Fear: Our Clear and Present Danger
Fear is a daily battle that everyone in ministry is called to fight. Because we all tend at points to suffer from God amnesia, because we live in a fallen world and do not write our own stories, being ruled by fear is always a clear and present danger. There are moments when all of us get captured. When all of us get sidetracked. When fear more powerfully shapes ministry than faith. When dread is more powerful than trust. When we are overwhelmed by our weaknesses or weighed down by circumstances. When fear makes us way too controlling. When fear silences us at a time when we need to speak and causes us to speak up when we should be silent.
So, it is vital for all of us to ask, "What in the world should we do about fear?" Let me suggest four things.
1. Humbly own your fears.
Fear is never defeated by denying its existence. I know it's hard for someone called to lead others in the faith to admit you sometimes do things as a direct result of unfaith. Own your fear and run to the only one who can defeat it. Confess that you don't always remember his presence and glory. Confess those places where you assess situations as if he didn't exist. Own the fact that you often love your comfort more than you love his glory. Confess that you are sometimes more in awe of people than of him. And as you confess, rest in the surety of his acceptance, forgiveness, empowerment, and deliverance. His grace guarantees a day when fear will be no more.
2. Confess to those places where fear has produced bad decisions and wrong responses.
Admit to those places of duplicity, favoritism, and compromise that resulted from replacing vertical awe with horizontal fear. Confess where you have not lived out the gospel in courage. Confess to the people who, in fear, you sinned against by silence, gossip, control, disloyalty, and idolatry. Ask God to give you eyes to see the places where you are susceptible to fear and need to grow in faith.
3. Pay attention to your meditation.
So many difficult burdens can capture your mind in local church ministry. There are so many things you could worry about. There are so many messy relationships, unfinished conversations, unfinished agendas, and unknown conclusions. In intensely practical ways, you are always living between the already and the not yet. So it is vital in ministry to always be aware of what is capturing your meditation. What grabs your thoughts when you're driving or when you have a few quiet moments? Do you live Abraham's paradigm, not denying the existence of trouble, but prohibiting trouble from dominating and controlling your meditation? Does God loom so large in your thoughts that you grow strong in faith, even in the middle of what is unexpected and difficult?
4. Preach the gospel to yourself.
Because there will be many times when no one knows what you are thinking, you need to be committed to preaching the gospel to yourself. You need to preach a gospel that finds its hope, not in your understanding and ability, but in a God who is grand and glorious in every way and who has invaded your life and ministry by his grace. You need to preach a gospel to yourself that does not find its rest in you getting it right, but in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. You need to preach a gospel to yourself that does not get its motivation from human success, respect, and acclaim, but from plenteous grace that you could never have earned. Tell yourself again and again that there is no pit of life or ministry so deep that Jesus isn't deeper. You need to call yourself to rest and faith when no one else knows that private sermon is needed.
May grace give you a ministry shaped by living faith and not by the long catalog of fears that greet each of us this side of our final home.