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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Triple Threat”

Spike was a dragon under a lot of stress in this episode. He went to extreme lengths to welcome Dragonlord Ember as the ambassador of Equestria to try and keep peace with the dragon race, but in his focus he completely forgot he had invited King Thorax of the Changelings over on the exact same day. He feared the two would have such clashing personalities that they would not only hate each other but would start a war between their respective races, and devoted most of the day to try and keep them apart. Yet as a result of this, he ended up almost causing them to really get in a fight when they finally spotted one another and misinterpreted each other’s actions. On top of that, they ended up angry at him for his gesture showing what he thought of their respective personalities. In the end it turned out that the two were able to help each other with their own respective problems, and that if Spike hadn’t let his fears get hold of him things would have worked out far more easily.

As I’ve stated before, one of the biggest “internal enemies” both Christians as well as all other faiths and non-religious folks have to deal with is fear. Unlike some churches and sermons, I feel a little fear is a good thing as it, like all other emotions, is created by God. Certainly a Christian won’t argue that we should have fear of God; at least in the sense of respect, reverence, and awe of his power. And many people in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, could have done well with a bit more fear of God (namely everyone who ignored any of his warnings). But even discounting that, fear is necessary for a lot of life. As children, if we didn’t have fear of being stung, bit, burned, cut, or electrocuted, we’d wander into a lot of dangerous situations. As adults, if we didn’t have fear of laws and for our own lives, we’d be more apt to do things such as drive recklessly, overindulge in alcohol, get into fights with strangers, or go about a promiscuous lifestyle with unknown people. Obviously, there’s a lot of dangers in this world, and many of them we can’t afford to get “hit” by once to learn better. We need to fear and respect them now.

Yet like all things God has granted us, fear can be misapplied, and I hardly need to go into detail about that. Past hurt, phobias, and paranoia are all examples of sources of fear that can keep us crippled and unable to function as normal human beings. Yet fear dictates almost all of our actions even in day-to-day life. If we find ourselves treating one group of people different from another, it ultimately boils down to fear. We see a difference between the two groups that ultimately makes us scared of one more than the other. If we don’t donate or volunteer, it again comes to fear. Fear that we don’t have enough time for ourselves, fear that the money will be wasted, fear that the organization is crooked, etc. If we don’t want to witness to this or that person, fear once again comes into play–fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of humiliation…the list is endless. These types of fear are not healthy and limit us as Christians and as human beings.

It was Denis Waitley who once said: “What the mind dwells upon, the body acts upon.” This can be both good and bad; depending on what, exactly, the mind dwells upon. If we constantly dwell on our fears, as Spike did in this episode, we will eventually act in accord with them. Rather than trust his friends, much less realized how they could have helped one another, Spike tried to keep them apart in this whole episode to his own detriment. But in more concrete, real-world terms… If we constantly distrust people, we won’t try to outreach to them and read false motives into everything they do. If we fear being cheated or lied to, we won’t donate to anyone or let anyone in to our lives. If we constantly fear rejection, we’ll never witness or try anything important. And just like Spike, once we let fear take hold in our minds we’ll just keep going over it again and again and make it worse until it dominates all aspects of our thinking.

As one who struggles with anxiety and fear, I know this all too well. I’ve spent restless nights and had my weekends ruined from constant fear (usually irrational), or wasted time I could have spent with my family or doing something for other people because I spent too much time being fearful. When it becomes a learned response, as it did for me, it’s very hard to get rid of and, to this day, I’m still trying.

Small wonder that the Bible emphasizes the importance of keeping a sound mind as well as a sound spirit. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8) “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Whenever I feel myself stricken and even crippled by fear and anxiety, I try to keep in mind two important Bible verses.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26)

This one is very poignant. Many of us, in our zeal to be responsible and to think of things soberly, have gone the extra step and now feel worrying about something is actually doing something about it. It isn’t. As my pastor pointed out, the only thing worrying ever changes is ourselves–making us slaves to our own obsessions and fears. We have to remind ourselves that sitting around being fearful accomplishes absolutely nothing.

And for the second…

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

As the Bible has said, God knows all of our concerns before we voice them, and he knows what we need. He has vowed to be with us at all times and to see us through everything. To claim to follow God and yet live a life of fear means we aren’t truly following God, because we haven’t learned to have faith in him yet. In all my times of worry, desperation, and fear, I sometimes have to stop, concentrate, and tell myself and all my inner feelings that God is in control and he will see me through as he has every other time I have been in distress. And I need to keep focusing on that until my belief in that overrides my fears.

In closing for today, I’d like to share Jesus’ own words from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-34):

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you that I am valuable in your eyes and that you know my needs even before I bring them to you, even when I feel I am abandoned. And thank you for your Word, which testifies again and again that no one need fear who trusts in you. When my own fears threaten to choke me and, especially, prevent me from living in accordance with your Will, let me cling to your Word and Promise and let it cast out all fear within me. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”