Perfect love casts out fear (1 Jn 4:18).
The promise presupposes certain realities.
First, fear is built into the human psyche. Life in a fallen world is fear-ridden. We know things are not as they should be and, this side of eternity, they never will be. We fear catastrophe and chaos—cancer diagnosis, rebellious teenagers, financial ruin. These forces seem beyond our control, yet they shroud our lives in fear. Fear does not merely come from external forces, but internal ones as well. Self-aware men and women recognize the great harm they can bring upon themselves through foolish decisions or unintentional mistakes. Far too often, these external and internal fears deaden our zeal for the things of God.
Planters are not immune to these fears. If anything, they may experience these fears is a form and magnitude that most don’t. Consider the fears pastors—particularly church planters—face and the questions that these fears expose.
We fear failure. Do I have what it takes? Am I an effective leader, preacher, and pastor? What if I blow it?
We fear others. What do they think of me? Do I matter? Do others like me? What do I do when I know there are those who don’t?
We fear the future. Will the money be there next year? Will our church survive? Can I keep doing this for another year?
We fear tragedy. I’m not sure I can walk with one more person experiencing life-altering pain. Will the phone ring tonight and bring more bad news? Will their marriage survive? Will the disease return?
We fear Satan. Why does he seem to win in so many people’s lives? Why does he constantly war against the work we’re doing?
We fear our sin. I know I can wreck this thing in an instant. What if I give in to temptation? What if people knew some of the thoughts that play in my mind?
No one plants a church as a means of calming these fears. If anything, the act of planting fans the simmering fires of these fears into flame. At times, fear can feel like a ragging wildfire devouring everything in its path—including our very soul.
So, what’s a planter to do? The answer is found in the promise above. We’re told that perfect love will cast out fear. This isn’t a command challenging us to create perfect love so that fear will be cast out. Rather it’s a promise that tells us that the experience of perfect love—the receiving of the love God’s already shown—will explode fear from our lives. The good news of Jesus’ work reminds us that the things we truly should fear—Satan, sin, and death—have already been defeated. We can merely swat them away like a wasp without a stinger, because they no longer possess the power they once did.
This is easier said than done. Satan still wages war. Sin still clings so closely. And, death still visits us all. Fear will be our constant foe. Yet, this is also one particular area where pastors have a unique ability to model the fruit of salvation for their people. Should we give in to our fears, we passively communicate the very opposite message we preach each week. Our lives don’t give testimony to the perfect love we so passionately proclaim. But, if we call to mind the perfect love of God through Christ Jesus and submit our fears to the Spirit’s power, we can model the transformation that is only possible because of Christ’s victorious work. As we do, we’ll find the freedom that comes when perfect love is cast out, which will make us more effective in the work God puts before us.
Published January 3, 2018