Mission-driven leaders know, often all too well, the debilitating effects of fear, because we so willingly launch ourselves into the unknown. We face constant fears of rejection, criticism, and lack of resources; we are regularly confronted with the fear of not being enough, not fitting into the right box, and not following the right system.
As long as we are alive, we will experience fear. Just as “to err is human” (Alexander Pope), so, too, is it human to feel afraid. Thanks to the fall, we carry fear in our very bones. It is our daily human reality to know that, at any moment, everyone we care about, everything we have worked for, could be taken away. Even more, if we are truly pursuing the mission that has been entrusted to us and partnering in God’s redemptive work on earth, then we are certain to be confronted with the walls that fear builds. As author Jon Acuff writes in his book START, “Regardless of what you want to do or who you are, fear will always see you as wholly unqualified for anything you ever dream or attempt.”
But what if, rather than attempt to defeat our fears, we embraced them head-on? What if we saw fear, not as an enemy to our faith, but as a spark for its flame?
The gospel of Mark tells the story of a father named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, whose daughter was so sick that Jairus was afraid she would die. In his fear, he grasped for faith – faith in a miracle worker named Jesus, who had healed others.
Jairus ran to find Jesus and begged him to come to his home and prevent his daughter’s death. Jesus agreed, but on their way, he was interrupted by a bleeding woman. While Jesus stopped to care for this woman, a messenger from Jairus’ house arrived. “Your daughter is dead. Don’t trouble Jesus to come any further.”
The father’s greatest fear had been realized: his daughter has died. They didn’t get there in time. Jairus’ faith must have felt wasted. He had left his daughter’s side to bring help, but it amounted to nothing. And now, his fear a reality, nothing more can be done.
Rather than comfort the grieving father, Jesus challenges him: “Do not fear, only believe.”
What does Jesus mean? Jairus had been afraid before his daughter died, and he had believed then that Jesus could prevent death. Wasn’t that the time to say, “do not fear, only believe” and then commend Jairus for acting on his faith by seeking Jesus?
(oh, friends, God’s wisdom is not ours!)
Instead, Jesus shows Jairus (and us) that the moment we are forced to face our fears is the exact moment we are given a powerful choice.
If Jairus chooses to remain afraid of death, then he returns home to a dead daughter. But if he chooses to believe that Jesus can still help him, he will receive far more than he dared imagine possible. NOW, when all hope appears lost, is the real test of Jairus’ fear and faith.
Silently, Jairus leads Jesus to his home, where a crowd of mourners has gathered. Jesus tells the group that the girl is only asleep, but they laugh at him. So Jesus keeps those who did not believe his words outside, and enters the house with only a few disciples and Jairus. Immediately, he touches the daughter’s hand, commands her to get up, and she does.
When Jairus thought death was the end, he chose faith in Christ and witnessed a resurrection from the dead. He thought he was asking for a sick girl to be healed, but instead, he received a dead girl brought back to life. All miracles may look the same to God, but from a human perspective, witnessing a dead girl live is far greater than seeing a sick person become well. Jesus let Jairus’ greatest fear come true, and then offered him something better than what he had initially hoped.
This, then, is the key lesson for us: when we are confronted with our fears (as we surely shall be), and we choose to keep moving forward in faith, then we get MORE. Whatever faith Jairus had in Jesus before his daughter died, it was exponentially multiplied when she was resurrected. Can we imagine how else his life would dramatically shift after this event?
This should give us hope when our own dreams seem dead or our worst fears consume us. From Jairus, we learn the process –
- Be afraid
- Bring that fear to Jesus
- Let the fear become a reality
- Choose to have faith that Jesus can still work
- Get more when Jesus works where we cannot
Our temptation is to let #3 be the end, but there is no end with God. As long as it is called today, he is at work for our good (Romans 8:28), and he is able to do far more abundantly than we imagine (Ephesians 3:20), even taking our greatest messes and transforming them into beautiful victories (Isaiah 61:3). He knows that this life will bring its troubles to our door, and he stands ready to answer them with faith (John 16:33). Yes, to fear is human, but to have faith is divine, for fear is of the flesh, but faith comes by the Spirit of God (Ephesians 2:8). When we offer Jesus our lost, dead, broken lives, he gives them back to us in greater measure.
My favorite prayer is, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). May we offer this prayer to God in our most fearful moments and receive his greater blessing in return.
Please share with me! I would love to know where you are being asked to choose between faith and fear right now. How are you being encouraged to choose well? Or, where have you seen this choice play out in your past? How does that affect the choices you make now?
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