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Craig Smith - Fighting Fear


Craig Smith - Fighting Fear
TOPICS: Unleashed (Acts 6-10), Fear, Courage

So, I have two dogs at my house. I have a Golden Retriever and a Husky. In other words, real dogs, right? And, real dogs need to run. Unfortunately, I live in a house where my HOA said you can’t build a fence. So my dogs spend most of their time on a leash. But every now and then we’ll take them to the dog park, and we’ll let them off. And let me tell you, every time I see them kind of take off, I’m like, yeah, like, life is just better unleashed, right? Which is kind of what this series is about if you’re just joining us. When we say yes to following Jesus, we’re set free from the leashes of sin and death and darkness and despair and meaninglessness. But unfortunately, sometimes what happens is we kind of put ourselves back on short leashes and we don’t live the lives that God intended us to, right? So every time I see my dogs running, I’m reminded of that. But the last time I was at the dog park, I let the dogs off and they were running, they were with another pack and they were barking and yapping and rolling over each other. It was awesome.

And I was watching a woman come up to the dog park, and she had one of those little fufu dogs, right, I’m not sure it’s really a dog. But she had this and it was on a leash. And let me tell you, it was 8 ounces of dog with 80 pounds of attitude. Like it was pulling on the leash, and it was snarling at every dog it saw, like, “Let me off the leash, I will rip you up.” And she got into the thing, she closed the gate behind her and she was in the process of letting it off when the pack of dogs came, by the pack of real dogs came by. And as she let it off the leash, it looked at them and you could see the color kind of drained out of its face. And even though it was off the leash, it actually just got closer to her. And it stayed there the entire time that they were in the park. Because it was afraid, right? And that’s the thing, fear will put us on a pretty short leash. It’s true as followers of Jesus as much as it is for little fufu dogs, honestly. Fear can put us in a pretty short leash. So if we want to live unleashed, we have to stop letting fear call the shots. If we want to live unleashed we can’t let fear call the shots in our lives.

I want to take us today to a story of two men that Jesus called to do some pretty scary things. If you want to follow along, we’re going to be in Acts chapter 9, starting in verse 1. One of the guys that we’re gonna see today is a man named Saul. And we met Saul… if you’re with us throughout this series, we met saw a couple weeks ago. Saul was the guy who was watching while some people killed a follower of Jesus named Stephen. Stephen had been preaching the Gospel boldly in Jerusalem. And some Jewish people thought he was preaching blasphemy, so they stoned him to death. And what Luke who wrote the Book of Acts told us is that Saul was watching and he said that Saul approved to their killing him. So, Saul was down with his execution. In fact, Saul thought all followers of Jesus needed to die. And so, Saul launched persecution basically to destroy the church. That’s the guy that we’re talking about. And then chapter 9 begins this way. He says, “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” So he’s still looking to kill the church. “And he went to the high priest, and he asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belongs to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.”

And there’s a couple of interesting things there. The first is that he expected to find followers of Jesus in the city of Damascus. The reason that’s interesting is Damascus wasn’t a Jewish city. It wasn’t inside Jewish territory. In fact, it was pretty far outside. It was about 130 miles away from Jerusalem, and it wasn’t part of Jewish territory. It was actually in Gentile, non-Jewish territory. And the reason that’s so interesting is because when Jesus first announced to his apostles his plan for this thing we call the church, he said it had three stages. Stage one was they were going to share the Gospel in Jerusalem. That’s home base for the Jewish people. Then he said stage two is Judea and Samaria. You’re gonna share the Gospel in Judea and Samaria, that’s the surrounding region and it’s got some Jewish elements to it, but the Samaritans were partly Jewish, partly Gentile, mixed. And that’s the Gospel’s second stage. But then he said, stage three is you’re gonna take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, which is to say, to purely Gentile territory where there aren’t any real Jewish presence, right?

And so, what we see is that there’s followers of Jesus in Damascus, which is a city in Syria, a Gentile area, means the Gospel’s going out. The followers of Jesus are moving out on mission. They’re going to the ends of the earth, and that’s awesome. But what’s interesting is that they were there because of the persecution. They were there on stage three of the mission because persecution had broken out on them in Jerusalem, Saul had done it, it was really kind of Saul’s fault that the church was actually doing what they’re supposed to do. And that’s just fascinating to me. I love that, it means that, you know, Saul’s persecution of the church was actually accomplishing Jesus’s purposes for the church.

