No Fear November
Fear of Commitment
By Ed Young
November 23, 2014
Fear is a powerful force in our lives. It can keep us cornered and cause us to cower. Too often, it drives us away from experiencing the path God has for us. And one of the most devastating fears we have is our fear of commitment.
Let’s face it. Our culture is characterized by a lack of commitment—from month-to-month apartment leases to pre-nuptial agreements. This message by Pastor Ed Young outlines the dangers of shying away from commitment, and gives us an in-depth look at the areas of our life that need commitment. Because when we commit the way God wants us to, we experience the blessings God has in store for us.
Well today we wrap up our series on fear. Fear is something that we all deal with. There is some toxic fear, then also last time we discovered why there’s one fear we should have constant in our lives. Today I’m talking about the fear of something that is unusual. Because when I talk about this fear we tend to run from this fear, and when we run from this fear we think that by running from it, it’ll gain intimacy and trust and joy and happiness in our lives when we flee from it. In reality, though, when we face this fear, that’s when we discover what trust and intimacy and love and purpose and power is all about. What am I talking about?
Well, this morning I decided to go out to my swimming pool, which I do regularly about, I don’t know, four or five times a week, and practice casting. Here’s what happened.
That’s our dog, Level. We adopted him, well we really rescued him, from the streets. He’s been attacked by a coyote, he has half an ear, he’s been bitten by a copperhead, he survived it. He’s tough, he’s tenacious. Level is all in. The other dogs were just content to hang around the edge and bark and circle. Level, though, is all in. That’s what I’m talking about today. I’m talking about the fear of going all in. The fear of that 10-letter word that we struggle with, that our society applauds when we do the opposite, commitment. I’m talking about the fear of commitment. Earlier I said, in my opening remarks, that we think if we don’t commit, if we keep our options open, we’ll find what we’re looking for. I would say, though, when we commit the results of commitment is the trust and intimacy and love and joy and happiness.
Our culture, though, applauds our lack of commitment. From month-to-month apartment leases, to free agency in athletics, to escape clauses in contracts, to prenuptial agreements. Most of us have that excuse-making, work-faking, vow-forgetting, job-quitting mentality, that bolts from commitment. Commitment? Whoa! I want to keep my options open! Commitment? I don’t want to be hemmed in. Commitment? What if something or someone better comes along. I’m not going to really commit.
I work out at Gold’s Gym and I saw this sign yesterday. Is that hilarious? Is that our culture? Best offer of the year! Zero enrollment and no contract. Now we know to become buff and beautiful, to become ripped, yoked, whatever the cool word is, you should spend a lot of money and you should say, “I’m going to join Gold’s Gym for two years, because then I’m going to look ripped after about a month.” Again, we love being non-committal. Fear. The fear of commitment.
Fear, F-E-A-R could be a frantic effort to avoid reality. I don’t want to commit, I don’t want to commit, I just want to live in limbo in purgatory. Commitment, we’re going to discover, starts with God. So think about it. In the areas of your life that matter, are you just barking around the edge and the ledge of the pool, or are you like Level? Are you all in?
The Bible says in Psalm 37:5, “Commit your way to the Lord. Trust also in him and he will do it.” As I’ve said many times before, if we have an attorney in the house we could sue Nike because God said, “Just do it” thousands of years before Nike ever coined the phrase. Maybe there’s a lawsuit here, I don’t know. The Bible says, though, commit your way – that’s the totality of who you are – to the Lord. Trust in him. “God, you’re God. I’m not. Commitment starts with you, and God, you will do it.” So God’s commitment, check this out, is on tap 24/7. So to understand what life is about, it’s about that 10-letter word that we fear. Commitment.
Commitment, what’s it mean? Commitment means to pledge yourself to a stance no matter what the circumstance. Say it with me. To pledge yourself to a stance no matter what the circumstance. Are you a man, are you a woman, are you a student of commitment? It starts with God.
