Sunday, May 4, 2014


“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”(Matthew 10:28)

Are you afraid of the wrong things? 

If you’re like most people, the answer is “yes.”  There are professionals who calculate the odds of you having a certain kind of accident, illness, or death.  When you ask people about these things, most of us are very afraid of things that are unlikely to happen, while we’re very bold in things that should cause us concern.  For example, I met many people in the southeastern US who think it’s crazy to live in CA where they have earthquakes.  But if you look at the actual numbers, you can easily see that many times more people die in hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms, lightening and floods … than in earthquakes. 

Most people live between two extremes of fear and recklessness.  Some people are afraid of lots of things, and even though they know their fears are irrational, they “just can’t help it.”  Others seem to be afraid of nothing, and so they take foolish risks.  Often the reckless people are teenagers, and the fearful are “senior citizens,” but age isn't the only thing that affects our fears or our boldness. 

Now consider the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17). 

Goliath was unafraid, because he was an experienced warrior who had (obviously) never been defeated.  Also he was a giant.  His fellow Philistines were unafraid, because they had seen what Goliath could do before, and they were confident in their champion. 

For the same reasons, Israel’s king (Saul) and his soldiers were all afraid.  Again, they were afraid FOR THE SAME REASONS the Philistines were bold: Goliath was an undefeated giant. 

To put it in modern terms, let’s say LeBron James came to your town and challenged your city.  Let’s say LeBron offered to play a game of one-on-one basketball with anyone in your town, and winner takes all.  Either you’d become the owner of Miami and all her people including LeBron’s own family … or LeBron would be the owner of your town and everything in it.  He could have all the money, all the women, all the children … everything … or you could have all that was contained in Miami. 

And then up from nowhere comes an eighth grade kid who sells hot dogs at the Lakers' games and says confidently that he can defeat LeBron James.  You've GOT to be kidding me. 

OK, now let’s take this story and go back to our original question about “fear,” and use the metaphor to get real.
What is your personal Goliath? 
Who is your LeBron James? 
Or to put it another way:
What is the thing that keeps beating you up? 

Hold on to that thought for a moment, and we’ll come back to it soon.

Our Challenge

As I've written here many times, I write this blog for people who really badly want to be followers of Jesus.  I mean, those of us who see how amazing Jesus was and how perfect and loving and strong Jesus was, and would give anything to be like him.  We are people who watch his every move, and read about him and study him and are fascinated by him.  We are disciples of Jesus. 

There are many Christians in the world (about a billion) of various religions.  I’m not talking to those people.  If they’re happy in their religious world, then I find that to be disappointing, but there’s nothing I can do about it.  So I focus only on dedicated, devoted, passionate disciples of Jesus. 

So (for this blog) I divide humanity into three groups:
  1. The World
  2. Christians
  3. Disciples

     “The world” is a term found often in the bible.  It applies to all people now alive.  They may be atheists or Muslims or Buddhists or whatever. 

     “Christians” are (the way I use the term) anyone who calls himself a Christian, whether God considers them so or not, whether they’re saved or not, or anything else.  I hate the thought of having to judge others, so I’ll accept people who claim the title “Christian” as if that’s what they are.

     “Disciples” are something altogether different.  
To describe a disciple, let’s use Jesus’ description:

Now large crowds were going along with him; and he turned and said to them,
“If anyone comes to me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.  Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.   For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?

So then, none of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
(Luke 14:25–35)

So our challenge is to decide if we’re willing to pay the price to be a disciple. 

But wait!  Before you answer, read this:
Pay special attentions to the words Jesus used and the word I used.  Jesus didn't say that people who don’t pay the price are not disciples, he said they cannot be disciples.  Now go back and look at that passage again, this time pay extra attention to how Jesus uses the words “can” or “cannot.”

There Jesus is talking about ability – what you’re capable of. 
Now if you go back and look at my first sentence after the quote you’ll see that I used the word “willing.”  And that’s why Jesus says “does not,” as in if you do not give up x or y or z, then you will not be able to do things. 

I hope you see it, but if you don’t I’ll try to make it clear:
Being a successful, productive disciple of Jesus isn't about what you CAN do, but what you’re WILLING to do.  If you’re WILLING to give up everything, then you CAN succeed as a disciple.  If you’re unwilling, you’ll then be unable

Bob invites Ed to come for a hike along the Appalachian Trail.  Ed asks Bob if he can bring his favorite bible and travel books and portable DVD player and laptop.  Then Bob says to Ed, “You may bring anything you want, but you cannot make some of the steep climbs with too much weight in your backpack.” 