And that’s so important to understand because it speaks to something we call the sovereignty of God. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that term, to say that God is sovereign means that he’s the King. And it means that he’s in control and that everything that happens under his purview is completely in his control. Nothing ever happens that God’s like, “Oh, I have no idea.” Nothing ever happens where God is going, “Oh, I don’t know what to do now.” No, no, God’s in control. And one of the ways we know that so clearly here is that Jesus turns opposition into opportunity, right? He takes the things that look like they’re going to be an obstacle to his plan, and he actually uses them as an opportunity to complete the plan. That’s how in control he is. Jesus turns opposition into opportunity. By the way, that’s a pretty powerful fear fighter. To know that nothing you ever face will get in the way of God’s plan for your life. In fact, what looks like opposition to God’s plan for your life, he can turn into the opportunity to pull it off. It’s a powerful thing.

The second thing that’s really interesting about what Luke, who wrote the Book of Acts, says here is that he says that the followers of Jesus weren’t known as Christians. That’s not what they’re called, that they didn’t think of themselves as the church, but they’re called people who belong to the what? Do you see it? “The Way,” that’s interesting. That was the earliest name for Christians. They didn’t call themselves Christians, they called themselves, “The Way” because “The Way” they saw it, they weren’t practicing a new religion, religion is about rules, but they were following Jesus, they had a relationship with Jesus, they were following him, and they were trying to do life “The Way” that Jesus showed them to do life. That’s why they called themselves “The Way” because they said, “Following Jesus means living “The Way” Jesus lived.”

And one of the ways that Jesus lived was he chose faith over fear. He consistently said to the voice of fear, no, you don’t get to call the shots. And he trusted his Father, even when what his Father was asking him to do was terrifying. And I know some of you may go, “Wait a minute, Jesus, never faced fear. Jesus never experienced fear. He can’t relate to that because he’s fully God, and God’s never afraid of anything.” And yeah, he is fully God, but he’s also fully man. And as a human being, he did experience fear. I know that because the night before he went to the cross to pay for our sin, he was praying in a garden. And his prayer was Father, if there’s any way possible, may this cup pass from me. In other words, if there’s any other way we can do this, I would really prefer to do it that way because I understand the pain that’s coming, I understand the sufferings that’s coming, I understand the humiliation, I don’t really want to go through that. So if there’s any way to not have to do it this way, could we do that?

I believe he experienced a little bit of fear in that moment. And part of the reason I say that, because this, this was his prayer. We’re told, “And being anguished, he prayed more earnestly.” And check this out, “And his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” He was sweating blood. There’s a name for that condition, it’s called hematohidrosis. It’s a medical condition, we know about it. It’s where you actually are so afraid, so stressed out by fear that you begin to bleed into your sweat, and it drops out. That’s fear.

We’re told in the Book of Hebrews that Jesus is a high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses, including fear, he has faced the voice of fear. He knows what that’s like. But the way Jesus lived was to say to fear, you don’t get to call the shots. He put fear in its place, and he chose faith over it. And that’s the way that followers of Jesus were trying to live. And so, even though there was persecution, and Saul was hunting them down and killing them, and they had to flee Jerusalem to survive, wherever they went, they continued to preach the Gospel, wherever they went, they continued to share the good news of Jesus, because they were adopting faith over fear, just like the way Jesus showed them to do it.

And so now Saul hears that the Gospel has gone out to this far city, and he goes, “I gotta stop this, I gotta stamp this out.” So he gets basically letters of extradition to go to that place and to bring these people back. And as he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and he heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked, which is a really interesting question. And I say it’s an interesting question because I believe all the evidence says that Saul knew that God was speaking to him. Why do I say that? Well, what’s going on here has all the appearances of something we see in the old system called a theophany. It basically just means an appearance of God. And when God appeared to people in the Old Testament, what typically happened was first off, there was usually a light that accompanied, there was a bright light. And so, Saul, sees a bright light, and he says, it’s coming from heaven, so he kind of knows where that’s coming from. He’s immediately been trained by his knowledge of Scripture to associate that with God.

