Maybe divide it into more than one study guide?
A. FEAR THAT AFFECTS ONE AND ALL
Please read Luke 12:4-12
- Two kinds of fear.
Two kinds of fear are mentioned here: fear of God and fear of men. One does us good and the other does us harm. To fear God is positive; it means that we honour, worship and obey Him as the only God. To fear people is to be afraid of what they can do to you; that they can injure, kill, hurt, laugh at or slander you.
- Harmful fear.
This harmful form of fear extends even wider and includes fear of the spirits of the dead, evil spirits and witch doctors or that someone may pronounce a curse on you. It also includes excessive precautions against things we cannot control, like lightning, wind, accidents, etc.. Of course, we should drive carefully, stay indoors when there is a heavy thunderstorm and not venture into a stormy sea with a small sailboat. We must be cautious but not fearful.
- A world without fear.
In Paradise, Adam and Eve had a totally relaxed relationship with God. Although they were aware of His omnipotence as Creator, they were not intimidated by it. Pain and death did not exist at all and it would never occur to them that He would possibly hurt or harm them. Similarly, they were not afraid of the animals or anything else in their environment. The lion ate grass and the honey bee did not have a stinger. They led a perfectly carefree existence. When they lay down to sleep, there were no watchdogs, alarm systems, fences or security guards to protect them. Even their dreams (if any) would have been peaceful and refreshing. Given the levels of violence we are exposed to in our contemporary society, it is almost impossible to imagine ourselves in such a completely fear-free existence.
- Fear of retaliation.
But the moment man decided not to obey God anymore, He became their Judge and fear of punishment overwhelmed them so that they hid and covered themselves with fig leaves. This “fear of God” has come to stay and is only lifted when man becomes reconciled to God through the forgiveness of sin made possible by Jesus’ death on the cross.
- Fear turns to awe.
The saved person is no longer afraid of God; his “fear of God” rather consists in honouring Him as almighty, all-wise Creator and loving Him as a loving Father. Fear turns to awe.
- Fear hinders progress.
The unsaved person is more fearful of his fellow man who he can see and who is always moving about him, than of God whom he cannot see. However, fear is an evil, tormenting emotion that constricts man’s life and prevents him from developing to his full potential. The businessman who constantly fears that the country’s economy will collapse or that competitors will push him out of the market, will not plan soundly and wisely. Every decision will be tinged by fear.
B. A Christian’s fear of persecution.
Fear of being persecuted as a Christian, is just as detrimental to his spiritual growth. When someone steps out of the darkness into the light by settling his case with God, he becomes an enemy of the broad unsaved humanity led by the devil and has more reason than ever to fear them. This is what Jesus’ disciples constantly experienced in the persecution that the religious leaders launched against Him and his followers. Jesus knew that there were a large number of people who considering to become children of God, but that they were afraid of being banned from the church, beaten or even killed. That kept them from taking this vital step.
Mindful of this, He gave specific teaching on the subject of fear, and in particular fear of persecution. First of all, He points out the imprudence of being more afraid of man than of God (and, by implication, not reconciling yourself with God because you fear that man will persecute you.) He gives four reasons for this:
- Man’s limited power versus God’s omnipotence.
Firstly: Man is only able to kill the body but then powerless to do any harm to the spirit of the person who left the body. God, on the other hand, has the power to not only kill the body but to cast the person into hell afterwards. Therefore it is logical to have a much greater fear of God.
- God’s children are very precious to Him.
Secondly: God has an intense interest in every little thing to which He has given life, as for example in a sparrow. Man considers a sparrow of so little value that he sells five of them for two coins. To God, however, every sparrow on earth is so important that He knows each one of them and is aware of what happens to each. How much more is a person who has entrusted himself to the Lord not worth to the Lord. He is so extremely precious to God, that the Lord constantly even counts his hair and keeps a record of it so that when even one hair falls out, He knows it. If every hair is precious to Him, how much more so is the person in his totality of spirit, soul and body?
- The Father honors the trust his child has in Him.
