Who Am I ? I Am Secure Because I Will Never Be Forsaken by God Part Two
Topic: Insecurity Passage: Hebrews 13:5–13:6, Luke 12:4, Luke 12:32
Who Am I? Finding Our Identity in Christ
Grace Community Church
June 19, 2016
Who Am I? I Am Secure Because I Will Never Be Forsaken Part 2
We are looking at our identity in a series called Who Am I: Finding Our Identity in Christ and last week we started to look at the subject of insecurity. Insecurity is a kind of fear that is uniquely wrapped up in our identity. Last week after sharing Merriam Webster's definition of insecurity, I shared a story that, in my mind, illustrates insecurity more clearly than the dictionary. A sales rep was struggling to make quota and so his manager took him to the company's regional map and on that map were colored pins, each pin representing one of the sales rep. The manager turned to the sales rep and said, "I'm not going to fire you, Wilson. But I'm going to loosen your pin a little, just to emphasize how insecure your position is."
Insecurity is this inner fear that our pin is loose and could fall off at any moment. When we are insecure we walk gingerly, lightly, fearful that if we do the wrong thing or say the wrong thing, our pin might fall off. It's a fear that something about who we are isn't adequate, that we could be exposed as inferior in some way at any moment. It's like the guy who went to the psychiatrist because he was suffering from an inferiority complex. The psychiatrist ran a battery of tests on the man to find out what was wrong, and called him a week later with the results. The doctor told him, "The tests came back with good news. You don't have a complex at all, you really are inferior!" Insecurity is this inner fear that we could get that call, that in some way we will be exposed as inadequate and the pin will fall out. Into that insecurity God speaks - not directly, but indirectly - by bringing us to the map of His grace and emphasizing how incredibly secure we are in Christ. One of the ways God does that in the scriptures is by promising this to His children: I will never leave you or forsake you. Last week we considered how
God will not leave or forsake us over our sins because Jesus was already forsaken over our sins
God will never forsake us in our time of need
Insecurity can hinder us from being who God created us to be, and doing what God intends for us to do. The fear of man can infect our sense of identity with insecurity that affects our relationships and the fear of being insecure can hinder a faith-filled willingness to step out in new ventures for the kingdom. This great promise from God has the power to anchor our pin and powerfully counter our insecurities in these two areas. Let's begin with the FOM:
Knowing that God will never leave or forsake us has the power to free us from insecurity caused by fear of man
…for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6 ESV)
God has said he will never leave or forsake us, so with confidence we can know that we don't need to be afraid, that God will help us, He will see us through, in every situation. The verse ends with a question, what can man do to me?
It seems like a funny question. People can do a lot to us - in both directions. They can hurt us really badly, and they can help us in a big way. What can man do to me? To be honest, it feels like people can make or break me.
This walking fearfully in relationships is a pervasive, even tormenting fear in many people's lives. Four
years ago I preached a message called "Overcoming the Fear of Man". It was part of a series called Fear Not. Since then that has been the message that I've gotten the most email responses from. People (not from the church) have written me personal notes sharing how the fear of man is tormenting them and how much they want to be free of it. What can man do to me? If we struggle with insecurity it feels like people hold a lot of power over our lives.
Consider for a moment with me the phenomenon of embarrassment. Embarrassment is internal noise based entirely on our imagination of what people are thinking about us. You're walking out to your car and slip and fall. The first thing that comes to mind isn't, "did I break anything?" It's "did anyone see me?" It doesn't have to be people we know - we can feel the blood rushing to our head when we do something dumb in front of people we don't know and will never see again. What can man do to me? They can laugh at me. They can embarrass me.
Some of us might be afraid of disappointing people for fear they might think badly of us. That insecurity can bend us into people-pleasers. One way that can manifest itself is in the fear of ever saying no to anyone. We fear that if we say no, it will disappoint someone and it feels like if we disappoint anyone some important pin will fall out. If you find yourself being way overcommitted, the issue might not be a calendar issue, it might be a heart issue: you hate to say no because you fear letting anyone down. What can man do to me? They can think badly of me.
Another popular way insecurity shows up in bragging. Bragging about ourselves isn't a sign of confidence, it's a signal of insecurity. When someone is constantly trying to impress people, they're trying to look bigger because inwardly they're afraid of being thought less of. The same is true of those who frequently cut others down with criticisms or barbs. Somehow they feel that by making someone else appear smaller, they appear bigger. What can man do to me? Their opinion of me can make me feel like a bigger or smaller person.
