I believe life to be a struggle. And I think its that way because that is the way God designed it. He wants us to struggle so as to encourage us to put our trust in Him. When things go smoothly, its much more difficult to admit your need for Him. But when things are falling apart, you are forced into His arms confessing your need for Him.
In leadership, there are points in your journey that God purposely puts there to reawaken the leader to his need for God. Sometimes a leader can become so reliant on their giftings that they will rely more on themselves than they do on God.
Godly leadership must always come from a heart of knowing that we are utterly dependent on God to accomplish his calling in our lives. When we take the calling that He has given to us and try to accomplish it in our own strength it will always fail.
Think about the story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. Abraham was given a prophetic promise from God – a calling. God had given Abraham and Sarah the promise of a son and truly more than that, a promise of offspring that would be innumerable.
But after years of believing for that promise, they began to doubt. It was not a lot of doubt, but they began to doubt. And when doubt creeps in, one of the tendencies in leadership is to try to “help God out” and in our strength try to bring about the promises of God rather than waiting for God to fulfill what He has promised us.
So you want to be a leader? Sounds like fun, right? Well for many people, leadership is something that they aspire to be a part of, but never quite make it. They spend their lives studying and wishing that one day someone would put them into a position of leadership. They really want to show the world what they’ve got.
The problem is a lot of people never get past that point. They get bogged down in the day to day schedule and never actually get that opportunity. And what they fail to realize is, leadership has very little to do with your title, but it has more to do with your character. You can be a leader without ever actually owning a leadership title.
Leaders are not born, they are grown. I’ve heard people speak of another person and say something like, “That guy is a born leader.” And while they may have some wonderful talents, leadership isn’t something you are born to do. It’s who you are. It’s your inner character. It’s something you work at. Leadership is not something that you are appointed to. Now, don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of people appointed to a position of leadership and later it was discovered that their character wasn’t up to snuff. But, in honesty, they were appointed because they had some giftings, they didn’t earn that title.
Too many people within the church are more concerned about elevating giftings and not character, which is why we see so many leaders falling into sin. They may be extremely gifted speakers, but their character has been completely ignored. God is more concerned with your character.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Jesus gives us a great comparison on wise and foolish leaders. Wise leaders will build upon the rock, foolish ones will build upon the sand. We know that storms will come. That’s a given. The question is whose house will be standing once the storm hits? Well we all know the answer, the one who built his house upon the rock. If you have been to church for any length of time, you know the rock is Jesus. But here’s what people miss about this story, the very first sentence…”therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man…”
The context of this verse is that it’s located at the very end of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has spent an entire sermon talking about character. He has spoken of being meek, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, loving your enemies, giving, etc. This verse ties all of that together. If you want to be a wise builder, you won’t just hear the words that Jesus has spoken, but you will do them.
James, the brother of Jesus, encourages us to not just be hearers of the word, but to be doers (James 1:22). If we only hear the words of Jesus and never put them into practice, then we are being a foolish leader. Too many leaders are busy doing stuff, but they aren’t busy working on character. Get rid of your pride and spend time before the Lord asking Him to transform you into a merciful leader. Ask Him to make you into a peacemaker. Stop spending some much time working on your gifting and spend more time working on your character. That’s what true leadership is all about.
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13
The Bible is filled with tough verses to interpret. Many verses are tough even for seasoned Biblical scholars. If you have been a Christian for any length of time you know that we believe that salvation is not works based. Meaning that no matter how hard you try, you cannot work your way into right standing before God. Your good works are as dung before God. He accounts them as nothing. We need the perfect work of Jesus Christ to be counted as holy, so as Christians we put all of our faith in Him and his finished work on the cross of Calvary.
In light of that, this verse in Philippians can be a tough one to figure out. At first it seems to imply that our salvation is based upon what we do. But this is not what Paul is saying at all. If you have read Paul’s letters, he clearly states that salvation is not based on works, but on faith alone in Christ alone.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
So Paul is not saying that we need to work for our salvation. What he is saying is that our salvation is working in us and it is our responsibility to let that process work through us. It’s not a completed process. So Paul is encouraging us to work out our salvation.
