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Fear Derails Faith

Hebrews Series Message Two

What’s your biggest fear?

Sometimes we have irrational fears—like being afraid of the bathtub or of grass or something random. Even being afraid of spiders can be irrational since there are only a couple that could actually harm us—not to mention, we are quite a bit larger than spiders!

But most of our fears come from somewhere.

Here’s an example from my life: I’m afraid to go mountain biking.

I’ve known people who suffered while mountain biking. One of my small group leaders in high school went over his handlebars and broke a bunch of things. He ended up out of work for months! Another friend’s dad was out biking when he had a heart attack and passed away. For me, the idea of mountain biking is coated in fear of worst-case-scenarios. When someone invites me to mountain bike, I don’t hear, “Let’s go have a fun afternoon,” but rather, “Let’s go put our lives at risk.”

To me, it’s not worth it.

I could potentially say the same about rock climbing now. There’s plenty of equipment and training available to make rock climbing a safe activity. I’ve been numerous times, and I’ve taken groups of students.

Before a few months ago, I had never had an issue.

But now Caleb is super broken and forever changed because of a rock climbing accident. 

And it’s nauseating to sit with this person I love the most in the world knowing he’s in horrible pain and feeling absolutely helpless because there’s nothing I can do!

While we were at the hospital last week for his surgery, a girl was helicoptered in who had been in a rock climbing accident too, and she was even more broken than Caleb!

As I sat in the hospital and watched the rescue helicopter drop patients off over and over, I realized that Caleb could have been paralyzed or killed, and that’s what I’m actually most afraid of... Losing Caleb.

In the face of these accidents, rock climbing seems very dangerous. I freaked out and looked it up, and the odds of being in a rock climbing accident are around 1 in 500. The odds are not that high, but now that I’ve seen the damage it can cause up close, the danger feels more real, more threatening.

What is it for you? Maybe you’re afraid of leaving the doors unlocked. Or of flying in a plane. Something that isn’t necessarily unsafe or bad, but your experiences have rooted a fear in you.

And now that fear drives you to do certain things or leave certain things out. 

You’re afraid someone might break in. You lay down, and when you’re almost asleep you hear your dad go out to the garage and come back in. You can’t quite hear the deadbolt lock, so you sneak out of bed to ensure the garage door is locked because there’s always a chance…

Or this one: We all probably fear losing someone we love. This is a valid fear. We’re all going to die one day, so a day will come when that fear will be realized. 

Statistics and rationality can fly out the window in the face of fear. Certain situations make our hands shake and cause us to sweat and make our hearts pound. They make us throw up from anxiety or keep us from sleep.

Living in fear can paralyze us.

The tricky thing about fear is that it speaks really loud.

We think our faith--whether it's in our skills or in the pilot of the airplane, etc.--is strong until a moment hits and we find ourselves tripping all over our fear, faith drowned out by the panic in mere moments.

Sometimes fear interrupts our faith. Fear makes us question God and what He has said. That leads us to unbelief. And if we don’t trust God, why would we obey Him? So our unbelief leads us to disobedience which leads us away from God all together. 

All that fear has to do to trip us up is speak louder than our faith.

So we have to be aware of our fear or five years from now we can look up and be totally separated from God and not realize how we even got there.

We're back in Hebrews, and we are going to see how fear can derail our faith.

But first, to give a little refresh, I want to remind you of the context.

The Hebrews to whom this letter is written are Jewish Christians. The Jews (the Israelites) had grown up with a sacrificial system and priests and prophets and everything we read about in the Old Testament. They had been planning this idea of who their Savior would be and what He would be like, and they fully anticipated a political ruler.

Then comes Jesus, and He’s a baby and a carpenter. He’s here to bring freedom from sin and offer salvation to all people, and the Jews are a bit suspicious because Jesus and what He offers is contrary to what they have spent hundreds of years planning out and anticipating. 

Many of the Jews were so caught up in their preconceived ideas that they missed the Messiah they had waited so long for. But others believed in Jesus. These are the Hebrews. They are struggling in their belief still because when you grow up in one system of ritual and belief, it’s hard to just throw it all to the wind because the new guy’s here now.

