After Adam and Eve ate from the one tree God told them not to eat from, the first emotion the text tells us they felt was “fear.” Increasingly, I’m becoming more convinced “fear” is the chief experiential problem with humanity. Even the most boisterous bravado is merely a cover-up for it.
Fear drives every other unpleasant thing we do. Fear drives us to hoard money rather than give it away generously. Fear causes us to lash out at political foes for fear their worldview may rule the day. Fear causes us to keep quiet over sin rather than risk rejection by calling it out. Fear is the sin underneath all other sins. So if we could strike a blow against fear, we could eradicate or diminish many other destructive behaviors.
Numbers 13-14 has become an important text of Scripture in my battle against fear. I’ll just mention one thing fear does we need to remember each day: fear distorts reality
Moses sends 12 scouts to check out the land that would become their home. Ten of those scouts return with a dire message. The inhabitants of that land will “devour” them. And EVERY inhabitant of that land was physically enormous. So much so they seemed like grasshoppers to them. Because of their default posture of fear, the scouts have exaggerated the challenges that lie ahead of them. A molehill has turned into mountain.
Fear distorts reality.
This is critically important for both leaders and followers. Understanding what fear does is critical in your role as a leader and as a follower: fear exaggerates the challenges and distorts reality. When the challenges are exaggerated and reality is distorted it will make you a poor leader and a poor follower because now you’re reacting and evaluating and making decisions in response to something that doesn’t really exist.
It’s no wonder the most frequent command in the Bible is: Do not fear.
I think about retirement every now and then. I think about being able to attend church each Sunday with my wife and what that will be like. I also think about what I would do in order to be a great church member. Being a pastor provides me a unique perspective on this. So here are five grace-driven things I would ask the Lord to help me do, as a retired pastor, in order to be a great church member.
1) Pray for the church
I will weekly, perhaps daily, pray for the church I attend.
Paul’s prayers for the various churches are both numerous and profound. But one easy takeaway is to see how much this man prayed for the church. I would adopt this practice. But I wouldn’t just pray for individual requests. That’s fine, but it’s not biblical enough. I would use Paul’s prayers as a template in order to pray BIG for the church.
2) Encourage the pastors and staff
I will encourage the pastors and staff.
Why is it that encouragement goes a long way? Because they get plenty of the other stuff. Besides, let’s call a spade a spade. Complaining (i.e. grumbling) is sin.
Encouragement cards, words of verbal affirmation, compliments, and smiles, will be my mission as a church member.
3) Avoid gossip
Gossip is tricky. If you haven’t read Matthew Mitchell’s MUCH NEEDED book, Resisting Gossip, please get it and read it! Gossip is more than you think it is and it’s worse than you think it is (Proverbs 16:28 links a “gossip” with a “perverse person.”)
Rule of thumb: don’t talk too much and avoid those who do (SEE Prov. 20:19; 10:19).
4) Forgive others
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. - Matthew 6:14-15
Forgiving other people is a salvation issue. How so? Read Matthew 18:21-35. Being forgiven an infinite debt while refusing to forgive an incremental debt is the highest order of an unchanged heart. It’s symptomatic one is not “in Christ.”
Positively, forgiveness is a dramatic reenactment of the gospel!
5) Serve joyfully
I estimate that if we had to pay all our volunteers at Alliance Bible Church for all the volunteer hours they give, it would cost the church approximately $350,000 per year - at a modest hourly rate. That’s a lot of service provided! There’s nothing better than a servant-hearted person who joyfully goes about their business whether it’s handing out bulletins, changing diapers, or teaching children.