Overcoming fear

Over the years at different times I have been asked the question, "Why are you a pastor?"

Sometimes this question has given me pause because of the fact there are days when I ponder the same question! I have even had a day or two where the Petoskey News-Review classifieds has been a companion.

But most of the time, I am able to express that while pastors and other church leaders face many difficult challenges, what makes serving in this capacity rewarding is helping people walk across the bridge of faith. It is so fulfilling and I am grateful to see friends make a lifelong connection with God.

But here is something that I have noticed. Many factors can impede a person's journey to God. One barrier is the fear of disappointing God. "You do not know what I have done," I have heard it said. "I had my girlfriend get an abortion." "I had an affair and my husband left for good." "I got caught embezzling thousands of dollars." They all say with one voice, "I cannot be forgiven." You may feel this way right now because of a bad choice or two that you have made. You may think, "God can't look past my behavior."

However, it doesn't take a "big ticket" item like embezzlement, adultery or abortion to leave one feeling like he or she has disappointed God, and therefore, is not worthy of a relationship with him. There is something innate that gives us awareness that we are not in step with the God of the universe. I know from my own experience.

In the Bible, we are told that God has made morality plain to mankind, that in a sense, he has written his law on our hearts and we are without excuse. Max Lucado, in his book "Fearless" says, "Nothing can deliver you from the gnawing realization that you have disregarded your Maker and disobeyed his instruction." This fear of disappointing God is like a trip switch, a built-in mechanism that can actually lead us toward an avenue of healing when we are ready to turn to God.

The Bible provides a road map for overcoming the fear of disappointing God. In 1 John 1:9 it says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." The Bible is making a strong statement that there is a hopeful path to God.

First of all, we are instructed, "If we confess our sins." The "if" here indicates that this is a conditional statement, which means there is a requirement on our part: Confession. If you look up confession in the dictionary you will read something like this: "A confession is an admission or acknowledgement that one has made a mistake." The Bible teaches in many places that all of humanity has succumbed to misguided and wrong actions, but the encouraging thing is the first step to healing is admission before God, as he wants to work with us!

Then here comes the meat of the passage -- this brief teaching points us to two statements about God's character. First of all, God is just. This means that God deals with people according to what is right and fair. The pages of the Bible teach us that God has moral excellence. This simply means he is without sin, all sin is against him and he must bring judgment on sin.

In perfect balance with God's justice is the second statement that we find in 1 John 1:9, "God is faithful." Faithfulness is a relational term and it brings about the concept of loyalty. God has not forgotten that he made mankind in his image and likeness -- mankind is the centerpiece of his creation. God's robust feeling of support for his creatures led him to make a way. Therefore, a few verses down it says, (1 John 2:1-2) "Jesus Christ the Righteous One is the atoning (acceptable) sacrifice for our sins." We do not have to fear because God is faithful!

You might be thinking, there must be a limit to God's patience, or his well of grace must have a bottom. But the Bible says, "If we confess our sins," if we admit, own up, to what we have done against God, he will forgive us. And it delights me to share that this is all possible because of Jesus Christ, the bridge to God.

Imagine what would happen in your life if you made the choice to confess your sins before God. It would change your life for the better. The guilt would be knocked from your life by a devastating blow from God and you would experience true forgiveness and the faithfulness of God. It would have an incredible effect on your attitude, others would be touched by it, and you would overcome your fear of disappointing God!

Norm Byers is the lead pastor of Genesis Church, which meets 10 a.m. Sundays in the cafeteria building of North Central Michigan College in Petoskey and 10 a.m. Sundays at Boyne City elementary. For more information, visit www.genesiswired.com. Comments and insights are welcomed on Twitter @NormByers.
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