Many years ago I heard a phrase during a sermon that has stuck with me ever since… one that has come up often in the last few months. “The opposite of faith is not DOUBT – the opposite of faith is FEAR.” This statement was so striking to me, I think, because it turned my understanding of faith upside-down. I had always equated faith with certainty – hence I believed that the opposite must be doubt. But doubt, I’ve learned, is a part of dealing with anything unknown.
No, doubt is not the problem. Fear is the problem.
Fear is an amazingly powerful thing, isn’t it? A while ago I stumbled across an article online in which people revealed some of the surprising new places they were hiding their cash. People are stashing money inside guns, furniture, smoke detectors, even fake lettuce heads in the refrigerator! Why these strange places? Fear – fear that a burglar will find their cash in the usual places. Why keep so much cash at home in the first place? Fear – fear that the economy will get even worse, that this cash is all they’ll have left.
Fear makes us act differently, even in spite of things we know to be true. Fear overrides our rational thinking, and can paralyze us. In a way, faith and fear are related – after all, they both involve some irrational actions. But while one opens us up to new ways of seeing and being, the other closes us in and smothers us.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the story of the people of Israel as they first came to the Promised Land. If anyone has even been given signs that they were doing what God wanted them to do, it was these people. Supernatural plagues that made all of Egypt miserable, except for the Israelites. A sea split in two so they could walk through on dry land. Covenants and promises, miraculous food and water in the desert… even a pillar of cloud and fire to guide their every step. Their experiences were so clear that they almost didn’t NEED faith!
But when they came to the edge of Canaan, even after God had brought them so far and shown them so much… they gave into fear. And that fear kept them from going any farther. God did not take the Promised Land from them – they abandoned it, and it took them 40 years to gather enough faith to come back. God did not take them to the edge and then drop them off – he took them to the edge, and they turned their backs. They saw the milk and honey, but they also saw the tall soldiers standing on the city walls. Fear, it turns out, is contagious.
But faith is contagious, too. And faith can be shared.
That’s what we need from you – we need to borrow some of your FAITH.
Right now we’re knee-deep in fundraising and planning. Common-sense will tell most of us that this is the wrong time to begin depending on fundraising for our work and livelihood. Everything rational in us is giving us little jabs – “Maybe this isn’t what you’re supposed to be doing after all…” or, “Maybe this isn’t the right time – why don’t you wait a while?” As if our own doubts weren’t nagging us, we have lots of reminders from others (even some friends) who are questioning us – it’s subtle: no one comes out and tells us they think we should give up, but we see it in words and actions.
We need some extra faith and prayer from you, our friends and loved ones, to bolster us in the daunting task ahead. Pray that we would clearly see the vision of the work God is calling us to. Pray that we would be so captured by that vision that we can share it passionately with others.
Pray that we would also be ever mindful of how God has brought us to this point. May we live with the conviction that he has brought us here and will not abandon us!
Pray that our faith would be contagious, and that our fears would seem pale as we look at the awesome power of God!