GET YOUR FEAR IN GEAR
November 30, 2002
A lot of us are dealing with layers and layers of loneliness, especially during the holiday season. If you want to talk about loneliness, just ask the divorcee who just moved into the apartment alone. Talk to the family who recently got transferred in from another city. Talk to the family who just lost their loved one. Ask them to articulate to you the layers and layers of loneliness.
Loneliness is real, it’s relevant and it hurts. Unbelievably, a lot of us fear loneliness because we know that during the holiday season, it’s going to assault us. It’s going to ambush us.
I just wrote a book titled KNOW FEAR. One of the reasons that I wrote the book is that, several hundred times in the Bible, God says, “Do not fear.”
A friend of mine recently bought a Ferrari. It’s a pretty nice car.
I was with him and he said, “Ed, I want you to drive this Ferrari.”
I said, “I don’t know how to drive a standard. I’m afraid if I wreck the car, that it would take me a lifetime to pay the car off. Really, I don’t want to.”
He said, “Man, don’t worry about it. If you wreck it, it’s no big deal. Drive the car. I want you to drive a Ferrari to feel the power.”
I said, “Okay, you forced me.”
I sat behind the wheel of this Italian sports car. I looked back and the engine was encased in glass! It was a pretty wild car.
He said, “Okay, I’ll sit in the copilot’s seat while you drive. Ed, just floor it. I just want you to see what this thing can do. Just feel the power. Just floor it.”
I said, “Well, okay.”
I floored it and he changed the gears for me. Wasn’t that nice of him? He just changed the gears in perfect timing — just changed the gears.
This series is called “Get Your Fear In Gear.” There is no way, with fear, that we can change our own gears. But God can. That’s our prayer throughout this series — that we would allow God to put our fear in gear, because that is the only way we are going to cruise and understand what this life is all about.
Loneliness – it’s relevant, it’s real and it hurts. A lot of us deal with layers and layers of it. I want to talk to you about several layers of loneliness right here.
The first layer I want to talk to you about is something that we can call inner core loneliness. A lot of us right now are dealing with this “inner core loneliness.” This could be known as the spiritual layer. The Bible says that we are born lonely. We are born sequestered, separated from God. The prophet says, in Isaiah Chapter 59:2, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God.”
Right now, a lot of you have a gnawing sense that something is amiss in your life, something is sideways, or something is missing from your core. I’m telling you, “It’s the spiritual layer.” We are lonely. God uses our loneliness as leverage to drive us to know him personally. Because God saw that we were facing an eternal loneliness, he commissioned his son, Christ, to die on the cross for all of our sins, which causes our true inner core loneliness. God says, “If you ask my son to infiltrate your life, you will never be lonely again.”
Once we make that decision, we become followers of Christ. But I think it’s interesting that there is no way that I would have ever become a Christian, there is no way you would have ever become a Christ-follower, if it had not been for the loneliness that we felt. God used that loneliness in order to bring us to our knees. I’m talking about inner core loneliness, the spiritual layer.
Many people miss this because they’ll say, “Well, I tell you what I will do. I’ll just turn my back on this inner core stuff.”
We don’t realize it, but we try to do other things in order to fill this core.
We think, “Hey, once I make my first million that will do it.”
That doesn’t work.
“Once I get into the corner office that will do it.”
That doesn’t work.
“Once I drive that certain car…”
That doesn’t work.
“Once I do this deal…”
That doesn’t work.
This inner core thing is a low-grade, gnawing sensation that something is missing. Something is incomplete. Something is not right in your life. I’m telling you, it’s the spiritual layer.
Every layer I talk about in today’s session begs a decision. Whenever you talk about the inner core, or spiritual layer, or the other layers I’ll talk about, they beg a decision. The decision is simply this: Have you come to a point in your life where you will tell the truth about your loneliness, that you will tell the truth about the fact that your sins have separated you from God? Will you fall on your knees and say, “Jesus Christ, have your way with me.”?
