Tuesday, July 5, 2011

From Fear to Faith

When I was an Army Chaplain, I invariably would be asked by Commanders during field exercises to pray for good training weather. And I would be reminded of General George Patton’s Chaplain. You may know the story. On December 14th, 1944, on the eve of the Battle of the Bulge, Patton called his Third Army Chaplain into his office and told him he wanted to publish a prayer for good weather. Now, what most people don’t know is that Patton also said to his Chaplain, “With your prayer, and my relationship with God, we’ll have good weather to fight.” When I explained this to one of my Commanders, he said, “Chaplain, we’re in trouble.” Patton’s Chaplain received the Bronze Star for his prayer. Since then, most Commanders have regarded Chaplains as meteorologists, even though we’re really in sales, not management!

Patton was known for being a fearless Commanding General. Listen to a few of his famous quotes:

o “Fear kills more people than death.”
o “There is only one direction—forward!”
o “The person who cannot face a fear will always be running from it.”
o “The courageous man is the man who forces himself, in spite of his fear, to carry on.”
o “You are not beaten until you admit it. Hence, DON’T.”

The reason Patton was able to face his fears and engage the enemy courageously was simple. Patton explained that the reason Patton conquered his fear was by reading the Bible (“every #@&*% day!”). While Patton’s language was typically soldier-rough, he sincerely trusted the promises of God in Scripture. Like King David, he declared, “God trains my hands for battle; He gives me His shield of victory and His right hand sustains me” (Psalm 18:34-35).

I don’t regard myself as an exceptionally courageous person, but when I entered Iraq during Desert Storm I wasn’t afraid. My confidence was not due to our effective weaponry, but due to God’s watch-care. I knew He was with me every step of the way. Because of God, we can face life and death.

In II Timothy 1:7, Paul explains, “God has not given us a spirit of fear/timidity, but a spirit of power, love and of self-discipline.” This is also the theme of the Old Testament Minor Prophets book of Habakkuk, in which the prophet encourages Israel to move from fear to faith in times of trouble.

While fear can mar our effectiveness as Christians and cause us to worry how people may respond to our efforts to express our faith, God can grant us boldness. We can serve God with confidence. We can be fearless because the Spirit is with us and gives us the ability to serve God effectively. Faith casts out fear, and helps us to see life from God’s viewpoint.

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