Thirdly: Man may feel that he is very small and insignificant here on earth, insignificant in the eyes of the almighty God sitting on His throne in the heavens. No, says the Lord Jesus, when a person confesses to others that he has sided with Jesus, it is so precious to Him that He will mention the name of that person to the entire heavenly multitudes. However, the reverse is also true, namely that if a person denies Jesus here on earth, He will also declare in heaven that he never knew that person.
- In persecution, the Holy Spirit will put the right answers and arguments in His child’s mouth.
Fourthly: Even in the here and now, Jesus will never leave his child to his fate. When he is brought before court, his Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will put the words for his defense in his mouth so that he will not need to worry beforehand about what he will say.
- Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Speaking about confessions, here is a serious warning. In verse 10 Jesus states that a person who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Blasphemy involves ascribing the works of God to the devil. It can also be described as the vicious bad-mouthing or contemptous speaking of the Holy Spirit who pleads with us in tender love to convert us to God. The person who persists in such hostility eventually crosses the threshold of God’s mercy. After that there is no hope for him for all eternity. The Pharisees who accused the Son of God of cooperating with satan in casting out demons, were therefore walking on the edge of this abyss.
- The Lord does not indemnify us against persecution and suffering, but promises to be with us constantly and to support us so that we can bear it.
Finally: Note that the Lord never promised that a sparrow would not die; what He promised, was that when the sparrow dies, he will not be alone but that the Lord will be with him. Likewise, He did not promise that a Christian would not die for his faith, but that his Lord and Saviour would be with him in his dying moments, comforting him and leading him through the door of death to the eternal home of His Father.
Please read Lk 12:13-21.
- A man who did not receive from Jesus the help he asked for.
Often, when a rich man dies, there is a dispute regarding the division of his estate. The person who considers himself wronged might even take the matter to court to get his way. The complainant in this particular story may not have seen his way open to follow that route, or did not get the verdict he wanted. He then approached the Lord Jesus for help, probably because he saw Him as a very righteous man; a man who hated injustice and who would decide in his favour.
- The Judge said : “Here are the principles, go and judge your own case.”
The Lord however did better by teaching him, and all those present, an important lesson regarding material possessions. He then left it to them to judge their own affairs. The story He told about the rich man who had such good harvests is very clear, therefore we will not dwell on it. We will only look at the important principles contained therein; those Jesus wished to convey to his listeners.
- Wealth is a gift from God.
Jesus did not condemn the rich man for being wealthy. He may have worked hard and planned well and could now enjoy the fruits of his labour which was also a blessing from the hand of God. God blesses honest hard work and wise planning.
- Greed for more and more. “I am not greedy, but I like a lot.”
His sin was that he lusted for more and more; he was greedy. His heart and mind was set upon riches. Wealth drew him like a candle draws a moth. He thirsted to have more and more and more. He had a mania to collect, to pile up, to store away. He wanted an extravagant abundance for himself, more than was sufficient to meet his needs – more than he reasonably needed to provide for his foreseeable future. He wanted to be like a cup that was not only full to the brim, but that overflowed. And then he wanted to catch every drop of the overflow in a saucer or dish. He wanted to keep every grain for himself. He enlarged his sheds to satisfy his greed.
- “I will never again have a care in my life”
In reaching this decision, he did not consult God, but reasoned in the flesh, following his own will. If he had prayed about the matter, the Lord might have led him to give away the overflow. Since the Lord had already blessed him exceedingly, he should have trusted Him for similar blessings in the years to come. His greedy heart however told him to save up so much that he would be totally independant of God. In this, he wanted to be his own God.
- What are you leaning on?
Besides being greedy, he was also foolish to trust in material things. That was actually the crux of Jesus’ message. He then pointed out how quickly this false foundation on which he had built, crumbled and plunged him into the abyss. He had not even started building the bigger sheds when he died. It happened suddenly, unexpectedly, possibly due to a heart attack. That was the ubrupt end of his dream of a carefree life. He was so materially focussed that he probably did not plan for eternity. That meant that he would not have ascended to the glory of heaven. He would have dropped into the place of everlasting loss of everything good … and its possessions? Who would inherit it; who would fight for it?
