While Pastor Rick is on study leave, our guest blogger this week is Dr. David Faust, Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church and an accomplished writer and speaker. For more information about Dave, visit http://media.east91st.org.s3.amazonaws.com/uploaded/d/0e2616215_1383668067_dave-faust-staff-news.pdf.
The Jewish people were scared. You and I would have been, too. They faced months and possibly years of difficult labor. Hostile tribes nearby were threatening to kill them. Their leaders faced criticism and political distractions. God wanted them to build an altar and offer sacrifices, but how could they build something positive to honor God when so many problems distracted and endangered them?
Ezra 3:3 says, “Despite their fear of the people around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed the morning and evening sacrifices.”
That’s a striking phrase, isn’t it? “Despite their fear.” It doesn’t say they had no fear. It doesn’t say they denied their fear. It doesn’t even say they overcame their fear. It simply says “despite their fear” they obeyed the Lord and did the right things.
If you wait until you feel no fear at all, you will never drive a car or fly in an airplane. If you wait until all your anxious feelings go away, you will never take a risk, never develop a deep friendship, never choose to marry or become a parent. If you say, “I’m too frightened to share my faith with a friend,” you will never do it. If you’re afraid to trust God’s ability to provide, you will never know the joy of tithing and generous giving. If missionaries wait until every question has been answered and every difficulty has been smoothed out, few will ever leave home for a foreign field.
All great achievements require courage. Mountain climbers press on “despite their fear.” Cancer patients undergo chemotherapy or surgery “despite their fear.” Ministers preach about truths that are hard to hear, young people go to college and tackle new jobs, and soldiers defend their country and stare death in the face “despite their fear.”
In the parable of the talents, Jesus told about three servants who received varying amounts of money. When their master came back, he commended the man who invested his five talents and earned five more, and he equally commended the man who invested his two talents and earned two more. The man who received one talent, however, received harsh rebuke and punishment. The problem with the one-talent man was not that he only had one talent. The problem was, his fear made him unwilling to take a risk! “I was afraid,” he tried to explain, “and went out and hid your talent in the ground.” There’s a good chance that the five-talent man and the two-talent man felt some fear, too, as they prepared to invest their master’s resources. But “despite their fear” they produced maximum returns with what the master had given them.
What took Isaiah from “Woe is me” to “Here am I, send me”? What moved Moses from “Who am I, Lord?” to “Let my people go, Pharaoh”? What transformed Saul of Tarsus from the “chief of sinners” into a great missionary to the nations? What changed Peter the three-time denier to the one who said, “We can’t stop proclaiming what we’ve seen and heard”? God’s grace, the Spirit’s presence, and Jesus’ resurrection power made all the difference.
Courage doesn’t mean you never feel afraid. It means trusting God in spite of your fear—refusing to let fear dominate your decisions and your actions. Psalm 56:3 says it well: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”