"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)
I am one of those people who finds connections in all kinds of diverse things. Recently, I read a novel titled Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, which included a list of things people were afraid of. This interesting list included, among other things: being physically hurt, humiliation, failure, success, being alone, being in relationship, being happy, being unhappy, bad health, good fortune, envy, having too much, changing, not changing, not having control, and having too much power. How does this relate to our church? Well, in a Learning Circle about generosity, I learned one of the things that interferes with contributing our time, talent or finances, is another fear—the fear that “there won’t be enough.”
For example, “I’m afraid that if I volunteer to ____, I won’t have enough time/energy/money to ____.” Sometimes this fear of not having enough may be based in reality, but often it isn’t. It may be that when we think we are afraid there might not be enough, we are actually rationalizing our laziness or misjudging whatever is required/available or perhaps just letting our own self doubt prevent us from acting. Not only that, you can also relate any of those things on Lori’s list that we are afraid of to church life as well. Here’s just a few examples of what we might fear: "If I take on the role of Treasurer, I’m afraid I will be a total failure. If I volunteer to help with Sunday School, I’m afraid the other teachers might laugh at me. If I serve on the property committee, I might need to change lightbulbs and I’m afraid I would fall off the ladder and hurt myself." I believe that at Southwood these fears are groundless. There is training and help for a new Treasurer, you and the other Sunday School teachers will laugh together, and if you have a problem with ladders someone else will joyfully change the lightbulbs for you!
There is something else that connects the concept of fear to our church. Did you know that the words “do not be afraid” make up one of the most frequently found phrases in the Bible? One source indicated that it is repeated 365 times—once for each day of the year. Of course, this would vary according to translation of the Bible you read, but still, that’s a lot of repetition and therefore probably something we should pay attention to. My search of the New International Version on Bible Gateway only produced seventy-eight occurrences, but they stretched all the way from Genesis 15:1 where “the word of God came to Abram in a vision, 'Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield'" to Revelation 1:17, where Jesus says, “Do not be afraid. I am the first and last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever.” The Gospels are full of this phrase, too. Mary and Joseph were both told by angels to not be afraid, as were the women who found Jesus’ empty tomb. Jesus told the disciples to not be afraid when he called them to follow him, when he walked on the water, and when he appeared to them after the resurrection. Two of my favorites are found in Luke 12:7 and 12:32: “Do not be afraid, you are of more value than many sparrows.” And “Do not be afraid, little flock, for God has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” The words ‘do not be afraid’ are repeated so often that it must be an important message.
Finally, and this may be an uncomfortable comment, but one definition of fear is lack of faith. I don’t believe in taking unnecessary risks, but sometimes taking a step on our faith journey involves taking a deep breath and trusting God to take care of us. Right now, our church needs people to serve on different teams, as well as financial support, to ensure our success and even our survival. We have many congregants, yet so few are volunteering to serve. There is something that each of us is being called to do. Is there something you fear that is holding you back? I urge you to take a deep breath, trust God to care for you and take that next step in your journey of faith. We are on this journey together. Put any fears aside and walk with me in faith.
"So we can say with confidence, 'God is my helper, I will not be afraid'." (Hebrews 13:6)