She said he was afraid.
A small team from our church took VBS on the go this year, sharing the lessons, songs and games with kids in the community.
One of the ladies shared with us this past Sunday what that mission to area children was like.
She tells how on the last day, those little ones gathered around the teacher for the Bible story about Paul.
He was such a Bad Guy, she told them.
She told all about his past, all those mean things he did to Christians.
But then she told how he met Jesus and she read from the start of his letters to the churches, how he said the same thing over and over and over again:
“I, Paul, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ…..”
This little boy, cuddled next to another leader, winced and sucked in his breath every single time she said it.
The Lord Jesus Christ
He’d only ever heard those words as cursing in anger and bursts of outrage in his home.
My husband puts the hurt into words, how this little boy has a “Pavlovian fear response to the name of the only One who could ever save him.”
Peter shared the truth:
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12 NIV).
We sit in that comfy sanctuary in the middle of a tiny town in rural Virginia and our hearts break because missions starts right here.
There are children who don’t even know what a Bible is or who God is or that the name of Jesus isn’t a cuss word…and they live right here.
But there’s something else….
I read in the Gospels:
Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left (Luke 8:37 NIV).
The people were afraid of Jesus at work.
They weren’t embracing the healing he offered and not the salvation either. They sent Him away and with it they refused all hope of rescue.
All because they were afraid.
Maybe they didn’t wince at the sound of His name, but they feared Jesus’ presence.
Were they afraid of His power?
Were they afraid of shaking things up? Afraid of what salvation might cost? Fearful of what they might lose if they followed Him?
I remember the Israelites crowded around the base of Mt. Sinai, watching the pyrotechnical display of God’s glory, the thunder and lighting, the cloud of smoke, the trumpet blast:
When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”…The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was (Exodus 20:18-19, 21 NIV).
They trembled there at the mountain, slinking back in fear, remaining at a distance even when God invited them to come close.
This holy fear of God has its place, the reminder of His greatness and mighty power and how small we are indeed.
He is God. I am not.
He is holy. I am not.
We need the reawakening of awe.
But I wonder if we ever push God away in fear, or hide away in the shadows, remaining at a distance even when He whispers to us, ”Come…..closer….nearer….”
Are we too afraid that He’ll disrupt our lives? Or that drawing close will cost us and it will just be too much to pay?
Do we stand right there at the base of His presence and choose the safety of distance instead?
And maybe we don’t say it as bluntly as the crowd that sent Jesus away, maybe we don’t tell Him, “Can you just go off in your boat and do your work somewhere else?”
Maybe we know just enough…certainly more than a scared little boy listening to a lesson at Vacation at Bible School: yes, God loves us….yes, Jesus is our Savior. Maybe it’s just ‘blah, blah, blah’…just so many words.
Yet, maybe we shut Him out. Maybe we avoid the conviction of Scripture or the passion of all-in of worship. Maybe we want to sing “safe” songs on Sunday morning, hear “safe” messages, leave the Bible reading up to someone else, avoid the accountability of church or the nudge of the Holy Spirit to lay it all down in surrender.
Because we’re afraid.
Lord, help me stop being afraid and start drawing close to You. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be than in Your presence.
To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below! Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Learn to Say, ‘No?’
- Finding Room to Breathe: A 12-month pursuit of the presence of Christ
- January: Be Still and Know
- February: Pray Simply
- March: Unplug
- April: Enjoy Beauty
- May: Create Beauty
- June: Invest in Friendship
- July: Retreat and Refresh
- August: Learn to Say, “No”
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2014 Heather King