Fear is a funny thing…

This past weekend we had a retreat for Victory, it was a great time, a relaxing weekend, and it gave our students and leaders alike a time to get refreshed and poured into. There was an absolutely incredible word brought by our guest speaker and a former associate pastor of Christ Community Church. His word was so good that I just wanted to recap and give my takeaway and hopefully, you can feel the passion and get inspired the way that everybody in that room did last weekend.

If any of you have talked to me about the vision of Victory and the ministry that I am involved in, you’ve definitely heard me drop the word “revival” in that conversation. We are a ministry that’s going for revival, that’s our passion. We believe that Penn State can and will be an epicenter for revival in our community and beyond on a global scale. The question is, what makes a revival spring forth in the earth? I mean, revival is the pinnacle of co-laboring with God; go check out my blog post on the topic of co-laboring with God here: Co-Laboring with God if you want a more comprehensive description of that. Obviously in every revival, the engine behind it is Jesus. The only reason that revival happens is because God wants it to. But even with God as the engine, something needs to be pressing on the throttle if the vehicle of revival is going to surge forward. And we, the body of Christ, are the ones who need to press on the throttle. That’s our job. This is how God co-labors with us. His desire is to see revival spring forth to all corners of the earth but he so desires to work alongside of us in that. In fact, God thinks our being involved in this plan is so valuable that he actually submits that will to our influence.

So what is our role? If revival doesn’t happen unless God wants it to, because he’s obviously the only source of power that can draw people in; where do we fit into that? What does co-laboring look like in this. I know it sounds a little crazy, maybe even blasphemous but revival is equally dependent on people who are willing to go for it with all of their heart as it is on God showing up. It doesn’t happen unless God shows up, but it also doesn’t happen if people don’t show up either. I mean, God’s entire heart is for people. He loves people, so if revival happens just because of God and not people then it’s lost it’s point. How’s that for empowering! You actually matter to the point that some things that God wants to do in this world might not actually get done unless you step up and be the connecting link between Heaven and Earth. God is searching all the land for people who will step up and seek Heaven so hard that it manifests on earth. And that’s not to discount God’s might. It’s not that he needs you in order to accomplish anything. He doesn’t, God is all powerful, make no mistake. However, his desire to work alongside his children and to commune with us is greater than his desire to advance his agenda. It’s ok, you’re allowed to feel significant in this moment. That’s how you’re supposed to feel. You’re supposed to feel like you are worth something because the God of the universe values spending time with you more than anything else. He wants that for you. But he also wants that same heart of wanting him over anything else, and that is where revival springs out of. So how are we going to make it happen?

If you look at revivals through history, you can see one thing in common; and that is that somebody, or a group of people, had something to say and refused to not be heard. Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, Charles Finney, Jeremiah Lanphier, D.L. Moody, Bill Bright (I’m just naming some historic revivalists hoping that you’ll go check some out because it’s truly inspiring stuff), they all had a voice and refused to let that voice be silenced. They had a message that they knew could change the world; and the world has truly been forever changed because of that message. It’s estimated that some 6,500,000 Christians today have come to Christ because of what their great great grandparents experienced with the happenings at the original Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles in the early 1900’s. That’s million… with an “m”. That’s a truly world changing statistic. That’s actually about 2% of the entire population of the United States. So, over two percent of the population of the U.S. today are believers because of one event that happened 100+ years ago; that’s just a single account. Imagine how many have come to Jesus because of the thousands of revivals and movements that have sprung up across the earth. All because somebody found the voice that God had given them and refused to be silenced. As Christians, we have to identify what we’re living for, and then find our voice for that thing and then refuse to stop shouting it out until our voice has been heard.

Esther, had a voice that she didn’t realize. In Esther 4, Esther, who is the queen, has just found out about a plot by the king’s right hand man to wipe out her people, the Jews. And her uncle (Mordecai) is writing her and saying, you have to bring this to light before the king. And Esther’s response is basically that she hasn’t been called before the king for a month and anybody who goes before the king without invitation is to be killed. So she is afraid and her fear almost gets in the way of her voice that can literally save her entire people. And this is how her uncle responds in verses 12-17 (ESV),

12 …“Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” 15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

So there’s several things that I love to take away from this scripture.

1.) God will find someone who is brave enough to step out of their fear and partner with him to make his will a reality on the earth; one way or another. If God is giving you an opportunity to step out and you’re too afraid, he will find someone else, but he wants it to be you. Esther’s uncle Mordecai realizes this and says, “If you keep silent in this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place.” Mordecai realizes that Esther has been given a voice that no other Jew has and she’s been given that voice by God. So she needs to step out and use it or else she’s going to miss her chance to be part of something amazing that God is trying to do and lose her position of authority because that is why God has placed her there; because he wants to do something amazing alongside of her. The kind of something amazing that gets you an entire book in the Bible.

