Today, I’m going to talk to the children at church about fear. I’m doing a lesson on Paul and the time he went through a terrifying storm at sea. We’ll start the class by discussing what we’re afraid of – things like spiders and the dark.
This time of pandemic and quarantine has brought me to a place where I see my fears better. And there are so many of them! I fear saying or doing the wrong thing, which could set off a negative chain reaction. I fear failure and being inadequate. I fear having strong emotions that kidnap me. I fear disappointing someone, or them thinking badly of me. I fear conflict. I fear the loss of equilibrium and control.
You know, I don’t think of myself as anxious, but as I write this, I realize that sometimes it’s like I fear everything! And my life becomes about managing everything, so I can alleviate the fears.
But Jesus didn’t do that. That’s why I’m drawn to him. Today’s red-letter passage is a long time favorite of mine, because it helps me to have the right perspective.
Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” (John 7:16-18)
Jesus didn’t feel the need to manage his fears to please himself or others, and his words weren’t twisted by that. His teaching had no flavor of trying to make himself look impressive. He believed that everything he taught came from God, so there was no cause to get puffed up about it. His only motive was to bring glory to God.
And I love that he said that someone whose only motive is to bring glory to God is a person without any falseness. That’s what I want, not the discomfort of fears and needing to manage them. I want a purity that brings peace.
It’s just so wonderful to think about being completely true. And it’s wild to think that if I have fear, I’m being untrue. I’m being fooled by lies. When I’m anxious, the whole way I view the world is a fake construct. Deceit is present, down to the bone.
Here are two insights I have that really inspire me. First, that the reason Jesus could focus on glorifying God was because he wasn’t preoccupied with managing his fears. He had plenty of room to focus on God. So if we want to glorify God more, we have to make room to focus on him. We have to get rid of our fears. We have to change the way we look at the world, and not see it as full of threats.
And when this seems impossible, the second insight is that every time Jesus glorified God, God became bigger in his eyes, and what he might fear became smaller. If we glorify God a thousand times a day, we will be less and less tempted to fear the world.
And this brings me to two additional thoughts:
- That we have to look to God to meet every need, whether it’s to take care of a situation, or it’s for affirmation. Then we won’t feel the compulsion to manage our fear.
- That we have to be willing to go through tough stuff, or even humiliation, because we are God’s servant. And there again, we have to look to Him for the strength to get through it and be adequate to the challenge.
In closing, let’s pray.
Father, help us to see that if we fear, we’re living a lie.
Help us see the pure, shining truth that you are all that matters.
Help us glorify you 1,000 times a day, so we see how amazing you are, and we aren’t tempted to focus on our fears.
When life is hard, may we say, as Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” And then help us to trust, and hold your hand, as a child holds his father’s hand for comfort.
Help us to know that your grace is sufficient to get us through today, and that tomorrow will worry about itself.
Help us to find and live the purity that brings peace.
In Jesus’s name. Amen.