Fearful or Faithful?

faith fear

If I can help it, I rarely miss corporate worship on Sunday mornings. And not just because I pastor for a living. I’ve experienced more times than I can recount the reality of Psalm 63:2 – So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. God shows up stunningly more than not in the gatherings of His people for praise and community in ways He does not show up in private.

We experienced that this past Sunday at OGC. I preached a message called “The Tale of Two Trials” from John 18:12-27. You can listen to the audio here. John shows the flawless faithfulness of Jesus in the face of malice and betrayal. He remains faithful where the high priest proves malicious and Peter proves faithless. Rightly understood, the contrast in the text can take the breath away.

I led off with an illustration of a young Marine injured in the base bombing in October of 1983 in Beirut, Lebanon. It included reciting the corps’ motto – semper fi – always faithful.


Following the message, our lead worshipper, one of them more faithful men I’ve had the privilege of knowing, shared spontaneously prior to taking us into the final song. One of his sons is a Marine. Before long our country will deploy that young man to Afghanistan for a second time. Steve shared how he often gets asked how he deals with the anxiety related to his son’s service in harm’s way. He always says the same thing. “I believe God is sovereign. I could choose to be fearful. But because God is faithful, I choose to be faithful as well.”

You could feel the weight of the Spirit fall on our people. We beheld Him in His power and glory.

What’s the difference between living fearfully or faithfully? Steve got it right. It comes down to confidence in the sovereignty of God over all things and that He is never anything less than faithful. One of the best biblical examples I can cite for this comes from Acts 18:1-11.

After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by do-not-be-afraidtrade. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. 5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. 9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

I love v. 9. “Do not be afraid,” the Lord tells Paul. I rarely think of the apostle Paul as experiencing fear issues, but apparently the circumstances in Corinth unnerved him. The Lord needed to administer a booster shot of courage. How did He do that? He assured Paul that in His sovereign plan He had yet many more elect who would come to Christ and nothing would prevent that from happening. That confidence put eighteen more months of fuel for service in Paul’s missionary tank.

What challenges do you face on the family front, the ministry front, the vocational front, on whatever front? You can choose to live fearful in the face of those things or you can choose to live faithful. It comes down to whom you think controls all things and whether or not you can trust the Lord’s great faithfulness. You bet your life you can. He is always faithful.

Why This Cancer Survivor Loves Jesus

Every August since 2005 the same thing happens. I get nostalgic. For good reason.  The eight month of each year marks the anniversary of my finishing treatment for head and neck cancer. I tend to gravitate back to my journal from that year.

Here is a portion of my entry from August 7, 2005:

Felt nauseous much of the day, yesterday, but for the first time in a long while did not throw up [I learned to celebrate the slightest of victories]. I slept better last night too. Thanks be to God. [See what I mean?] I don’t think I was awake for more than an hour at any one stretch. I didn’t get up up yesterday until noon. Read the paper and then watched baseball. I was feeling pretty punk. Wondered if the anemia was affecting me. Nancy read me my Bible chapters [By God’s grace I managed to keep up with my through the Bible in a year reading]. I just didn’t feel up to it. Took a nap. Did some emails. We watched the celebration of Operation Mobilization honoring forty-five years of George and Drena Verwer’s ministry. It was exuberant, funny, touching, and inspiring all at the same time. The man has had a consistent, faithful run. I would really like to finish like that, however much time remains. Would you be gracious to me, Father, and allow that? Thank you for whatever is to come. Help me to be faithful. God is He who tests minds and hearts (Psalm 7:9) and He is righteous in all His ways.

God has answered that prayer, at least for the last eight years. I am exceedingly grateful. That’s one reason this cancer survivor loves Jesus. He answers prayer. Even if He had said no to my request for healing, I want to believe I still would love Him.

Yesterday I ran into a pastor friend of mine who suffered a bout with tongue cancer as well. It has been twenty years clean for him. He still runs the race well. I want to follow in his footsteps as well, Lord willing.

Lord, thank you for these eight years. I love you with all my heart. May I always do just that.

A Disciple's Renewal

At our Recharge men’s retreat this past weekend, our speaker closed with asking us to meditate upon this penetrating Valley of Vision prayer.

I pass it on to us all for our edification.

O My Saviour, help me.
I am so slow to learn, so prone to forget, so weak to climb;

I am in the foothills when I should be in the heights;
I am pained by my graceless heart,
my prayerless days,
my poverty of love,
my sloth in the heavenly race,
my sullied conscience,
my wasted hours,
my unspent opportunities.
I am blind while light shines around me:
take the scales from my eyes,
grind to dust the evil heart of unbelief.
Make it my chiefest joy to study thee,
meditate on thee,
gaze on thee,
sit like Mary at thy feet,
lean like John on thy breast,
appeal like Peter to thy love,
count like Paul all things dung.
Give me increase and progress in grace so that there may be;
more decision in my character,
more vigor in my purposes,
more elevation in my life,
more fervor in my devotion,
more constancy in my zeal.
As I have a position in the world,
keep me from making the world my position;
May I never seek in the creature what can be found only in the creator;
Let not faith cease from seeking thee until it vanishes into sight.
Ride forth in me, thou King of kings and Lord of lords,
that I may live victoriously, and in victory attain my end.

Fuel for the Fire of Faithful Ministry

Today’s message from 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

I summarized the theme of the text this way: the victorious reality of our future resurrection anchors us in an unshakeable constancy in ministry. Work for God fueled by the fire of a gospel-resurrection hope will be an amiable, abounding, arduous, assured, and awarded kind of work.

Here are Charles Spurgeon’s words with which I closed:

Take this henceforth for your motto—All for Jesus, always for Jesus, everywhere for Jesus. He deserves it. I should not so speak to you if you had to live in this world only. Alas, for the love of Jesus, if thou wert all and nought beside, O earth! But there is another life—live for it. There is another world—live for it. There is a resurrection, there is eternal blessedness, there is glory, there are crowns of pure reward—live for them, by God’s grace live for them. The Lord bless you, and save you. Amen.