‘What is fear really? Have you wondered? For someone who is afraid to touch a snake or a dog or mice, why is it that it may be someone’s pet at home? Why does a person see relationship as a way of intimacy while another person see it as a loss of freedom?’
Pr Keith Tay of City Harvest posed the thought-provoking question in a message that he shared recently. Fear is a major obstacle in our progress as children of God. God wants us to be overcomers and in order to grow to our full potential and maturity under Him, we need to overcome our fear. And the first step to this is to understand what fear is.
‘Why is it that what is someone’s delight is another person’s fear? What does this mean? Primarily it means that fear stems from a perspective that originates in our head but then goes into our heart as the day goes by,’ he shared. It is a response that comes from an individual’s past experience. Because most of the time it comes from our perspective, there is often a way to find something to fear in even the best opportunities in our lives.
We are on auto-pilot, giving a sense to the events, not based on objective reality but on subjective reality. When we have a bad, traumatic experience, what seems to be joy to others could be a fear to us. Experiences that are stored in our brain over a period of time cause us to have a protective system, to guard ourselves from getting hurt or into danger.
Pr Keith imparted, ‘A reason for this is because our biggest need is for consistency or certainty of what our reality is, and when we have a belief we try our best to prove it right, even when believing it hurts us.
‘Fear is an automatic response based on our need for survival and protection and the more we think fearful thoughts, the more we reinforce fear-based circuit that will generate more fear-based automatic responses. According to the dictionary, it is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.’
‘This is the way we protect ourselves from past traumatic experiences but you have to understand that through these beliefs and what we reject, we are hurting ourselves just as much because we stop ourselves from trying. Fear is very real but the biggest problem of our fear is that we stop trying in our lives and we stop experiencing things that God has prepared for us.’
There are many reasons why people stop trying or progressing. Fear may be the most common one but it is just one of many factors. Besides fear, there is anger, anxiety, disappointments, past hurts, and so on. God tells us through Scripture nevertheless that He intends us to be overcomers.
The world is filled with stress and disappointments, with fear and failures and difficulties and struggles and resistance, but the world is also filled with overcomers. The resistance we meet in life is allowed there by God not to defeat us but to develop our capacities. They are meant to be overcome, not to destroy or dishearten us.
In Proverbs 13:12, we are reminded that hope deferred makes the heart feel sick but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. How do we overcome the frustrations in our lives? How do we stop deferring hope and turn them into fulfilled dreams?
Many of us have given up because we felt helpless and futile. However, there comes a decision point when each one of us has to make a choice. The real point is the journey that God wants us to go with Him. We need to challenge the fear.
The first step to this is to renew our minds daily with His word through conversation with Him and through His counsel in the Scriptures. We need to learn how to replace our old thoughts with the new thoughts that the Holy Spirit gives to us.
1 John 5:1-5
5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
Scripture tells us that everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah is born of God. As Christians, we were given new identities when we believe in the Christ. We are all new creations of God.
Pr Keith imparted that it is crucial to remember that just because we have been Christians for a long time, it doesn’t mean that we are no longer new creations. Many Christians who have met struggles and resistance in their faith journey end up weary and tired. As time goes on, their disappointments and the weight of their hurts carry them further and further away from God.
But the very central fact is that the Holy Spirit never stops working in us and we are all on a progressive journey with God. As children of God, we are empowered through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes things new daily and there is always something new to discover with God for God has unfathomable power. Setbacks come in when we chose to switch ourselves from receiving new things from God.
There are three statements being made in 1 John 5:1-5 that is connected to this. Firstly, in order for us to have victory, we need to realize that we have a new life in God, born again through Christ. Secondly, we are connected together in our souls to our faith. Thirdly, that the faith that rekindles the supernatural life that allow us to have victory over the world is the specific faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
Coming back to the centrality that we are all new creations in Christ, Pr Keith communicated that no matter how long we have been Christians, we need to remember that to God, we are always His child. In every season of our life, God has new things or perspectives to show us, revealing new facets of His goodness, mercy, and glory.
When God created us, He designed us for fellowship with Him. During the Fall, we were cut off from Him. But now, as believers of Christ, we are connected once more to God. For many new believers, this is literally something from Heaven. The snags materialize when we are not then able to adjust to reality.
Being a Christian doesn’t mean we can then lie back and relax and from now onwards no challenges will come our way. Being a disciple of Christ is a daily and continual process. In order for our relationship with Christ to grow, it requires nurturing. It requires effort.
Just because we have served God in our youths to our maximum, doesn’t mean that there is nothing new to learn. ‘Serving God is an attitude, not a skill. It is a condition of the heart, that you always find newness in the presence of God. You always find newness by having a life inside of God,’ Pr Keith conveyed.
Secondly, we are connected together through our faith, and Scripture says that everyone who loves God also loves those who are begotten of God. This speaks about a community of faith. We need to be connected to a community of faith.
During the early years of the Church, Paul worked hard for a community of faith. The Early Church grew because there were no lone rangers. Everyone was connected in faith and love through the things they shared and though the hardship was great, they had a community that could withstand the challenges. Back during Creation, God had already said “it is not good for men to be alone”. We were not created to go through life’s challenges alone.
Thirdly, in order to be overcomers, we need to be obedient to the word of God. Scripture and Christ Himself have said that His yoke and commandments are not burdensome. Why do we sometimes find it so difficult then and why do the tasks before us sometimes seem so great?
We need to focus on who we are not on what we are doing. We are born of God. When we focus on the task we see a mountain but when we focus on who is with us, we recognize that the One who is with us is larger than anything else that could possibly be in the universe. Pr Keith communicated that the most important thing in the lives of Christians is to be with Jesus.
What is the greatest commandment then for Christians? In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus summarized this beautifully. It is to love God and to love people. 1 John 3:18 further exhorts us to love, not just with words or speech but with deeds and actions, in truth. ‘The most important thing we need to learn is how to love others. It cannot be removed from the equation. Our primary calling in life is to love,’ Pr Keith conveyed.
He further expressed that it is not by accident that the Scripture calls us to love our neighbours for there is much significance in the word. Some of us have grand visions to go out into the furthest parts of the world for mission work. But how are we to love others that are so far away when we are unable to love those around us?
When we understand who we are (because God is love, so it is with us) God’s commandments will no longer be burdensome. It is in fact quite simple, to simply love the people around us. What is it to love the people around us? It is not so much what we do for them; once again it is a matter of the heart. Things will change when we learn to bring God’s spirit of love into our circumstances and environment.
Jesus understood the challenges humans, even Christians, will face in this world. But He has also already given us an assurance in John 16:33:
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
This is the very certain hope of every Christian.
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NOTE: While the writer attended the church service in which this sermon was shared, the article has not been vetted by the church or speaker. As such, it is presented through the impartation received by the writer and not necessarily as intended by the speaker. Pr Keith has a deep message which can be found online on YouTube.