Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1: 10).
My wife and I recently had the privilege of climbing the infamous Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The night before we left for the climb, one of our trip leaders gave a talk about giving things up to God. She told the story of a young girl who won her battle with alcoholism when she gave it up to the Lord. Then she challenged us to do the same as we climbed to the top of that mountain. She gave each one of us a rock, and on that rock she asked us to write something that we were having trouble giving over to God. Then she asked us to carry that rock with us to the top of the mountain, and to throw it from the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
It did not take me long to figure out what to write on my rock. On one side of the rock I wrote the words, “No fear,” and on the other side I wrote, “just faith and love.” For me personally, I tend to let the fear of what others think of me get in the way of what God is calling me to do. In fact, I had a perfect example of this on the flight over to Africa. I had been praying, and during that time with the Lord I felt very impressed to pray for a Muslim woman that I had encountered while standing in line to board the plane. I then felt very strongly that God wanted me to approach her later and just simply tell her that God loved her, and that He was with her.
Deep down I hoped that I wouldn’t come across her again. We were on a plane that held about 300 passengers, and we were about to enter a customs line with hundreds more. The chances of me seeing her again were slim to none. However, when I arrived at baggage claim, there was that same woman standing directly in front of me. I felt the Holy Spirit encouraging me to approach her out of love and compassion. Just before I said hello to her I started to think about all the reasons why I shouldn’t. I thought about how I was in a foreign country and didn’t want to accidentally upset anyone. I reasoned that she probably didn’t even speak English anyway. I thought of every reason why I couldn’t just tell that woman that God loved her, and I successfully talked myself out of doing what I know God wanted me to do. The truth of that matter is that I was so concerned about what other people would think, and I did not want to potentially embarrass myself.
I have moments like this frequently. Sometimes I overcome, and other times I draw back out of fear. Every time that I overcome, God is faithful and amazing things happen, but that doesn’t stop the fear from rising up the next time. I know God loves me regardless, but deep down I want to please Him. Without faith, it’s impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11: 6). So when I threw that rock off the top of that mountain, I broke down in tears. I broke down for all of those times I was not bold and courageous, but I also broke down knowing that any time I was courageous that the courage came from Him.
Why am I sharing this with everyone? I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the only one who struggles with fear. There is a reason why God’s word tells us so many times not to fear. He knows and understands our struggles as human beings. I believe the first thing we all need to hear is that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. He is not standing behind us reminding us of all those times we have failed. However, He is standing behind us helping us to forget all of those times we were not courageous, and He is encouraging us to be courageous at our next opportunity. Be courageous today! Trust God, and let your love for Him and others be greater than your fear of what someone else might think or say.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1: 9).