Have you ever thought about how fully committed God is to you and me? Think about that just for a second. We have blown our commitment. In fact, if you go all the way back to the soils of the Garden, Adam and Eve, they had it goin’ on, right? And they understood God was committed to them, they were committed to God. And God said, “Now, I’m going to test your commitment. There’s a tree in the middle of the Garden. Don’t touch the fruit on the tree.” What happened? The sinister minister cruises in, that’s the enemy, the evil one, the devil himself always tests, always attacks your commitment. Why? That’s a good question, why? You know, I’m a why-guy. I’ll tell you why. Because he knows what’s out there in your life and mine when we commit, that’s why he attacks it! That’s why our culture is so non-committal. It seems so sexy and so cool and so hip. That’s what happened to Adam and Eve.
“You can be like God. You eat the fruit, you can be like God. God’s holding out on you! Don’t really commit! Do what you feel like doing!” They did it and from that day forward we’ve been struggling with commitment. So here we blew our commitment, yet God – you talking about fully committed – arranged this brilliant plan for the sins of the world, your blown commitments and my blown commitments, to be placed on the shoulders of his only son, Jesus Christ. Jesus died on the cross for our sins.
Now have you ever thought about Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of the world? We talk about that a lot. That’s the gospel. Jesus did what we couldn’t do. He died on the cross for our shortcomings, for our foul-ups. While he was hanging there bleeding to death, while he was hanging there suffocating to death, don’t you know the sinister minister attacked his commitment quotient? Because think about it. Twenty-four hours earlier Jesus was like, “God, now do I have to do this? I mean, do I have to go through with this? If it’s your will let this whole situation pass. I mean, if there’s another way, God…” God says,
“Go,” and Jesus went to the cross. As he was hanging there suspended between Heaven and Earth, don’t you know the sinister minister said,
“You’re God! Jump down from the cross. You’re Jesus. You can do whatever you want to do. Bail out! Throw in the towel! Don’t stay in the game!” Jesus, though, fully committed because he had your life and mine on his mind. Commitment.
God is fully committed to you. Have you ever thought about that. I mean, it doesn’t matter if we respond to God’s commitment or not. He’s totally and fully committed. Gave his best, total commitment, Jesus lived and died and rose again totally committed. And he’s given us the opportunity, the freedom of choice, to commit to him. Have you committed your life to him? Commitment starts with God. To pledge yourself to a stance no matter what the circumstance. So really it’s easy to explain. We simply commit ourselves to what God is committed to. We commit ourselves to what God is committed to. So it starts with God. Have you committed your life to God?
Now from there it segues into something else. Let me tell you a story. You remember the apostle Paul, Saint Paul? Well, Paul was this hater of the church. Man, he was having Christians killed. He was just blowing up churches. He despised Christianity. One day he’s like walking down the Damascus Road, brilliant guy, sharp guy, wealthy guy, BOOM! Jesus started speaking to him. And here’s what Jesus said to (at the time) Saul. Once he became a believer his name was changed to Paul. Here’s what Jesus said to him.
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” In modern-day vernacular, “Why are you hating on me?” That’s what Jesus said. OK think about it. What was Paul hating on? At the time, Saul. He was hating on the church. Jesus said, “You’re hating on me. The body of Christ, the church.” Jesus, they’re synonymous. Once we commit our lives to Christ, which Saul did. He became Paul. He was a part of the church universal. The universal body of Christ. Every person who has committed their lives to Christ is a part of the church universal. That’d be a good place to clap. Wow, wherever you are in one of our many different locations, we’re all a part, all believers, of a local church. Also, we’re a part of a universal church. We’re part of a universal church and a local church. Believers in the Bible were hooked up to a local church. I mean it was like impossible to say, “Oh yeah, I’m a Christ-follower but I’m not a part of a local church.”
So the Bible says that the body of Christ, the body has many parts, many members (yeah, membership has its privileges), members work together to form our bodies. So if someone is claiming they’re committed to Christ and they’re not a part of a local church you’ve got body parts scattered everywhere. And that’s not the way it’s supposed to go.
Sometimes I’ll meet people and they’ll say, “What do you do for a living.” I go,
“I’m a pastor.” And they go,
“Oh really?” Sometimes they give me a great compliment. They say, “You don’t look like a pastor.” Thank you, ma’am! What a great compliment. And then I’ll usually say,
“Well, tell me, do you go to church anywhere?” And here’s what people say sometimes.
