Sunday school commences and my big kid husband reads the parable of the talents. Between giggles and coos my thoughts on God suddenly become impeccably clear.
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ~ Matthew 25:24-30
The servant was “afraid.”
As the story was read, the main idea became crystal clear to me. Fear is not and will not be an acceptable excuse to not invest in the things God has placed in our hands. Fear does not justify us in sins of omission.
The servant who justified himself by claiming fear was judged wicked and lazy by his master. R.C. Sproul notes that, “The third servant was unwilling to do the work of investing the talent for the benefit of another.”
What, then, does that mean for those of us who struggle to use our hands, feet, voices, and abilities for God due to fear, worry, and anxiety? What does the Bible teach us and how we are to overcome?
It means we must overcome fear. The Bible teaches us that there is no fear in love. When we love our Master, we do His will by investing ourselves and our gifts in His priorities – namely His people. We are to do this despite our fears. We are to do this despite our failure. We are to do it despite our weaknesses, weariness, and worries. When we love our Master, we do His will by investing ourselves and the gifts he has given to us against all odds. Christians are called to be courageous. Cowards, on the other hand, are listed among those who take their places in the second death.
When one fears God or men in an unhealthy way rather than loving Him and them truly, he will fail to serve either rightly. That one will continually justify and excuse himself on the basis of fear. Likewise, if we use fear as the reason for our lack of investment in God’s gifts and His people, we will be sorely judged on the basis of disobedience and unfaithfulness in what we were given.
We must overcome fear because we know that while it may indeed be a reason for our stagnancy, it is not and never will be a reasonable excuse for it. The question we must cease asking immediately is then, “How can I justify my lack of investment?” We must change our focus from the problem (fear) to the solution (Christ) and begin to ask rather, “How can I overcome my fear through Christ and begin to invest earnestly?”
The answer is found in believing and applying the promises of God and dismissing the reasons and justifications of the world’s wisdom. Because courage is required of Christians on a daily basis, we must understand what courage looks like and how it feels. Courage is not the lack of fear or anxiety. Courage is being afraid and anxious but trusting more in God to do whatever He is instructing me anyway. God did not place gifts, abilities, opportunities, and, most importantly, people, in our laps for us to hide from and avoid.
Fear is unbelief and distrust of the Master. Though we may experience fear frequently, He has been faithful to give us the resolution to it. Consider His many promises and be free from fear:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. ~Psalm 23:4
For I, the Lord your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I am the one who helps you.” ~Isaiah 41:3
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. ~2 Timothy 1:7
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid? ~Psalm 27:1
So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?” ~Hebrews 13:6
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. ~John 14:27
casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. ~1 Peter 5:7
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. ~1 John 4:18
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry,“Abba! Father!” ~Romans 8:15
When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me? ~Psalm 56:3-4
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident. ~Psalm 27:3
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. ~Matthew 10:29-31
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”~ Joshua 1:9
There are many more examples of our Master giving us hope and courage to overcome fear in the Bible, but I am going to be focusing on each of these particular scriptures individually in context over the next few weeks to explore exactly what kind of assurance He has given us despite our fear in this world, what kind of faith He is calling us to live out, and what courage in the face of fear really looks like practically.