Sharing God’s Love in the Face of Fear

verse image of 1 John 4:18

Fear is a destructive, enslaving emotion that, when fed, pushes us farther from the life God desires for us. The more we give in to it, the uglier and more selfish our behavior becomes until we bear little resemblance to our generous and loving Savior Jesus Christ.

We all remember the Great Recession of 2008 that leveled countless Americans. Banks collapsed, over 2.6 million lost their jobs, and almost four million saw their homes in foreclosure.

We were living in Kansas City at the time, and though our neighborhood hadn’t been hit as hard as those in Los Angeles, Detroit, or Orlando, the devastation was obvious. Piles of furniture and other belongings littered the sidewalks and red foreclosure or for sale by auction signs stood in numerous lawns—evidence of loss, financial ruin, and deeply hurting families.

Fear dominated. People worried the economy might never bounce back and began to fill their pantries and basements with canned foods and dry goods. Anxiety and survivalism rose dramatically while charitable giving plummeted—at a time when millions of Americans desperately needed aid.

Maybe you were one of those desperate Americans, or maybe you joined in the stockpile craze.

As we’ve seen again and again, chaos and need can trigger fear, and fear can lead to hoarding and selfishness. To apathy and isolation.

But fear can also be a catalyst to faith—an emotion that drives us not to ourselves but to our God as we seek His wisdom and power in our most chaotic situations. When we do that, what a testimony to grace we provide!

This was precisely what the ancient world witnessed in a group of beaten down and oppressed new believers living in Thessalonica. While experiencing “severe suffering” that scholars believe included economic persecution and property seizures, they excelled in faith (1 Thess. 1:7), in their evangelistic efforts (1 Thess. 1:8), and in generosity (2 Cor. 8:2). So much so that Paul used them as an example of faithfulness in his letter to the Corinthians:

“In the midst of a very severe trial,” Paul said, “their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing this service to the Lord’s people” (2 Cor. 8:2-4, NIV, emphasis mine).

Despite their “persecutions and hardships” (2 Thess. 1:4), they gave above and beyond, from a human perspective, what they were able.

What a statement this must have made to the watching world! It’s one thing to tell others about Jesus our Provider; it’s another matter to live as though He is. People might ignore our proclamations of God’s power and sovereignty, but when we behave as though we believe our words are true—that’s when questions arise, curiosity is stirred, and God-willing, our faith becomes contagious.

Sadly, there are times when I resemble the 2008 survivalists more than those world-changing ancient Christians. When that happens, it’s usually because I’ve lost focus. Somewhere between my struggle and my reactions, I forget my role and what’s at stake—that this world won’t last forever, and once their time on earth ends, my friends and neighbors will spend eternity in one of two places—experiencing the joy of God’s presence in heaven or forever separated from Him in the darkness of hell.

When I remember that, my desire to self-protect and sock-pile fade as God’s love for His broken and sin-ravished world take hold.

Let’s talk about this! When you feel afraid, does your fear normally drive you to Jesus? How might focusing on Him, His heart for you and the world, and the gospel, change your response in the middle of your greatest chaos? Share your examples, stories, and victories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

If you struggle with fear (like, I believe, most of us do), I encourage you to come to our next Wholly Loved Bold and Brave event, hosted by Calvary Community Church in Lincoln. You can find out more and register HERE. (Or, contact me HERE to host your own Bold and Brave event.)

Before you go, make sure to sign up for Jennifer’s free quarterly newsletter (HERE)!

You’ll receive great content sent directly to your inbox (a short story, devotion, recipe, and more) cover image for study based on 1 Timothyalong with a free, 36-lesson study (ebook) based on 1 Timothy (sent separately via a clickable link in the follow-up welcome letter). Note: If you signed up for her newsletter but never received your free ebook, please contact me HERE.

Want Jennifer or one of her team members to come speak at your next women’s event? Contact her HERE. 

 

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When We Say No–Missing Out

It’s weighed heavy on my mind and heart for over fifteen years now–the day I said no. I was working out, minding my own business, in a crowded (and slightly smelly) Southern California gym. I went often, most every afternoon, as did a middle aged, disabled gentlemen. I don’t know his story, I didn’t even know his name, but I knew this–he was incredibly unhappy. He was always frowning, as if sending clear, “Do not approach,” signals. But one day, I felt a strong desire to pray for him. The more I thought about this, prayed for an out, the stronger the desire became.

I ignored God’s prompting that day, and I’ve regretted it ever since. I thought about that moment as I read Jana Kelley, author of Door to Freedom’s post below.

MISSING OUT

by Jana Kelley

Barbed-wire fences loomed on either side of me as I inched my car through the gates. I stopped at the guardhouse to show my volunteer badge and parked in the visitor section before making my way to one of several cottages. Nerves kept me alert as I crossed the lawn and entered the lobby. I was directed to a side room.

