The only thing to fear is fear itself.
Yeah, but fear is pretty terrifying!
Occasionally ministry reaches a place of intense spiritual battle. At such times we need to move in closer and pray harder. If you’ve been there, then you know that at such times, these two things are no longer clichÃ©s, but rather, lifelines!
At times like these sleep is a gift and a calm spirit a rarity.
At times like these you may hear from God at the least opportune moments…
like the middle of the night.
Whenever I can’t sleep, I figure God is trying to tell me something…
tonight is such a time.
So I’m up now and searching His Word for the message.
Sometimes the search goes on for hours. Mercifully, this time the message is clear, and the fear? Well, you can almost taste it.
For me it’s a moment of truth. God asks me, “Will you follow me even if it costs you deeply?”
I mumble a quick, ‘yes,’ without much thought.
“Not good enough.” God presses.
“I mean it Lord, You know I love You.” I respond, almost a little offended.
Again He says, “Will you follow Me even if it costs you deeply?”
Again I respond, “You know I will, Lord.”
I’m wide awake now—a vague sense of dÃ©jÃ vu is creeping up my spine. “Wait Lord, I’ve heard this before. Why are you asking me this?”
Why did He ask Peter the same thing?
I’m talking about this, John 21:12–19
“Now come and have some breakfast!”Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. 14 This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead.
15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter,
“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?[e]”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,”Jesus told him.
16 Jesus repeated the question:
“Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,”Jesus said.
17 A third time he asked him,
“Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
“Then feed my sheep.
“I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others[f] will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.”19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”
Then it hit me—what the Lord is trying to say to me and the fear that goes right along with it. And, as I type these words I can hear Him saying it again, “Will you follow me even if it costs you deeply?”
“I’m scared.” I admit ashamedly.
“That’s ok, I can work with that…give me that fear, let me shoulder the burden. You just decide.”
“Will you follow me even if it costs you deeply?” He repeats now.
“Please Lord, how deeply? “ I’m pleading now, completely embarrassed but knowing He is aware of my thoughts anyway.
“Some sheep from the flock.”
“nasty phone calls?”
“”Stop! Why now, Lord? Things are going so well. Lives are being transformed by the hundreds. People are boldly professing You before others in baptism in equal amounts. Your Spirit is moving among Your people at Southbrook like never before. I talk faster now, sure I’m building an airtight case for why persecution should not hit our family at this time…our family is already hurting this summer, People have stopped playing at religion and started pursuing a relationship with You they never even dreamed possible—”
A still, small voice…“That’s why.”
“What’s why?” I’m asking now, genuinely confused. “Which part of all that?”
“All of it,” God answers gently and lovingly, “all of it.”
And this is where I am right now. I’m reading His Word almost frantically. I will stay up tonight. All night until I get an answer. And when I do, I will add it to this post and give the thing a title.
You’ll be the first to know…
…I think I know now. And, I’ve been here before. One of the scriptures I dread the most won’t let me go.
Is this what I’m facing?
31“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you[a] as wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
I’ve always prided myself (and that should have been a red flag right there) on being a pretty good peace maker. I’m also fairly tenacious about the vision God has given for Southbrook Church. And I’m downright mean when it comes to anyone messing with the flock known as Southbrook.
“I’m ready to fight, Lord!”
“Did You hear me? I mean it. If it’s courage You’re after, I will fight—”
“don’t. I want you to take a different path. I want you to be silent.”
“Lord, no can do. I can defend against lies and gossip. I would have been a lawyer if I wasn’t a pastor! What about the truth will set you free and all of that?!”
“I will set you free.”
“You will set me free?”
“I will set you free. I will be your defense. And you will take the narrow road on this one.”
“And if I refuse?”
“Then You’ll be on your own.”
“Any other way?”
“Who cares if Satan desires to sift me?! You could squash him like a bug! I know that’s in the plan for later. Please do it now.”
“Why, Lord?! Why in the world not? It’s a better plan…a better road!”
“No, it’s a common road and not the road for you right now. You will take the road less traveled.”
He’s silent now. And I’m very, very tired all of the sudden.
“Are you still listening, God?”
“I hear you, Lord. And I remember Who I said I was running this race for in the first place. There’s only one member of the audience that counts and that’s You. So, it’s the narrow road?
“The narrow road.”
“I’m glad You were still listening Sometimes I forget You never stop listening…
The narrow road it is.”