Now don’t hear this and think that if you’ve given way to fear that God’s just done with you and not coming back around to use you. That’s what Satan wants you to think. I’ll say it this way, if you constantly remain in fear that is bigger than you willingness to step out for God, then yes, you will miss every opportunity to co-labor with him that comes your way. However, the opportunities to work beside God in this way will never go away, it’s constant. God is constantly beckoning us into this adventure. It’s just a matter of us stepping out and walking in it.

Billy Graham is one of my favorite stories on this topic. This is paraphrased but the story goes something to the effect of this: Billy Graham felt his ministry was getting a little too mainstream, a little bit too much publicity so he prayed something to the effect of, “God, make me humble. Help me to maintain humility in the limelight.” And God’s response to keep Billy Graham humble was, “You weren’t my first choice to do this job.” God’s response in prayer to Billy Graham was that there was somebody else, more equipped, that he had chosen to do the ministry that Billy Graham was doing. But that person refused to step out in faith and let God work and so God moved on and found somebody who was willing to step out; and that person was Billy Graham. And Billy Graham was so humbled in that moment because he realized that everything that the ministry had become was because of God and there was nothing that he had done to make it so successful.

2.) The second thing that I want to point out is the way that Esther handles the rebuke from her uncle. It doesn’t lead her to some radical “knee-jerk” reaction where she just jumps up and does something reckless and with no thought. The scriptures say that she takes three days and has people fast and pray with her and she prayerfully considers which course of action will bring the most glory to God.

When God appeals to our hearts, he never wants us to just carelessly jump off a metaphoric cliff into the unknown. He tugs at our hearts so that we will first come to that place of communing with him and drawing near to him and considering the best course of action. Then we make a decision based on our revelation of who God is in that moment; that revelation that comes along with our drawing near to Him. Then at that point, after the prayerful consideration and revelation, we are free to chase with reckless abandon, right off the cliff if that’s the best course of action.

God’s entire goal, with everything is  to bring his children, to bring us, closer to him. Then through our being closer to God we use that closeness and intimacy as the driving force behind our bringing others closer to him as well. If we’re not close to God, we’re going to have a hard time bringing others into that same place. Everything is to bring us and other’s closer to him. So if God is speaking something to you, soak in it. Pray on it. Not indefinitely, but long enough for an intimacy between you and God to develop over the subject; and then move in that calling from that place of intimacy with God. This is what Christians walking in their callings looks like. People who are pursuing something from a place of deep intimacy with God.

3.) The third and final thing I want to derive form this scripture is Esther’s response after all the rebuke, all the prayer and fasting she says, “I will go to the King… And if I perish, I perish.” She’s basically saying now that her life is forfeit for the sake of stepping out in faith. She has realized a calling that is greater than her. She has realized that she has a voice that nobody else has and that what she can do with that voice is so much bigger than her so if she goes and dies than it was worth it and she has served her purpose. All of a sudden her fear shrinks in the light of the importance of her stepping out.

Jesus didn’t come to eradicate our fears, he came to appeal to our faith. And through that faith, fear gets driven out. Fear doesn’t go away all together, we just need to have enough faith to choose Jesus and step out over that fear. Then the resolve to faith begins to dissolve the fear (I didn’t even mean to rhyme that, dang I’m good). This is an entirely separate blog post, but this one is already a mini-book so I’ll close out with this thought (then maybe do an expanded post on it later). The target of Jesus on the cross was NOT to eliminate fear, it was NOT to create a way for healing, it was NOT to create a way for freedom, I will even go so far to say that the goal of the cross was NOT to forgive sins. The purpose of the cross was to restore an avenue for relationship. That’s it; it can all be summed up to that. The cross was simply building a highway for the love of God to be experienced by people through relationship. And everything else, the forgiveness of sin, the power over fear, death, and sickness; all of it is just a product of experiencing God’s love. The cross was supposed to appeal us in a much more intimate level than simply getting rid of sin or fear. The cross isn’t subtractive; it’s additive. It doesn’t remove dysfunction, it just adds so much value to our lives that we abandon the dysfunction for the goodness that is God’s love. 

Ok, that’s everything I’ve got for this post. I know it’s a long one but I hope it blesses you guys. It definitely won’t be as long until the next article gets published so stay tuned! Leave feedback in the comments as well, it’s greatly appreciated! And I would love to hear some feedback about what you guys think an ideal length would be for these blogs. If you like the longer format with more material, or a more streamlined but slightly less in depth synopsis. Let me know in the comments! Thanks guys

 

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