The Truth About Fear and Doubt
Happy New Year Journey Church friends and family and congratulations on making it through another sermon series! This week we concluded our study over Peter's first epistle. And what an appropriate place it has been for us to study over the course of a global pandemic. First Peter was written to encourage believers to remain steadfast and hopeful in a seemingly hopeless world. As Christians, we are taught to trust and believe that our hope is in Christ. We may know this to be true, but at the same time do many of us find ourselves, in the midst of trials and difficulties, believing and trusting in that reality? It can often be a long and winding road from our minds to our hearts.
Many of us may object to the old saying, "knowledge is power," because we don't feel very powerful. In fact, we may more often than not struggle to believe and implement what we know to be true. The struggle of fear and doubt is not something that is foreign to the Christian. If it were, then the encouragement we find in scriptures like 1 Peter would be unnecessary. Instead, God has graciously inspired men like Peter to write letters of encouragement to his people because he knows our propensity for doubting.
Often times, fear and doubt is viewed as a sign of faithlessness. While there is some validity to this view (doubt is surely rooted in the lack or absence of faith), it also can be misleading. What I mean is that struggling at times with fear and doubt is not a clear indication of one's spiritual immaturity, though it can be. Rather, it should be viewed as a clear indication of one's humanity. That is to say that to be human, to be a child of flesh, is to be one who is accustomed to fear and doubt. It is a result of our fleshly existence.
Mankind was designed to live in perfect fellowship with our Creator. Part of this fellowship was to enjoy perfect trust. This is a concept that many of us can't even wrap our minds around. We don't know what it means to experience perfect trust. It is too foreign to us. Adam and Eve had the opportunity to perfectly trust God. We see this illustrated in his command that they enjoy the fruit of the Garden, with the exception of one tree. Often times people struggle to understand why God would place a forbidden tree among the Garden. They view this as an unnecessary or cruel temptation to place before his children. But I believe the forbidden fruit of the garden in many ways displays, more than anything else, the perfect trust that exists in fellowship with God. You see, it goes both ways. Not only does the forbidden tree provide an opportunity for Adam and Eve to trust God, but it displays for them his trust in them. In other words, it was a constant visible reminder of his love and trust of them to walk in obedience to him.
Now, we all know how that story ended, and it wasn't a surprise to God either, but I believe the lesson to be learned is that love cannot exist where there is not first and foremost mutual trust. This is why the Apostle John writes, "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" (1 John 4:18). Perfect love casts out fear, but our struggle remains to love perfectly. Only Christ has ever displayed perfect love. Apart from his power and his Spirit living and working in and through us, we do not have the capacity for this type of perfect love that removes all fear and doubt. So, in other words, it is through the process of sanctification that we are learning to love and trust our Lord and one another. But it isn't until we reach glorification that we will experience it fully. This means that this side of eternity, we will need to continue to wage war against fear and doubt.
That may seem like bad news to many, but we have not been left unarmed and outmanned for battle. We have the scriptures which remind us of the truth we know and encourage us to remain steadfast in our trust and belief in it. At the same time, we have been given the Spirit of Christ which lives and dwells in each of us to empower us to fight with supernatural strength and endurance. We have been trained and equipped as good soldiers in our battle against sin and flesh.
Joe reminded us this week that fear is rooted in our pride. In fact, I believe strongly that pride is the ultimate sin that stands as the root of all others. It was pride (the belief that they knew a better way) that led Adam and Eve to take of that which was forbidden. It was pride that led Satan to desire God's throne. It is pride that leads men and women to reject God and his kingdom in favor of their own day in and day out. "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18). The lesson is clear, pride leads to pain, suffering, death, and destruction.
We want to believe that we have everything well in-hand and that we have within us the power to control the world around us. However we quickly learn this isn't true, and when we come face to face with that reality, we experience fear, doubt, worry, and anxiety. It is an exhausting way to live. Thankfully, God has offered us something better in Christ. Jesus died so that we can once again enjoy fellowship with our Heavenly Father. This is the hope of the gospel. And this is the hope of 1 Peter. I hope you can take that away from this study and that it will serve to enrich your life in so many ways!
If you missed this week's sermon (or just want to listen again), follow the link below to listen. Or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
Part 10 - Humility in Christ
Questions discussed in this sermon:
1. How does humility and salvation correlate?
2. How is pride and anxiety linked?
3. Why is the devil described as a roaring lion and what is his main objective?
Next week's lesson: Hebrews 12:14-17