The juvenile detention center always made me nervous. My comfort zone waited for me somewhere far outside the confines

of this facility that housed troubled teens.

Every week, I joined two other ladies who also volunteered. One was the Bible study leader and the other lady, Kathy*, and I assisted her. Six to eight girls attended every week. We met as a group for the lesson and then divided for small group discussion and other planned activities.

As I waited for the girls to enter, I glanced at the white board on the wall. It hadn’t been erased from some previous group therapy session. Red and black marker spelled out the formative years of one of the participants: gender confusion, divorce, jail, victimization. All of this scrawled on the board for anyone’s perusal. I looked into the glazed eyes of the girls who entered the room. Medication kept most of them in a fog. I smiled at them, not expecting any smiles in return.

After the lesson, our leader called me and Kathy over.

“These two young women would like to pray to receive Jesus.” She gestured toward two of the girls then looked toward Kathy. “Can you help them do that?”

This made sense, of course, as the other volunteer had more experience than me. But she looked shocked.

“No,” she said. “I can’t do that.” She looked at me with frantic eyes. “Can you do it instead of me?”

I moved to where the two girls sat and, in simple words, explained how Jesus had taken the punishment we deserved and how He would forgive our sins if we believed in Him. That night those two girls prayed, asked Jesus to save them, and became my new sisters in Christ.

As I drove past the barbed fences and back to my comfort zone, I couldn’t help but wonder: “What happened back there?”

A Bible study volunteer was afraid to pray with others asking for salvation? Wasn’t that the “golden moment” for any believer? I felt blessed by the opportunity to guide two girls into the Kingdom. But I think that blessing was meant for the other lady. Her fear immobilized her at a most crucial time.

I learned a couple of things that night:

  • First, no amount of training enables us to do the Lord’s work if we don’t also obey the Spirit when it comes time to act.
  • Second, if I don’t step up when it’s my turn, the Lord may choose to give the blessing to someone else.

That night, I received the blessing of watching two girls receive salvation. But lest I become prideful, that night is also a reminder to me. I often give in to fear … that I’ll be laughed at, that I will be rejected, that I’m not good enough to do what the Lord asks. When I focus on fear and then refuse to listen and obey, I miss out on the blessing God has for me.

***

Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist University. She and her husband married a month after she graduated, and by their second anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. After 13 years living in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live. Jana is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a blogger, a contributor to Voices of the Faithful by Beth Moore (Books 1 &2) and has written a trilogy set in Northern Sudan. The third book will release in September. Jana loves to connect with her readers. You can learn more about her at janakelley.com.

 

Door to Freedom:

“It’s rough and it’s smooth. It’s dark and it’s light. It’s a masterpiece. It’s us. Here in Sudan. We are scared of it and drawn to it. There is an open door, and there is much opposition.”

In the dusty, Islamic country of Sudan, Mia, who is raising her family in a Muslim country, has learned to boldly share her faith. Rania, the daughter of a wealthy Sudanese Arab, seeks to find the reason for her sister’s sudden disappearance. Mia holds some of the answers, but both women quickly discover they must each walk through their own doors to freedom—the freedom that only comes when you trust God’s sovereignty more than man-made security.

Part of New Hope® Publishers’ line of contemporary missional fiction, Door to Freedom, the sequel to Side by Side, opens the reader’s eyes to modern-day persecution and the life of Muslims in Sudan. Based on real-life events, Door to Freedom also reveals some of the struggles that Christians face when living under Islamic law. The reader will be inspired to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith as well as for the salvation of the persecutors.

***

Let’s talk about this! When have you allowed fears or insecurities to hinder your obedience and what did you learn from this experience. OR, when have you chosen, despite your fear, to do something you felt God calling you to, and what was the result? In the example I shared at the beginning of this post, numerous fears kept me from obeying. It seemed strange to walk up to a stranger in a crowded gym and offer to pray. I worried I’d look like an idiot or that I’d offend him. But I’ve often wondered, what if the man was going through a tough time right at that moment, asking God if He cared or if He was there, and God wanted to answer those questions through me, or love that man through me?

I failed to obey. Because of my pride. Man, pride is such an ugly thing, isn’t it?

Your turn! Share your stories, examples, or perhaps words of encouragement with us in the comments below.

*Name changed for privacy purposes.

You may also enjoy:

Are You Teaching Fear or Faith

What or Whom Do You Fear

Choosing to Stay

Grow Up

We were created to live victorious, abundant, impactful lives, but so often, we allow fear to hold us back and hinder us from creating the ambassadors God designed us to be. And yet, we can live bold and brave. We can leave an eternal, life-changing mark on our world, and Wholly Loved wants to help you learn to do just that.

That’s why we’re launching the Bold and Brave conference. Stay tuned for more info, and “like” and “follow” our Facebook Page to stay on top of all our events.