Fear, Faith & Works
The parable of talents is about faith and overcoming fear to step forward or hide in fear for God rewards only those who believe in Him while Satan snatches what we have.

Fear, Faith & Works

       There are repeated warnings in the Scripture about fear and about overcoming fear for it is this weakness that leads us astray and away from God. Examples of the two feelings abound and we have Abraham who decides to follow God’s command to leave his people to shift to an unknown land. On the other hand Joshua, who had been with Moses for forty years, is told by God and the Israelites repeatedly to ‘not be afraid’. Fear destroys our faith and ties us down to stop us from steeping out for any constructive work for the kingdom of God.

        Relationship of fear and faith – Cowards and other sinners will not enter New Jerusalem and fear is listed with other sins (Revelation 21:8). There are some basic facts about fear and faith – both are feelings demanding us to believe something that cannot be seen; fear is a self imposed prison that restrains us from reaching the levels that God intends us to reach while tying us down in mediocrity. Everyone is afraid but the one who lives with it remains in the darkness forever chained to his fears. Fear is the first emotion noted in man after sin of disobedience, where Adam answered God’s call by saying, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself’ (Genesis 3:10). This statement of Adam in translation of Hebrew word ‘yare’ can read ‘I am afraid’ for the action is continuous and fear continues even after he has covered himself.

          Why should he be afraid instead of being ashamed? – Before this ‘Adam and Eve were both naked, and they were not ashamed’ (Genesis 2:25) and they were united in their plurality. However, in Adam’s statement about fear it is  singular about himself and does not include Eve though she is also with him and shame is converted to fear. Sin changes community connect into individuality through division; from we to me turning inward. Breaking faith with God also causes breaking faith with his ‘ezer kenegdo’ and  he is alone in the soul. Before this he was ‘ish’ to his ‘isha’ with identity of both locked to each other but now he is ‘anoki’ an independent individual in isolation. Whereas God had said ‘it is not good that man should be alone’ and earlier he was in community, first with God, then with other living creatures and finally with his ‘isha’.

         Adam does not hide from God for who can, but from himself and his self awareness through knowledge of good and evil. This isolation leads us away from our relationships to separation though we may remain surrounded by others and into addictions while suffering from regret, remorse and emptiness. God wants us to connect to Him and to others in close relationships. That is why fear is one of the most dangerous sins. Abraham is called a man of faith for he moves away from his people, family and relatives in obedience to God’s command ‘to a land I will show you’. The Scripture definition of faith is ‘the assurance (proof) of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’. It has two aspects, intellectual and trust, where the first is accepting the truth and second is about acting in that belief.

            Believing alone in Lord Jesus as Redeemer will not save me for even the demons believe Lord Jesus is Son of God but are not saved (James 2:19). As long as I do not fully believe and act on this, my faith cannot be enough to save (Acts 16:31). My faith must then lead me to repentance and seek forgiveness through faith in His redeeming work on the cross (Mark 1:15). Faith affects every aspect of Christian life resulting in obedience to His commands, to believe in the promises of God, to agree with the truth of God’s Word and get transformed by it (Romans 12:2).

       But why must trust be joined by agreeing with facts? – I see a chair and accept it to be good for my weight but I must sit on it to prove my faith in its strength. Without faith it is impossible to please God’ and we want to please Him through our works of obedience. Lord Jesus cautioned us that ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10). Fear is from the devil and faith is a gift of God the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:9). Satan’s desire is to keep us away from God and the Savior Lord came to reestablish our relationship with god through justification by His blood. The devil ‘comes roaring like lion’ to put fear into our hearts and make us hide but if we live with that fear we shall remain in darkness forever.

       Fear makes us lonely to force us to hide from others and not sharing the same with others and Adam feared that loneliness. Joshua had assisted Moses for forty years, had seen him perform all miracles, would sit outside the Tent of Meeting but had to be told by God twice ‘fear not for I am with you, nobody will be stand before you’ and then by the Israelites also assured him of their obedience (Joshua 1). But when fear was overcome, he could challenge Lord Jesus, ‘Commander of the heavenly army’ to ask ‘are You with us or against us’ (Joshua 5:13-15). Apostle Peter walked on water after seeking Lord Jesus’ permission and defeating his fears. Fear must be overcome and defeated while faith must be obeyed to lead a truly Christian life. Faith and fear both want us to believe what we do not see. While cause of fear may be non-existent where the reward of faith is to see and receive what you believe.

        Relationship of faith and works – Old and New Testament both affirm justification by faith alone along with the necessity of good works and true saving faith perseveres in faithful obedience. This doctrine is called ‘sola fide’ or faith alone and originated during the Reformist movement of Martin Luther. Apostle Paul preached to the Romans, ‘we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law’ (Romans 3:28). The implication is that following the law of Moses and doing such works cannot lead to salvation but salvation is only possible through faith in Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God, and it is through grace of God. The statement of Apostle James, ‘Faith without works is dead’ seems to be in contravention to this and he cites the example of Abraham’s faith ‘being made complete by what he did (offering of his son Isaac on the altar). Then he highlights the importance of works, that, ‘a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone’ (James 2:17-24).   

