Fear of the Power of the Spirit

Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.

1 Samuel 16:13

Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David…In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him. When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns.

1 Samuel 18:12, 14-16

When the Spirit of the Lord comes powerfully upon a person, fear tends to be the number one reaction of those around that person. Saul had a few different reasons to be afraid of David, but those were just surface reasons. The deeper truth was that the Spirit of the Lord upon David stirred up a fear in the heart of Saul.

I have seen this over and over again in my own life and in the life of others. When a person experiences a powerful touch from God, the enemy often stirs up fear in those around that person. When I got powerfully touched by God, baptized in the Holy Spirit, and began to experience the supernatural power of God in my ministry, many people around me started to operate in fear.

Some were afraid I would become “too charismatic” and would go off the deep end. Others were afraid that I now thought I was super-spiritual and held it over them. Some were afraid that the power I was now experiencing was from the enemy. Others didn’t really believe I was any different but that I was exaggerating my experiences for personal glory.

Most of these fears came from wounds that already existed in the person. The enemy exploited these old wounds and insecurities in some of my friends in light of what God was doing in my life.

The reason fear is the primary thing that gets stirred up is because that is what the enemy is feeling. The enemy is afraid others will also catch fire and experience the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. The enemy knows this is a huge threat to his kingdom of darkness. So because he is afraid, he projects that fear on as many people as possible in hopes they will distance themselves from the one who is experiencing the power of God. This strategy is as old as the story of David in the Old Testament. The enemy keeps using it because it still works today.

Imagine what would have happened in the life of Saul and in the life of Israel had Saul embraced what God was doing in David’s life through the power of the Spirit. Saul and David would have become a dynamic duo for God’s Kingdom, like Peter and Paul for the early church. But instead, what unfolded was a tragic story of Saul spiraling into ruin and David rising to the throne.

I remember the feeling of being unsure and scared of the supernatural aspects of the Kingdom of God. I remember feeling uneasy about the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. I too was faced with a fork in the road. It was the same fork I faced in college when I decided to reject the things of the Spirit in favor of a more reasonable, safe, and academic version of Christianity. By God’s grace, 15 years later, God once again put in my path another fork in the road. I once again had the opportunity to embrace or reject the powerful move of the Holy Spirit in my life. I just had to be willing to take the risk. I had to be willing to get beyond my fears, my prejudices against charismatics, and my unbelief.

Most of global Christianity has embraced the powerful, supernatural side of the Kingdom of God through the Holy Spirit. Only a small segment of western Christians have not. While I once thought the Pentecostals/charismatics were the weird ones, I now realize by rejecting the supernatural gifts of the Spirit I was the extreme minority in the worldwide Church. I was the “weird” one.

Fear will always be the main tactic of the enemy to try to pacify the Body of Christ into powerless Christianity. Don’t let fear win. Don’t let fear keep you from an entire aspect of the Kingdom that you were born for. You were made, in Christ, to be supernatural. Don’t believe anyone who would tell you otherwise.

Proven Faith

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel… “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

“Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 

David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

1 Samuel 17:8, 10-11, 26, 28-29, 32

Faith in the Living God and courage to do what He’s called you to do often looks like arrogance and conceit to those who live consumed with fear and doubt. David did not have faith in his own abilities; he had faith in the God of Israel and God’s ability to use David. People with this kind of faith come across as arrogant to those who struggle to trust God and don’t believe God can use them for great things.

But David had more than faith in God and confidence that God could use him. He had experience in trusting the Lord and seeing the Lord use him.

Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

1 Samuel 17:33-37

It wasn’t just that Eliab struggled to trust God. It wasn’t just that Eliab doubted how God could use him (In other words, he didn’t have an identity grounded in the Lord). But it was also that Eliab didn’t have experience trusting in the Lord in difficult situations and seeing the Lord come through for him. David did.

For David, this wasn’t blind faith. This was proven faith. God had proven Himself faithful time and time again as David stepped out in faith. Goliath simply represented the next step of faith, not a “giant” leap.