“Oh yeah, I go.”
“Really? Where do you go to church?”
“Um… that’s uh… First Church of God in Christ Catholic Lutheran… um.” And then I say,
“Oh, OK. Yeah, I know. So you’re a member of this church?”
“What’s your pastor’s name?”
“I have no idea.” Isn’t that funny? It’s sad, though.
But when we are committed to God, we’ve made this Christ commitment, we should be a part of a church. In fact, if you are not a part, an active part, a member of a choice, and obviously you should join Fellowship Church – it’s the best church in the world. I mean, come on! But there are some great churches around, you know that. There are some great churches around. But if you are a part of a local church you can do a lot of stuff in the New Testament. If you’re not a member of a church there’s like 20-something things you can’t do to your full extent. You can’t! And it’s about commitment.
Now let me read you some verses. I’m going to read one kind of slow and then I’m going to fly through some verses. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 12:27, “Now, you are the body of Christ (because of commitment) and each one of you (because of the commitment) is a part of it.” We commit. We’re not born as a body part in the body of Christ. We have to say, OK, I’m committed, then we’re part of the body of Christ. Universal, then local. Membership has its privileges. Every member is a minister in God’s economy. And membership means ministry. You’re active, I’m active as a member. And if a body part is not active it’s usually amputated. And that’s pretty heavy. So the Bible comes along and says that.
ILLUS: Just a couple of days ago I was in a leadership meeting with several leaders from here and also some from around the country. And we were talking about the lack of commitment in the church. We’ve done some studies here and we discovered that 30% of people, 30% of our most involved people, show up once every three weeks. Let me say that again. We tracked it through our children’s data. Our most faithful people, are you ready for that, show up to Fellowship Church once every three weeks. And I said that. And people in the room were like, wow! Then they began to check it and they go, we’re the same! We’re the same! From across the country, we’re the same! That makes sense, we’re the same. The church has become increasingly marginalized, hasn’t it? We want trust, we want intimacy, we want happiness, we want joy. Yet the things we chase away from commitment, we never get there. The Bible says when we commit to God, when we commit to his house, then we will accrue these benefits in our lives. Then and only then will we discover what we’re looking for.
The church has become increasingly marginalized. Parents worship, extracurricular activities, we’re in big competition with other parents. We bow to the soccer ball. We bow to the football. We bow to club cheer. We bow to here, there, and yonder. I looked this up recently. Only 1%, parents, of children get a full ride in a Division I school. It will not happen for little Johnny. It will not happen!
Now, you do have a good chance of getting a full ride if your kid is into fencing. Thirty-two percent of those who are into “en garde!” Yeah, you can get a full ride. So we’re chasing this and that and yonder (obviously you’re not, because you’re here) at the expense of the only institution that Jesus ever built. Have you ever thought about the gigantic worship centers right now across our country? Have you ever thought of the billions of dollars that people tithe? All the football stadiums? That’s what I’m talking about, houses of worship. All the arenas. Oh we dress up in the colors, we paint our faces. People who are so conservative here who would never even clap or raise their hand are like, “YEAH!!!!” Going absolutely buck wild! We pay thousands of dollars to sit in cramped seats and eat overpriced junk food, and somebody’s going to complain to me because they have to wait in line or the service was 5 minutes too long. Isn’t that funny? It really is. We’ve lost our commitment! And I’m not hating on football or sports, I like it. There’s a balance, parents. You’ve gotta choose one sport and say as far as me and my house we are committed to God and to the church.
OK, are you ready to write? I’m going to fly through some Scriptures. Because the Bible says, all these Scriptures, were written in the context of the local church. Because a text taken out of context is a pretext. You must take the text within the context, and the context is not just to an individual believer, it is to someone who is a member of the local church, the only thing that Jesus ever built. He didn’t build a school, he didn’t build a stadium, he didn’t build an arena. He didn’t own a sports franchise. He built the church. Here we go.
Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to (say it with me)…” oh you sound excited. Say it like you’re – say it like you’re cheering for your team at the national championship! “Be devoted to one another in love! Honor one another above yourselves.”
