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Sun, Aug 24, 2003

13 - Faith-Rest Drill

3 John 1:3 & Isaiah 41:10 by Robert Dean
Series:3rd John (2003)
Duration:1 hr 4 mins 28 secs

Faith Rest Drill; 3 Jo 3; Isaiah 41:10

The first step in the faith-rest drill is to mix faith with a promise. The second step is to think through the doctrinal rationales that are embedded in that promise. We come to a certain conclusion, and the conclusion isn't simply a statement of that proposition. We come to the conclusion that God is in control. But sometimes, two seconds later we are back in control, trying to control, worrying, having anxiety. What happened? That conclusion was just a fleeting academic perception but it didn't undergird the thinking of our soul. So we have to go back and think through that rationale again. Sometimes we go through days like that. What is really happening during that time is that God is teaching us to consistently trust Him and to make that conclusion a reality in our own thinking so that we can relax and trust Him.

What we are doing as we look at these promises is to break them down and look at the structure. In Isaiah 40-66 the focus is on what is happening at the end of the Babylonian captivity and how God is going to deliver and rescue the Jews at that time. So Isaiah is addressing people who are in this captivity, who are in essence prisoners, and at this time they are looking on the horizon of history and seeing this military build-up of the Medes and the Persians. They are seeing this vast military threat, their security is threatened, and they have no idea what is going to happen. So it can be seen that this is a time of anxiety and fear of what might happen historically, and at the end of the fortieth chapter Isaiah says that those who wait on the Lord will exchange their strength, and the context is talking about those in the midst of this turmoil who wait on the Lord. God is the God of history; Jesus Christ controls history; there is a plan and a purpose. Therefore they can relax and have confidence in the future. 

In this same context just 10 verses later we have another promise, one that is frequently cited, and one that is a good one for those who are prone to any kind of fear or anxiety.  Isaiah 41:10 KJV "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."

Some basic observations of the text. First of all it is in poetry. Most of prophecy is written in poetry. In Hebrew poetry the Jews rhymed ideas rather than words. Sometimes there is synonymous parallelism where there are two lines that say the same thing with slightly different words. That is what we have in the first two lines of Isaiah 41:10. "Fear thou not; for I am with thee," and then there is a synonym for fear, "be not dismayed; for I am thy God." So the second line repeats with slightly different verbiage the first line, and the combination of the two lines give a more fully developed picture of what the writer is saying. There are other kinds of parallelism but here we see in these first two stanzas the idea and the mandate no to be afraid. This is a mandate, a command; we are not to be afraid. Fear and worry are volitional decisions; we are responsible for that. As soon as there is an imperatival mood in either Greek or Hebrew, that is addressing our responsibility.

So we have two commands. The first is not to fear and the word "fear" in the Hebrew is yare, and this word must always be understood in the context. It has two senses. One is to show awe or respect, the second is the sense of anxiety or being afraid, fearful. The second word that is rhymed with that is the Hebrew word shata, it is translated "dismayed" in the KJV and is a synonym for yare. There is another word that has shown up in some MSS called shaah and it has the idea of looking around at something, how you regard something or look at something. The NASB translates this "Do not anxiously look about you," but the KJV's translation is a superior one, it should be in the sense of being dismayed. The English meaning of "dismayed" has the idea of being filled with apprehension or alarm, it goes beyond the simple concept of fear. It could also take it to the next level which brings in the idea of being filled with depression or discouragement, or becoming agitated. Webster's Dictionary: "Dismay means to be deprived of courage, resolution and initiative through the pressure of a sudden fear or anxiety or great perplexity. It implies that one is disconcerted and at a loss as to how to deal with something." This is what happens with fear. We are faced with some circumstance that is completely outside of our control and we don't know how that circumstance is going to affect us directly, or how it is going to affect someone we love directly. And rather than relax and put it in the control of God who can control and is in control of all circumstances what we do is think that we can sit back and through a lot of emotion, worry and agitation that somehow we can effect circumstances that we have absolutely no control over. That is why fear and worry and anxiety go hand-in-hand with arrogance. They destroy courage, initiative and objectivity of thought.

