Romans 8:15-17 (ESV)
15 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!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Psalm 56:3-4 (NIV)
3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
No longer a slave to fear!
I know without a shadow of doubt that I am a child of God, but if the truth be told, I still live in the shadow of feelings of fear and anxiety—sometimes even doom! It’s not just the ordinary kind of fear either. It’s irrational, debilitating and hits me from nowhere like an invisible assailant. My peace and joy are erased and I suddenly feel untethered, fragmented and panicky. At one time in my life, I used to have a fear of speaking, reading aloud and being with people in a social setting. Loosening the chains of fear, especially my fear of loss and failure, has been part of my journey of faith, but the most helpful question I can ask my own soul when in the grip of fear is this:
“What can anyone or anything in this world take away from me or do to me that God has not ordained?”
Of course, as a child of God I know the answer to that question, but I have to preach the truth to my fluttering heart over and over again. Personally, one of the most liberating and honest verses in the whole of Scripture is Psalm 56: 3-4. Here it is in the ESV:
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”
I love David’s candid statements to express both his fear and his trust in God at the same time. God has used my fear to show me my own weakness and the power of Jesus to supply all my needs. My fear has driven me to hunger for my Father and the truth of His word. It has forced me to meditate on, memorise and hold onto his promises for dear life. I would never have understood the faithfulness and love of God if I had not been driven by the storm of my own fears to take refuge under his wings. Faith and fear are not mutually exclusive as long as we live in this world, in the period between redemption and the day we take occupation of our perfect home (Rom 8:2; Rom 8:21; 22). Faith is believing the promises of God even when we cannot see or feel any evidence that they are true– Just because He said so. No matter what. There is a tension but not a contradiction in David’s prayer, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
In today’s devotion, I am going to call on you to click on a few worship songs, because music has been a great megaphone for preaching truth into my own soul.
Look up child!
The key to living out our adoption in flesh-and-blood lives, is the Aramaic word “Abba” (Rom 8:15). Abba translates as dadda, the phonetic sound an infant would use before he can utter his first word. Think of a baby holding her daddy’s face and expecting to be fed, protected and loved. There is complete trust and dependency implied in the word. No question of earning Abba’s love or approval. No attempt to manipulate Abba. You and I “cry Abba” when we run like a child towards our heavenly Father to pray to him. We have direct access to Him because we have put our faith in the Lord Jesus, the one and only mediator between sinful people and a holy God (1 Tim 2:5). Like that trusting infant, we simply open our arms to receive God’s gracious gift of adoption. We don’t wear ourselves out trying to ‘make God’s team’ or prove our worthiness. We don’t fear being sent away. It is only because Jesus is worthy that you and I can boldly approach God’s throne of grace (Heb 4:16; Eph 1:7). Our prayers to Abba are nothing like the ritualistic prayers of those who do not know God as their Father (Matt 6:5;6;7;8). We do not relate to Abba like He is the Genie of the Lamp, with prayers to impress or demand His favour. We know we have it already, covered in Jesus’ robe of righteousness (Rom 4:4-6; Isa 61:10). We are children, not slaves! Look up child, into your Father’s face instead of the face of your circumstances.
You make me brave!
(Click on You make me Brave by Amanda Cook and Bethel music). If you prefer hymns, click on In Christ alone instead!)
Children of God have a primal connection with their perfectly good, strong, faithful and loving Abba Father. When they run to Him for refuge, fear gives way to confidence, devotion and a desire to please Him. This boldness reminds me of my two dogs!
When we adopted our no-name brand, “Honeydew” from the SPCA, she was terrified of everyone and everything. (She had been rescued on the busy highway near Honeydew, hence the name!) It was obvious that her early months of life had been scary if not abusive, and I often had to claim her at the vet’s rooms after she bolted from me in Delta Park. Her panic could be triggered by something as innocuous as a man riding towards her on a bike. Everything changed when we brought our golden retriever, Caspian (‘Lionheart’) home. My son chose him because he was the biggest and gentlest in the litter. Caspy soon outgrew Honey and claimed his spot as top dog. But something significant changed too: Gradually Honey transformed into a bolder, braver terrier than ever before as she hid behind her big brother, Caspy, the most friendly, fearless dog I know! After six years, Honey has become Caspy’s shadow, barking and wagging her tail as if she belongs to our family and proud of her role as guard dog! There’s no trace of fear as long as Caspy is near, but alone, Honey is timid and lost. It’s best not to bend this analogy too far or it will surely break, because trust me, Caspy is unruly and nothing like Jesus! But Honey’s transformation is a little like our own when we become Abba’s children. As we learn to trust and tuck in behind Jesus, our big brother, we start to believe that we do indeed belong to God’s family. We embrace our forgiveness and it dawns on us that we are truly at peace with God. The reality that we are in Christ trickles from our head into our heart and we start to live as though we are true heirs of the blessings that Paul describes in Ephesians 2. Little by little, fear and sin no longer have the power to control us and we relate to God as if He is indeed our Abba. In place of fear, we have a Father. The question we must ask ourselves is this: Which father do we believe? Our heavenly Father or the father of lies?
Whom shall I fear?
Live it out:
Do you know that your heavenly Father delights when you love and take care of your spiritual brothers and sisters? Are you meeting with a small group regularly to remind yourself of your status as Abba’s child?
Join us next week in “Which father do you believe?”