       The key issue here is justification which is about our relationship with God and pardon received through His grace (Romans 4:5). The Scripture promise is, ‘to all who believed Him (Lord Jesus) and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God’ (John 1:12). It is God’s declaration that the status of a sinner is changed to ‘righteous’ through faith in His Son. Apostle Paul further says, ‘for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from ourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast’. The last words clarify the whole point and the doctrine of pre-selection further supports this. Apostle Paul further clarifies the result of justification, ‘God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in heavenly realms in Christ Jesus’ and that relationship of faith is further confirmed (Ephesians 2:6-9).

        But we have Lord Jesus’ command about works for He says that only ‘he who does the will of My Father will enter the kingdom’ (Mathew 7:21). But nobody on his own can do the will of the Father. The Savior Lord again talks about rewarding each person on the day of judgment according to their works (Matthew 16:27). This is about true faith and works or fake/counterfeit faith. Many in Jerusalem believed in Lord Jesus after seeing the miracles He did but He did not ‘commit Himself to them, because He knew all men… and what was in them’ (John 2:23-25). Greek word ‘pisteuo’ is used in verse 23 for believe and in 24 for ‘entrust or commit’ implying therefore that they believed but Lord Jesus did not believe in them for He knew that their faith was not true. Same type of faith is mentioned by our Lord’s brother, ‘You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe  and tremble’ (James 2:19). Demons know the true status of the Son of God, but their faith does not lead to good deeds and is worthless. Apostle James then connects fake faith to ‘workless’ faith ‘if someone says he has faith but does not have works’ and such faith places us at par with the demons (James 2:14).

        With fake faith Lord Jesus also warns us about fake works, great works like prophesying in His name, casting out demons or doing wonders in His name may also get a response ‘I never knew you depart from Me’ (Matthew 7:22-23). The Pharisees failed to line up their external actions with their internal motivations for doing that and Sermon on the Mount is basically teaching about this alignment. Lord Jesus’ command that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of scribes and Pharisees is not that they were righteous but about our doing good deeds out of obedience to His word (Matthew 5:20).

       Apostle James quotes the action of Abraham offering his son Isaac on the alter and that this was counted as righteousness for him through an act performed in faith in God the provider. Apostle Paul’s teaching is also similar that though one is justified through faith alone but ‘faith must works itself out through love’ (Galatians 5:6). We know God’s love in His Son and we should also be ready to lay down our lives for our brothers (1 John 3:16). Thus faith works in us to lead us to pour out God’s love that we have experienced in our lives over others in loving deeds. Without that, faith is overpowered by fear that does not allow us to step forward.

      What do we learn from Apostle Peter’s walk on water – Apostle Peter walking on water is mentioned by Apostle Matthew though Apostles Mark and John also mention about Lord Jesus walking on water. The disciples had been struggling with the storm and were fearful on seeing the Lord walking on water but after listening to Him, only Apostle Peter dared to seek His permission to come out of the boat to go to Him. He stepped out of the boat and walked but ‘seeing the wind, he was afraid and began to sink’ (Matthew 14:25-30). Many would criticize Apostle Peter to try and imitate the Lord but we learn much from this daring act of faith.

       First, look for and keep looking to Lord Jesus – He must be and remain the focus of our life, for ‘He is the author and finisher of our faith’ and our faith starts and end with Him (Hebrews 12:2).

      Two, obey what He commands – Apostle Peter sought permission to step out of the boat to walk towards Lord Jesus and despite a severe storm raging, there was no hesitation in his mind after that. When a command is given by the Lord then obey without looking at the consequences for He knows better and is in control of every situation.

       Three, focus on the next step only – Moses received God’s name as “I AM”, a God of the present before whom past and future are also in the same state, known and open (Exodus 3:13-15). Apostle Peter took the first step to walk on water and till he was focused on the next step only, he was doing well but the shifting of his gaze on the surroundings and the future made him sink.  

       Four, faith opens the door to the supernatural – Apostle Peter did not experience the supernatural power of God in him till he stepped out of the boat in faith. Fulfillment of God’s promises in answer to our prayers needs our taking the initiative thus permitting God’s power to work.

        Five, fear will turn success into failure – Faith is a gift from God through His Spirit while fear is a gift from the devil to stop and separate us from God.  Apostle Peter was walking on water in faith but ‘when he saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink, cried out, Lord save me’. I must assess if I am in the grip of fear while making decisions.

       Six, little faith is better than fear– The disciples were filled with fear on seeing Lord Jesus walking on water towards them and only Apostle Peter could overcome that fear to muster some faith to step out. Even ‘mustard seed’ size faith invites God to intervene and His power then works through us to cause miracles to happen.

       Seven, we choose between worry and worship – It is always our decision to make a choice. Fear numbs us into inaction while worship and faith release God’s power to open closed doors.

       Fear ties down but faith liberates; fear paralyzes and faith empowers; fear disheartens while faith encourages; fear causes sickness but faith heals. Job was a righteous person but he admitted, ‘what I feared has come upon me’ (Job 3:25). We compare this to King David’s response to fear, ‘When I am afraid, I put my trust in You’ (Psalm 56:3) and then our peace will be a powerful witness to a fear filled culture all around us.

      Fear and faith are emotions that always exist in everyone and God waits to see the choice that we make, to embrace fear and shrink back or charge on in faith. Our one step of faith results in God’s power to work in and through us to lead us into victory over our circumstances while fear draws us back into a corner. In both situations it is our choice that works. Have we enough faith in the love of God revealed through His son to ‘overcome’ and claim the great rewards promised by our Savior Lord!                              

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