Last Wednesday, we were privileged to have Rev Song Cheng Hock speak to us at BGST Chapel on the topic, “Obedience in the Face of Fear”. Taking as his main text, Deuteronomy 1:26-36, Rev Song unpacked for us the struggles of Israel in their journey of faith into the land God had promised. Obedience to God is one of the most difficult and demanding aspects of Christian discipleship. It not only requires submission of wills, but also an openness to change in which new priorities are adopted and new frontiers explored. He explained: “Change doesn’t come easily for us even when we are convinced that the time has come to let go and move on. We prefer to remain in familiar places and within our comfort zone, even when God’s instruction is loud and clear.” Fear has a huge part to play in causing us to vacillate instead of responding decisively in obedience to God. Rev Song highlighted two lessons on our fears in the context of God’s call to obedience.
First, he pointed out that fears may cause us to exaggerate our perceived threats. Israel’s experience at Horeb is a case in point. Horeb was meant to be a transit point and a launching pad for the twelve representatives to reconnoiter the land. They saw the abundance of the Valley of Eshcol, brought back fruits to prove it, and concurred: “It is a good land that the LORD our God is giving us” (Deut 1:25). However, the Israelites were afraid and complained: “Our brothers have made us lose heart. They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there’” (Deut 1.28). Instead of taking God at His word about the land He had promised, they engaged in spreading bad reports about it (Numbers 13:32-33). Fear has the capacity of feeding our insecurities. It makes us question God’s ability and goodness and keeps us from venturing out in obedience to God’s call.
Second, Rev Song underscored the point that obedience and faith in God are inseparable. In his own terms, they are “the conjoint twins of spirituality”. “When you see one, you would see the other. The person who professes to believe in God must take Him at His Word. That’s the basic assumption of spirituality – that God can be trusted, and is at work in us whether we’re aware of it or not.” However, in the case of Israel, their fears led to the tragic situation where the trustworthiness of God was called into question. Instead of believing the truth that God loves them, they grumbled: “The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us” (Deut 1.27).
Like Israel of old, we often tend to blame God and doubt His loving intentions whenever we are overwhelmed by fear, or when challenged to give up what is precious, or when we feel that things are not moving in our favor. According to Rev Song, “that’s our collective unconscious - that fractured assumption that God should do better if He wants our devotion. So we insist – ‘A God of love wouldn’t have allowed this to happen!”
Rev Song’s message is a powerful reminder for Christians to cling on to the precious promises of God and allow God’s revelation of Himself to regulate our thoughts about His ways with us. We need to trust in God’s good intentions for us so as to be freed from the shackles of doubt created by our fears. His parting note is one of challenge and encouragement: “Fear of failure often can be worse than failure itself. Failure is not the worst thing that could happen to anyone.
Whatever your situation or challenge, remember: staying put in your comfort zone will eventually dull your faith...Think over what David wrote: The LORD is my light and my salvation -- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life -- of whom shall I be afraid? (Psa 27:1). Keep nurturing your faith, step out and shut out all your distressing fears. Be obedient to His call.”
Dr Aquila Lee will be our Chapel speaker on 15 September. Chapel begins at 12pm. You are welcome to join us.