The author of Hebrews is writing to explain why Jesus is superior to all they had known and to emphasize the importance of maintaining their faith in Him. 

We, like the Hebrews, live post-Jesus. We have to maintain our faith in Him even though the world around us is pushing back on that. 

Diving in, this is Hebrews 3, starting in verse 12:

“Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. Remember what it says: 'Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts    as Israel did when they rebelled.' Who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice? Wasn’t it the people Moses led out of Egypt? And who made God angry for forty years? Wasn’t it the people who sinned, whose corpses lay in the wilderness? And to whom was God speaking when he took an oath that they would never enter his rest? Wasn’t it the people who disobeyed him? So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest.”

Hebrews 3:12-19 NLT

The Bible is really a continuous history of the people of God. These are real people who went through real life and were really messed up, just like us. 

If you’ve grown up in church, then you probably know the story of Joseph and how his father favored him which made his brothers mad, so they sold him into slavery but doused his coat in blood so they could convince their father that Joseph was dead (I told you they were messed up).

Joseph goes to Egypt as a slave and has a lot of hardship, but he ends up second in command over the nation! Then Jospeh’s family (the Israelites) move to Egypt to be with him, and this family starts reproducing like crazy. Over the years, they grow into a large extended family (what the Bible calls a nation—the nation of Israel). 

The Egyptians get scared of them and make them slaves. 

The Israelites want to leave Egypt to worship God and offer sacrifices to him, but the Pharaoh is very stubborn, and he denies their request.

Enter: Moses. 

Fast forward, and Moses has been asked by God to initiate all these plagues over Egypt so that the Pharaoh will relent and let the Israelites go. These plagues were nasty:

Imagine you go out to the yard to water your mom’s tomato plant, and as you spray the hose on it, blood comes out instead of water. You’re freaked out, so you turn to go back inside, but now there are so many frogs in your yard that you cannot even see the ground, and as you figure out how to get back inside, a swarm of insects flies into your yard and eats all the leaves, all the grass, all the tomato plants you just watered with blood, and finally you get back inside, and that night, your oldest sibling dies in his sleep. 

Would you realize how powerful the God of Israel is and finally let them go?

Pharaoh does, and he lets them go…

For like half a day and then he changes his mind. He gets his chariots and horses and military to chase after the Israelites and bring them back. 

The Israelites are fleeing, and they get to the sea and it’s, well, a sea. The Egyptians are behind them, and there’s nowhere to go. Enter GOD who through Moses parts the sea in half with a strong wind so that the Israelites can walk through on dry land. Once the Israelites are safely across and the Egyptians are only part way through in pursuit, God lets the water fall, crashing over the Egyptians and drowning them so that the Israelites are delivered from slavery.

I am not making this up! The Bible is awesome! You should read it. 

So now they are free. Where are they going?

God has promised to deliver the Israelites into a land “flowing with milk and honey.” This is a place that comes to be known as the “Promised Land.” That is, the land that was promised to them. Moses was super creative.

Free from Egypt, the Israelites begin wandering in the wilderness, and God is present with them. He appears as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They can literally see God there with them. 

How many of you would feel super confident in your decision making if God was literally a pillar of fire leading you in the right direction? Yeah; Me too.

A bunch of years go by and they finally get to the promised land, and God tells them to go into it and to take it over. He promises to deliver the current residents of the land into the hands of the Israelites. God has promised this land, and now He’s ready to give it to them. 

And you know what the Israelites do?

They get scared. They see how big the people are and decide they can’t overpower them. They choose to walk away from the promised land because they are afraid of the people already living there. 

The same people who saw the signs in Egypt, who crossed a sea on dry ground, who could literally physically see God’s presence day and night, ended up rebelling against God. They rebelled through disobedience. They knew what God had commanded--go take the land--and they refused. 

Somehow, their fear felt bigger than their faithful God, and they listened to it instead of to Him. They were more comfortable going back to the slavery they knew than they were trusting God with something unknown.

Like this passage in Hebrews describes, that made God angry! So angry, in fact, that He said all the people in the generation that had been brought out of Egypt and promised this land would now die in the wilderness instead of getting to receive the “rest” and provision the land would have provided.  

The author of Hebrews says in chapter 3 verse 19:

“So we see that because of their unbelief they were unable to enter his rest.”