The problem with many of us is not that we don’t possess “giant level” faith. The problem is that we haven’t been taking the smaller steps of faith behind-the-scenes when no one else was around. We haven’t been taking the smaller risks to trust in the Lord and see Him come through. This is what prepares us for the day of battle–the day where giant faith is needed.

In other words, the real issue isn’t that we don’t have the faith to face a Goliath. The real issue is that we haven’t been taking the smaller steps of faith to go after a lion or a bear. We haven’t been willing to take those risks when we were in charge of sheep, and we wonder why we can’t take charge of an army and face a Goliath.

David was full of faith and confident in how God could use him because of all the risks he took leading up to this moment. Goliath was simply the next logical step. What seemed impossible to the rest of the army just seemed reasonable to David.

It’s not blind faith that makes the impossible seem reasonable; it’s proven faith. Tested and proven faith–faith that’s been seasoned with real experience–is what is able to face down impossible situations. Proven faith is something that grows in the life of a person willing to continually take risks that require trust in the Lord. It’s a lifestyle, not something that is mustered up in a crisis.

Stepping up and stepping out with proven faith will often look arrogant to those who have confused doubt with humility. For too many Christians, humility looks like uncertain timidity, waffling doubt, and the fear of what other people will say. But is that the humility we see Jesus live out? Is that how we would describe Jesus? Timid? Waffling in doubt? Afraid of what people will say? No way! And yet Jesus walked in absolute perfect humility.

What David did to face down Goliath took tremendous humility because it required him to trust not in his own strength and ability but in the Lord. So what looked like an act of arrogant conceit to his brother was actually radical humility on display. This teaches us that radical humility may, at times, look like meekness, yet at other times it will look like bold courage. David’s action was radical humility in bold courage form. David had to trust that the Lord would come through for him. He also had to trust what the Lord said about him. He had to trust that God could use him powerfully. David risked his life based on that trust. That’s true humility.

I’ve seen this same accusation of arrogance and conceit in the Christian community launched against people stepping out in proven faith and bold courage for the name of Jesus. We have whole churches, and sometimes whole denominations, full of Eliabs. Timid uncertainty–waffling doubt–is not humility. Most of the time it’s a symptom of unbelief.

Eliabs mask their fear and unbelief by calling it prudent wisdom. They only want to do what seems reasonable, measured, safe. Is that how the New Testament describes the life of following Jesus? Safe? Reasonable? Measured? Not even close.

I don’t want to be an Eliab. I want to be a David, don’t you? I want to walk in bold, proven faith. I want to step out and take risks for the name of Jesus regardless of the whispers and gossip it creates around me. I want to lay my life down and trust the Lord. I want to believe what He says about me in His word, and I want to trust Him for big things. Don’t you?

It doesn’t start with Goliaths. It starts with sheep. It starts with lions and bears. What risk is God asking you to take? What steps of radical faith is He requiring of you in 2020?

Peace!

Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 

Gideon went inside, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah of flour he made bread without yeast.

The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And Gideon did so. Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the Lord disappeared. When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”

But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”

So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace.

Judges 6:17, 19-24

Gideon had an encounter with the angel of the Lord but wanted evidence that it was really him. So Gideon made an offering, and, with one touch of the tip of the angel’s staff, the offering was consumed by fire. We’re not sure here if Gideon was dealing with an angel or some manifestation of God Himself. Maybe this was the pre-incarnate Son of God.

Gideon seemed to come to the realization that he was in God’s Presence. This realization absolutely terrified him. Over and over again in scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments, we see that there is an aspect of being in God’s raw Presence that is completely terrifying. There is a holy fear that comes upon people. This isn’t because God is scary but because He is pure power in His majesty. There is something about his overwhelming holiness that makes human beings instantly aware of our sinfulness and lowliness. In these moments, the “fear of the Lord” moves from just being a concept about honoring God into a tangible reality that they can feel in their bones.

Seeing Gideon in a state of complete terror, the angel of the Lord (likely the Lord Himself) said, “Peace!” This sounds really familiar.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you!

John 20:19-21

When God says the word “peace,” it changes atmospheres, quiets storms, and has tangible effects on people. When God speaks “peace” He’s not just saying, “It’s okay.” When God says “peace” He is releasing the atmosphere of the Kingdom of God into the kingdom of the world.

