Sunday, August 8, 2010

Your Ultimate Fear

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. The devotional is indented.

Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:11

What's the thing that you dread most? What's your biggest fear? What are you convinced you can't live without? What would your biggest personal disaster look like? I got to thinking about the question of my own ultimate fear as I was reading Psalm 51 once again. David prays, "Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me." This should be our greatest fear in all of life, but is it?

I would have a hard time living without my PDA. What was life like before it? With it I carry a Bible library, various reference works, databases, address lists, schedule, etc. I could live without it, I guess, but it sure would be different. I wouldn’t think of losing it as my greatest fear but it’s probably my most valued possession.

She had it all and maybe that's why she was so afraid. She was living in a nicer, larger house than she ever thought would be hers. She had nicer clothes and nicer things than she would ever have imagined. She had the uber-successful husband and three beautiful children. She went to a great church. They had wonderful family vacations. She ate her breakfast, on most spring and summer mornings, on the stone deck overlooking the beautiful valley that opened up beneath the hill on which her house had been built.

The devotional goes on to talk about the fears in her life. What if some or all of it goes away? All of the possessions and other things that were once an aspiration or source of gratitude now are things that can’t be lived without.

How about the time when you had no money? Then it felt good to have a few dollars in your pocket. Now it’s hundreds of dollars and that doesn’t seem enough. How about the small apartment that grew into a house and now into a place where you could easily get lost. Remember when there was no car, then that first clunker and now you drive the sexy status symbol. How embarrassing it would be to drive a minivan around.

All of these things so easily fill our thoughts and build fears. It’s hard to remember what is really important.

But there was something else that had changed. The thing that was meant to define her life, and that once did, no longer defined her. There had been a time when everything in her life was defined and evaluated by her relationship with God. There was a time when she greeted God's grace with a surprised gratefulness.

But now these thoughts were no longer center stage. No longer would she identify herself as a sinner, rescued by grace. No longer did she get her meaning, purpose, and sense of well-being from the Lord. Now she was more concerned about losing her mansion than being cast out of God's house. Now she was more concerned about losing her husband than about God removing his Spirit from her. That once heartfelt and wholesome question, "Where would I be without the Lord?" had been replaced by the question of how she'd cope with the loss of any one item in her personal catalog of material things.

This is a battle all of us face and always will. Things will try to fill the place where God wants to be. It doesn’t really matter how much we have either. I remember years ago during the “hippie” days when my pastor talked about people who thought they were escaping the worry of possessions; all they had was a backpack. But just touch that backpack and you will see that it’s still there.

But I didn't think long about David or about my friend, because my mind turned to me. What is the thing in the world for which I'm the most thankful? The loss of what thing do I fear the most? The existence of what in my life gives me meaning, purpose, and that inner sense of well-being?

A question from the meditation:

Be honest: what is it that brings the most fear into your heart?

Probably future uncertainty related to money and health. Am I facing a losing battle with skin cancer? What is the future for my children? What is the future for our country?

The greatest fear… the loss of the peace of God that can get me through these things.

Don't worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. (Philippians 4:6-7 CEV)


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