said to you.” Saul replied, “He told us that the asses were surely found.” But Saul did not tell him that Samuel had said he should become the ruler.
After about a month, Nahash, the Ammonite, came up and besieged Jabesh in Gilead; and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make terms with us and we will serve you.” But Nahash, the Ammonite, said to them. “On this condition will I make terms with you: that I bore out the right eye of each of you, and so bring disgrace upon all Israel.” The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Let us have seven days in which to send messengers through all the land of Israel. Then, if there are none to save us, we will come to you.”
So the messengers came to Gibeah where Saul lived and told the facts in the hearing of the people, and they all set up a loud wail. Just then Saul was coming from the field behind the oxen, and he said, “What is the trouble with the people that they are wailing?” Then they told him what the men of Jabesh had said. When he heard it, the spirit of Jehovah came suddenly upon him and he became very indignant. He took a pair of oxen, cut them in pieces, and sent them through all the land of Israel by messengers, who said, “Whoever does not come out after Saul and after Samuel, the same shall be done to his oxen!”
Then a terror from Jehovah fell upon the people, and they all gathered together. And Saul said to the messengers who came, “Say to the men of Jabesh in Gilead, ‘To-morrow by the time the sun grows hot help shall come to you.'”
So the messengers went and told the men of Jabesh, and they were glad. Therefore the men of Jabesh said to the Ammonites, “To-morrow we will come out to you, and you shall do to us whatever you please.” So on the following day, Saul divided the people into three divisions; and they went into the midst of the camp early in the morning, and fought against the Ammonites until noon. The Ammonites who stayed behind were so scattered that not two of them were left together.
Then all the people went to Gilgal and there in the presence of Jehovah made Saul their ruler, and they offered sacrifices there to Jehovah; and Saul and all the men of Israel were very happy.
Two little words are found in the Greek version here. They are translated “ton kairon” in the revised version, “Buying up for yourselves the opportunity.” The two words ton kairon mean, literally, the opportunity.
They do not refer to time in general, but to a special point of time, a juncture, a crisis, a moment full of possibilities and quickly passing by, which we must seize and make the best of before it has passed away.
It is intimated that there are not many such moments of opportunity, because the days are evil; like a barren desert, in which, here and there, you find a flower, pluck it while you can; like a business opportunity which comes a few times in a life-time; buy it up while you have the chance. Be spiritually alert; be not unwise, but understanding what the will of God is. “Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, buying up for yourselves the opportunity.”
Sometimes it is a moment of time to be saved; sometimes a soul to be led to Christ; sometimes it is an occasion for love; sometimes for patience: sometimes for victory over temptation and sin. Let us redeem it.