Each of these two prohibitions is followed by an explanatory causal clause. The word "for" represents a Hebrew independent preposition ki and it indicates the cause for which something is stated. So it tells us why. This is the rationale. We mix our faith with a promise: Don't be afraid, don't be dismayed." Why? It is not just because God said so. That is true but there is a rationale there, and as we grapple with that rationale that undergirds it we understand the foundation and how that then changes the way we think about the circumstance around us. This is indicated by the clause after the "for." The rationale for not fearing is that God is with us. The rationale for not being dismayed is that He is our God. The one who is speaking here is Yahweh. In chapter forty it is Isaiah speaking to the people and reminding them of who God is; in chapter forty-one, starting in verse 1, it is Yahweh, the covenant faithful God of Israel who is addressing the Jews. So this is referring back to who and what He is. The whole idea of not fearing, of not being anxious, of not caving in to mental attitude sins related to fear and worry, is an understanding of the essence of God—who He is and what he is doing in human history. So even though this is a promise that He has given to Israel in the midst a specific historical situation there are universal principles here that can be taken and applied by any believer at any time. This applies to both Isaiah 40:31 and 41:10.

We are given a further development in the last part of the verse. In the last three lines each clause is prefaced by the particle in the Hebrew which is intensive and it take one thought and piles something else on top of it, then piles something else on top of that. You are increasing in your momentum: God will strengthen us, yes He is going to help us, and even more, He is going to uphold us with His righteous right hand." First of all we have the prohibition of the first two stanzas which tells us what not to do. That is the active side of the principle. As we do that and we relax in His provision then  God tells us what he is going to do. He strengthens us, he helps us, and he is the one who is going to uphold us with His righteousness. It goes back to His integrity; it is His character once again. So the rationale that undergirds this whole promise is the rationale of God's character. This is why we have to understand the essence box.

But it is not just a matter of skipping that first step. Some people say, "Well why do I have to memorise a promise? I understand the essence box so I'll just skip right to that." But it is the promises that give us the revealed Word of God and the specific promise itself, and God has promised that His Word will not return to Him empty or void without accomplishing His purpose. There is something important about understanding His Word. This is why Jesus specifically quoted Scripture. He didn't just allude to abstract principles when Satan was tempting Him. If we memorise several promises all related to the same problem then as we pull them together it gives a greater sense of what God is doing and how to handle the situation.

So we have to answer the question: What is fear? First of all fear is an emotion that is caused by the anticipation or awareness of danger. It is almost a physically oriented and originated thing, it comes out of the sin nature. In some sense we feel that we are personally threatened or our children are personally threatened, or somebody we care about is threatened. Fear can be related to any and every area of life—our job, career, family, relationships, future hopes and dreams, finances, etc. But what is the root cause of fear? Fear itself is a mental attitude sin that is at the very core of all of the emotional sins in the sin nature. The sin nature produces a host of emotional sins but at the very core of all of that is fear, the first mental attitude sin that is mentioned in Scripture. It Genesis chapter three we are told about how Adam and Isha fall into sin when they eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Right after they eat we are told that God came walking in the garden, and when they heard the sound of God they hid. Because they were naked they were vulnerable both physically and spiritually. When they heard God they recognised a spiritual exposure that they were never aware of before. Te fallen man is completely exposed and vulnerable before a righteous God who will hold him accountable for his disobedience. As a result of that they ran and hid, and when God confronted them and asked why they were hiding their response was, "We were afraid."

There were two things manifested in the fall. The first is arrogance. They are absorbed with themselves, they decided they know more about what is going to happen when they eat the fruit than God does. And the second thing that comes right on the tail of arrogance, and is always linked with arrogance, is fear. These become the twin orientations of the sin nature and the soul dominated by the sin nature. Why are we afraid? Because we live in a world that we can't control anymore, and it is out of control and in chaos because of sin.

The consequence of fear is that there is almost an automatic reflex attempt to resolve it. When the man and the woman heard the sound of God in the garden, what did they do? They ran and hid because they were afraid and they tried to cover up their exposed nakedness by making clothes of fig leaves. This is what happens. Man at his very core is afraid, he is existentially fearful because he is now a creature that has been cut loose from his creator and he is incapable of making life work at all. He is completely threatened at the very core of his existence so the mind immediately begins to develop all kinds of rationalisations and attempts to avoid feeling the impact of being this creature that is cut loose from any protection from God. Only Christianity gives a solution to fear, that recognises what it is, what its source is, where we can replace fear with courage.

