3 Steps to Conquer Fear (Reflection on Psalm 34:4)

Psalm 34:4 I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.

Eat and Run

I walked into the McDonald’s because the drive-thru was packed. There, waiting in line was a man who had already ordered. He looked at me and said, “Wow. I can’t believe people are so lazy they would rather wait in the long drive-thru line rather than Psalm 344 [widescreen]coming inside. There’s no one in here! He was right. The place was empty.

Drive-thru lines get longer and longer it seems. Some places are even putting in two drive-thru lanes to deal with the increased use. Why? Are people really lazy? Or have we become so busy that sitting in the car answering email, or talking on the phone as we pick up our food and eat on the way to our next activity seems the best use of our time? Some of us are so busy a “sit down meal” means eating in our car as we drive to our next meeting. With so much to do, we fear taking time out to eat will put us behind.

Delivered

My eyes fall to verse 4 where David writes, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

That’s a powerful statement considering Saul was trying to kill David and David was running for his life. Saul had the entire Israel army at his disposal while David only had a few hundred men. David had every reason to be afraid, yet, God delivered him from all his fears.

Fear Factor

We don’t have to have someone trying to kill us to be afraid. Fear influences all of our decisions, even when we don’t know it. While fear helps us survive, fight or flight and all that, most of us don’t have to worry much about tigers, lions, and bears (oh my). Our fear is of a different nature.

We are afraid of missing out (FOMO), losing what we have, not getting what we need, upsetting others, being misunderstood, being rejected, just to name a few. Perhaps our biggest fear is making mistakes or failure. We may even decide to play it safe and stick to our ‘comfort zone.’ Comfort zones are nice because we can handle anything there. While our comfort zone is void of fear, it can limit our faithfulness to God.

Fear of losing a job causes workers to “just do what they are told” instead of putting their whole self into their work. Fear of missing out causes us to spend weekend after weekend on ball diamonds, soccer fields, basketball courts, dance recitals, and other activities. While we enjoy the events, fear that if our children aren’t fully involved, they will miss out on future scholarships is what drives us. Some children start playing organized sports at 4 or 5 years old because parents believe if they don’t their future will be limited and they won’t have as good of a life as they could.

Why are we so fearful? Because we have lost our center and we believe we are on our own. David, in this Psalm, praises God because God had delivered David from all his fears. David gives us guidance on how we can be delivered from our fears as well.

3 Steps to Be Delivered from Fear

Notice David’s progression:

1) I Sought the Lord
2) The Lord answered
3) He delivered me from all my fears

This three step process seems simple, but it isn’t easy. We all want #3, but #1 can be a problem. David sought the Lord. He was a seeker. He was seeking God in the midst of his fear as he was running. In other psalms (Psalm 5:3) David writes about seeking God in the morning. Because David sought God, God answered.

How can we expect God to answer, when we don’t fully seek him?

Habits

Do we seek the Lord, so that the Lord can answer us? What’s your habit of seeking God?

When David heard God answer, he knew he was delivered. God answered, because David was intentional to seek God. My fear is that we have become a culture who talks about seeking God, but don’t. Instead of intentional, focused, time with God, we pray “on the run” or try to “multi-task” God into our lives. God has become like our lunch…we head to the drive-thru, pick up our food, and eat as we are on the way to somewhere else. Such a meal keeps us going, but doesn’t feed our soul.

Seeking God

When we seek God, God answers. When God answers, we discover we are not alone. When we realize we are not alone, our fear dissipates. The process begins when we spend focused, intentional, time with God.

God may not answer the way we want him to answer. It has taken me years to come to terms with God not answering me the way I wanted. What I have discovered is that God answers with his presence, which, I find ends up being much better than the answer I was looking for. In Jeremiah, God makes this promise, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) That promise, when realized, drives away all fear.

An Honest Prayer

Thanks to someone in Men’s Group (Gary), I was finally able to find this clip after what seemed like years of searching. I have no idea when I saw the film, but I always remembered this prayer. At the time, I was a bit put off by it to be honest. Now I view it differently.

Today I see this as an honest prayer. Stewart’s character prays to give thanks to God, but the prayer focuses on all that Stewart has done to get what he has. His prayer shows that he believes he has what he has because of the strength of his back and the sweat of his brow. I say this prayer is honest because, for many, this is what they believe, but not necessarily what they pray. Even when we reflect Stewart’s feelings, we try to hide those feelings under words of thanks and gratitude. Our actions will give us away though.