Second thing that happens is the voice that speaks uses his name twice, which is typically what happened when God called to people in the Old Testament. He called Abraham. He said, “Abraham, Abraham.” When he called Moses, he said, “Moses, Moses.” When he called the prophet Samuel, he said, “Samuel, Samuel.” And so, now a voice from heaven calls out, he says, “Saul, Saul.” Saul knows that that’s got to be the voice of God. And he reacts to it as though it’s the voice of God because he does two things, he falls on his face. That was an act of worship and submission to God. And secondly, he says, “Who are you, Lord?” That was the Jewish word that you used to address God. God had given them his name was Yahweh, but they didn’t say that name out of respect. And so, they said, Lord and said, Well, that’s the way that Saul addresses him. He addresses them the way the Jewish people understood to address God. And so, everything indicates he knew exactly who this was. This was God speaking. So why if he knows it’s God, why does he say, “Who are you?”

I think it’s because the question that was asked. The voice said, “Why are you persecuting?” And Saul’s response was, What are you talking about, God? I’m not persecuting you, I’m protecting you. I’m protecting your name and your honor. I’m not persecuting you, I’m persecuting these followers of Jesus, they claim that Jesus is your Son. They claim that Jesus is God in the flesh, I’m not persecuting you, I’m persecuting Jesus. And he’s, he’s not… Oh, no… And I suspect in this moment, a dreadful suspicion entered his mind. Is it possible that these Christians are right? Is it possible that Jesus is really God in the flesh? And I think he’s afraid that he knows the answer but he has to ask the question, he’s got to get clarity.

So, he says, “Who are you, Lord?” “I’m Jesus,” the worst thing he could’ve heard at that moment. You suspected, didn’t ya? Let me just make it really clear. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do. Now the men traveling with Saul stood there speechless. They heard the sound but they did not see anyone and Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes, he could see nothing. And so they led him by the hand into Damascus. And for three days, he was blind, and he did not eat or drink anything.” Can you imagine what those three days were like for him? Can you imagine the fear and the terror he must have been experiencing?

Well, first off, he’s blind, right? And that’s a pretty scary thing all by itself. Let’s just do this for me. Could you just close your eyes, unless you’re listening to this while you’re driving, in which case, don’t do that. Everybody else, just close your eyes with me, okay? Now imagine… Don’t open it but imagine that if you did open them, nothing changed. That’s the way things are now. That’d be pretty scary, right? And of course, Saul doesn’t know how long this is gonna last for all Saul knows this is permanent. And he probably honestly, if this is all that happens to him, he got off easy, right? Because listen. The second thing that’s happening is he’s realizing he thought he was an agent of God and now he’s realizing he’d been an enemy of God. He thought he’d been protecting God’s name, now he found that he was persecuting his Son. He’s probably thinking if blindness is the only punishment I get, I got off easy.

Then the third thing that makes it so scary is that he’s waiting. He’s waiting for God to tell him what’s next. He’s waiting for God to tell him what his discipline, his punishment is gonna be. Can we just be honest with each other? I know the same way we know, so we got a lot of kids. So kids, let me ask you this. Have you ever done anything wrong and you had to wait, Mom or Dad told you just go to your room and wait, and we’ll come in in a little while and tell you. Anybody ever done it? Come on kids. How about adults? Have you have ever done anything wrong, and you just had to wait for somebody to find out and find out what the punishment was going to be? Absolutely it’s the worst, right? There’s nothing scarier.

I remember once I was a kid, and I accidentally on purpose made a lake out of our backyard. I was trying to make a pond, I put a cushion in front of a culvert, the drained water, and then I forgot about it. And it was Ohio and it rained a lot. And one day I came home from school and I hadn’t been thinking about I came from school and I was walking past the window, I looked in the backyard, I was like, “Oh, there’s the lake.” I mean, it was completely, yard gone. It was a good-sized lake. And I panicked, and I tried to bail it out and that wasn’t gonna work and I tried to get a shopvac and that wasn’t gonna work. And so, I had to go in and I had to sit down on the couch and I just sat there for two hours waiting for dad to come home. And those two hours were probably the worst two hours of my life, waiting on what dad was going to say when he got home. If you can imagine what that’s like, and multiply by about a million you understand a little bit about what Saul is experiencing as he waits in dark for three days for God to tell him what’s next.

