Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Worse than Death

Originally posted Tuesday, September 21, 2004

One of the things I inherited from my father is a love of westerns. I particularly love the stories written by Louis L’amour. One of my favorite books is a collection of short stories entitled West of Dodge. The main reason why I think I like this book so much is because many of the stories seemed to contain the truth that John Eldredge wrote about in Wild at Heart. These are stories of what it means to be a man. The story I think I connected with the most is the story To Make a Stand. The story contains the following scene.

Hurley knew death then. He knew the Talbots were behind him, and he knew there were four of them, and he knew he was fairly caught.

But he was calm.

That, of all things, was the most astonishing. There were, he knew in that moment, worse things than death, and there were few things worse than fear itself.

He turned slowly. “It’s my fight, Benton,” he said. “You get back in bed.”

Fear is a huge life robber. Fear paralyzes us from doing what we need to do. We have a fear of rejection so we are careful not to reveal too much about ourselves, and the result is that we miss out on the close relationships we need for life. We fear ridicule so we tone down the message we have for other people rather than risk stepping on their toes. We fear looking like a fool so we avoid new situations rather than trying to expand our experiences. Fear keeps us back from going where God wants us to go.

Think about how fear kept a generation of Israelites out of the Promised Land. The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt, they had passed through the Red Sea, they had received the Ten Commandments, and they had witnessed God at work. The nation gets to the borders of the Promised Land and Moses decided to send out 12 spies. They reported back that the land was very good, but it was controlled by people who were big and strong. Ten of the spies had fear in their hearts and advised against moving into the land. The other two spies, Caleb and Joshua, urged the people to follow God into the Promised Land; “Let’s go at once and take the land. We can certainly conquer it!” (Numbers 13:30; NLT).

Why were Joshua and Caleb so confident about conquering the land? The rest of Israel had witnessed the same miracles, the same power of God, as Joshua and Caleb had. God’s power was not a mystery to the Israelites. Joshua and Caleb had seen the same fortified cities and strong people the other 10 spies saw. The impossibility of the task had not escaped Joshua and Caleb. The difference was that the ten spies allowed their hearts to be ruled by fear, and that fear spread to the rest of the people. Caleb and Joshua allowed their hearts to be ruled by faith, and that caused them to live by courage.

Miracles and examples of God’s power will not extinguish the fear in our lives. Fear is present anytime there is a risk involved in what is before us. What allows us to have courage, to do the right thing even though we are afraid, is trusting in God’s power and promises. Courage comes because we are confident that God is in control and trust that whatever happens to us that He will use the experience for good in our lives.

That generation of Israelites missed out on the Promised Land. Their fear held them back from experiencing what God had in store for them. When we allow our fear to dominate our lives we too miss out on what God has for us. What are you missing out on because of your fear?

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9; ESV).

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