Most of my life, heights have bothered me. I could stand on an edge with a railing, but not too close. I could not watch movies or television shows with actors on the side of tall buildings, like Tom Cruise on Dubai’s tallest or dizzying shots of mountain climbers or skiers.
We went to Italy In May and one day drove from Florence to the Mediterranean on the freeway then back through the mountain roads. For the most part, I was on the cliff side of the car. For the most part, there were no guard rails. For the most part, I was terrified. I’d never been that high except in an airplane and while it was a clear day, the ‘bottom’ was often too far away to see or identify. I wanted to shut my eyes, but for some reason, that made my heart pound even harder. It was the worst “10-ticket ride” I’ve ever had!
However, this lofty experience did one positive thing; it cured my fear of heights. It took a while because for several nights I had bad dreams of soaring off a cliff into bottomless space, but now heights are not a big issue.
This trip and subsequent thoughts about it often remind me that God is not the author of fear . . .
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:5–14, italics mine)
This week, several people shared with me their life situations and concerns. At least two of them are filled with fears, some over life-threatening possibilities, and some over loss of control and other losses. Their stories brought home to me the reality that fear is a slave driver. It was holding them in bondage, keeping them from enjoying life to the full, just as my fear kept me from enjoying the vast splendor of that Italian mountain range.
Paul writes to Timothy and reminds him that God gave him faith, and that he needed to fan that spark into a flame, building it with the knowledge that faith comes with a spirit of power, love and self-control. Power is the ability to rise above natural forces and be victorious in situations because God is with me. Love is the attitude that is more concerned with others to the point that self-concerns are simply put aside. Self-control is being sensible and wise, not living in the flesh with it fears and foibles, but in the awareness of God’s power and ability to take care of me.
This passage says fearless living means no hesitation about sharing the Gospel out of being fearful of what people will think or do. it means no worry about losing my salvation or losing anything else that God has entrusted to me. It is being able to concentrate on the things of God without any reservation, knowing that God is in control of not only my life but the lives of others.
That said, I can easily apply that to the fears shared with me this week. I can easily say, “Isn’t God in charge?” Yet I can also hear the “Yes, but . . .” responses. I know what they are from my own experiences. I could easily cringe in terror with, “Yes, but what if the car brakes fail?” or “What if a cow walks across the road in front of us?” or any number of things a fearful imagination can come up with to justify itself.
Before he became a Christian, my hubby forbade our children to say, “what if” in speculation about anything. Now he realizes those words can be part of good planning but with limits. However, if they are said in fear of some event that may or may not happen, they indicate lack of faith in the sovereignty of God. God wants us to live in awe of Him not in fear of the what-ifs!
Jesus, in reflection I realize the need to be sensible, but I also need to be fearless. I would not go out on a crumbling mountain slope without proper equipment, or ride a wild horse, or get on a Brahma bull (even though I once did all three) unless You directed these. But this is not what You are saying. Being fearless is about living my faith without fear of what might happen. It is also about trusting You to take care of anything that threatens me, including all those big and little things that turn my focus from faith to self-protection, to fussing about the ‘what ifs’ and worries that keep me from rising above threats and challenges, from loving others, from living in wisdom and under the control of the Holy Spirit. I also need to remember these things and be wise as others share their fears, not belittling them but turning their thoughts to You, the One who has saved them from sin and has the power to save them from all their fears.