fear

How to Put Your Worst First

What do you fear?

I fear needles—especially if the needles are aiming my direction at a doctor’s office.

     Some of my friends get that anxious, uneasy feeling around crowds, birds and stinging bees.

And all of us get particularly panicky when it comes to honesty.

  •      We all shake with the fear of being honest.

Have you ever paid attention to the way post-apocalyptic movies capitalize on our fear of honesty?

The formula goes something like this:  The planet gets pulverized by a plague- or meteor- or war- and everyone and everything is annihilated.

Everyone except one weak, scared, selfish, lonely survivor.

We identify with the survivor at a primal level as she ambulates apprehensively from town to town, fighting to stay alive.

Then, after the sole survivor has run out of food, ammo and hope, she glimpses something scarier than anything she has yet encountered.

Another “other”.

She spots that second survivor and dives into a deep ditch praying to God that she won’t be found.

  •      But then the inevitable happens.

The other person peers over the edge of the ditch.

     We all hold our breath as the eyes of both survivors meet.

          Their eyes search out the status and strength of the other.

As we watch with sweaty palms our anxiety is registering in the red.

The helpless one quivering in the ditch has only one question:

     If she reveals her faintness and frailty will the other person hurt her or help her?

She decides to put her worst first.

“I’ve got no weapon, food or intent to harm you.  I’m starving, scared and all alone.”

In her soul’s center she whispers inaudibly “Now that I’ve put my worst first in naked honesty, will you want to keep knowing me and friend me?”

She relates through vulnerability and speaks directly to the vulnerability of the “other”.

     We all exhale in joy as the other speaks tenderly:

“Come out in the open.  I’m just as scared and confused and cracked as you.  Trust me as I promise to help you even though you have nothing to offer.”

And this is why sinners clothed in Sin’s only clothing line “SHAME” take the risk of trusting Jesus.  
The divorcers, addicts, obsessives, compulsives, coveters, adulterers, sexually distorted, gossipers, idolaters, the enslaved to expectations, and self-righters---all the fearful-- can come out of hiding and huddle in the embrace of Jesus.

Have you ever realized that Jesus was the ultimate “other”?

The story of God reveals a fatal fall in the beginning of time because we mistrusted our good God (Genesis 3).

The weeds of sin, self-consciousness and doubt began to grow and enwrap the planet.

The resultant self-justifying fear of honesty crept over creation and smothered our human hearts with insecurity.

     But then God irreversibly stitched on our status and became a co-survivor.

He looked into our ditch because he himself understood our fear and fragility.

He identified with our sinful situation and shame so that the verdict of Sinless! could be stitched into our wrinkled hearts forever. (2 Corinthians 5:21; Matthew 27:28,35).

His mission was and is to speak through his vulnerability to our vulnerability.

And this frees us all from fear.

Wrapped in His resume and resources we can now relate to others by putting our worst first.

Have you tasted this fearless freedom?

Pastor Howard
Senior Pastor
Metro North Church

Two Surefire Ways to Starve Fear

True story-

A long time ago in a land far, far away, a sweet woman lived with food and family, in a little town called The House of Bread.

But the food ran out in the little town.

A shadowy fear crept up, like a thief, and sat at the margin of her starving mind as her stomach began to scream for bread.

She didn’t want to die in her desperation so she, along with her two sons, and her husband, went to live in another land even further away.

First her husband dropped dead.  

Some psychologists say, that the death of a spouse, is the second most sorrowful loss experienced by the sensitive, human heart.

Fear stepped closer as it laughed and whooped at her new widowhood.

Then her beloved boys breathed their last.  

Those same psychologists say, that the loss of a child is the ultimate loss, that lashes the heart with a searing whip of scarring pain.

She lost two sons and fear frolicked and grinned at her grim circumstances.

The thieving fear that remained on the margins of her mind stepped closer to her.

It demanded to be fed, so that it could grow and finally swallow her whole.

But she was a daughter of God even though she strayed far from her homeland, the House of Bread.  

One of her beloved boys had married a foreign unbeliever before he died.

Ruth was her name and in Hebrew her name means a close companion.

A companion is literally (from the Latin) a “bread-friend.”  A person with whom we share bread.  

Before the fear could engulf this mother-in-law named Naomi, she made a decision.

It would be a single decision that would change the course of cosmic history.

She decided that she would do two things to starve her fear.

  • First she began to starve her fear by feeding her faith.

Instead of looking at her poverty, hopelessness and helplessness, she looked and listened to God alone.

An entire book of Scripture (the book of Ruth) tells this ancient, rags-to-riches story, in delicious detail.

Specifically, Naomi decides to return to the House of Bread, simply because she heard the news that God had caused the wheat to grow again.

Faith is putting all of our confidence in the reality of God’s resources.

Faith is filtering our fears through the fact of God’s promises.

Naomi will feed her faith by returning to God.

How many of us stray far from God and begin to starve in the dark shell of suffering in which we have surrounded ourselves?

The world tells us to look inside and to trust our inner feelings.

If we’re honest, this is a recipe for walking in circles as fear glides above us like a vulture.

Faith looks out to the living, caring God.

It is often, in the tightening fist of fear, as we begin to “crack up” spiritually-- and emotionally-- and financially-- and relationally, when we finally decide to return to the living, loving God.

Just as a beautiful, baby bird begins to crack out of its stifling surroundings, by literally cracking up the superficial shell that suffocates it, we too must look out in faith in order to fly free.

Outside of our circumstantial shells we finally see the reality of His resources.

We must starve our fear by feeding our faith.

  • The second thing Naomi does to starve her fear is engage in the selfless service of others.

Naomi loved Ruth deeply and told her to return to her family.  Naomi knew that Ruth, a widow with insufficient resources, would be served best by the safety and security of her own family. 

Naomi starved her fear by serving the real needs of Ruth even while she was personally suffering.

How many of us become self-absorbed when we suffer.  We feed our fear by selfishly demanding that others orbit around our sad situation.

The secret to starving our fear though, centers on focusing outward in service in order to supply the needs of others.

Surprise!

Just when Naomi had starved her fear by feeding her faith and focusing on serving the needs of others, Ruth speaks.

She says some of the most beautifully fulfilling words in all of sacred scripture:

Ruth 1:16-17   16 But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you."

Naomi now had a companion as she travelled back to the House of Bread, the little town of Bethlehem.

If you roam around in the little book of Ruth a little further, a few more things bloom into beauty. 

Ruth would soon marry a man who owned a field fruitful with food.

Ruth would be the Great Grandmother of David, the King of the Jews.

Many years later, in that same little town called the House of Bread, Jesus, a direct descendent of Ruth, would be born.

And all who focus and feed on him alone, know the secret of how to starve fear forever.

What direction are your eyes looking in your loss?

Let’s look to Him!

Pastor Howard
Senior Pastor
Metro North Church