In one sense our salvation is complete. Jesus finished the work of salvation on the cross. He died for our sins. That is complete. But in the sense Paul is speaking of here, our salvation has not worked out completely in us. Salvation is a process. Once the process is started in our lives, salvation links up with sanctification. The reason these two link up is to work in us and to make us more like Jesus. The goal of salvation is not simply to save us, but with the process of sanctification, it is to conform us into the image of Jesus.
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” – Romans 8:29
Now the question is how are we to work out our salvation? Paul says “with fear and trembling.” Now why do you suppose he uses these two words to describe this process? I believe it is because that is how we enter into the kingdom in the first place. Remember, God does not give grace to the proud. The fear of the Lord produces humility in us and that holy fear is what Paul is referring to in this passage.
Once we are saved, we can become so comfortable with God, that we forget to have reverence toward Him. While the Bible encourages us to approach his throne with confidence, that doesn’t mean that we throw out any reverence for His name and who He is. We must always remember that we are drawing near to a holy and perfect God. He has grace and love towards us, but we show our love toward Him by showing Him respect. So Paul encourages us to work out our salvation with this fear in mind.
Some people fear change. They love the normalcy of life. They look at life and hope that everything will always stay the same. They do not embrace the many changes in life. After all, if things are good, why would you want things to change?
I heard a wise person say once that the only certain thing in life is uncertainty. Or another way of looking at that is that the only thing in life that stays the same is change. Change always happens around us. We grow older, we get married, we have children, our children grow up, we retire — things change.
Change is a healthy part of life. We enjoy the benefits of new seasons in our life because of change. For example, when my wife and I first got married, I wasn’t sure it could get any better than those first few years! We lived in a condo on the water and we spent our evenings taking walks down by the water with our little dog. It was very picturesque. And even though we both worked a lot, when I was home, it felt like we were on vacation together.
But change is inevitable. We knew we couldn’t stay in the place forever. We wanted to own a house and have children. So we moved and had four wonderful children and they brought us even more joy than we could have imagined. So things changed around us, but God was good to us in the change.
Now external change is one thing, but internal change is another. Internal change, or change in the heart, is much harder to come by. I’ve known people will a lot of self-inflicted problems get fed up and decide to move to a different city. What they soon find is that their problems have followed them to their new destination! They never addressed the internal issues, so the change in external situations didn’t result in the happiness they were seeking.
Now in church, we are no different. Many people hop from church to church and are full of complaints. They leave one church because of some minor issue that they have blown out of proportion when in reality, the real problem is not in the church, it’s inside themselves.
Fear is a powerful motivator. Corrupt governmental regimes have seen this for years. Kings and Presidents have used fear to motivate people to do what they wanted. Motivation from fear is much easier to accomplish than motivation from inspiration. The United States just recently went through an election of our political leaders in 2020. This election was marked by fear on both sides of the aisle – people being motivated to vote for or against a particular candidate because of fear.
And while 2020 was the most recent example, this tactic has been used before. As the Bible says, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc 1:9). The enemy of our souls uses this same tactic to create servants through fear. We become enslaved to the flesh and to the enemy over many years by being bombarded by fear. This is a life principle: You will serve whatever it is that you fear.
The Bible connects service and fear on several different occasions. It’s not a coincidence. God knows that what you fear, you will also serve. Now it is important to reiterate that the spirit of fear and the fear of the Lord are two different types of fear – the former being profane and the latter is holy reverence. The spirit of fear seeks servants through control, the fear of the Lord creates servants through love.
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,” Deuteronomy 10:12
The fear of the Lord in Deuteronomy is connected with walking in his ways or holy living, with loving God and with serving him fully. God isn’t asking us to fear Him in order to control us, He is reminding us here of who He is. When we see God seated in his proper place, when we get a revelation of who He is, then we will experience a healthy amount of holy fear or reverence toward Him.
Many times in the Bible, when a prophet or someone gets a vision of the Lord, what is the first thing that happens? They fall to the ground like a dead man. When we truly see the Lord for who He is, when we get a small taste of His glory, the fear of the Lord swells up within us and we fall down before Him.