What man can do to me can take on devastating proportions as well. Last Sunday, as I was about to come up to share the message, my iPhone flashed a news alert - 50 people had been killed in the massacre at the Pulse nightclub. It was a terrible tragedy and our hearts go out to the surviving victims and the friends and families of those who were killed. One mother got a text at 2am from from her son who was holed up in a bathroom. For 44 agonizing minutes she and her son texted back and forth. In a news report I saw a picture of his text and it really broke my heart.
[Speaking of the police]: Call them mommy. Now. I'm tell I'm bathroom. He's coming. I'm gonna die.
Tragically Eddie Justice did die in that bathroom and 48 others died in that nightclub that night. What can man do to me? They can hurt us, they can kill us, and they can rip loved ones away from us.
The truth is our lives are incredibly affected by people. People can make our lives wonderful, and they can make our lives a living torment. Affirming words can build us up. Harsh words can cut us to the heart. A loyal friend can make us feel strong and safe in the face of opposition. A friend who betrays us can destroy our trust in people. What can man do to me? They can affirm us, criticize us, exalt us, humiliate us, speak well of us, gossip about us, put in a good word for us that helps us get the job, pass on a rumor that keeps us from getting the job. They can help us, hurt us, protect us, and devastate us.
The Bible isn't trying to deny or downplay the reality that our lives are interconnected with each other and we can have tremendous influence and impact on other's lives and they on ours, for good or for bad. God's promise doesn't deny this reality, it transcends it. God Himself, the Creator of the Universe, the Sovereign One, the Almighty, says I will never leave you nor forsake you. He is with us always and that is, by far, the greatest and most powerful reality in our lives! Because of that, we can say with confidence He is our helper and we need not fear what man can do to us. Not because man's effect in our lives is nothing, but because God's effect in our lives is so much greater.
God wants to bring us to a place where our identity doesn't revolve around what people think of us, or do to us, or say about us, but our identity revolves around what God thinks about us, says about us, and has done for us in Jesus Christ. What can man do to me? The truest answer is this: if God is for me, who can be against me? Compared to God being with me, people laughing at me, thinking badly of me, thinking less of me, even hurting - even killing! - me is nothing. I was thinking the other day about when Jesus told his disciples not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more (Luke 12:4) and I was thinking, it's hard to imagine not being afraid of those who could kill me. That seems like one of the worst things man can do to us. If I were Eddie Justice in that bathroom just minutes away from someone coming in to kill me, I can't imagine not being afraid.
But a few verses later (vs. 32) Jesus then tells his disciples, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." This says something amazing about our identity in Christ: God is our Father, the kingdom of God belongs to us, and God is glad that it does. When the day comes when we leave this earth, our heavenly Father will take great delight in giving us a tour of His glorious kingdom. Our joy at being given so much will bring His heart joy. It's not that the bad that men can do isn't bad, it's that the good that God has done for us is so much better that, as Paul says, you can't even compare the suffering with the glory that awaits us.
The closer we get to Christ, the more secure we realize our pin is because God is holding onto us and will never let go, the less our identity will revolve around what people say, think, or do. And that's a good thing. Someone might think "hey, if we don't derive our identity from what people think, say, and do to us, won't we be detached from people? Won't that make us less caring, less connected to people?" Actually, the opposite is true.
The freer we are from the insecurity of "what do people think of me?" the freer we are to love people. Insecurity revolves around people but not because it cares about them - insecurity revolves around people because ultimately it wants them to revolve around us. Craving someone to like us isn't the same as loving them. We care about what they think because of how it affects us. Insecurity gives in order to get. Love revolves around others because we want the best for them - no agenda, no payback, no head games, no strings attached. Rather than getting our identity from others, we can give love to them while deriving our identity from God.
Listen, I'm preaching above my pay grade here - I haven't arrived at this point. But I don't think this particular fight for most of us will be won in one spectacular battle, it will be won in a series of ongoing skirmishes. Like Joshua and the Israelites, God gives us a little land at a time so we learn how to fight. It begins with believing confidently that your identity isn't derived from people, and so it can't be destroyed by people. The writer of Hebrews is encouraging us to talk to our own soul: God has said He will never leave or forsake me, so we can confidently say, The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?