They had every reason to believe that God was going to come through again. That He would be with them. That He would fulfill His promise. 

But their fear derailed their faith. They questioned God, leading to unbelief, which caused disobedience, which forfeited their blessing. 

I think we read the story here and shake our heads because it’s so obvious that God is with them, but when we take a look at our lives we find over and over again our tendency to stick with the things that are less risky.

The Israelites listened to their fears.

How do we keep from making the same mistake?

That’s what the author of Hebrews explains here. He says in verse 12, 

“Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.”

This idea of a heart that is evil and unbelieving is a heart that fails to trust God and His promises. When we don’t trust God, we don’t obey God. When fear speaks louder than faith, we stop listening to God. The Israelites exemplified that.

He goes on,

“You must warn each other every day, while it is still ‘today,’ so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.”

There will come a tomorrow when it is too late. The kind of rebellion he describes often happens slowly. We start to question God. We get deceived, just like Adam and Eve in the garden. We no longer see that we’re hardening our hearts toward God because sin is blinding us as we begin to question who God is and what He has said. Before we know it, we are calloused. We have lost our ability to determine right and wrong, and our lack of belief, brought about by the deception of sin, leads us to disobedience. 

So what does the author say to do to prevent that day from coming? He says “warn” each other. This word communicates the ideas of advice, correction, and encouragement. We need to be honest with each other, uncovering sin so that we aren’t blind to it.

We need to speak truth into the fears that are trying to interrupt our faith.

We are to motivate each other to persevere in our faith. Why? Because…

Sin is most deceptive in that it makes us feel like we can ignore the will of God without any consequences. 

It feels like we’re doing fine the whole time when in reality we’re losing our ability to discern.

But verse 14 makes it clear: We have to persevere in order to “share in all that belongs to Christ.”

The Israelites were an example of what happens when fear leads us to disbelieve in God. Israel could have had a long, fruitful, blessed life in the promised land. Instead, they listened to fear and disobeyed God and died in the wilderness. 

Here’s where we’re in the same boat as the Hebrews: We also can cause ourselves to miss out on blessings in this life.

Let me ask you this: How often do you ask God for clarity? Or discernment? 

How often are you willing to follow through in obedience no matter what He says? 

There are people--maybe you're one of them--who get stuck pretending (or truly feeling) like they are asking for God’s direction when they know He has spoken. They are just too afraid to move forward.

But indecision is just as good for Satan as disobedience. It feels wise and right to us, but failure to obey is still disobeying.

There’s a song called “Open Space.” It’s a beautiful song by Housefires, and one of the lyrics in there says, “Change whatever you want to change.”

When I was in college, and I was dating a guy long distance. This song came on as I drove to go visit him. I often had it on repeat, ad I began to sing along once again.

In the simplicity of my drive, I suddenly sense that God is asking me if I really mean what I’m saying. If He asked me to let go of this boyfriend I was headed to see, would I do it?

And I could not turn the song off fast enough.

I stopped listening to it altogether because I suddenly knew it wasn’t honest of me. I was not willing to walk away from that relationship. I was afraid that if I held it open-handed, God would take it away from me. I was not interested in losing it, so I used my fear to silence the voice of God so I could do what felt most right to me. 

Come to find out, if I had trusted God and obeyed Him in that moment, I would have saved myself a relationship with a lot of red flags, one that ultimately crashed and burned.

My guess would be that God is trying to lead you into or away from something in your life that scares you. You aren’t quite trusting God. You might begin questioning Him, so this is me warning you to listen to Him. 

I want to challenge you to consider: Where do you think God might be leading you? If you’re honest, are you scared of what God might say? 

Lack of trust in God always prevents us from receiving His best.

So I am urging you to set aside your opinions, your preferences, your ideas, and listen to what God is asking of you.

Because my fear is that your fear would keep you from experiencing the blessing and the life that God would have for you.

But even more than that, we could forfeit eternal blessing, eternal life, because of disbelieving and disobeying God. We could fail to enter heavenly rest.

This God who performed all those signs and wonders and parted the Red Sea is the same God who is living and active today; He is the same God whose Spirit lives within us. 

He is trustworthy. He is faithful.


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