Today, I listened to a sermon by T.D. Jakes where he posed this question, “What would you do if you had no fear?” He went on to say, “Whatever it is that is what fear is stealing from you.” Thought-provoking, right?
Well, that’s what inspired this post. After thinking about the fears that were holding me back from achieving God’s best for my life, I was motivated to combat those fears. Of course, I know I’m not alone in this. We all have experienced fear at some point in our lives, so I figured I would try to help others identify and combat those fears.
To aid this message, I’m going to pull from Exodus 14. This chapter is the climax of the Israelites’ grand escape from Egyptian slavery. After second thought, Pharoah has decided that he’s made a mistake in letting them go and he’s now eager to re-enslave them.
“10: As Pharoah approached, the Israelites looked up and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11: They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12: Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert.”
Let me take a minute to make this important point. When God called Moses to lead the Israelites, he told him to send forth this message:
“6: I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7: I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8: And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hands to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.'” (Exodus 6:6-8)
So now we know that the Israelites had received God’s memo, but there was something that made them forget everything God had said; that something was FEAR. Once they saw Pharoah (Massa) and his Egyptian army, they were stricken with fear. All courage and faith disappeared. Instantly, they started questioning Moses. They didn’t care about what was behind Door 1, forget about the land of milk and honey, they were ready to surrender.
But here’s the part that really caught my attention.
“Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert.”
First point: From the beginning, The Israelites wrestled with the idea of leaving Egypt.
Second point: And right at their moment of victory, they were willing to go back to the familiar.
This reminds me of something Harriet Tubman said, “I freed thousands of slaves. I could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.”
The Israelites cried out to God for Him to rescue them, but when he honored their requests, they were reluctant to leave!
Let’s give a modern-day example of this…
So it’s July, I’m at the pool enjoying the sun. I decide to jump in the pool for a swim. I know I’m not a strong swimmer, but at 24-years-old, any flotation device isn’t a good look. So I start at 3 feet and I conclude that’s lame! I notice all the fun is happening down by the 8 ft. mark. So I swim/tip-toe to that side of the pool, but I notice the water is way above my neck. I’m in trouble! I scream, “HELP!” The lifeguard runs over to me, I’m panicking, he/she throws me a lifebuoy and, in my moment of rescue, I throw it back and say, “Oh, it’s okay! I asked for help, but just kidding. This whole drowning thing is pretty cool!”
That’s crazy, right? Well, just how crazy is it? When I read Exodus 14, I was quick to judge them. But the chuckling ceased when God started revealing some of our similarities. You see we have the promises of God laced throughout the Bible (Deuteronomy 28, Jeremiah 29:11, Jeremiah 33, Matthew 6, etc.). There are promises of prosperity, healing, restoration and so much more; but how often do we remember those promises when our bill collector friends call? Or when we’re handed that pink slip at work? Or when our physician delivers a poor diagnosis?
We, too, have a tendency to let the fear blind us. I would argue at the moment the Israelites gave in to their fear, the shackles were placed back on them. They didn’t need Pharoah, fear enslaves.
How many of us are walking around in fear-influenced shackles?
Bringing it home…
So this would be the part of the movie where you stuff your mouth with popcorn and grip your seat. Did the Israelites give up and turn back with Pharoah? Did Moses exit stage left? Did God send their prayers to voice mail? Absolutely NOT!
“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” (Exodus 14: 13-14)
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22: and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” (Exodus 14: 21-22)
And just in case you’re wondering what happened to Pharoah and his army men:
“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Need I say more?
We have a habit of living with our fears, but imagine how different the story would have been if the Israelites did the same? What would fear have stolen from them? We cannot give our fears permanent residency if we, too, want God’s best.
A Closer Look At Moses’ Instructions
- Do not be afraid– You may experience fear, but it should be a fleeing emotion.
2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of self-control.”
- Stand firm– Be courageous. Don’t let your circumstances defeat you.
Ephesians 6:13: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
- Be still– Remain prayerful, obedient and spirit-led. Invest the effort you’d put into fighting your battles into trusting God. I’ve learned that thinking I need to help God is thinking to highly of myself.
Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”