The Bible says that when Jesus was dying on the cross for our sins, he experienced utter loneliness. He had your loneliness, eternally speaking, and my loneliness on his mind.
In fact, if you read Matthew 27:46, Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In other words he said, “Why this loneliness?”
The nation had turned their back on Christ. His disciples had run. Even the Father in heaven turned his back on the Son, because God can’t wink at sin. God can’t look at sin. Yet, Jesus took the brunt of your rebellion and mine just so we could have the companionship of Christ. Have you made that inner core decision? Have you bowed the knee to Jesus?
There is another aspect that we can talk about. It’s great to talk about the inner core, because that’s where it happens. That’s where all the heat is generated. But, let’s move now to the outer core. The outer core is the “relational level.” Isn’t it great that we are made as relational beings? We are made in the image, nature and character of God. God is a relational God. Read the book of Genesis. God created and He said, “It’s good.” He created something else and said that it was good. After he created man, God said it’s very good.
But then, in Genesis 2:18, you’ll see that God says something is not good. The first thing that God labeled as not good was loneliness.
Verse 18 of Genesis 2 says, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’”
We’re made in the image of God. We are relational beings. Yes, we must make this inner core decision and, from there, it should transcend into the outer core. Only God can satisfy the true longing, the true loneliness in our lives. From that loneliness, we also have another need. We are wired up for this outer core need, this relational layer.
Here is what Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-38. “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”
This is an inner core decision, wouldn’t you say, that’s intentionality with intensity? The intentionality part is, “Love the Lord.” That’s intentional. The intensity is, “With all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
Look at Verse 39. Jesus said, “The second one is like it.”
The second one is the outer core. Watch this.
Christ said, “Love (that’s intentionality) your neighbor as yourself (that’s intensity).”
The Bible never says for us to love ourselves. I just naturally love Ed. It’s just a natural thing for me. You naturally love you. The Bible never tells us to do that. The Bible assumes that we will. The Bible does say to love your neighbor as yourself, with intentionality and intensity.
When we are right in this inner core deal, it will bleed over into the outer core. We love God with all of our hearts, strength, soul, body and then, because of that, we can love our neighbor as ourselves. But this can only be generated truly from the inner core.
Before I explain what we do, let me ask you this question. How many of you own a pickup truck? Trucks are great. I love trucks. Trucks are different. You have one ton, three quarter ton, half ton, whatever. Those descriptions tell you how much that truck can haul. You wouldn’t take a one-ton truck and put 50,000 pounds in it. It wouldn’t work. The truck would bust up. But here is what we do.
A lot of us skip this inner core deal. We are clueless about our spiritual layer, so we put inner core needs on human relationships. We put inner core needs on outer core people. No wonder your marriage didn’t work. No wonder, as you look back on your relationships, you see problem after problem. No wonder when people see you coming, they go, “Ahhhh, I don’t want to mess with him/her anymore.” Do you know why? It’s because you are putting inner core God’s stuff on human beings and that will not work. There is no way, relationally speaking, you can take 50,000 pounds of stuff and put it on a one-ton human being relationship. The truck will not withstand the stuff. It goes back to the inner core. It moves from the inner core to the outer core. We are wired for relationships. We have got to love God first — with all of our hearts, soul, mind, and body. Then we have got to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
“Okay, Ed, that sounds good and looks good, but how do we do that?”
Here’s how we do it. Right up front, we have got to take relational risks. Our God is a relational God. [Ed holds up the Bible.] This entire book is about God’s relationship with human beings. What if God had said, when we were born and he saw our loneliness, “I’m just going to leave them in the lurch. Too bad for them. They messed up. I’m just going to do my own deal.”
God didn’t say that. God took the step. He took the initiative. Sadly, though, a lot of us miss the relational world that God has for us. A lot of us, because of stuff we have had happen in our past, are fearful. We are scared. We are apprehensive about stepping out because we got rejected or messed around with way back then. The memories keep us from feeding on the kind of stuff that God has for us.