Sadly, too often in churches today, we don’t see a fear of the Lord. What we see is prideful arrogance. We won’t even bow our knee in church because we are more concerned about what others may think about us, rather than what God thinks. We certainly wouldn’t want to lie prostrate on the ground for the entire church to see. In our arrogance, we stand in pride and as a result, the glory of the Lord doesn’t fill our houses of worship like it did in the Bible. God doesn’t reveal his glory to a prideful people, but to a reverent one.
If we truly want to live as free men and women, we must pray to the Lord and ask Him to rid us of that spirit of fear that is seeking to keep us in slavery. God is more than willing to break us out of that bondage. Jesus was anointed to set the captives free. Don’t let another day pass without letting God set you free. Pray today, “Lord, I am in bondage to the spirit of fear. I have been a slave to the fear of man and I need you to set me free. I cannot do this myself. I need you to set me free. Thank you Lord Jesus for saving me and setting me free today, in Jesus name I pray, amen.”
When thinking about the fear of the Lord and how we are supposed to keep a holy reverence toward the Lord, I am reminded as to why this is difficult for many of us to do.
When God created mankind, he created us in His image (Gen. 1:27). God made us to reflect Him. We are to mirror his attributes, but sadly because of sin, we are a dim mirror. And rather than mirroring the creator, we tend to commit idolatry. In our sin, we create a god after our image, instead of reflecting the one who created us.
I’ve spoken with many people who do this very thing and justify it. Whenever we are faced with a truth from the Scripture and say something along the lines of, “well I don’t believe God is really like that” or “My god would never do something like that,” we have created a god in our own image. What we’ve created isn’t a god, but a poor reflection of ourselves.
This form of idolatry is prevalent in our world today, because we would rather worship ourselves than the God who gave us life. We would rather God be like us, than for us to have to change and be like Him. This is the heart of all idolatry – creating a god that can serve us, rather than a God that we serve.
When this sort of idolatry has formed in our heart, we struggle to do as the Scriptures command, which is to treat God as holy. We have made him as unholy as we are. This is the opposite of salvation. In salvation, we are made holy by him. In idolatry, He is made unholy through us.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. We cannot gain knowledge or wisdom from a god created after our own imaginations. That god cannot impart things like wisdom to us because he doesn’t really exist. We need the God who created all things to impart wisdom and knowledge to us and this only comes when we treat Him as holy and set apart.
After writing on the spirit of fear for the past few posts, I wanted to spend some time discussing a holy fear – The Fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is mentioned throughout the Bible and many people get confused about it.
We live in an age when it’s popular to tell others that “you have a friend in Jesus.” And while, this is absolutely correct, its still incomplete. We do have a friend in Jesus, but we should also have a deep holy respect for who He is – the Lord of all creation.
It’s an easy pitfall to become too casual with God. While we are his friend and through prayer we can talk to him as Moses did – like a man talks to his friend (Exodus 33:11), we are also supposed to fear Him. The Bible is quite clear about how important this is, yet we typically ignore these passages.
“The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.” Proverbs 19:23
In Church, we hear pastors preach on the fact that Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly, but most of the time, we don’t hear them connect it to this verse. In order to find that life that they are speaking of, we must embrace a holy fear. The fear of the Lord leads to life. That means in order to get to that abundant life, we must first walk down a path of fear, but this isn’t your ordinary fear.
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” – Proverbs 29:25
There are many fears, but the fear of man, is one in which everyone has to do battle with on some level. Fear is a spirit and one of its key elements is distrust. Fear seeks to sow seeds of distrust into your heart. These seeds, when they are allowed to grow, form into a fruit known as the fear of man.
When we read the Book of Acts, one of the things that strikes me the most is that the disciples prayed for boldness constantly. They even prayed for boldness immediately after showing great amounts of boldness by preaching in a certain place and getting arrested. In Acts 4, we read about the arrest of Peter and John after preaching with boldness in Solomon’s Portico. The inspiring part of this story is that while they showed great amounts of boldness in front of the Sadducees, the first thing they did when they got released was to pray for more boldness.
