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Sunday: Our Excuses: Fear — 29 Comments

  1. Hi dear SSNet Family,

    Haven’t been here in a while to read or comment. Always thinking of you and praying for you. it’s been a busy boots-on-the-ground time and I’ve been more involved in active ministry in my community.. Please pray for us as we’re starting a new church, and the mission needs in the community are great!

    I want to come chat with you for this lesson about “fear” in mission. It was my very own home of Lewiston Auburn, Maine, where I live and grew up, that was struck most recently by gun violence in the USA. 18 dead plus the shooter. Multiple wounded. So many affected.

    The world is becoming more and more dangerous as more and more people suffer with mental illness. So there’s a very real question, “should we limit our hospitality today with all the dangers… Is it not safe to let people into our homes and churches?

    Remember our brothers and sisters in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015? Those nine faithful were meeting in the basement of the church. They welcomed in a stranger, the young 21-year-old man carrying a bag. They didn’t check his bag. They welcomed him, handed him a Bible, handed him a study sheet, included him in a discussion about the seed falling on different types of soils. After about an hour of studying together when they closed their eyes to pray, he took out his gun and shot them all dead.

    The dangers are real, and the fear is real. All I know is as we lose ourselves in prayer, the Holy Spirit will direct us as to what is the right course of action. He will show us who to minister to and who to pass by. I’m also reminded that we ourselves are called to be God’s temple, his home. So we bring hospitality within ourselves, no matter where we go. We, God’s body, are called to make people feel at home with Him…. through our very own physical selves. Hospitality can be anywhere you are… It is helping somebody to feel and be at home with God. Reconciliation. Leading others to Jesus.

    Jonah wasn’t plugged in to God’s heart. He preached destruction, but we don’t have record that he preached the good news of the gospel. He was more concerned about his comfort, and what people thought of him, than he was concerned about what people thought of God. Moses understood with his intercessory prayer. He knew that his name wouldn’t even belong in the Book of Life unless he had such a prayer of longing for his people’s salvation in his heart. The longing to be with your loved ones for an eternity is greater than the fear of what they think about you , or how they treat you, right now.

    May God give us courage and fearlessness, so that we can join Him in purposeful preparation of hearts to receive spiritual truth.


    • Dear Esther 🙂

      Thank you for sharing.

      Remember King Jesus' words:

      "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.", King Jesus in Matthew 24:12 KJV.

      "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.", King Jesus in Matthew 24:13 KJV.

      Love & Trust cannot co-exist with Fear in your heart.

      If you put Him first, you instill love & trust in your heart. If you put Him last, you will instill fear & reduce yourself to earth.

      • When I think back to a time when I felt that God was directing me to do something, I remember that I gave the situation to God. I allowed God to direct because I knew that He knew what I could handle.

        • It is no wonder that you share your name with a famous woman & book in the The Holy Bible.

          May God receive more glory through your fruit (King Jesus in Matthew 5:16 KJV) & may He bless you further Esther 🙏 🤗

    • Hello Esther, I have missed you and your comments and looked for them often. I am glad to hear from you. I live in the state of NY. I have been so broken hearted for your community to suffer such a great lose. Senseless and cruel! I have kept you all in prayer. May God grant you comfort during this time of healing. I always love your comments. God bless and may your mission work be blessed by our Lord

      • Thank you so much for your kindness, empathy and prayers, dear Sister Cindy. We pray for the day we know is coming when mass shootings and the pain they cause will be no more. We will see Jesus face-to-face and He will wipe away all our tears! May God bless you in NY and shield you with His love.

  2. I had a bit of an epiphany some years ago when one of my theological friends took a closing Sabbath worship after we had spent the afternoon together. He took it on the book of Jonah and the first thing he said was that the book of Jonah was not about a man being swallowed by a whale but rather a parable pointing out the attitudes of the Israelite nation towards God and the nations around them. It is a big-picture mission story and points out the issues that prevented them from sharing the Gospel.

    The lesson title includes the word "Excuses" but perhaps a better title would have been "Inhibitors" because sometimes we don't even make excuses. Our attitudes and preconceived ideas get in the way of God's mission. When we read the book of Jonah, do we see a reflection of our own attitudes towards mission? This is much more than a children's story.

    • If I may, I would like to share a statement from the Seventh Day Adventist Bible Dictionary, page 612. It is listed under Jonah.
      "Although Jonah is cast overboard, his life is spared by a great fish in whose belly he spends the next three days and three nights.....Jonah's prayer of repentance is honored, and the fish deposits him upon the dry land. He may now have found himself opposite the island of Cyprus, as much as 150 miles nearer to Nineveh than when he had boarded the ship."
      I feel that God will show us and assist us in the direction He wishes us to go.

