January 27, 2012 – Aaron Bird
Rewind: Fear can be a powerful motivator. When channeled properly, it can drive us to work harder, think faster, and push farther than you ever would have thought possible. More often than not, however, we let our fear motivate us to stand stock still. It makes our knees knock, our skin crawl, and our feet feel like they’re trapped in blocks of concrete. Our fear – be it of change, of failure, of rejection, of heights, of spiders, of clowns, or of squirrels – manifests itself in the form of self-constructed cages that prevent us from moving forward. Worse yet is when we let that fear drag us back from freedom to slavery.
After spending nearly four hundred years as slaves to the Egyptians and suffering abuse, oppression, and disgrace, fear was a concept with which the Israelites were terribly familiar. So, when Pharaoh finally gave in and let the people go, the exodus was anything but orderly. Even as families gathered hastily, and belongings were frantically packed up, the Israelites were holding their breath, waiting for Pharaoh to change his mind as he had done so many times before. But, you can bet, that when they approached the city limits and saw no guards waiting to stop them, the Israelites took off running! They left Egypt just as fast as they could with plans to never return.
Moses led God’s people out of Egypt, into the desert, and towards the Promised Land, but the journey would be neither boring nor direct; God certainly did not select the “shortest time” option on His divine GPS (it took FORTY YEARS to get to their destination!!). The detours began two or three weeks after their deliverance: God spoke to Moses and told him to turn around and lead the people back towards Egypt. Still riding on the spiritual high that follows the kind of miraculous works they witnessed in Egypt, and reassured by the visible presence of God in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, Moses and the Israelites faithfully followed the Lord.
God continued to speak to Moses, directing him to lead the Israelites to the east and then to the west, zigging and zagging His people through the desert. You see, God was very much aware of the power of fear, and chose His path accordingly, saying, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt” (Ex. 13:17). He understood that, despite His promise, despite His very presence, His people were likely to surrender to fear and turn away from His goodness, preferring the comfort of familiar oppression back in Egypt to the unknown treasures of His glory in the Promised Land. Thus, in all of His divine wisdom, God chose to prolong their journey, consequentially building their trust in His provision. The Israelites didn’t know it, but He was preparing them for the coming chaos.
The Israelites had just reached thehore of the Red Sea and were awaiting further instructions from the Lord when they first heard that Pharaoh had changed his mind. After the loss of every first born son in the entire nation, Pharaoh’s heart was harder than ever, and once his son’s funeral was over, he wasted no time assembling an army of charioteers to bring the “lost” slaves back.
Can you imagine the fear, the absolutely paralyzing terror, that must have taken hold of each and every Israelite when they heard that Pharaoh and his army were on their way? They had only just left Egypt! God had promised deliverance! They had trusted Him; they had trusted Moses! And for what? To die in the desert? They demanded of Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Ex. 14:11-12). Their terror was so all-encompassing that they mistook God’s provision for faulty planning, and slavery for protection. They let themselves be so overwhelmed by doubt and fear that they completely forgot who was leading them, even though He was right in front of them the whole time.
What fears do you have? What is it that limits you? What makes you hesitate to trust? What compels you to keep the lights on while you sleep? What stops you from enjoying the fullness of the life you’ve been promised? What makes you squeeze your eyes shut, hold your breath, and lock your knees? Whatever it is – big or small, rational or irrational, kept secret or worn on your sleeve for the world to see – in the midst of chaos, there’s only one thing you need to remember: Who is it that’s really leading you?
No matter what life throws at you; no matter if it makes you want to laugh or cry; no matter if your first instinct is to run hide, dance, or jump for joy (that’s right, we’ve left the realm of fear and moved into a much more universal truth), the main thing is to keep the Main Thing the main thing.
The Lord has promised to bring deliverance for His people, and He has yet to stand us up. When the Egyptians were closing in on the Israelites (who had their backs to the sea), God threw up a wall between His people and their enemies, and parted the sea, providing an escape route. Moreover, when the Egyptians attempted to follow the Israelites across the sea floor, God crushed them, decimating the greatest army the world had yet to see! God promises to provide, to rescue, and to lead His people, always. He is the hero of the text, and the realization of every good thing.
God always shows up, and He is never terrified. He will never be bested. So next time you’re afraid, take a breath and remember the main thing is to keep the Main Thing the main thing. With God leading you, what’s the worst that could happen? Death? Last I checked, He’d already taken care of that.
Pause: His love never fails; He is greater than anything you could ever dream up. Our God is mighty to save, and if our God is with us, then who could ever stop us? What could ever stand against us and pose a real threat? You can rest safely in your Father’s arms, knowing He will never forsake you.
“I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” Psalm 18:1-3
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strongholdof my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.” Psalm 27:1-3
Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes. Psalm 112:6-8
Push Play: There is no reason to be afraid: God’s got your back. He’s been repairing broken hearts, finding lost treasures, and rescuing warrior princesses and knights-in-shining-armor alike for longer than any of us can imagine. He conquered death on the cross, and is still freely giving that salvation away to all of us. Lucifer’s got nothing on Him. When you know the Lord, there is absolutely no reason to fear, ever. Pain is fleeting, loss is temporary, and death is not the end. God is one trust-fall partner you can place your faith in one hundred percent. And yet, we fear. We still don’t trust…
There is no reason to be afraid, but, when you are afraid, embrace the fear. Fear is only a problem when it stops us from trusting in the Lord (like it does in this video). The issue isn’t the fear itself, it’s when we allow it to paralyze us or push us back towards something that we know is wrong. Fear is only powerful when you leave it unaddressed and deny that it exists; that’s when it festers and grows, forming chains around your ankles and walls around your heart. Instead, make efforts to recognize fear for what it is – a lie, a farce, a temptation to deny who God really is – own it, and submit it to the Lord.
He is waiting for you to call on His name; to open your eyes and see that He’s right there in front of you as a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire, leading you through the desert, building your character and reinforcing your faith. He will take your fear and turn it into strength. He will provide. He will show up; He’s already shown up. Embrace the fear; claim its power as your own, and keep your eyes on the Main Thing. He will catch you every single time.