Meanwhile, “In Damascus, there was a disciple, there was a follower of Jesus named Ananias. And the Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered. And the Lord told him, go to the house of Judas on Straight Street…” By the way, it’s a different Judas than the one from the Gospels, okay? This is a very common name in those days. “Go to that house and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. And in a vision, he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I’ve heard many reports about this man,” You’ve heard them too, right? Like you’ve heard the same things I heard, right? “And all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he’s come here with the authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” In other words, Ananias is like, “God, you heard the same stuff I heard, right? This is a dangerous dude. This is probably the scariest guy in the Roman Empire right now for followers of Jesus. You understand that? Like, we ran away from Jerusalem to get away from this guy. We ran away from Jerusalem to hide from this guy. And now that we heard he’s in town, we’re kind of hiding out to make sure he doesn’t find us. You want me to go find him?” Yeah, I’m totally gonna do that. Soon as I change my robes, this one got wet somehow, I’m not quite sure what happened.

I mean, this is an unbelievably scary thing that Jesus is calling him to do. He’s questioning it. It’s so scary he questions God. “But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go.'” And actually, in the original Greek that this is written in, what he actually says is get up and it’s exactly the same word that he used to talk to Saul. Saul was there on the street and God, said, “Get up.” And now it’s Ananias, he says exactly the same, he says, “Get up.” Just listen. Fear says, “Stay down,” But God says, “Get up.” You hear me church? Fear says, “Stay down, stay where you are, you don’t want to move from there,” But God says, “Get up.” You cannot experience everything that I have for you, everything I want to do in you and through you, if you stay there. So yeah, fear says, “Stay down,” But God says, “No, no, get up.” So, I wonder, what is God telling you to get up from today? What is God telling you to get up from? Where are you stuck, immobilized in fear and God says, “You don’t wanna stay there. Get up.” He says to Ananias, “Get up. This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles, to the non-Jewish people and their kings and to the people of Israel, and I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Which can we just be honest, that just makes it worse, doesn’t it? I mean, the message he’s supposed to deliver to this scary man is scary too. He’s supposed to tell him. “Oh, yeah, you’re supposed to be God’s main missionary to the Gentiles.” Well, Saul is a Jew of Jews, he’ll later tells us in the Bible, he considers himself a Jew of Jews, a Pharisee of Pharisees. He’s the cream of the crop for the Jewish people and as a Pharisee or that sect of Judaism one of the things they were known for is their dislike of Gentiles. They didn’t want anything to do with Gentiles and now, poor Ananias was to go and say, “Hey, Saul, you’re going to become God’s main man to talking to the Gentiles.” Saul’s gonna want to hear that. And then worse, he’s supposed to go and say, “Hey, I’m also supposed to tell you how much you have to suffer for Jesus’s name.” Oh, goody. I can’t wait to deliver that, right?

And by the way, man, I wish I could tell you that that was just a message for Saul. I wish I could tell you that giving him a picture of how much he has to suffer for the name of Jesus, which is something that Saul was going to have to go through because he had persecuted his people. I wish I could tell you it’s punishment, but it’s not. The same Jesus who told Ananias to tell that to Saul is also the same Jesus who said to all of his disciples, he said, “Just so you know, in this life, you will have trouble.” And not just the trouble that comes because we live in a fallen broken world but the trouble that comes because we follow Jesus.