  3. I thank the Lord that He has shown us that we can reach Him by prayer and not just for our self but for others. What Israel is doing in response to the attack by Hamas on the 7/10/23 to the People of Gaza is frightening. I pray that peace between them.

  4. I don't think it's fair to compare Jonah with Abraham. Abraham was called to the unknown. Jonah was called to go preach repentance to the most formidable city of his time... It was much more challenging call requiring much more courage

    • I dunno about that David. Sometimes our fear of the unknown can be more daunting than the fearing the known.

      It is kind of like the shock we get when we watch a scary horror movie. The scenes that scare me the most are those where I haven't anticipated what is coming next 🤣

    • I would say it's not about the size of the mission, but it is about the Owner of the mission. When we understand the Owner, the size shouldn't matter... But we often look at our weaknesses and gauge the mission from that angle

      What He needs us to do is to be available, to acknowledge ourselves as 'human beings,' to submit to His will and mission, and go

      • Agreed 👍

        I see that you living up to your name Khanyisani (The words of King Jesus in Matthew 5:16 KJV are apt).

  5. God gives us emotions. Fear is a complex emotion. It is triggered by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism that triggers a fight or flight response. As such, it is essential to keep us safe.
    However, the same God who created this essential emotion calls us, and directs our path, and He will not lead us in the path of unrighteousness. He prepared the way for Jonah and He continues to prepare the way for us. He knows the end from the beginning. He is the Alpha and the Omega. When we are called May we all say “here a, I Lord use me.”
    I am thankful for theses Bible stories that remind us of the greatness of our God, and that we have no excuse to fear when God calls us to action.

  6. 1 John 4:18 CJB –
    ”There is no fear in love. On the contrary, love that has achieved its goal gets rid of fear, because fear has to do with punishment; the person who keeps fearing has not been brought to maturity in regard to love.”

    1 John 4:18 CEV -
    ”A real love for others will chase those worries away. The thought of being punished is what makes us afraid. It shows we have not really learned to love.”

    I suppose experiencing fear will differ with the circumstances we find ourselves in when this fear occurs. All that our heavenly Father askes of us is to love Him with all our heart and being, and to love our fellow man. These, in my opinion, are God’s instructions for man applicable under all circumstances.

    I do not think our heavenly Father to ever be reckless when directing us through the Holy Spirit to engage in mission work. Though, looking at the example of Jesus, one can be led to understand that perfect love casts out all fear of death or dying when motivated to demonstrate the love God to a dying world which is separated from His Love.

  7. So, I acknowledge that fear can definitely derail us from mission. As a shy person, I've definitely been there. Sometimes I have felt a prompting to talk to someone about God. Sometimes I've responded but more times I've been afraid to speak. It's a very real issue.

    But... I don't think Jonah's story is the best example to use about fear. There is nothing in the book of Jonah (and I looked for it - I read it twice yesterday) that gives any indication that he was afraid. Chapter 4 tells us plainly what his issue was. He was afraid they'd repent. He hated the Assyrians and wanted God's judgment to fall on them. I read too many statements saying Jonah "must have" or "might have" felt fear, but I think it's best we not speculate that way when the text is pretty clear. I wish the lesson authors started with the text rather than decide what they want it to say and then try to make the text work with that. It's not that the message isn't true, but support it with a story in scripture that relates to fear. Otherwise we are close to doing what we criticize other churches for doing when they interpret the scriptures in funny ways.

    • Interesting. And you raise a very important point. So maybe Jonah was afraid of what God would do for the Assyrians (gracious, merciful, loving, etc) rather than of what the Assyrians would do to him. Which ties back into loving our enemies and all people no matter what race, tribe, group they come from. Perhaps we should have begun our mission study with Jonah and an illustration of how we need to prepare our own hearts first to love others.

      • Yes 🙂

        The real acid test of what is truly in our heart is how treat our enemies (perceived or otherwise) as stated by King Jesus in Matthew 5:44 KJV.

        Everybody loves those who love them (King Jesus in Matthew 5:46 KJV) and gives them a like 👍 on their comments 🤣 , but can we be loving to people who oppose us or God forbid, our comments or ideas on any form of social media 🤣 ?