2 Corinthians 13:11, “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice. Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Galatians 5:13, “But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your simple nature. Instead use your freedom to serve one another in love.”
Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Ephesians 4:2, “Be completely humble and gentle. Be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just a Christ in God forgave you.” <garbled sound effect> It’s hard to read that fast.
Hebrews 3:13, “Exhort one another daily while it’s called today.”
Hebrews 10:24-25, “Let us now consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up the meeting together as some are in the habit of doing but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
Those are just some of the verses talking about we can do if we’re a member of the church. Here’s the church. Remember this? There’s the steeple. Open the doors and see all of the hopefully committed people.
Here’s a question. What if every person had the same commitment quotient as you? What if every person committed to prayer like you? What if every person was committed to bringing their finances like you? What if every person served like you? What if every person witnessed like you? What if every person volunteered like you? What if every person read their Bible like you? What, what, what? What kind of church would we have? How committed would we be?
I mean, too many of us are just barking around the edge of the pool like our maltipoo, who’s a rescue. Our golden doodle, and our big, bad Doberman, who’s definitely not. They’re just barking! Making all this racket and noise. Level fully committed. It was cold this morning in that pool! He just… boom! Jumped in it. And it’s time we jump in and say, “God, I want to be committed to what you’re committed to. It starts with God, right? Then it moves into the church. We commit to church membership. God moves in mysterious ways. God moves corporately. So when we divorce ourselves from the church and we show up once every 3 weeks, and the rest show up maybe once every 6 weeks, once every 8 weeks? You talk about something that drives us crazy? Trying to plan church for people who are so non-committed. Try that one on. It’s tough. Because in commitment you discover the secret to life!
How about when it comes to the spouse? That’s a big relationship. I mean, the only relationship that’s analogous to God’s relationship with his people and the church would be that in marriage. How about marriage? That’s a pretty big issue. Some people are like afraid of commitment. Commitment-phobic. Afraid of marriage. “Well, if I get married, man. I won’t be free, I won’t be free! What is a supermodel comes along and she loves Jesus?” There’s always going to be somebody better looking.
“Well what if a guy comes along and I don’t care if he looks good but he’s rich and he loves the Lord?” Well, ladies, I know there’s always going to be somebody better looking than your man, have more money than your man, cooler than your man. That’s just the way it is! You’re waiting and waiting and waiting. You’ll never commit! Freedom. And people are like,
“Well, I don’t wanna get hurt. I don’t wanna get hurt.” Well, when you commit you’re going to get hurt. That’s just part of it sometimes. Maybe in our past we’ve gotten hurt and we’re commitment phobic because “if I put my heart out there I’ll get it hammered and it’ll come back to me and I’ll be rejected.” Well, that’s just the way it is. And others are like,
“Well, I’m just waiting for the right time to get married. The right time. And when I can afford it I’ll get married.” Well you’ll never get married.
“When I can afford it, when I can afford it, I’m going to have kids.” You ain’t going to ever have kids.
“I’ll start tithing when I can afford it.” It’s not going to happen! Never!
Feelings. “Well, I just don’t feel it.” Well, I would like to have sat by my pool, have some poached eggs. I’ve been making poached eggs lately. I’m really into poached eggs, I don’t know why. I’m obsessive compulsive. I wouldn’t mind just sitting back, drinking coffee, having some poached eggs, chilling, taking my rod and reel, casting in the pool a little bit, having the dogs mark and Level swim around and chase all the different fishing lures I’m trying out. That’s what I would rather be doing. I feel like doing that. I don’t feel like doing what I’m doing now. It must be real. No, it’s not real. Feelings will lie to us.
So think about your spouse. Are you committed to your spouse? Have you committed in marriage? Because when we commit, only in the soils of commitment, will we experience intimacy and maturity and joy and happiness and trust and discipline and vision. Only through that! <applause> So what’s so funny is somebody will get married and be like, “Oh, you’re not meeting my needs and I don’t know. I don’t feel like it. And I feel him this…”
And here’s the deal. You look at your spouse and you see reflected back who you really are. So you ditch that relationship and you trade it in for a newer model. Right? Younger model, guys. Ladies, a more expensive model. Bentley! Yeah. Well guess what? You have the same problem with that Maserati or Bentley that you have with that Ford F150. Same crap! Because there’s one person, there’s one person who is constant. You! You.
