This is the last essay of a five part series. The previous essays in this series are about the inward impulse of lust, envy, greed and pride. This last essay is about the impulse of fear.
Being cautious to mitigate risks isn’t the emotion we are concerned with in this essay; caution is smart and sensible, unless of course it is excessive. Fear on the other hand is debilitating; it can and often does paralyzes us, impeding and upending our progress. Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference between caution and fear. But one notable pathfinder is caution keeps us safe and more diligent but fear keeps us from being our best self; often keeping us from a meaningful and rewarding life. Living a fearful life is not the best for us, for sure.
Moses led the Old Testament Church out of Egypt into the wilderness. The plan was clear to Moses; they would be in the wilderness for a brief time and then go into the Land of Promise just a few miles away. Scripture describes the Promise Land as a land that flowed with milk and honey; a place where life would be better. Fear and unbelief kept them from moving forward.
Let’t takes a look at what happened. Moses was a cautious leader so he sent out twelve spies to check things out. Their mission was to take a quick glimpse of the Promise Land and report back to Moses and the people. Moses must have thought the sending of the spies was just a formality; he didn’t expect them to come back so fearful. They just experienced a historical and fantastical miracle – the parting of the Red Sea. Surely they would be filled with faith and courage. God departed the waters of the Red Sea to allow His people to cross over on dry ground. This brought them into the Wilderness. The Egyptians who had enslaved God’s people for four-hundred years could not stand to lose slaveries diabolical economic advantage so they chased after them. The Pharaoh and his army foolishly tried to cross the Red Sea. It proved fatal. They were swallowed up when the Red Sea coiled back to its original form.
Only two of the twelve scouts came with a good report. Caleb and Joshua believed that by God’s help they could enter the Promise Land in spite of some obstacles. The other ten were shaking in heir sandals. They were convinced that the inhabitants of the land would destroy them. These ten fearful spies discourage the majority of God’s people. So the whole lot of them wandered around the Wilderness for forty-years in harsh and arid conditions; unhappy, suspicious, bickering, and unfulfilled. They could have had a better life. But they were afraid. When fear boils over to this point it extinguishes the fire beneath it – fear cools and cold unbelief remains.
Here’s a twenty-one year old fictional character named Jimmy. He’s kind of a good looking guy, a Junior in Engineering School and has a lot to offer in the romance department. Jimmy spots a an interesting young woman he would like to meet. But not Jimmy, he’s way too fearful to approach her. She’s probably really smart and surely too pretty for me he thinks, even though she tastefully glanced and smiled at him. This seems to be a small thing but it’s very real and sometimes a precursor. Jimmy graduates from college and starts thinking about his career. He has a couple of opportunities in front of him. One pays more but has little promise; a fixed position with slim potential to get ahead. The other opportunity pays a bit less. His skill set will be challenged, yet the advancement possibilities are much more. He would also have the chance to go to graduate school at some point in his career with the company – in which they would pay for most of it. The first opportunity is a job, easy and comfortable. The second is a career, full of challenges and possibilities requiring confidence and a little fearlessness. Jimmy is inordinately intrepid, so he settles for less. Jimmy is a cautious chap, he applies for the job instead of the career. Jimmy doesn’t like resistance. He doesn’t know yet that everyone needs some resistance in life; it builds fortitude and character. Resistance helps us learn how to stand up to life.
Jimmy has a Christian neighbor who asked him to church. Jimmy has rarely gone to church. The last time was Vacation Bible School when he was a kid. Jimmy has an aunt that is a serious Christian. He knows how dedicated she is and respects her but couldn’t imagine living a Christian life like her. So when he is invited to go to church he thinks I could never be a Christian. I just couldn’t do it. Jimmy seems to be a humble young man. But in reality it is fear, so often coupled with unbelief when it comes to our faith. Jimmy wanders around in a kind of spiritual wilderness for another five years before he finally gives is heart and life to God. Spiritual opportunity is given to many people who are just afraid to act on it. It took a while but thank God Jimmy came through. But not without God’s irresistible grace!
Jimmy is now a Christian. At first it was hard to change some of his behavior and go to church faithfully, he wasn’t used to it but over time he did it. His mother thought it was okay but his Dad and many of his friends ridiculed him for reading his Bible, praying in his room, and going to church on Sunday. To Jimmy’s credit he persevered and kept moving forward in his Christian faith. Perseverance and fear are not siblings; they are not in the same family.
Jimmie is standing up to life. He has more confidence now. Something about becoming a Christian did this for him. He finds a pretty and smart girl – fashionable and fun too. They get married. He quits his job because it’s just not challenging enough. But not before he applied and got a new job that’s a bit above his skill set – something he would’ve never done before. He feels like he has a career now. He learns a lot and makes much more money over time. He even starts a successful side hustle. Jimmy is confident. He is courageous. Jimmy has faith!
Through the years Jimmy finds out that he has been weaker and misguided more than he thought he would be in his Christian faith. He makes some mistakes. It takes him a long time to settle into the disciplined Christian life he had always wanted. He found out the spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is indeed week.Yet, by faith he keeps going full speed ahead. Jimmie is not afraid of life. He knows God is with him; receiving mercy and forgiveness for his missteps and failures. Jimmie has a passionate love for God. He is not fearful he knows God loves him too.
Today, James is much older. No one calls him Jimmy anymore. His parents are gone. And many of his childhood friends have passed on. They all said his faith wouldn’t last – but it did. James has children and grandchildren now. Although a late spiritual bloomer, over time James has grown to be a good example of faith and perseverance. James and his family know he is far from perfect, yet he is blameless because he has been forgiven for his weak and misguided ways. No one doubts that James is in right standing with God. He has spiritual stature. He had the courage of a lamb when younger but now he has the heart of a lion. James doesn’t sense the impulse of fear much anymore. There is a kind of fearlessness about him now. His favorite Scripture is I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.
James is not as healthy as he used to be, he’s nearly eighty-five. He doesn’t know how long he has left but he is not afraid of the future. He thinks of a verse in David’s 23rd Psalm during morning Quite Time, Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for Though art with me. James does not fear death or what comes after. He is fearless in the Presence of God.
Joseph C. Hutchison, Rochester Hills Michigan, October 2020, Published by Permission Only