I really wish I could say that following Jesus doesn’t ever mean going to scary places, doesn’t ever mean suffering, but it does. In fact, and I’m so sorry I have to tell you this, but the reality is, if following Jesus never gets very scary, we’re not following Jesus very close. You hear me, church? If following Jesus never gets very scary, then we’re not following Jesus very close. Because Jesus never calls us to stay there where it’s comfortable. Jesus never says, hang out where you feel safe and secure. No, Jesus says, “Come follow me.” And Jesus leads us into places that are scary. So, if following Jesus never gets very scary, you’re not following Jesus very close. That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news. The good news is that scary places are great soil for growing faith. You hear me? Scary places are great soil for growing faith. Our faith doesn’t grow where we’re not uncomfortable, our faith doesn’t grow where we’re not a little bit scared but in those places that Jesus leads us to that are scary, we find that our faith grows by leaps and bounds that are fertile soil for the growth of faith.

And I know some people go, “That’s easy for you to say, but you are a pastor. Following Jesus probably isn’t scary for you.” Yes, it is, every day. There’s hardly a day that goes by that following Jesus and doing what he’s called me to do doesn’t force me to do something that scares me a little bit. Maybe it’s having a hard conversation or an uncomfortable conversation with someone. So, sometimes it’s just leading out in a place that I feel like God’s called us to, but not everybody else sees that yet. Those are scary places. I was talking to our communications team about this and they were going, okay, “That’s great, but you know what we need, we actually need to see you do something scary.” Like, “Don’t just lead us, you know, by word, like, we need an example like model it for us, we need you to do something scary. And I was like, well, “What are you thinking?” And they said, “Well, you’re scared of bees, right.” Now, externally I was, like, interesting. Inside, I’m, like, no, no, no, no, no, please, God, please, Jesus, please, come on, come on, please, no, no, no. And I was so relieved that God answered my prayer. Somebody else in the group said, “I don’t know, I don’t think bees are all that relatable. I don’t think that’s really good.” I was like, “Yes.” So what do you think? And then Kelly McSparran, our Communication Director goes, “Oh, can we throw you out of a plane?” And everybody else on the team was, like, “Oh, yes.” Could we? So…

Craig: Well, it is Friday morning and the Creative Team thought that the best way for me to model doing something scary was for us to jump out of a plane. I think this is probably gonna backfire, though, because honestly, I’m not that scared. How are you feeling?

Coletta: No. Totally great, like, what better thing to do on your day off?

Craig: All right. Yeah, we’ll see how this goes. Okay, well, we’re actually at the place now and I am definitely feeling a little bit more nervous. How about you?

Coletta: Yeah, same. Airplanes, definitely some butterflies.

Craig: Okay, signing some of these consent forms, this paperwork, things, like we don’t have any insurance and you could die. Yeah, it’s a little nerve-racking, right? Yes, just a little bit.

Coletta: That was awesome.

Craig: So that was intense, way more intense than I expected it to be. It’s good. I’m glad I did it, I’m really glad I did it.

Man: Overcame that fear, right?

Craig: Overcame that fear.

Man: Fantastic. Welcome to the skies, my friend.


Craig: Thank you. So there’s nothing particularly spiritual about jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. But as we were going through that experience, I really did find myself reminded of some things that God has taught me over the years about dealing with fear, about following him in the scary places. The first thing that God has taught me over the years is this, it’s that anticipation is worse than execution. It’s what we think might happen that keeps us from moving forward, right? Anticipation is worse than execution. And the reality is that, you know, we imagine worst-case scenarios. And worst-case scenarios are rarely real-world scenarios, but thinking about them, and anticipating, that’s what keeps us from moving and following Jesus into scary places. As we were getting closer and closer, the anticipation began to build and the fear and the last moment of it was when we were kind of paused at the doorway, and I could see all the way to the ground. And everything in my brain was like this is not a good idea. But the moment we were out, it changed, the moment we were actually falling, the fear began to release the script. Now I’m not gonna lie to you. I’m not gonna say that it didn’t get scary at all.

Okay, like I said, there was no fear, it was very fun. Because here’s the thing, like, you watch people skydive and because the person filming it is always falling at the same rate, you get the sense, like, “Oh, there’s floating, you’re just kind of floating,” There’s no floating. There is only falling. It was scary but it was not as scary as the moments leading up to that. When Jesus calls you to do something scary, it’s the anticipation. It’s so much worse than the execution. Once you actually begin to trust Jesus, you’re gonna go, “Oh, this isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. This is a good place to be.” I think there’s a reason why Saul eventually wrote these words, he said, “And we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” We take captive every thought because he understands that fear gets a hold of our imaginations and turns it into something that it was never intended to be, it imagines those worst-case scenarios. And so those thoughts that come from fear, those are some of the most important thoughts to take captive, or we won’t trust Jesus and move forward.

