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Revival Phobias – Fear of the Unknown

Do not fear [anything], for I am with you; Do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you; I will certainly take hold of you with My righteous right hand [a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation].
Isa 41:10 AMP

This scripture is clear but has any of the following questions ever been on your mind. What will happen when/if God powerfully touches my life, my family, my church, or my nation? What does it really feel like? What will God ask me/us to give up? Will I/we act foolishly? Will I/we be embarrassed? Often our last encounter with God is the only barometer we use in gauging the spirit of revival in our lives, many times revival will come and go, and we will not experience it. We find it so hard to let go and let God do what only He can do!

There are two words in the English dictionary, one familiar to many and one much less so, which describe ‘fear of the unknown.’The first is Xenophobia – an irrational sensation of fear experienced about a person or a group of persons, as well as situations that are perceived as strange or foreign. It is the fear of anything that is beyond one’s comfort zone. Man has always felt insecure about something of which he is unaware. To be frank most people dislike change! In the case of Xenophobia, the individual is unable to fight their insecurity.

The second word is Agnostophobia (from Greek word agnostos, “unknown”). Unknown things can be very scary even petrifying. People can be afraid of going to unknown places or even meeting someone for the first time. Some people are worried about what the future may hold as there are many unknown and unexpected events to occur.

It’s said that fear of the unknown can be a peculiar snare for church leaders. To many, revival is ‘unexplored territory,’ which creates significant fear and uncertainty concerning the nature of the revival and the future. Questions that can dominate their thinking include – “What do I do with a revived church? What if my people get ahead of me spiritually? How can I lead a church full of vitality and boundless energy?” Indeed, as most of the training in Bible colleges is focused on church maintenance instead of building, it is only natural that things “unfamiliar” to many church leaders could be perceived as ‘dangerous.’

At the heart of all fear is a lack of trust. Remember the Israelites wandered for 40 years, and an entire generation died in the wilderness, all because they were intimidated by giants, walled cities, and opposition. Their worst fears originated from the fearful words of ten faithless men tasked to spy out the promised land of Canaan. It was their unnerving report which robbed the people of faith and instilled intense fear in their hearts. Unbelievably they had all totally forgotten the amazing things God had supernaturally done for them in Egypt.

Instead, the Israelites should have listened to the accounts of Caleb and Joshua. They reported that it was a land flowing with “milk and honey.” As proof they brought back a sample of the grapes found in Eshcol – ‘grapes were so big that you could remove the pulp and use the skins for shower caps!’ The two did everything in their power to encourage their fellow Israelites to possess the land that God had given them. You see, Joshua and Caleb simply could not accommodate themselves in the wilderness. Their bodies may have been in the wilderness, but their hearts were in the Promised Land. Caleb exhorted his brethren, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13:30).

This account from the Bible of the challenge of overcoming the fear of the unknown isn’t a one-off but occurs as a repeated theme throughout scripture – Noah building an ark for a future flood the like of which had never been experienced; Abram leaving Haran for an unknown destination; Moses returning to Egypt to secure the release of his people from enslavement by the most powerful civilisation that then existed; or think of what Joseph, Esther, Elijah, Elisha, Ezra, Nehemiah, Jesus’ disciples, and Paul and so many others did in faith. These stories and those of more recent history of pastors, missionaries and others should greatly encourage us in ‘doing something more for God’ – a little phrase spoken by a minister to four young men in Kells, County Antrim which helped spark the flames of 1859 Ulster Revival.

So, if we’re satisfied with the “wilderness,” we’ll never get out of it! If we’re content with the status quo we’ll never see days of heaven upon earth. If our fear of change is stronger than our desire for enlargement, then we’ll acclimatise ourselves to the “wilderness.” On the other hand, if we, like Caleb and Joshua, will take our Heavenly Father at His Word, we can overcome and seize the prize that God’s grace has already provided.

Revival is wholly a work of God’s Holy Spirit working in and through His people. We cannot predict what the Spirit will do. We cannot manufacture or manage what He will do. Tragically, today many churches do not know of revival and have no real idea of, or interest in, what it entails. They are now so ingrown, having given in to intimidation, that their fears have obscured vital contact with God’s promises. As a consequence, fear casts out love for a world that is falling apart – one which so desperately needs a community of love. Today there seems to be an indifference to the peril of the lost – it’s a Biblical concept that has disappeared from the conscience of most churches and most Christians. We need to recover the first-century Christian’s burning conviction that without Christ, every person is eternally lost.

“Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honour in His service] at the appropriate time, casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].”  1 Peter 5:6-7 AMP

Reflect on and Pray through the words of William Cowper’s well-known hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.”

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm

Deep in unsearchable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will

And ye fearful saints, fresh courage take
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings, on your head

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
But trust Him for His grace
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face

His purposes will ripen fast
Unfolding every hour
The bud may have a bitter taste
But sweet will be the flower

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain
For God is His own interpreter
And He will make it plain

In His own time In His own way.

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