Theme: We are called to not live by fear, but by faith, and we were meant to embark on this faith journey in the context of community.
(Luke) “Don’t be afraid little flock. It is God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!” We hear Jesus say these words and we want to believe them, but sometimes it is hard. Perhaps it is hard because we live in a world that is defined and driven by fear.
Fear is a great motivator for all human beings. Advertising and marketing consultant Robert Wilson writes:
“Fear is a primal instinct that served us as cave dwellers and today. It keeps us alive, because if we survive a bad experience, we never forget how to avoid it in the future. Our most vivid memories are born in Fear. Adrenaline etches them into our brains.”
Nothing makes us more uncomfortable than fear. And, we have so many: fear of pain, disease, injury, failure, not being accepted, missing an opportunity, and being scammed to name a few. Fear invokes the flight or fight syndrome; and our first reaction is always to flee back to our comfort zone. If we don’t know the way back, we are likely to follow whoever shows us a path.
Marketers use fear as a motivator as often as they can. They present a scenario they hope will invoke our sense of fear. Then they show us a solution – a path back to our comfort zone – that entails using their product or service. Fear is used to sell virtually everything: cars, tires, and life insurance are classics. But, clever marketers also use it to sell breakfast cereal and deodorant. As a result we purchase all sorts of things that a generation ago were considered unnecessary: antibacterial soap, alarm systems, vitamins… the list goes on and on.
WARNING: Fear can be too powerful to use as a motivator because it can also paralyze — the classic deer in the headlights syndrome. Would you like to use fear to motivate your employees to perform better? “If you don’t sell more widgets – you’re FIRED!” It can work, but there are rules you must follow for it to be successful. To use fear successfully as a motivator, a solution must be offered with it. A new path to follow. You can tell an employee he or she must sell more, but unless you show them how, fear will cause flight or worse: paralysis.
Fear is a powerful motivator, but it is a negative one. I prefer to motivate someone by eliminating doubt. Doubt destroys motivation. If you can help a person get rid of it, you will motivate them positively.” – (www.advisor.com/story/fear-most-powerful-motivator.)
As I read Mr. Wilson’s words, I couldn’t help but think about how often we Christians have used fear to motivate people toward faith in Jesus by telling them that if they don’t follow him and believe in him, they will face the ultimate punishment of spending eternity in hell.
Jesus knew how afraid the people his day were. And Jesus knows how afraid people are today. And so he offers us not threats or coercion, but words of comfort. There’s nothing to be afraid of, he says. God is with us and wants the best for us. God wants the kingdom to be ours both in the here and now and forevermore!
Notice that all of Jesus’ examples in this passage have to do with building our lives around things that can’t be stolen away easily. If we center our lives on our possessions, then our whole lives will be about protecting and keeping those possessions — so much so that we may live in constant fear that they will be taken from us. Even our neighbors become suspect and unworthy of our trust. Will they keep a neighborhood watch out for us? Or might they be the ones who will break in and rob us of our precious possessions?
As we accumulate stuff, we find we must lock our doors, protect our neighborhoods, circle our wagons, form our tribes, all in an effort to keep that which is most sacred to us safeguarded against potential thieves who might come in the night and try to steal the things that make us happy: our giant screen televisions, our computers and gaming systems, our stereos and cars and boats and jewels.
In direct contrast to this, Jesus urges us to center our lives on the God who created us and who wants us to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven! Jesus tells us store up treasures that can’t be taken from us. Jesus says there is more to happiness than stockpiling possessions.
Audrey West sums it up beautifully in Feasting on the Word:
“The less we want to have, the less we need to have. This fact is itself one of the blessings God offers, with compound interest. The less we need to have, the less we need to fear. The less we need to fear, the more we know that a life of giving allows us always to live, not on the brink of destruction, but on the brink of blessing, where we can more readily hear the promise that the ‘Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour,’ desiring not to punish but to bless.” (Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1, Propers 3-16).
Exerpted from Dawn Chesser’s reflection on www.gbod.org
(Hebrews) “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” This is how chapter 11 of Hebrews begins. Faith requires placing trust in the things we cannot see. It’s true that we can’t yet see God face to face, but does not give us other ways of seeing? Jesus often used stories to help people understand who God is and what God’s Kingdom looks like. The author of Hebrews follows up his initial statement by recounting some of the stories of God’s faithfulness found in the Old Testament. These stories helped the people to remember and tie their stories and situations to those who had gone before them.
The same principle still applies today. Stories help us. We receive comfort when we hear that someone else has gone through the same things we are experiencing, and have come out in one piece on the other side. We receive encouragement and do not feel so alone.
Questions to Consider:
(Luke) Can we believe the words of our Lord? Can we let his love and his promises take away our fears? Can he free us to live with courage and conviction, hope and trust? Can he inspire us to store up treasures in heaven rather than on earth?
(Hebrews) Think about your story, your victories and struggles. Now think about those around you; those at work, in your neighborhood, or anyone you may encounter during the week. Is there someone who could benefit from hearing your story? Is God calling you to offer your experiences of God’s faithfulness to encourage another in their journey?
- How Firm a Foundation
- Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
- Lift Every Voice and Sing
- Seek Ye First
- You Are Mine
Despicable Me – Gru tries to impress his minions with all of his evil accomplishments. He then proudly makes the big announcement that their next mission will be to steal the moon. Once this is accomplished, he will become the Greatest Villain of All Time.
Wall Street – In the famous scene where Michael Douglas’ character proclaims, “There’s a new law of evolution in corporate America…Greed is good.” there is a clear illustration of the contrast between worldly and Kingdom priorities and values.
Ice Age – The opening clip of the squirrel holding on to his nut no matter what happens is a good illustration of perseverance.
Stepmom – Understanding that she has only a short time to live, Jackie sits down with her children’s stepmom, Isabel, to discuss the future of her children. Each had previously been jealous of and threatened by the other, but they come to realize that it is a gift for the children to have both of them in their lives.
Call to Worship (from Psalm 50)
The mighty one, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.
Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him.
God calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people.
Faithful Father, you ask us to place you first in all that we do. You call us to surrender completely to your will and to be obedient to your word. However, letting go is such a great barrier to overcome. We fool ourselves into the premise of being in control. Lift this barrier! Increase our heart’s desire to freely provide for others in our giving and our serving. In the name of your servant son, Jesus, the Christ, we bless these offerings to your glory. Amen. (Luke 12: 32-40) – David S. Bell