Gideon feels the effect of peace being spoken over his life so much that he actually sets up an altar in that place and calls it, “The Lord is Peace.” In other words, when God speaks peace into our lives He is imparting an aspect of His very nature to us. Isaiah 9:6 prophesies that one of Jesus’s titles would be “Prince of Peace.”

Is there chaos in your life? In your heart? In your mind? Are you bound by fear and anxiety? If so, then peace is what you need, and God is the source of the kind of peace you need. Hear him speaking “Peace” to you today!

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:5-7

Eyes of the Heart

The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men…

…the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 

Matthew 28:4 & 8

An angel showed up at Jesus’s tomb to tell the women that Jesus has risen. Scripture tells us that this angel caused quite a commotion. First, the earth shook, then the stone that sealed the tomb rolled back, and the angel himself was white like lightening.

Both the women and the guards standing there were afraid of the appearance of this angel. They all had that in common. However, their heart conditions must have been different because we see two very different responses in the midst of that fear. The women were “afraid yet filled with joy.” But the fear experienced by the guards became shock-inducing terror as they fell down like dead men.

The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13) reminds us that the condition of the soil of the heart makes all the difference in how an event, a message, or an encounter is received. These women had hearts that were filled with faith. So when they were given the message that Jesus was alive, the hope of that message sparked the kindling of faith and ignited joy in their hearts.

The guards did not experience this at all. Their hardened hearts had no faith. The encounter with the angel increased the fear that already lived in their hearts. So fear upon fear became terror. Faith gives us eyes to see, and these guards were blind to the hope that his angel represented.

We are responsible for tending to the condition of our heart. We cultivate good soil so that when we encounter something fearful in life, good fruit can come from it. We cultivate good soil–a heart full of faith–so that if we have an encounter with the Lord or with something powerful from His Kingdom, we don’t shrink away in doubt but instead step forward in faith.

Notice that the very next line of Scripture, as the women are leaving to tell the disciples about all of this, says, “Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him“(Matthew 28:9). If a person can’t handle the presence of an angel, they certainly won’t be able to handle Jesus showing up to them. Our hearts have to be able to handle it. Hearts full of faith and hope are the only kind of hearts that can handle an encounter with Jesus.

So many people say they wish Jesus would just show up to them, either to answer their questions or calm their doubts. But most people would drop down as if dead, just like the guards, if He showed up in their room. Their ill-prepared hearts couldn’t handle His Presence and glory.

Jesus said it this way, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God“(Matthew 5:8).

The apostle Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians echoes something similar, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…“(Ephesians 1:18).

Extravagant Love

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 

Matthew 26:6-10

Jesus regularly talked about using money wisely and certainly seemed to shun extravagance. So when this woman wasted this valuable resource, the disciples gave this woman a dose of righteous indignation. Like the many social justice warriors that would come 2000 years later, they thought they were doing the right thing.

But Jesus rejects their form of righteous indignation. When it comes to love and grace, Jesus is extravagant. For Jesus, this was a beautiful act of extravagant love. It was preparing Him for burial and for His own extravagant act of love.

We can get embarrassed by acts that seem wasteful or over-the-top. Extravagant displays of love for God can make the rest of us uncomfortable. We can tend to defend our lack of extravagant love with reasonable arguments about propriety, order and decency.

Yet, this woman was not so prideful that she let propriety, order or her own sense of decency get in the way of her extravagant display of love for Jesus. And we learn that, far from Jesus rejecting her, Jesus is very comfortable with extravagance when it comes to love.

There are times in worship services when people pour their heart out to God extravagantly. It causes a little bit of a scene. It makes people uncomfortable. What about propriety and order? What about decency? Jesus isn’t as concerned about those things as He is about our heart. And if our heart is in the right place while we pour out extravagant love, Jesus is not embarrassed. We shouldn’t be either.

There are other times in worship services when God pours out His Presence on His people in a way that is extravagant. There are times when His Presence comes so powerfully upon people that it causes them to weep, shake, fall down, or cry out. This extravagant love of God pours into the body and soul of a person and can cause some extreme reactions. Propriety and decency go out the window.