And then people sometimes, people do this. All right? When you’re married and in commitment you’ve got to crash through quitting points. And I’ve written about this and talked about this and discussed this. I always say in marriage you’ve gotta go into four-wheel drive. I’ve got a truck, four-wheel drive, man. I haven’t had to use four-wheel drive a lot but sometimes I do. And four-wheel drive you’re driving on the freeway and then you have a problem in marriage. All marriages have problems. PMS – Power, money and sex. Those are the big three. We veer off the freeway and we can start four-wheeling. You’ve gotta commit. <engine revving sound effects> You’ve gotta be willing to go into four-wheel drive. And only with commitment, only in a covenant, will you have the octane to feel comfortable going into four-wheel drive.
Now sometimes we’re stuck. Call for help. I’ve been stuck before. Call for help. One time I got stuck in a four-wheel drive vehicle. I called for help. And call for a Christian counselor. We have a list on our website to help you. A lot of times people sit down, parents and spouses, sit down and they talk about family issues and marriage issues, and when the counselor starts getting close to the deal? “Oh, I don’t like him. I don’t like her. I’m not going back to that!” Isn’t that interesting? So often we bail out right before the breakthrough. I’m talking about commitment! I’m talking about commitment! Put it into four-wheel drive! Husbands, wives, put it into four-wheel drive!
Marriage has different types of temperature! It’s got some hot stuff. Hot stuff and you’re… wow! God made us that way, it’s good. There’s also some lukewarm stuff. There’s also some cold stuff. Sometimes icicles. Most of marriage, I hate to rain on your romantic parade, I hate to rain on the Hallmark channel and these romantic comedies but most of marriage (sorry Matthew McConaughey), most of marriage (Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Aniston), most of marriages live in this lukewarm situation. But if you want the greatness you’ve got to commit. People living together now. Cohabitation. Huge amounts of people are living together. Just, you know, free sex, no commitment. It’s great, for guys especially. And the girls think they can lure him into marriage. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. could it be that a lot of us are dating the church and it’s time to get married? Could it be? I’m just throwing it out.
So what is fear? I said it earlier. Fear is a frantic effort to avoid reality. Maybe fear should be this: I’m going to face everything and receive, receive, the blessings of God.
Commitment. It starts with God, the house, your spouse. And one more thing I want to hit you with. When we do these things, when we’re committed to God, it starts with him, house, the spouse, our kids catch it. You want to bring up kids with integrity? You want to bring up kids with creativity? You want to bring up kids who have a great self esteem? It’s not going to be found on the soccer field, the football field, the basketball court, or jumping around cheering or doing ballet. That stuff is good. The best is about commitment… to God, to the house, to your spouse. AND, the people that you run with. So commit to the people who are committed to God. Who do you run with? At the beginning of the year we’re launching this book and a whole series on the right ‘they.’ Who are ‘they’ in your life?
ILLUS: One time I was in some swampy waters with a friend of mine who was a Marine, served in Vietnam. And when I emerged from the waters I had this leech on my leg, a big old black leech. I was like, “Oh my gosh!!! It’s a leech!” I had these nightmares of them sucking every bit of blood out of your body. So thankfully my friend smoked… burned that thing off. ZZzzzt!!!
Do you have any re-leech-ionships? Any people sucking the life out of you? The sinister minister puts about two to three jacked up people in everybody’s life. They’ll just suck the emotional and relational energy out of your life. Zzztt! Burn ‘em off! But commit to those people who are committed. Where do you find them? Here’s the church, there’s the steeple, open the doors and see all the committed people. You find them serving.
We’re launching a whole new ministry initiative at the beginning of the year about connecting with some cool groups and some things we’ve never done before. What a great way to meet somebody! Somebody meet somebody! Somebody take the initiative and say hi to somebody. Somebody take the relational risk! So commit to people who share the commitment that you desire. We abandon commitment, we abandon intimacy. Commit to God.
So, where are you? On the edge of the pool or are you like Level? Are you all in? Let’s pray.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]