War, Witches and Panic

17 08 2010

Wars, witches, and panic attacks are the substance of 1 Samuel 28.  King Saul is a study in fear.  Faced with withering support and a ferocious enemy, Saul is wholly unprepared for the challenges of life that God has put before him. And in this chapter, Saul is overwhelmed by the impending battle with the Philistines.  Saul succumbs to fear, and fear has power.

“When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly.” (vs. 5) Saul is a beaten man before he’s entered the battlefield. Let’s look at the process of paralyzing fear in Saul’s life, and the confusing questions that are created:

vs. 6  Because of his fear, Saul can’t hear from God even when he prays.  (Where is God in my life?)

Vs. 7  Because of his fear, Saul compromises his convictions and morals and seeks out a witch.  (What do I believe anymore?)

Vs. 8  Because of fear, Saul loses his sense of identity and “disguises himself.”  (Who am I anyway?)

Vs. 16-18 Because of fear, Saul can no longer listen to sound advice and wisdom.  (No one understand me?)

Vs. 20 Because of fear, Saul is overtaken by a panic attack and collapses.  (Am I losing my mind?)

Vs. 21-22  Because of fear, Saul is broken down physically and unable to sleep or eat.   (What is happening to my body?)

Vs. 23-25 Because of fear, Saul can no longer lead with strategy and clear thinking.  (What do I do next?)

If you have asked such questions, then you just might understand the power of fear.  Fear has power. Fear combined with worry can have a paralytic power.  Satan uses fear to create panic and confusion in our mind.  Fear not only affects our mind, but also our body and spirit in ways that can shut down the flow of our physical and spiritual antibodies.

Sick of Fear

Have you ever been sick of fear?  You probably have.  In a landmark study entitled “Who Gets Sick: How Beliefs, Moods and Thoughts Affect Health,” Dr. Blair Justice found that a life based in fear and worry was one of the most common denominators of those people who contracted cancer.  Fear could be traced closely to all forms of cardio vascular disease as well as many other physio psychological ailments.  The study found that fear has a paralyzing impact on our natural abilities to cope with life.

Undealt with fear has the potential to immobilize our physical immune system, thus creating a domino effect that can bring with it panic attacks, disease, and despair.  This is exactly what happens to Saul.  We read in our passage, “Then Saul fell at once full length on the ground, filled with fear…” (vs. 20)  The panic attack that Saul is experiencing continues and eventually leads to a loss of all appetite and an inability to sleep (vss 21-23).  Fear has power.

Attacked in L.A.

Ten years ago I fell under the power of fear and was shrouded with an anxiety attack.  I was enveloped with a blanket of claustrophobia that left me in a fetal position in a California hotel.  I was emotionally paralyzed, wept uncontrollably, and experienced insomnia.  The sense of foreboding, depression, and distress that followed took all my efforts, prayer, and seeking of God’s power to overcome.

As I sought wise counsel, at times fasted and prayed, and talked to several doctor friends, I realized that if I was going to live a healthy rest of my life, I needed to seriously reevaluate my lifestyle.  In due course this led to a new set of daily habits that included exercise, more laughter, and a deeper relationship with Jesus and people.

Created for Intimacy

You can break the cycle of fear.  But you will have to get off the anxiety merry-go-round and seriously reassess your lifestyle.  I did almost ten years ago and it’s made all the difference in my world.

I believe the heart of every human being was formed for intimacy.  Intimacy with God, made known through Jesus, and intimacy with people is the key to peace.  This is why when Jesus was challenged by religious leaders as to which Law was the greatest, responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40)  Love is the strongest form of intimacy.  Jesus is commanding us to love Him with every ounce of our spiritual, emotional, and physical energy, and then, as a result to love people with equal passion and zeal.

I believe that a deep growing maturing friendship with Jesus releases spiritual antibodies that strengthen our immune system.  Intimacy with Jesus brings a new power, the power to break the insidious satanic pressure of fear.   Intimacy with Jesus and people fills up our spiritual and emotional tank.  This then enables us to have the spiritual immune system needed to withstand the many anxious thoughts that we are bombarded with each day.

So, enjoy Jesus today through prayer and Bible study.  Build deep friendships and laugh often.  Exercise is vital.  Surrender your need to be in control and give God your worries.  Don’t hesitate, boldly jump into a new life of faith and peace.  Then, fear will have no power!





One Thing Losers

3 08 2010

I’m a loser!  If I were to evaluate my life based on the standards of the sports page, the entertainment section, and my son’s high school friends, I’m a loser.  I’m not all that intelligent, all that funny, or all that cool.  I’m showing signs of a growing spare tire around the belt line, grey hairs are popping up everywhere, I drive a truck with camo seat covers, I turn in the bill of my baseball cap, and love flannel shirts.  None of which constitutes culturally current winning qualities.

But I’m a loser with passion.  I tell my sons and daughters all the time to “give it all.”  Whether it’s a recital for piano or a baseball tournament, I say things like “leave it all on the field,” or “don’t hold back,” etc.  You know, the kind of stuff that parents are supposed to say to their kids.  The only difference is that I mean it.  I’m not saying that other parents don’t mean it, they do.  I’m sure they do because I sit in the stands with a lot of them at games and they shout, scream, pout, and almost cry like 3rd graders.  It’s an amazing thing to watch—otherwise normal middle aged worldly successful adults suddenly morphed into adolescent elementary aged behavior that often leaves me wondering what happened to the adult I was just talking to.

But I really mean it when I say to my children to be all there—focused, determined, and relaxed.  I don’t mean win, win, win, rah, rah, rah.  I mean be hot.  Be hotful (is that a word?); radically give it all—for something greater than yourself.  I sometimes say:  My time is valuable.  Don’t waste my time, the coach’s time, or your time.  Be hot out there.  I don’t care if it’s a piano, violin, or sports contest—be hot and be focused…for God’s glory.

I’m a loser for one thing.  The apostle Paul once said, “This one thing I do…”  Most of us can only do a few things half decent.  We’re just losers who aren’t very smart nor very talented.  But we can do one thing.  Yes, all of us can do one thing.  Instead of dabbling around with drink, entertainment, or whatever we dabble in, I want to be a one thing guy.  One thing.

Years ago I came across these words of Bishop Ryle.  They speak of our calling as Jesus followers,

“A zealous person in the Faith is pre-eminently a person of one thing.  It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough-going, whole-hearted, fervent in spirit.  He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God.  Whether he lives, or whether he dies—whether he has health, or whether he has sickness—whether rich or poor—whether he pleases men or whether he gives offense—whether he is thought wise or foolish—whether he gets blamed or praised—whether honored or put to shame—for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all.  He burns for one thing; and that one thing is to please God, and to advance God’s glory.  If he is consumed in the very burning, he cares not for it—he is content.  He feels that, like a lamp, he is made to burn; and if consumed in burning, he has but done the work of God for which God appointed him.”

Be a passionate one thing loser…for Jesus!