God is not unwilling to show His children physical affection. And when the Holy Spirit begins to show up physically in someone’s body or emotions, God is not embarrassed by the result. We shouldn’t be either.

Jesus dying on the cross, paying for our sin, is the ultimate act of extravagant love. When it comes to love, God is very comfortable with extravagance.

Have you been holding back on extravagant acts of love to God? Are propriety, order, and decency being leveraged by your pride as excuses to avoid extravagant love?

If God extravagantly poured out His Presence upon you right in the middle of a worship service, would you be willing to receive it?

Terrified

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

Luke 2:9

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Mark 4:41

When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

Matthew 14:26

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.

Matthew 17:5-6

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Matthew 27:54

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid…”

Revelation 1:17

Angels show up to announce Jesus’s birth and the shepherds are terrified. Jesus calms the storm and the disciples are terrified. The disciples see Jesus walking on the lake and are terrified. Jesus gets transfigured on the mountain, the Father shows up and speaks words of love and affirmation over Him, and the disciples fall down terrified. Jesus dies on the cross, the ground shakes, and the guards are terrified. John sees the glorified Jesus show up to him in a vision, and John is so afraid that he falls down as though dead.

People who say that the Lord would never act in a way that would scare people must have never read their Bible. Over and over again, Jesus does things that absolutely terrify people. American Christians have so often made Jesus out to be a tame, passive, stoic teacher. The real Jesus was way more unpredictable than that. He often left people shaking in their boots!

Today, sometimes the Holy Spirit moves in a way that people don’t understand. And when people don’t understand something, they are often afraid of it. Fear causes people to reject all kinds of good things. Fear is often the wall that prevents people from having a radical encounter with the Lord. Then, in order to compensate for their fear, they rationalize that it can’t really be God. He would never do something that would scare people.

Really?

Go read those passages of scripture above and tell me with a straight face that God would never do something that would scare people. He did it all the time. He does it all the time.

Don’t let fear of not understanding the movement of the Holy Spirit keep you from an encounter with the Holy Spirit!

What are you scared of when it comes to the Holy Spirit?

Resist

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith… 

1 Peter 5:6-9

The enemy is real. Satan is not a fictitious personification of evil. On several occasions I’ve ministered to a demonized person and seen the demon take control of the person’s body, face, and voice. I’ve had demons talk to me through these heavily demonized people. And while I shut down their chatter immediately, these occurrences only verify the truth of scripture that warns of the reality of our enemy.

This passage clues us into areas that can come under attack by our enemy, the devil, who prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour. Any area of our life where we haven’t humbled ourselves becomes an easy target. That’s why the exhortation to humble ourselves comes before the warning about Satan’s attacks. An area that we’ve not submitted to the Lord but have pridefully held under our own control becomes an easy target. It becomes a weak spot in the wall of our spiritual defenses.

Likewise, any area of anxiety becomes an easy target. Fear is like artillery that softens up our spiritual defenses before the enemy attacks. Any area of our life where we are full of anxiety, fear and worry will be targeted. This is why we must cast our cares upon Him because He cares for us.

If there is an area of our life where we are not “alert” and of “sober mind,” it will likely be targeted as well. These tend to be areas of addiction or ways that we indulge in escapism as a way to cope with pain and hurt we experience in our life. These become areas where we no longer operate with a “sober mind” because we are self-medicating with our favorite drug, pleasure, or form of escape.

We need to sure up these vulnerable areas in our life. We’re commanded to stand firm and resist the enemy’s attack. We need to strengthen these weak spots in our walls. We must remember that these words from scripture were written to Christians. Just because we have the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean that we’ve automatically surrendered every room in our house to the Lord. And any room in our heart, mind or body that hasn’t been given over to the Lord can be broken into and occupied by the enemy.

The Holy Spirit has infinitely more power than the demonic invaders, but we must hand the Spirit the keys to that room. We must give the Holy Spirit permission to take over and revoke the right of the enemy to be there. Otherwise, we remain a house divided.