The first time this passage really stood out to me was at a conference where John Piper was about to give the message, but before he did, he quoted this verse. It had nothing to do with the message, or his introduction. He was speaking it to himself, and as I learned about his paralyzing fear of public speaking as a teenager and how he fought it with the word of God, I realized he was speaking it to his own soul. He was anchoring his soul - and steadying whatever fears he may have been dealing with - by confidently quoting God's promises to himself.
Where are you fighting this war? Has someone hurt you? Do you crave someone's approval and feel like you're not a whole person when you don't get it? Do you get nervous when you're talking to certain people cause you're afraid of appearing foolish? Are you hiding or shape-shifting who you are in order to be accepted by someone or some group of someone's? God says stop!! His goal for our lives isn't to try to please everyone and it isn't to be an inconsiderate, self-centered brat either. The goal is for us to be conformed into the image of Christ. That's who God created us to be like. Be who God made you and confidently say "God will help me so I am NOT going to fear. After all, what can man do to me?" Knowing that God will never leave or forsake us can help free us from insecurity caused by fear of man.
Knowing that God will never leave or forsake us emboldens us to take risks for the sake of the kingdom
In Joshua chapter 1, we see a young leader who is being asked to step into the really big shoes of Moses, the Jew who had led the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. It's pretty easy to imagine that Joshua had some feelings of fear, insecurity, and inadequacy about taking the mantle of leadership from Moses, and so it's no accident that several times Joshua is encouraged with this promise from God: I will never leave you or forsake you. First Moses said it to Joshua in front of all the Israelites, and then the Lord said it directly to Joshua after Moses died. At a critical junction of life, when Joshua was being called to a new degree of ministry, which mean a greater degree of responsibility and risk, God promised him more than once that He would never abandon him.
I think it's also significant that at a critical junction for the disciples, as Jesus was about to ascend to heaven and leave the ongoing kingdom ministry to them, he also assured them that he would be with them to the end of the age. That is a promise that carries down through the ages to us. It's just as true for us as it was for them.
God calls every believer into a life of faith and ministry, and one of the great shortfalls in the church - at least the American church - is that many disciples aren't activated and using their God-given gifts for kingdom service. There are many things that keep Christians in the bleachers and off the field: some simply don't know what God has called them to do. Some are in churches that discourage anyone except the paid ministers to do works of ministry. There are other things that keep Christians from serving actively in the kingdom: laziness, inertia, and lack of desire are just a few other obstacles to overcome. So fear may not be your particular challenge to overcome when it comes to serving in the kingdom. But for many believers insecurity is one of the biggest obstacles to serving kingdom priorities - fear of failure, fear of responsibility, fear of commitment, fear of the new keep believers in the boat of safety and comfort.
When we answer the call to follow Jesus, we offer our lives to the service of his kingdom. Jesus doesn't have any non-service, non-risk, no-faith-needed tracks for disciples. God loves us to step out of the boat with faith. Heb. 6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Show me a ministry or avenue of service that doesn't require faith and I'll show you a ministry or service that doesn't please God. Without faith it is impossible to please God. But fear keeps many of us in the boat. We only move when all the ducks are lined up and there is no risk. We only step out of the boat when it's safely tied up to the dock. I'm not saying we should be foolish - faith and wisdom go hand in hand. But it takes faith to overcome the fear that would hinder us from kingdom service. God's answer to insecurity isn't to avoid risk and faith-filled adventures. It's to find our security in Him, and exercise the muscle of faith. There is no safer place in the world than the center of God's will for our lives. And our identity is never more alive than when we're doing what God has called us to do!
Let me close with this thought: a part of your identity, of who you are, is what God has called you to do in His kingdom service. Paul said to the Corinthians, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me." (1 Cor. 15:10) Paul says what I am (identity) and what I do (work harder than all of them) are not two separate things, but all are a part of the grace of God at work in my life.
Does insecurity hit your life in one of these two areas, fear of man or fear of stepping out in kingdom service? Or both? God speaks to your soul with this promise: I will never leave you or forsake you. So you can confidently say, The Lord is my helper, I will not fear. Compared to what God has promised me, what can man do to me?
More in Who Am I?
July 3, 2016Who Am I ? - I Am a Citizen of Heaven
June 26, 2016Who Am I ? An Ambassador for Christ
June 12, 2016Who Am I ? "I Am Secure Because I Will Never Be Forsaken by God" Part One