Those who truly are able to see that all they have is a gift from God end up living differently (and praying differently). They live with gratitude and a thankfulness. They also are able to give back to God generously because they know that God has given everything to them. Knowing God has given everything to them, enables them to proceed in life with faith, giving to God along the way.

So, how do you really feel about what you have and where God fits into the picture of your blessings?

Review – The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg

The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God's Best Version of You

by John Ortberg [Zondervan]
Rank/Rating: 61499/-
Price: -

At one time in my life I believed that if I wanted to grow spiritually it meant praying for an hour each day. For a while I attempted this practice. Each morning I would arise with my outline and a watch. For a while I was able to successfully pray through the outline for an hour. Some days were all right. Other days I didn’t think the hour would ever end. Overall, I would say the practice was not helpful. It did not create more love, joy, or peace in my life. It did not open me up to God’s spirit in my life. In the end, I was glad I could check it off my to-do list. Even though it looked good (Hey! I prayed an hour!), it was not forming me into the person God had created me to be.
During that season of my life I needed a book like Ortberg’s. If I would have been able to read The Me I Want To Be, I would have discovered that because of my personality, such a practice probably wasn’t helpful for me. I had to discover that for myself, but it took much time, frustration, and guilt.

One of the most important points this book makes is that what we find helpful for spiritual growth is connected to who we are. In other words, there isn’t a one size fits all spirituality program. Some people will find praying through an outline for an hour something that causes the spirit to flow. I did not. What I have find helpful, others will not.

Ortberg does a wonderful job of removing guilt from our formative practices. Just because we can’t pray for an hour, or find other classic spiritual disciplines meaningful, does not mean we are bad Christians. It only means that certain practices are not aligned to our personalities. Once we can remove guilt and the practices that are not helpful, we are free to discover and engage in practices that allow the spirit of God to flow in our lives so we might flourish, or become who God has created us to be.

I feel the title is unfortunate however. To me, the title seems more in line with a self-help book, which this book is not. This book assumes that the “me I want to be” is who God created me to be. Spiritual practices serve to create space in our lives where God’s spirit can move, helping us to move closer to who we really are.

I recommend this book even though I view it more of a “first step” toward something greater. I wish Ortberg would have been able to discuss more spiritual practices and how they line up with various personality temperaments. Hopefully, after you read this book, you will have a greater desire to find practices that open you to God’s presence and love!

Prayer: Oxygen for the Soul

I just recently stumbled upon this article. I’ve noticed the while UMs seem to believe in prayer and try to promote prayer, we really don’t pray. We might have prayer before meetings, or in our services, yet it feels like we are simply trying to do what we are expected to do.

When we relinquish prayer as our foundation, praying becomes a type of courtesy to God. If prayer was left out, we would continue on as usual. God doesn’t need our courtesies, but God covets our prayers. He years for our relationships. He desires to speak into our lives and our churches.

The article is excellent and I encourage all readers to click the link and read it!

 

Unless you pray about it, it ain’t gonna happen.

 

That’s the Rev. Jeff Kersey’s take and, indeed, it’s happening at his church, Mount Horeb UMC in Lexington. Folks at Mt. Horeb have heavily invested in prayer, and the church has grown from 250 to 2,600 members.

via United Methodist Advocate – Connecting Methodists in South Carolina Since 1837 – Prayer: Oxygen for the Soul.

Morning Reflection 3/09/12 – Psalm 20

Prayer for Victory

To the leader. A Psalm of David.

1 The Lord answer you in the day of trouble! The name of the God of Jacob protect you!
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary, and give you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your offerings, and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices. Selah
4 May he grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans.
5 May we shout for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God set up our banners. May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.
6 Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand.
7 Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.
8 They will collapse and fall, but we shall rise and stand upright.
9 Give victory to the king, O Lord; answer us when we call.

via Psalm 20 (NRSV) – Biblia.com.

Life seems easy for some people. Looks, however, can be deceiving. How many times have we thought that someone had an easy go of things, only to find out later how difficult their life really was. Life…is hard. Even though we have technology that promises to make life easier, most of the time those promises don’t materialize. Sometimes we even yearn for simpler days ignorantly believing that simpler days would be, well, simpler. They weren’t. Continue reading “Morning Reflection 3/09/12 – Psalm 20”