He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" - Romans 8:32

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Monday, March 03, 2008 

The Fear of Life

- excellent article written by Dr. Chuck Lawless worthy of our own reflection

The twelve-year-old who first shared Christ with me more than thirty years ago presented the gospel this way: “It’s a good thing you lived through the night… because if you hadn’t, you’d be in hell right now.” His approach seriously lacked tact, but truth he did not lack. I was destined for hell apart from the gracious move of God in my life. Needless to say, you do not sleep well when you hear the gospel in that manner. Every night, I tossed and turned, so frightened about not waking up that I could not easily close my eyes. The fear of death was so strong that I began every morning thanking a God I did not know for allowing me to live another day. That pattern continued for more than eight months before I became a follower of Christ at age 13. Only then did I genuinely rest again, and never since then has death been a fear.

Now, though, I am again not sleeping well. I am tossing and turning like before, but my fear is not death. No, my fear this time is life. Dying does not scare me, but living does.

I fear, for example, that I am happily living my dream — teaching at a seminary, preaching every week, leading conferences, traveling — without really seeing my neighbors living for dreams that amount to nothing eternal. How easily the temporary trumps the eternal in the busyness of life!

I am afraid that my wife and I are so ingrained in our way of life that we would battle hard against God if He changed our plans. What would we do if God required of us what He demanded of Abraham — to leave it all behind and seek His city (Gen. 12:1-3)?

I am concerned that I am so busy living that I sometimes miss people who are hungry, hurting, homeless, and helpless. I am simply disconnected from that part of the world. Yet, the needs are still real, and Jesus’ expectation that we minister in that world remains (Matt. 25: 31-46).

I am also afraid that I sometimes work more for my glory than for God’s. I make no claim to be famous, but I would be lying to say that my ego is not stroked when I see my name on a book cover or a conference brochure. After all, isn’t this the American dream, even for Christian leaders?

Having no children, I fear that I will live my life “successfully,” but leave behind no next generation to carry on the work of the gospel. I know that little matters if the mark I leave is as fleeting as life itself, but the time needed to invest heavily in others seems so limited.

I read of 1.7 billion people who have little or no access to the gospel, and I worry that my North American lifestyle weakens my efforts to get the gospel to the ends of the earth. I am terrified that I can live too easily without grieving over thousands of unreached people groups around the world.

In fact, I fear that somewhere in the world is a non-believer seeking truth in the wrong place, a new believer longing for a mentor, or an entire congregation pleading with God to send them training — and I will be so busy doing other “good things” that I miss the opportunities. The door is open, and I will have missed it.

No, it is not death that scares me. What scares me is coming to the end of life, looking back, and seeing little but wood, hay, and stubble to be burned in the fire (1 Cor. 3:10-15). It’s living in such a way that I could not face my own mortality with the confidence of Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7).

A dying world demands that we be willing to put our lives on the line to get the gospel to them. We must follow Jesus with all of our being, always ready to do what He requires. That kind of radical obedience means changing the way we live at some level — and that’s often frightening. I doubt I’ll sleep much tonight as I think on these things.

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