    • So true, Christina, good point, and at first I agree. Jonah's attitude seems more of hate and maybe nationalistic prejudice, or pride that his warnings would not materialize and show him to be a "strong guy" like his enemies, than fear of harm.

      As I dig deeper, I'm remembering that in my experience, emotions are often closely linked and confused. For instance, I might feel so angry and yell or defend before I burst into tears. Anger can mask my feelings of helplessness and sadness. I know someone who acts indifferent to others' pain, even laughing at funerals, to hide his true, tender, empathetic side which overwhelms him.

      Applying this to Jonah, maybe his hatred is masking a fear....or even sadness? Stories passed down from generation to generation among the Israelites were surely full of fear and pain: the Assyrians, from historic accounts, tried to prove superhuman virility by lacking all human tenderness. They had long been a threat to Israel. Assyrian art shows that they engaged in gratuitous cruelty such as ripping tongues out of prisoners, flaying people alive, having prisoners grind up their father's bones before their own gruesome deaths, beheadings, forced incest. This would be like God asking us to go speak to the most vicious Isis fighters in Iraq today. Or preach in North Korea.

      At some point fear might turn into a hatred, a wanting to see those who do such evil, burn in a very public way so that the God of justice is known. Even today, people cry out, "Too much God of mercy, where is the God of justice?" Remember the signs of pro-Vietnam War protesters in the late 1960s that read, "Kill a Commie for Christ". Thing is, when we are eager for retribution, revenge, and swift impact of justice upon people, we are no different than them. Jonah lacked human tenderness, the same trait he may have detested in the Assyrians. Pride is at the root of all sin (Ezekiel 16:49-50).... Jonah was so busy hating pride in others that he may not have seen it creeping up within himself. He clearly felt superior to the Ninevites. More deserving of God's care (the wilting vine story). And he may (or may not) have unconsciously absorbed the fear of his people in thinking of ALL Assyrians as enemies, instead of seeing that God can transform even the most evil-filled mind and heart.

      Reminds me of when Jesus was headed to Jerusalem and sought refreshment in Samaria, and was refused, and James and John - the Sons of Thunder - wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans (Luke 9:54). This was a grudge of theirs that was inherited from generations back. Reacting with wishes for sudden destruction is an easier - and more defensive, fear-filled - response than the patience and strength to show that a situation isn’t going to make you become hardened and act out of character. God is patient and long-suffering, not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). That is always His character. And I think He was trying to grow that character in Jonah. Showing Jonah that Love > Fear > Hate. Showing Jonah that he had all of these overlapping prideful thoughts and emotions inside. Because God takes pity on all of us who "cannot discern between their right hand and their left" (Jonah 4:11).

      When we try to put as much distance as we can between ourselves and someone else, is it fear or hate, or both, or something else?

  8. Addressing a "larger " issue, namely the hatred of others for what evil they have done would definitely be a worthy undertaking in regards to the book of Jonah. Something no doubt many Christians struggle with but are hesitant to admit for "fear" of condemnation.

    • King Jesus' words in Matthew 6:15 KJV, just after The Lord's Prayer, gets drowned out by the various authors in The Holy Bible:

      "But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses."

      Most run-of-the-mill "Christians" do forget that their salvation is dependent on how they treat others. Unforgiveness & hatred rank up there as the reasons for denial of entry into His Kingdom of Heaven.

      • Not only that, Brendan Moodley, Even Pastors and other high "Spiritual Leaders," fail in this to the point of failing to preach about Jesus counsel in Matthew 18:15 to go one on one to someone to reconcile their differences etc., or to even follow this counsel with others themselves. And then we go on to claim that we are the Church that identifies us in Revelation as "Here are they that keep the commandments of God, etc."

        • Agreed Pete 🙂

          King Jesus' words in Matthew 18:15 KJV "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother."

          Even though I have known this verse for almost a decade, I used to confide in others (e.g. my wife) before approaching the offender. So, I have failed here in the past. I have recently committed to God to not making this error again.

  9. What Jonah needed to learn was that God is Love, and in Love, there is no fear. How much like Jonah are we, when we let "allow ourselves to be controlled by our fears rather than by God?"

  10. Jonah"s message from God to Nineveh is very different than the one from God to Abraham for Sodom and Gomorah. God did not tell Abraham to go to those cities and tell them God would overthrow them very soon. It was an unspoken message by the two "Angels" to the Ninevites who then went to visit Abrahams' nephew, Lot, and only Lot then tries to share this message with his relatives in that city but they would not listen to Lot about this message of destruction to the Ninevites.


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