So, to explain what I‘m saying, I want to invite you over to my house.
(Video of Ed’s dogs)
A lot of us are like my dog, Brute. Sadly, instead of feeding on the kind of relational food that God desires, we allow the memories of the past to hold us back. Brute, although he weighs about 160 pounds, still thinks Apollo can take him out. Yet, he is bigger than Apollo. He would have to know who he is when it comes to that relationship. A lot of us don’t know who we are relationally speaking. We have got to take relational risks. We have got to do this regularly, intentionally and strategically.
For example, a lot of us come to Fellowship Church and just show up and try to find a seat. We don’t talk to anybody except maybe saying, “Hi,” to a parker or a greeter. We are scared to take the relational risks so we just sit down alone and we don’t talk to anybody. We just sit here week after week and month after month.
We say, “Well, no one really talked to me at Fellowship Church. I guess people are kind of snobby and they are in their own deal. No one said anything to me or ask how I was doing. Churches aren’t really friendly. They are full of hypocrites. It’s just a joke. It’s horrible.”
The Bible says this in Proverbs 18:24, “A man who has friends, must himself be friendly.”
Say that phrase with me … “Be friendly.” One more time … “Be friendly.”
I’ve moved around a lot in my life. I was thinking this past weekend that I moved from Irwin, NC to Canton, NC; Canton, NC, to Taylor, SC; Taylor, SC to Columbia, SC; Columbia, SC to Houston, TX; Houston, TX to Tallahassee, FL; Tallahassee, FL to Houston, TX; Houston, TX to Dallas, TX — and I am here to stay now. This is it.
I have a lot of great relationships in my life. I was thinking that all of those relationships are relationships where I took the initiative, where I stepped out, or where I have extended my hand. Did I get rejected every now and then? Yes. Did I click with everyone? No. But, I am going to tell you something. I have some unbelievable friendships because of the initiative taking spirit that God has put inside of my life. Every time I take the initiative, every time I step out, I am mimicking the nature and character of God. Conversely, every time I slither in the shadows, every time I hide, or every time I sit here and don’t say a word, I’m not mimicking the nature and the character of God. God can only give direction to a moving object.
Look back on the stage for a second. [Ed is referring to a picture of the globe on stage.] See the world? See the inner core? See the outer core? The world is always in rotation. The earth is rotating. It is moving. We should be rotating and moving as individuals because God has some great relationships in store for all of us here.
Sadly though, a lot of us, when we die, are going to meet God face to face and God is going to say, “Yeah, it’s great that you made the inner core decision, but you missed the outer core deal. I wanted you to meet this group at Fellowship Church. I wanted you to encourage them and pray for them. I wanted you to connect. They could have helped you through that situation, but you went ahead and tried to do it alone. I had that in store for you. They could have helped you and you could have helped them, and so forth.”
Yet, a lot of us are going to hang our heads because we are relationally lazy. I truly believe in most situations, that loneliness and laziness are joined together at the hip.
We think, “Well, I’ve got a couple of friends and that’s it. There is no use for me to branch out, to step out, to take an initiative or take a risk.” Yet, God says just the opposite.
There is no telling what people the Lord has for us to meet right here at Fellowship Church. So, take regular relational risks. The Bible says to. Our entire infrastructure at Fellowship Church is built on relationships. It’s called HomeTeams. If you are not in a HomeTeam, I have got to ask you, “Why?” The great thing about HomeTeams is that they are made up of singles and couples in your area, people who are just like you — people you can converse with, talk with, and share your life with.
Here is what the evil one does to us. The evil one says, “Hey, if you really shared what you are going through, no one would understand. You are the only one going through it.”
Every time I have busted through that barrier, I have said, “I am going to share this with my friend.” Here’s the reaction that I normally get. My friend will say, “Oh, Ed, I understand what you are going through. I am going through or I have gone through the same thing.”
