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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “To Where and Back Again”
Starlight Glimmer was in her own personal worst-case scenario in this episode. After inadvertently reliving her disastrous past where her “leadership” was used as an excuse to intimidate and dominate others, she finds herself unwillingly thrust into a situation where she must reluctantly take the mantle of leadership again to direct three very unruly individuals on a rescue mission against Queen Chrysalis; made worse by the fact she has no magic to handle the problem herself for once. Although this is quite possibly the last thing she would want to do, she realizes there’s no one else to help, and that if she wants to save her friends and her country she has to bite back her fears and hesitation and go ahead regardless.
As children, we often daydream of adventure and action and going through lots of extreme situations involving danger and brave decisions, much like characters in books and movies that we enjoy. As adults, once reality sets in, the fact is we’d usually prefer to avoid such things. While I believe the greatest enemy of Christian action in the world is apathy, I think a close second is a very emotional reaction: fear.
When it comes to trying to share the Gospel, or even simply standing up for Biblical values, fear always seems to be a factor. There’s the natural fear of public speaking or sharing something about Jesus or the Bible, as they’re not part of what is normal conversation or interaction (especially when ministering to a stranger). Then there’s the fear of not saying or doing something in the right way–trying to convey one message and then being so stunned and awkward that it becomes completely botched and misses the point we were trying to make. And, of course, there is the fear of rejection. Hostility, anger, insults, or even simply starting an argument from who we’re trying to share the Gospel with are all unwelcome possibilities.
The worst part to me of all of these fears, which can and have left me crippled and tongue-tied…unable to even say “hello” to people before, is the knowledge that this is nothing compared to the fears that Christians have around the world in more persecuted countries. Knowing I’m tongue-tied about sharing a Bible verse or two with someone else while in other countries Christians boldly preach the Gospel in the face of threats of violence, loss of job, loss of property, loss of social status, and possibly even death leaves me feeling disheartened, meager, and inadequate.
I imagine I’m not alone in these feelings, and as such I imagine some, if not most, of us often enthusiastically pray to God to be used by him in the safety of Church only to grow nervous, shy away, and try to think up an excuse when the time actually comes around. The question is how do we conquer this fear to do what needs to be done when we see a genuine need in the world that will require some effort and, dare I say, danger and un-comfortability on our part to satisfy it?
I wish I could say it was simply a matter of “just pray about it”. While I still encourage everyone to do that, there’s no guarantee that will take away the fear all together–just give the courage to proceed in spite of it. That’s not always easy. I also would say in spite of the fact that the sufferings and issues of American Christians might be insignificant compared to those of Christians around the world, that doesn’t de-legitimize whatever holds us back. (After all, would you go up to a parent who just lost a child and say, “Buck up; Job lost ALL his children plus his livelihood and savings in one day!” and expect them to feel encouraged?) But how do we overcome this fear?
To me, I think a large part of the answer lies in the Bible quotation: “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30) At the time, John the Baptist was referring to his own glory diminishing to make way for the Glory of the Son of God, in particular within their respective earthly ministries, but this is one Bible passage that I take in a different light to apply to us all as Christians. Like many passages in the Bible that encourage the gradual maturation and perfection of the self, this one, at least to me, focuses on the point of maturity to shift away from the self and toward God and others.
Case in point: let’s say you’re outdoors somewhere with a group of people and one person accidentally upsets a hornet’s nest. Odds are you’re going to bolt for it immediately along with everyone else. If the person who upset it trips and falls, there’s a chance you might be brave and altruistic enough to go back to help them up, but it’s more likely you’re thinking about letting them be stung rather than get yourself and them stung. Now…let’s say that person is your child. The hornets are just as dangerous as before but something tells me the danger and fear matters considerably less now. The focus of your fear, now, is on the well-being of your child. And most of us would probably not only go back but, if the child was small enough, we’d pick them up and run faster with them and try to absorb as many of the stings as we could. Again, the threat was just as bad as before…perhaps even worse since you went back…but it mattered less because someone you loved more than yourself was in danger.
And to me, that’s the ticket. That’s what I get from that verse. As we mature and connect with other people and with God, we grow not only to love God and others but to love them more than ourselves (which are the two greatest commandments to begin with [Matthew 22:36-40]). And when you love someone, care for them, and wish their safety and well-being more than your own, then all those other personal fears and dangers don’t really matter. There are plenty of places in this world I could go and things I could do that I would never do on my own even if you paid me. Yet if it was to try and help a family member or someone I loved who was in danger, I’d go and do anyway because I wouldn’t care what happened to me. In the same way, the more we move past our own fears and insecurities and think about others, the more inclined we will be to act without fear…and, in my personal belief, the more inclined we will be to act on God’s Word and direction without prompting or “needling”.
Last but not least, remember that if you’re feeling too nervous or fearful to carry out what you feel is the Will of God in your life, be encouraged to know you’re in good company. Gideon required not one but three miracles before he acted on God’s word (Judges 6:17-21,36-40). Peter denied Jesus three times when he was close enough for Jesus to actually see him doing it, and right after a few hours ago swearing he would go to death with Him (Luke 22:54-62) (although even that was better than most of the Apostles…who simply ran and didn’t look back). Jonah tried putting himself as far away from the place of his ministry as possible (Jonah 1:1-3). And as for Moses? He practically begged God not to do his will (Exodus 4:1-17).
Into everyone’s life, so long as they’re human and carrying out God’s Word, will come fear, hesitation, reluctance, and failure. That’s inevitable. What’s important is to keep growing toward maturity, keep focused on others and God outside of our own fears and doubts, and to keep picking yourself up and trying again.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you that failure is truly never final; that so long as there is life in me each day I can become whatever you desire me to be in spite of whatever happened the day before. Please grant me the same love for others that you have, so that all of my actions today will be motivated by love of you and of others; and that by feeling the same love you have I can better do your will. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”