Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Fear and Hope Are Opposing Faiths

1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” What does it mean that “perfect love casts out fear?” Does the average Christian truly grasp the practical depth of that verse in their daily lives? If you experience fear of anything other than God, have you "not been perfected in love?" The first thing to note about this verse is that the love it speaks of is not generic human love, but “perfect love.” That is an important distinction. This verse can’t be applied to any other love but God’s love for us and through us, because that is the single and only love that is truly perfect. Christian, as you consider the implications of this verse, do you ever experience fear? If so, does having fear mean you lack perfect love? The truth is that perfect love produces the opposite of fear – it produces hope.

What do fear and hope have in common? Both fear and hope are exhibitions of faith - opposing faiths. Fear is faith in false promises spoken by the wrong voices. In contrast, hope is faith in the promises of God. To the extent that we as Christians find ourselves in a state of fearing something other than God, this is precisely where our faith in God is weak. Such fear is an exhibition of faith in the promises of God’s enemy. In everything, God has made and kept enough promises such that if we believe Him, we will always have hope, and not fear. When we realize the depth of God’s love, and survey His sovereignty over all things, we will cling to His promises like spiritual life support and hope will always be the result. But, in today’s culture dominated by swarming, misleading voices pouring from social media, do we give God’s promises the time of day? (I posted further on this subject here: [Agreeing With Faith Over Fear].)

A great example of these opposing faiths is seen in opposing reactions to a prodigal child from a Godly home. When parents have trained their child in the faith, only to see the child exit the faith upon arrival at college or some other layer of adulthood, this creates a juncture of faith for the parents as well. At that point in time, there is no way of knowing exactly how this will turn out. So, we as parents can choose to believe one of two possible outcomes – one of two faiths. We can choose to believe the voices of the enemy and have fear over our child’s impending, yet hypothetical doom. Or, we can have faith in the promises of God. For this example, in Proverbs 22:6 God promised, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Isn’t that promise worth believing? Which faith we choose will display what and who we truly believe. Believing the enemy will produce fear. Believing God, who dearly and perfectly loves us, will cast out fear and produce hope. And, that hope will be a shining testimony to the very prodigal who needs to see it most. On the other hand, the prodigal will interpret fear as further indictment of the very faith that he walked away from – and apparently a faith that his parents abandoned as well.

God's promises is why, in the face of the greatest afflictions we can still have hope. This is because God has promised to raise us up out of all affliction. Romans 5:3-5 says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” This truth is the witness of those who daily bathe and trust in the promises of God. This is the daily confession of those who claim and cling to the promises of God. Do you know His promises? Do you read them as daily spiritual nutrition? To the extent that you have ungodly fear in your life, your spiritual consumption is out of balance.

Before we leave the subject of perfect love, consider the great love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13. This chapter outlines what perfect love is. And, notice how the chapter ends. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 says, “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” In the end, there is only room for these three things: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love – perfect love. And, notice that there is no room for fear. That is because the perfect love of God has produced a faith that produces hope instead of fear.

Lastly, Christian, as we consider the task of defending the faith, that defense begins with hope. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Apologetics starts with having hope. Hope only comes through believing God’s promises in faith. When people see that we fear anything in life other than God, they see the opposite of hope. They have no reason to ask us about the reason for our hope. Ungodly fear invalidates what we defend and indicts what we believe.

Last month, our family mourned the passing of a great man of God, Pastor Ed Dobson, who died after a long struggle with ALS. I had the honor of knowing this man personally and sitting under his teachings during my formative years. To the end, he testified of this hope borne of faith in God’s promises. I will never forget his influence over my life. In fact, upon my High School graduation, Dr. Dobson gave me a personal graduation gift that I still keep and cling to today. He gave me a leather-bound book, “God’s Promises For Your Every Need.” This book exclusively features excerpts from the Bible that reveal the promises of God to us, His children. The book categorizes God’s promises for every type of circumstance that you face. So that, as a reference, when you begin to be tempted by fear in a certain circumstance, you can refer to God’s promises to inspire faith in hope for that circumstance. I will forever be thankful for this, the greatest graduation gift that I ever received.

Christian, do you know the promises of God today? Do you meditate on God’s promises every day? Do you fear anything in your life other than God? Do you realize that God, the Holy Spirit resides in you? You have every reason to hope. God’s perfect love is carried out by His keeping His promises to us, His children in the midst of every storm that He allows. And, His perfect and loving faithfulness replaces faithful fear with faithful hope. I recently saw a meme that sums this up perfectly: The devil whispers “you cannot withstand the storm.” The warrior replies, “I AM the storm!”

You can purchase the book "Reason If You Will - How To Answer Questions Regarding Faith" by clicking HERE. Profits go to Camp Bahamas. You can also follow @ReasonIfYouWill on Twitter.