“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” – Acts 4:29. The disciples knew that boldness was something that ebbed and flowed. It is a constant battle to fight against fear. The fear of man seeks to silence you. We know this to be incredibly dangerous because this is one area in which the gospel is spread. We spread the gospel by speaking it, by preaching it, by teaching it and by singing it.
As we look across our culture today, the fear of man permeates everything. We have cancel culture, we have people who are being deplatformed and we have people who are simply ostracized for speaking an opposing point of view. And while most of this in the US is centered around politics, it has certainly affected the mindset of all people and kept them from sharing their opinions openly.
It should come as no surprise to us that fear, which is a spirit, would partner with other spirits when attacking us. The spirit of fear loves to partner with a lying spirit when trying to attack the children of God.
Fear’s power comes from it’s ability to control you. What better way to control someone than to lie to them? Fear wants to control you. And it does that through deception.
There are a couple of interesting things about lying. The first is that lies typically have some element of truth in them. In order for a lie to be believable, they must at least appear real. If someone says the sky is green, you simply dismiss whoever said it. The lie must have an appearance of truth.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” 2nd Timothy 1:7
We are certainly living in interesting times. All around we are faced with new things to worry and fret over. Whether it be viruses or economic difficulties or even the future. There are plenty of thoughts that can capture us in fear.
For the longest time, I thought the way to overcome fear was to just be bolder. You know, the old pull yourself up by the bootstraps mentality. I can be like that from time to time. Just man up and face those fears!
But as I was reading through 2nd Timothy recently, I was struck by this verse in a way that it hadn’t struck me before. Fear is a spirit. And the answer to spiritual attacks is never just “stop being scared” or “be bolder.”
When you find yourself in a spiritual attack, the first thing you should do is pray. As Christians, we need to be people of prayer. When we pray, we are reminded as to who is in charge and it most certainly isn’t the spirit of fear. God is in charge! And our first response should always be to turn to Him.
I know this isn’t always easy to do. When you find yourself surrounded by fear, typically the first thing we do is retreat. We look to run and hide. I know people who are “doing church at home” because they are full of fear. Most of them do not even see it. These same people go to work and visit stores and even go out to eat, but they won’t attend church. Many Christians do not really believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain!
We need to be reminded that it is God who is in control. He holds our lives in His hands. We don’t control life or death, He does! When we pray, we gain perspective. We humble ourselves and lift Him up. It’s a two-part process. We realize that we are low and that He is mighty!
The next thing we should realize is that we are commanded by Paul in his treatise on spiritual warfare in 2nd Corinthians 10:5 to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” This isn’t an option! It’s a command. Paul is trying to help us fight spiritual battles. There are two things I want you to notice in this:
1. We need to take our thoughts captive. This means we capture our thoughts. We don’t let them run free. They aren’t free to just run us over. They are put into bondage. We bind them.
2. Paul says every thought. That means that not one thought should be rebelling against Christ’s authority. Your thoughts…your mind…your very being are all subject to God and his sovereignty. He owns them. Every one of them.
Paul is right. It’s easy to let our thoughts run away with us. Our thoughts typically take us captive! Isn’t that how you feel when you are facing a fearful situation? Like you are being held prisoner by your fears? That’s because you aren’t seeing this as a spiritual battle! Take your thoughts captive man or woman of God!
The last thought I want to leave you with is probably the most important — The Bible is not silent on how we are to deal with the spirit of fear. The Bible tells us exactly how to get rid of it! The Apostle John in his first letter tells us that we are not to “believe every spirit, but test the spirits…” (1st John 4:1). John is telling us that spirits will lie to us. And most of the time, that is exactly how the spirit of fear attacks us…with lies! The second thing it tells is that we are to test the spirits to see if it is from God or not. Not everything spiritual is from God and that’s John’s point. John goes on though and addresses fear head on and he tells exactly how to get rid of fear. It’s driven away by perfect love!
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1st John 4:18
Perfect love is what drives out fear. What is perfect love? It’s the love of God. You loving God and God loving you is what drives out fear. Why? Because inside of God’s love is the fullness of peace. Inside of His grace there is no room for fear. God’s love for you is perfect and in it is freedom from judgment and death.
So the question I have for you is this…are you abiding in His perfect love today?