The second thing that I remembered that God has taught me about fear, is that scary things are less scary when we’re not alone. Having Coletta with me there, that was definitely helpful. Plus, I didn’t want to look like a wuss in her eyes, and so, right? Scary things are less scary when we’re not alone. I mean, can I just be honest with you? I’m a grown man but sometimes I’m walking up from the basement and the lights are out and there’s a part of my brain going there’s monsters here. Anybody else still feel that just a little bit? Yes. All right, you’re not alone. But you know what, I never feel that when I’m down there with my kids and my wife. Scary things are just less scary when we’re alone. But you know what, when I’m jumping out of that plane, you know what was better than Coletta? The guide. It’s having somebody who knew what was coming and knew what to do if things didn’t go the way I expected them to, that was the best person to be with. And that’s God. When Jesus calls you to do something scary, you are never called to do it alone. He always calls you to do it with him.

I love what Moses said to the Israelites as they were called to face a scary army of people coming against them. He said this, he said, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Jesus, after having told his disciples some scary things they were gonna have to face, he said this, “And surely, I am with you always to the very end of the age.” It’s literally the last words of the Gospel of Matthew. And last words are always pretty important, right? He says, surely I am with you always to the very end of the age, I’m not sending you out alone, I’m calling you to come with me. You are never ever alone.

Third thing that I found myself reminded of as I was jumping out of that plane, is that we can’t silence the voice of fear. We can’t silence the voice of fear, but we can choose not to give it the final vote. You can’t silence the voice of fear, that there was no point in that process that I could just go, I’m just not going to be scared anymore. It just doesn’t work that way. You can’t silence the voice of fear and quite honestly, you don’t want to. The voice of fear is actually a God-given gift. Fear is actually a gift from God. It keeps us from being foolish. You know, if you stand at the edge of a high cliff that’s crumbling, it’s the voice of fear that says, “You know what, it might be a good idea to take a step back. You’re being a fool by standing there.” God gave us that, it’s a gift, but the problem is like every good thing that God’s given us when sin gets a hold of it, it becomes a bad thing.

And so now what happens because of sin is the voice that’s supposed to keep us from foolishness is keeping us from faithfulness. Fear was never intended to keep us from being faithful, it was only intended to keep us from being foolish. But now it’s keeping us from trusting God. But you can’t silence that voice. What you can do is you can say to it, but you don’t get the final vote, I hear your voice, you just don’t get the final vote. I love what Jesus said. Again, after he told his disciples some scary things that were coming, scary places he’s going to call them to, he said this, he said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I don’t give you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.” And understand what he says, do not be afraid, he doesn’t mean silence the voice of fear because that’s not possible. What he means is stop giving it the final vote, stop letting the voice of fear determine whether or not you’re going to trust me, whether or not you’re going to have faith in me. We can’t silence the voice. When Jesus calls us to scary places, we can say you just don’t get the final vote.

How do you do that? Like how do you put fear in its place? How do you tell fear? “Yeah, I hear your voice but you don’t get the final vote in my life.” You know what I think the best way to do that is? It’s a little something called FOMO. You know what FOMO is? It’s the fear of missing out. Please listen to me. Some of the greatest things that God wants to do in you and through you, things that are honestly better than you can even imagine being part of, they’re just outside your reach as long as you’re on that short leash of fear. You don’t want to miss out on what God’s calling you to.

So Ananias said to the Lord, okay. “Then Ananias went to the house, and he entered it.” And by the way, I love that it says he went to the house and he entered it. It kind of suggests he went to the house and there was a little moment outside the house, he’s like, I don’t know about this. He still hears the voice but he doesn’t give it the final vote, does he? He went in and “Placing his hands on Saul, he said Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who has appeared to you on the road as you were coming here has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see again. And he got up and he was baptized, and after taking some food he regained his strength.”

