In this post: when should we be afraid, what does overcoming fear look like, and what does fear have to do with stewardship.
When Should We Be Afraid?
Tell me if you’ve heard this phase before: “Well, I would be afraid that…”
I’ve heard that phrase all my life from more folks than I can count. That little phrase sums up the sober relationship so many of us have to the unknown: immediate fear because it is unknown.
What causes us to fear? Consider the following from Wikipedia:
Fear is a feeling induced by perceived danger or threat that occurs in certain types of organisms, which causes a change in metabolic and organ functions and ultimately a change in behavior, such as fleeing, hiding or freezing from perceived traumatic events. Fear in human beings may occur in response to a specific stimulus occurring in the present, or in anticipation or expectation of a future threat perceived as a risk to body or life.
Fear comes from the perception of what can harm us. We learn what to fear through experience. However, we do not have to be in danger to experience fear — just the anticipation of danger is enough to trigger a fear response.
When I say to myself “I would be afraid,” I’ve come to realize that I’m indulging two dangerous attitudes about when to be afraid:
- That it is alright to be afraid because an event/thing/person/etc. is uncertain (i.e., unknowable and uncontrollable).
- That it is alright to be afraid ahead of time (i.e., to worry).
These attitudes are dangerous because they don’t reflect the reality in which believers walk. Uncertainty does not always correlate with Murphy’s Law. Likewise, the future is not a smorgasbord of chaos about to unfold on your front door, especially in the face of Jesus’ assurances that he is in control.
Overcoming Fear. Upgrading Your Truth
Fear is learned, and rightly so. Fear keeps us alive. Proper fear is healthy and normal. However, living in constant fear and worry is not normal or proper (at least for believers). Overcoming fear requires learning a new lesson.
Scripture reveals a reality that we would not otherwise apprehend, especially about God. Experience teaches us that the unknown will harm us. Scripture teaches us that God knows and is in control of everything. Experience tells us that we can only rely on ourselves. Scripture reveals that God is faithful to our every true need. Experience teaches us to put our faith in people and objects of power. Scripture repeatedly calls us to fear God alone, and to trust Him in the face of uncertainty, pain, and persecution.*
What Does Fear Have to Do with Stewardship?
A stewardship is a commission to a servant to manage something on an owner’s behalf. When we fear men, circumstances, or uncertainty, we will not discharge the calling that God has placed on our life with the same vigor or effect as one who fears God alone.
I have seen this in my own life. As one called to minister to the church, I am often tempted to be fearful of what church members will do. My experience with several church conflicts tempts me to worry and “hedge my bets” when it comes to ministry. But I’m continually learning to go to the Lord with this fear first, because my ministry –my stewardship– is usually at its least effective when I am embroiled in fears about the people that I serve.
Satan uses inappropriate fears to drive a wedge between the people we are called to love and the God who calls us to love him. Fears and anxieties are real, but contrary to the temptation, they are not insurmountable. Fear can be overcome. Though Satan may call us cowards, we are more than conquerors in the Lord.