The Bible says: “God has given us all we need for life and godliness” [2 Peter 1:3]. I emphasise all because God doesn’t exaggerate. Pause and think about that for a minute; as children of God, we have all we need to live an abundant life that also pleases God. I remember listening to a preacher a while ago who stressed the difference between being given a gift and receiving that gift. The latter is an act of will; it requires proactivity on the part of the recipient to lay hold of what’s on offer. Otherwise, the benevolence of the giver doesn’t profit the recipient. For instance, God gave His Son to the world [John 3:16], but many are yet to receive Him. So, if it’s true that God has given us all we need for life and godliness, have you received it yet?
Peter’s statement is unequivocal: a child of God should lack nothing – spiritually, emotionally, physically, financially or otherwise. Quite simply, there’s no lack in God’s economy. However, I’d posit that isn’t the lived experience of most Christians. It certainly isn’t mine yet. So, where does the problem lie? Is it with God, Scripture or us, because there has to be an explanation? We should never be satisfied with claiming biblical promises which aren’t evident in our lives. After all, God calls us to be living epistles [2 Corinthians 3:2]. How can that be possible if God’s word and promises aren’t manifest in our lives?
On a recent family holiday at a theme park, I observed a transformation in my children that taught me a great deal. My kids have a natural aversion to rides. Like me, they aren’t thrill seekers. So, on the first day of our holiday, they were both too scared to attempt most of the rides, which, in a theme park, severely limits the amount of fun you can have. My son and I had a little chat after he’d refused to go on yet another ride. I told him I wasn’t a big fan of rides either, but this was an opportunity for him to experience something unique. He could either let his fears rob him of this experience, or muster a little courage and leap into the unknown.
Watching my son overcome his fear was a wonderful parenting moment. He couldn’t stop raving about his experience to his little sister, who eventually followed suit. By the end of the holiday, both kids had so mastered their fears that they went on the roughest ride in the park; a rollercoaster in a dark vault with huge drops. Now, they can’t stop talking about all the rides they enjoyed. It was an instructive turnaround. If they hadn’t overcome their fears, they would’ve gone through the holiday only experiencing a snippet of what the park had to offer. Worse still, they would never have known what they missed out on. Fear would have robbed them of enjoying an experience already paid for by their parents.
Fear is a stifling inhibitor that can become a great enemy to Christians and non-Christians. Most of our fears are psychological, and are often embedded in our paradigms through nurture or experience. These paradigms consciously or unconsciously influence our decision-making. So, if our fears remain unchecked, they’ll likely rob us of wonderful experiences. Not only does fear hold us back, but it can also lure us into bad decisions. Whether it’s the fear of missing out, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, or even the fear of our accomplishments, sustained success is improbable without overcoming our fears.
Fear crept into the human experience when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God [Genesis 3:6-10], and for Christians, fear stands in stern opposition to faith. Since we can only receive many of God’s gifts by faith, fear can stop us from experiencing these lavish blessings and provisions bestowed on us [Ephesians 1:3]. Unfortunately, many of us avoid situations which force us to confront our fears. We make elaborate excuses, pretend everything is under control, extricate ourselves from relationships which may require authenticity or accountability, etc. Just as having faith is a choice manifested in our decisions and actions [James 2:14-26], refusing to face our fears is also an act of will, and God doesn’t override our will.
Scripture repeatedly instructs us not to be afraid, but one occasion stands out in the first chapter of Joshua. After Moses died, Joshua became Israel’s new leader. Joshua must have been overwhelmed because while commissioning him, God commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous three times [Joshua 1:1-9]. Rather than being frightened and discouraged by what lay ahead, Joshua was to remember that God was with him. God also instructed Joshua to hold on to the promises he’d received, meditate on them and diligently obey His word. Doing so would guarantee Joshua’s success and prosperity.
That formula God gave Joshua remains valid today [2 Corinthians 1:20]. The devil knows that too, and he’ll use our fears to cheat us out of God’s promises, usually through bad decisions. He knows that if we act on what God said with faith, not what we see, feel or think, God must keep His word. Since he knows he can’t stop God from keeping His promises, his only alternative is to prevent us from obeying God. Consequently, we must guard our minds diligently to prevent fear from gaining a foothold [Proverbs 4:23] and never forget that the ultimate antidote for fear is faith in God [John 14:1].
The devil can’t stop me from making decisions, but I can let him adversely influence my choices. So, I must choose always to be strong and courageous, even when it’d be legitimate to be fearful. That will please God [Hebrews 11:6], and I’ll enjoy the provisions He’s given me for life and godliness.