We are built for community. We are built for risk. We have got to step out and take relational risks.
Also, we need to do something else. This is going to be a shocker. This is commanded in the Bible, but you never hear anyone talk about it very much — offer hospitality. Make hospitality happen.
The Bible says this about hospitality. Hospitality is not optional. We can’t C.L.E.P. out of it. 1 Peter 4:9 says, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” Isn’t that hilarious?
However, we’ll say something like, “Well, my house is not big enough or I can’t cook well enough. HomeTeams? I don’t know the Bible…”
We grumble. What does it mean to be hospitable? Hospitality is that initiative-taking, hand-shaking, house-warming, and guest-conforming mentality that understands what it means to look into other people’s eyes, to lock with them and to share your life with them. It’s understanding the Acts 2 principle of the local church. Our infrastructure is built upon relationships and upon HomeTeams because that is the way the early church was built. Make hospitality happen.
When we do this, when we take those relational risks and make hospitality happen, here is what is going to happen. First of all, it will mature us and deepen our faith. You see, maturing in the Christian life is not about sitting, soaking up, and examining the lint in your navel. No. It is about one another. The Bible says to serve one another, help one another, pray for one another. Every time I have grown spiritually, it has come when I have a “one another” mentality. The problem with many of you is this: You are just thinking about yourself.
You ask, “What about my needs? What about my deal? What about my game? What about my family? What about me and mine?”
The personal pronouns are eating your lunch. Read the New Testament. You should want to grow, mature, move with great trajectory, and think about others. Could that be one of the reasons that the Bible commands hospitality, because we have to start thinking about others when we do that? I don’t know. That’s just a thought. It will deepen and mature us.
Also, it will broaden our horizons. If we are not careful, we say to ourselves, “Well, this is just my deal, my friends; this is my little holy huddle. That’s it.”
That’s a joke! People who broaden their relational horizons say things like, “You mean there are some people who didn’t go to Baylor? You mean there are some people who don’t just have white skin? You mean there are some people who don’t just live in my neighborhood and my little deal?”
Yes! You will not believe the world out there. I’m telling you, for most of you, some of your best friends and closest relationships aren’t even in your life yet. They are yet to be discovered. But we cannot take you and force you into these groups, and God is not going to do that, either. But, I’m telling you that God has something great for you. He has a track, a deal, that he wants you to do. Remember the earth should always be moving. It’s always rotating — inner core, outer core.
Let’s talk about one other area, the stratosphere. The stratosphere is the eternal layer. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that God has, “set eternity in the hearts of men.” We have this eternal longing. Our true longing and our true desire for companionship will truly be quenched once we graduate from this life into the next. That is when it will occur. That’s why children’s books usually end with “and they lived happily ever after.” That’s why our favorite movies usually have a good ending. We are built for happily ever after. We are built for this culmination. Heaven is going to be a place that words cannot describe. It will be a relational place, a place of worship, a place where we will do tasks like that.
How about it? Let’s go ahead and put the cards on the table and get real about this stuff. How about the layers of loneliness? Isn’t it time that you made the choice to do life God’s way? God can change your world. He can, if you will let him. If you will let him, only he can put your fear and my fear in gear.
Father, thank you for these words. Thank you for this message. I pray right now for people who need to make this inner core decision. That’s right. I’m talking to you right now. Just make this decision right now with me. You can do it. I’ll help you in this decision. Simply say, “God, I understand that I am spiritually lonely. I’m separated from you because of my sin. I turn from that, I own that sin, I confess it, and I give it to you. I ask you, Jesus Christ, to infiltrate my life. Just say that. I give you everything. That’s the inner core part. That’s the best thing. All you have to do is do it one time, and mean business. Others of us here need to get serious about relational risks, about making hospitality happen. Others of us here need to have our hearts and minds set on the stratosphere, on the eternal layer. We need to realize the hope and the confidence that we have, because that fact has been settled. So, God, we give this time to you. In Christ’s name, amen.