Today I think I've learned something really amazing. It's been another example of how we are broken down only to be lifted back up and rebuilt into something stronger:
This weekend, certainly this Monday morning, I had been feeling woefully inadequate. It was like I was being flooded with insecurities and fear. I felt so insufficient. I felt like a giant screw-up. Like I was ruining the good things I had been graced with, like my job, the relationships with the people God has put into my life. I just didn't feel good enough. I didn't feel like my best was good enough. I didn't think I was good enough.
But I had church this evening, and I'd been looking forward to it all weekend. I came in with a better attitude than I had sported for most of the day. I was nervously excited about the small group leadership meeting; I confess as we were circled around discussing our roles for the next eight weeks, I began to let a little of that doubt and fear back in... am I good enough? Can I handle this?
Even right before the message started, I get a phone call from my heart surgeon's office - finally! - and scheduled an appointment for about 2 weeks away. So I have about a million worries, fears, and doubts running through my head and heart as I sit back down to listen to the message. Then tonight's message really tore my heart out.
We have a necessary fight against sin
But before we can take up with fight, we must reject fear. Fear has no place in such an important battle.
So I know if I shed this fear, it will make me stronger, to fight sin.
If I shed this fear (the fear of failure, of not being good enough) it will make me stronger. I make myself vulnerable to make myself stronger. You must shed the fear to expose the Spirit that God has placed inside you; you can't let fear cover up the Spirit of God.
The pastor speaking tonight was literally answering my inner monologue from earlier today: "Reject fear - the fear of failure, of not being good enough. There is no need to have this fear. You can't go into battle against sin with this fear".
First, we must know that we have a necessary fight against sin. Much of Romans 8 talks about lining yourself up on clearly one side or the other: Spirit vs flesh, peace vs sin, life vs death. It also outlines a sense of urgency - if we don't take the fight to sin, sin will still attack regardless if we are prepared or not. ("So then brothers and sisters, we are under obligation...to put to death the deeds of the body" (sin) Romans 8:12 NET). Romans 8:12 tells us we must "put to death" sin, that we have an obligation to wage this good fight. If "put to death" are not clearly fighting words, I don't know what else would be. So we arm ourselves with the word (Eph. 6:17, "take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God").
Second, embracing fear means we can't embrace the Spirit. Romans 8 is very black and white. There are no clever gray areas for people to wait on the sidelines. You, personally, are being attacked by sin, and you, personally, can just sit there and take it or accept the aid of the Spirit who is here to fight on your behalf.
Romans 8:6-7 tells us "the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace, because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so." If accepting the Spirit of God means life and peace, then the other side to that coin would be a life of death and fear without the Spirit. 1 John 4:18 tells us "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love."
So with the Spirit, we do not need to fear. Romans 8 makes it very clear that sin and flesh are what brings punishment and fear, whereas the Spirit of God brings life and peace and love.
Do I get it yet?? I can't possibly accept BOTH the Spirit of God AND the fear that comes from the flesh. If I shed this fear, I can finally choose the side I need to be on - the side that includes the Spirit of God, life, peace. Fear gets in the way of accepting the Spirit. Its something that resides between you.
So you reject the fear. Get it out in the open and expose it. Let go of the pride that keeps you from sharing it, and humbly make yourself vulnerable - to the Spirit of God, and the life and peace that comes with it.