I WAS ON A WALK WITH LARRY, one of the dedicated church members in my new district.
“The church nominating committee would like to recommend that you serve as an elder during the coming year,” I said. “But they tell me that you have been asked every year for several years and always turn it down. Do you want to talk about it?”
He hesitated, then he spoke. “I think I can trust you, so I’ll tell you why. Everybody sees me as this wonderful person—except my family. They know what I’m really like, that I have a terrible temper. And if I were an elder, they would know I was a hypocrite. So I just say no. I’ve tried everything to get rid of my temper, but I can’t. Fifteen years ago, while in college, I was studying to be a pastor but changed my career because of my temper.”
I could feel Larry’s pain as he shared what had crippled his spiritual life for years. It was time to give him hope and a plan that would allow Jesus to transform him. “I want to give you an assignment that I believe will change you,” I said.
“I’ve tried everything.”
“Will you try one more thing?”
“Maybe. What is it?”
“You have a Bible?”
“You know how to find the book of Ephesians in the Bible?”
“Tonight, carve out time to be alone, open the Bible to Ephesians, and say this to God: ‘Please show me a verse that will really speak to my heart.’ Then start reading. Ask God to help you stay focused. I can’t tell you how long you will read, but God will show you a verse that will speak to you—maybe softly or maybe in a loud, powerful way. When you find that verse, say, ‘Thank You, Lord,’ and read it aloud several times. The verse will burn itself into your mind as you see it, say it, and hear it. Then write it down, along with a short prayer to God on why that verse really spoke to you. Tomorrow, start with the next verse and go through the same steps. We’ll get together a week from today, and I’ll ask you to share some of those verses and prayers with me. OK?”
“I’ll try it. I’ve never studied the Bible that way before.”
“Great! I believe God will speak to you in new ways.”
During the next few days, I asked God to speak to Larry through the Bible, to rewire Larry’s mind to reflect God’s ways of thinking and responding, and to honor Larry’s efforts to listen to His Word and build a new kind of relationship with Him.
At the end of the week, we got together. “So how did it go?” I asked.
“It was incredible.” Larry excitedly began sharing things from Ephesians that had spoken to his heart and what he had written back to God. He seemed like a new man. He was experiencing a spiritual breakthrough. He wanted to meet each week for several more weeks just to be sure he stayed on track. And a couple of
months later, he accepted the invitation of the church to serve as an elder. Soon he was preaching occasionally at a small church nearby. He told me his first sermon was from Ephesians 1.
When God’s Word is allowed to carefully do its work, we should expect to see lives changed. “For the word of God
is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV).
Here are the parts of the Bible I recommend when people are experiencing intense emotions:
• Anger: Ephesians
• Fear: 1 John
• Lust: Matthew 5-7
• Discouragement: Philippians
But for true change to take place, we must allow God’s Word to have priority in our lives over any other media (movies, TV, YouTube, other books, and so on). Treating God with reverence means we also treat His Word, the Bible, with reverence.
In the Bible the word fear is sometimes used instead of reverence, which means the Bible describes two kinds of fear. Good fear comes from recognizing how powerful, wonderful, and majestic God is. It results in bowing before Him in reverence and worship. This is what it means when we hear the call to “fear God and give glory to Him” (Revelation 14:7). On the other hand, there is another kind of fear—a gut-wrenching terror that comes to people who hold on to a twisted idea of God that is completely unlike His character, causing them ultimately to back away from Him and into Satan’s arms.
When we take time each day to seek Jesus in Bible study and prayer, we begin to see God and ourselves differently. We see that He is far better than we ever imagined and that we are far needier than we ever realized. We begin to have a new identity in Jesus. We realize that, in Jesus, we are blessed, holy, blameless, adopted, accepted, redeemed, forgiven, and empowered. Each day Jesus gives us the good fear—a reverence for the One who made us—and takes away the bad fear that comes from a distorted picture of God’s character.
This daily communion with Jesus motivates us to give glory to God in all our decisions, including what we watch, listen to, say, eat, drink, and think. It takes away our fear of people who are threatening and intimidating. It helps us to shun evil, tell the truth, and hate covetousness. It gives us a sense of God’s presence and love throughout the day. It allows God to write His law and character in our hearts and minds. It gives us a clearer picture of God’s perfect, undying love for us. It allows Him to transform us!
Will you make time this week to take God seriously enough to reach decisions that will honor Him? Will you make time to carefully listen to His Word, the Bible, each day in order to build that forever friendship with Him?
FURTHER STUDY ON “FEARING” GOD
• What does it really mean to fear God? Job 1:1
• When we fear (or reverence) God, will our fear of people who are intimidating be taken away? Exodus 1:17
• What two additional character qualities are identified with fearing God? Exodus 18:21
• What will we obey as a result of showing reverence to God?Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14
• Can we reverence and glorify God by the way we treat our bodies? 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20
• When we reverence the Lord, what other relationships will improve? Colossians 3:17-21
• When people see Jesus change us, will it help them to glorify God? Luke 18:40-43
I CHOOSE TO
_____ turn my back on evil influences (Job 1:8).
_____eliminate from my life those things that do not glorify God (Revelation 14:6, 7; Philippians 4:8).
_____invite the Lord to be the center of my home (Joshua 24:15).
_____invite others to take God seri-ously in these last days before His return (Luke 23:39-42).
By His grace, I will honor and glorify Jesus in what I think, watch, listen to, say, touch, eat, and drink.