Anyone can claim to follow Jesus, but only those who are willing to give up everything will be able to succeed.  That is what Jesus said, and Jesus knew what he was talking about. 

Useless – Useful

Now back to your Goliath.  David didn't defeat him with armor or experience or size or speed.  David was able to defeat Goliath because of his faith in God’s power, not his own. 

Sometimes we can win battles by our own strength, but the one that keeps getting you in trouble over and over again, it’s beating you because it’s stronger than you.  Not a single person reading this blog can beat LeBron James in a game of one-on-one.  Not a single one of us.  We are unable – we cannot

But GOD can beat LeBron.  GOD can do anything.  GOD can beat LeBron at basketball with 99.999% of His ability left over.  GOD vs. LeBron is the most lopsided thing in history.  It’s insane. 

So it is with your struggle.  The thing that keeps beating you up is too big for you, but also too small for God.  God’s power is so staggeringly great that we aren't even capable of imagining it, let alone me describing it. 

So our challenge is to defeat our Goliath – by using God’s power, instead of our own. 

Remember above when Jesus was talking about the un-salty salt?  He called it “useless.”  And isn't that exactly what un-salty salt is?  I mean, what’s the point?  You can still call it salt if you want to, but it’s useless.  It has the form and the name, but not the function.  Useless.

In the same way, a person who claims to follow Jesus is salt … but many are not salty.  They don’t bear fruit.  They are unproductive.  They are useless.  And one of the biggest reasons these people are useless is because they try to be useful by their own power! 

They think in terms of what they “can” do instead of thinking about what they’re “willing” to do.  That’s why all of Israel’s army got dressed every day and then stood and listened to Goliath’s challenge – every day – for six weeks!!  Of course they were unable.  No one is able to beat this guy, including David.  But David was willing.  He was willing because he knew the battle was God’s – not his. 

It was the same with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego (Daniel 3) who believed (had faith) that God would deliver them, but even if He didn't … they were UNWILLING to bow to Nebuchadnezzar.

So … Are you willing? 
If you are willing to pay whatever the price, I’ll teach you how to tap into God’s power and overcome, just as David did.  

Fear & Faith

This article began by asking you about your fears.  The world & Christians should have certain fears, and not others.  Mostly they can educate themselves and learn to be unafraid of things that have little likelihood of harming them (like earthquakes), but be sensible to come inside out of a lightning storm, which is very dangerous.

But disciples are different.  We don’t have to be afraid of anything or anyone - but God.  If your first and only fear is that of Yahweh, then this (according to Solomon) is the beginning of wisdom.  David also feared Yahweh, and his fear and faith went together, so that he was able to call Yahweh his shepherd (Psalms 23).  That means that he trusted God to feed him, clothe him, care for him and protect him from harm.  David was able to do things that provoked others to fear, because David understood that God’s combination of power and love were undefeatable. 

What seems to have come naturally to David, we can learn.  We can learn to live without fear of anything.  When we never fear, there is no stress, no anxiety, no worry, no panic … just strength and resolve. 

But first, you must decide if you’re willing. 

Take the week and pray and think and talk to God about this.  Be honest with yourself. 
  • Are you willing to give up even family relationships? 
  • Are you willing to give up all your possessions?
  • Are you willing to sacrifice your career?
  • Are you willing to sacrifice your friends?
  • Are you willing to sacrifice your life? 

Jesus asked, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul”?  With our brains, the answer is obvious – no one in his right mind would trade anything in this life for eternity.  But we answer that question differently when we’re confronted with our fears and our desires. 

The rich young ruler (Matt 19:16–29; Mark 10:17–30; Luke 18:18–30) was willing to do anything to follow Jesus, except he just could not bring himself to give up all his possessions.  Just that one thing!  And because he counted the cost and was unwilling … he walked away from Jesus “grieving.” 

The apostles were confused about this, even more so when Jesus said how hard it was for the rich to be part of the kingdom.  They also didn't (at this point) understand the difference between willing and able:
“Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said,
“Then who can be saved?”
And looking at them Jesus said to them,
With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
(Matthew 19:24–26)

Jesus was telling them (and us) that if the rich man had been willing, God would have made him able. 

Spend the next week and see if you can figure the thing(s) you’re least willing to give up.  And then decide – will you give them up?  If you decide to answer “yes,” then God will make you able.  But if you are unwilling to give your life, God will not make you able

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