Listen, I don’t know if you know this, you may but if not, let me let you in a little secret. This guy named Saul, he became a guy we know as the Apostle Paul. He became the guy that God used to write most of the books of the New Testament. And in fact, most of us are not Jewish. And so, us following Jesus actually ultimately goes back to this being God’s main man to take the message of the Gospel to the Gentiles. If it weren’t for what God did in and through Saul who became Paul, you and I wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t be following Jesus today, 2000 years later. That’s what God did through this guy. That’s what he got to be part of because he said that the voice of fear, I hear it, I hear your voice. You just don’t get the final vote.

And Ananias, he got to lead that guy to the Lord. He got to see persecuting Saul become the Apostle Paul. I promise you, I guarantee Ananias is in heaven going, “That’s one of mine. Yeah, God did that through me.” He’s proud of that, and he should be. And both of those guys, you think just from what they would have missed out on if they let the voice of fear have the final vote. That’s how we put fear in its place. It’s a holy FOMO, it’s a holy fear of what we would miss out on. We don’t say to fear, “Yeah, I hear your voice, but you don’t get the final vote in my life.” Listen, if you want to live unleashed, if we want to live unleashed, we have to start telling fear I hear your voice but you don’t get the final vote in my life.

So what scary thing might God be calling you to do? What scary thing might God be calling you to do? Maybe it’s to let somebody know you’re a follower of Jesus. Maybe you got two circles of friends. You got a group of Jesus following friends and they all know that you love Jesus. Maybe you got another group of friends, maybe they’re not quite as open to that. And maybe you’ve kind of kept a little bit quiet because you’re afraid of how they might react and what they might think of you. And maybe your scary thing is to just be a little bit more upfront in every part of your life. Maybe it’s to start seeing your work as a mission field, as a place where you have relationships with people who don’t know Jesus, and you might be the only picture they get of who Jesus is. Maybe it’s to get some help. Maybe you’re stuck in somewhere in your life or your marriage, or maybe you’re stuck in sin. And you haven’t admitted that to anybody. You’re struggling with that on your own. And maybe the scary thing is to let somebody else know I’m not doing okay. Maybe it’s a mental health issue. And maybe you’re keeping it inside because it’s scary to tell somebody else, “Yeah, I’m not doing okay.” Maybe that’s the scary thing God’s calling you to is to let somebody else know that you’re not okay. That you need help.

Maybe it’s to join a Life Group. Let a group of people get to know you. Maybe it’s to go on a short-term trip. Share Jesus outside of your comfort zone, maybe it’s to get baptized. Maybe you’re a follower of Jesus, but you’ve never been willing to go public. Maybe you’re afraid to stand in front of people and get baptized and declare your faith in Jesus. Maybe that’s what you need to do. We got a baptism service coming up in a few weeks. So maybe today, right now you need to text “Baptism” to 80875. Take that step. That fear is saying no, no, no, don’t go. But God is saying no, get up and move. Or maybe it’s to say yes to following Jesus. Maybe you’ve been dancing around it. Maybe you believe God sent his Son, maybe you believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins.

Maybe you believe that he rose from the dead, but you’ve been unwilling to commit your life to him. You’ve been unwilling to take that all-important step of saying, “I’m in. Jesus, I’m going to follow you from here on out.” Maybe that’s the scary thing God’s calling you to do today, in which case you need to text the word “Jesus” to 80875 today. And let us know that you’re going to say to the voice of fear, yeah, “I hear your voice, but you don’t get the final vote in what I do.” Would you pray with me?

God, thank you for the example of these two men and the example of what you did in them and through them when they refused to let fear call the shots. Jesus, we confess that we often fall victim to the voice of fear, we often let it call the shots, we let it have the final vote. Lord, we realize that we’re going to be missing out on an awful lot if we allow that to continue on. So, Lord, we asked for strength and courage through your Holy Spirit to do that scary thing you’re calling us to do, to declare with action right now. “Yeah, fear, I hear you. I’m just not gonna follow you. I hear your voice but you don’t get the final vote in my life.” Lord, whatever it is you’re calling us to give us the courage to do it. To move out into all those things that you have, that you want to be part of. We’re so grateful. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

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