The solution to fear: 1 John 4:17 NASB "By this, love is perfected [matured] with [among] us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. [18] There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." So this starts off in v. 17 talking about love being matured so that we can have boldness. In contrast to that, in v. 18 he says there is no fear in love. So what is the contrast here? The contrast is not between fear and love, the contrast is between fear and boldness. The boldness has to do with having love that has matured in the believer's life. He is bold in the day of judgment. The fear in context here is a fear when brought to accountability before the judgment seat of Christ. The general principle here is that every human being knows that he is going to be held accountable to God for his life, and fear is ultimately related to the fact that man is a rebellious creature is going to be held accountable by God. But what erases that is understanding the love of God and having that love of God brought to maturity in the believer through advance in the spiritual life.

The basic orientation of the believer's soul is arrogance which is accompanied by emotional sin. As the believer is self-dependent and self-absorbed he is going to be arrogant and he will always be fearful, but when he becomes God-dependent and focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, and as he grows in maturity and understands and implements the love of God in his own life, what happens is that fear is eradicated because the orientation is no longer towards self-dependence but God dependence. And as the believer grows and matures that mature love replaces the fear and anxiety. As he grows and matures he understands grace, the dynamics of the judgment seat of Christ, and there is no fear or anxiety because he knows that God is in control. So the ultimate resolution to that core existential fear that we have as unbelievers is through, first of all regeneration, and secondly through advance in the spiritual life.

Fear

1.  Fear is an emotional sin that lies at the centre of a web of other sins. It is not just fear; fear always comes joined with a number of other mental attitude sins such as anxiety, worry, dread, agitation. Often these accompanying sins develop into anger. Then if a situation continues long enough it leads to discouragement and discouragement breeds depression. That starts to have a physiological impact on a person and so a spiritual problem has developed into a physical problem.

2.  Fear is often stated in Scripture as a representative emotional sin. It talks about fear but it is talking actually about the entire web of interrelated mental attitude sins. Fear always destroys the spiritual life of the believer, and if he is afraid, worried, anxious, agitated, terrified, resentful, etc., he is out of fellowship and not trusting God.

3.  Fear and the function of spiritual life are mutually exclusive. Sometimes from one second to the next the believer is in fellowship, out of fellowship, in fellowship, out of fellowship. A whole day goes by like that and he thinks he is not getting anywhere. But he is. Where would he be if he hadn't been confessing the sin those 500 times that day? He is training himself; it is a drill.

4.  Fear results when we lose focus on our personal eternal destiny and God's plan for our life. Fear results when we lose sight of the fact that God has a plan and purpose for our life and He is working that out.

5.  Fear in the soul represents emotional arrogance and is a distraction to the spiritual life.

6.  Fear focuses on the problem, on the adversity, and it completely falls apart. Faith looks at the solution of God's provision. Five illustrations: a) Abraham's faith that God would provide a promised seed; b) Moses at the Red Sea when he is hemmed in by the Egyptian army pressing his rear and the Red Sea in front; c) David exercised faith-rest in contrast to the fear of Saul and the entire Jewish army when he went up against Goliath; d) In Daniel are two great examples. First, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego who trusted God and refused to bow down—this is the active sense of the faith-rest drill; the passive side was their trust in God. Then Daniel at the lion's den He refused to stop praying, overtly and publicly. He rested in God and God sent an angel to close the mouths of the lions.

7.  Through the faith-rest drill every believer emphasises the solution rather than the problem. When we go through the rationale what that is doing is taking the focus from off the problem and on to the character of God, and that then gives the correct perspective on the problem.  

The mechanics of fear

1.  The more things you surrender to fear, the more things you fear. Fear increases in your life. 

2.  The extent to which you surrender to fear the greater your capacity to fear. As you discipline yourself in the reverse you shut down that capacity to worry and for fear.

3.  The greater your capacity for fear the more you increase the power of fear and anxiety in your life.

4.  The more you increase the power of fear in your life the greater your failure to execute the spiritual life for the church age believer.

Some parallel promises that we should pay attention to:

Psalm 55:22 NASB "Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken [ultimately destroyed]."

1 Peter 5:7 NASB "casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you."