September 23, 2013
Maybe it’s because I’m a Senior in college and the real world is looming closer every day. Maybe it’s because I have been walking through a season of change. Whatever the case, I have found myself dwelling on the matter of fear quite a bit lately. New opportunities, decisions, dreams awaken excitement in me…always to be accompanied -and countered- by the inevitable fear. You know the kind I’m talking about. It’s the fear that keeps us from going down the path we desire. We don’t pursue our dreams for fear of experiencing a “set-back” in our careers (or lack thereof). We run from or dance around commitment for fear of the potential pain that may or may not result. We refuse to let go of “good enough” for fear of never finding “great”. We cling to mediocre security for fear of the unknown. We let fear decide for us, and, as a result, direct our fate.
Not only is this incredibly sad and cowardly, but it is unbiblical.
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” -2 Timothy 1:7
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” -1 John 4:18
“for we walk by faith, not by sight.” -2 Corinthians 5:7
My pastor, Rob Bailey, said on Sunday “Fear and faith cannot coexist” and he is absolutely right. When we give in to fear, we are giving up our faith. Fear leads us to depend on what we know and see. Faith leads us to depend on what is unseen.
I have been blessed this week to spend some precious time with Marc Idjigberou, a dear friend from Benin who led us for the 6 weeks I was there last summer. He is visiting from Africa and he invited me to come hear him speak at church on Sunday. He told a story from our trip that I had almost forgotten about completely, and I believe it illustrates everything I’ve been trying to grasp regarding fear. Marc tells it better than I could:
In the Maxi village of Aklampa, the most feared in the village is the voodoo priest. His influence is felt in the village and the surrounding area. The mention of his name is enough to invoke fear in any who have disobeyed his wishes. Through this, he is able to ensure that everyone worship his voodoo and the name of Jesus is not mentioned in his village. Christians are afraid to go to Aklampa to share Jesus because the chief’s men use threats to stifle the Word of God.
But we, as a team, lived in Aklampa for one week, training the Christian leaders in the mornings and evangelizing in the streets in the evenings.
One day as we were going hut-to-hut, we walked past the compound of this voodoo priest. A man came to us and begged us to come and greet the chief, for he had seen us walk by. Frightened, yet seeing a great opportunity, we turned immediately and walked through the man’s gate.
Here sitting on an African wooden chair, was the Voodoo priest, the most influential man in the entire area. In one movement, we all knelt out of respect for his position.
I was overcome with fear for this team of students. I just knew that this was it. Something terrible was about to happen. These young people would be seized, or cursed, or worse. This trip was about to end on that compound. So I stepped away and began walking circles around the compound, praying over the students, praying for protection and for blessing over them.
The chief ordered one of his wives to bring us chairs and then our team leader, Katherine, stepped forward to introduce the team members. She then respectfully asked the chief for permission to share with him a story from God’s Word. With reservation, he accepted.
Suddenly, we were surrounded and pressed in upon by an extremely curious and incredulous crowd. Here sat their most feared Voodoo ruler, openly against Christianity, listening to a story from the Bible.
Katherine, led by the Holy Spirit, told the story of Daniel. His life. The king’s love for him. Daniel’s faithfulness to God in the lion’s den and God’s protection over him. God is all-powerful.
After she finished her story, Katherine humbly asked if he understood the story and if he would accept to pray with us. The Chief, touched by the Word of God, called his wives and children to himself to join us in prayer. He closed his eyes in a symbol of submission and acceptance and prayed with us. It was a moment of victory!
Like an electric charge, a murmuring could be heard throughout the crowd, “hounon code kpo yovo kpo”- “This man who submits to no one, who resists God’s messengers, had openly received the Word.
With joy in his features, the man stood up, shook hands with the team and thanked them.
An enemy of Christ had opened his life to the True Gospel!
Marc’s message was about enemies of faith. He was referring to the priest as the enemy, but I believe fear was an equal enemy. Fear threatened to keep us from stationing ourselves in Aklampa. It then threatened to keep us from proclaiming Jesus in the streets. It should have kept us from walking willingly into the home of our greatest enemy. Fear would have prevented this man of power and influence from coming to know Christ – a conversion that would open doors to the Gospel throughout the entire area. And we never would have known what we were missing out on.
But by faith, we were able to witness the unthinkable.
We cannot see what we are giving up when we choose to follow our fear instead of faith. Faith propels us forward into the unknown, past what we can see. It propels us into the life that only God can see waiting for us. An amazing life where all things are possible.
A life we will never know we missed if we continue to let our fear decide our fate.
When saying goodbye to Marc (which was somehow even harder the second time), he looked me in the eye and said, “Jenny, I want to encourage you to always walk by faith.”
I want to encourage the same of you.
What fears are holding you back from the life God has called you to? Are you ready to let go of them and let faith decide?