- A fool!
Let’s note again that God calls this man a fool. A fool is someone who does not have the wisdom to make sound decisions. He is not worthy of anyone’s respect. He is a stupid person. This man’s decisions were earthly and made no provision for a proper relationship with the God of eternity.
- Heir, be your own judge now.
The terrifying truth contained in this story of Jesus, was indeed good advice to the man who came to seek his help regarding the division of his father’s estate. Could it be that this was in fact the story of this man’s father?
- Let your thoughts radiate outward; away from you
Wealth is blessings from God and should be shared with those less able to take care of themselves. It should especially be used to make disciples for the Kingdom of God. Invest in eternity!
- Greed has a room even in the heart of the poor or less privileged.
Greed leads to the downfall of a large section of humanity. This sin lurks even in the hearts of poor people. They covet what they have not or what others have. Often you see poor people sitting under a tree or on a street corner, gambling away what little they have. Or else they feverishly scramble to take out a lottery ticket, hoping to become super rich, suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, without lifting a hand. Jesus calls this foolishness. (Please read 1Tim 6:6-10).
Please read Luk 12: 22-34.
- The sin of the needy; which we are all guilty of.
Not all of us are rich; on the contrary, some find it difficult to even put adequate food on their tables. Needy people will seldom be tempted to be greedy. They are tempted in a different way. They may not gamble, but they stress.They become tense about meeting their daily needs. This undue concern displeases God. It also causes the person much inner unhappiness. He may go about grumbling and blaming the more privileged for not sharing with him. He or she may also point a finger at God. This should not be. We are to trust the Lord like a little child trusts his father or mother to provide in his each and every need.
- If God can give life, he can give everything to preserve that life.
Jesus again uses examples from nature as arguments to allay anxiety. First, He points to the wonder of life. God gives life to a baby in its mother’s womb, even long before it is born. This life of God enables the baby to cry, laugh, move his arms and legs, look around, crawl, walk and talk. The Lord also sustains that life after birth. There are people who reach a hundred years of age and more.
Life is a miracle man cannot give or sustain. Life is something that the scientist cannot fake or even explain. Food and clothing are nothing compared to life. If God can perform the greater miracle of giving life to a baby, can He not perform the easier task of providing him with a dress, pants or shoes? What are pants, a shirt or a dress compared to life?
- The Lord’s ravens are well taken care of.
Furthermore, Jesus asks you to observe a raven or crow. A crow is worth very little; you can’t even eat it. It has no practical value. It also is not a resourceful bird. It does not have a storeroom in which it can lay up food for the days ahead. It lives but one day at a time. Every morning it sits on a branch or on a telephone pol until it is hungry. Then it rises up and scouts the surrounding area. It flies above the veldt and fields which it does not own and had not planted. After a while it finds something that the Lord had set aside for it to eat. By evening its stomach is filled. It then returns to its perch and sleeps peacefully without worrying about tomorrow.
But we human beings, are worth so more than many crows because we are made in the likeness of God. Once you have given your life to Him, you are also His child. You are not like one of the many crows flying up there . Furthermore, you have a field where you plant maize, which you hoe, water, weed, protect and then harvest. Or else you work in a shop or in your own business. You work hard and sweat to provide for yourself. If the Lord so faithfully provides for the crow that does not work, won’t He have much more reason to provide for you that do work so diligently?
- If you could pray as earnestly and persistently as you worry, just think where you would be in life.
Jesus coninued using examples to explain how fruitless it is to worry. Can a person ad a centimeter to his length by worrying about being too short? How much less will he be able to add years to his life? Let us embroider on this example. Say the doctor examines and tells you that your heart is very weak and that you will die within seven days. If you now go into your room, close the door, lie down, curl up, furrow your brow and strain your brain to worry about this matter, will you thereby be able to extend your life even by just one hour? What benefit, then, have you gained by worrying yourself? By simply relaxing, you might have lived a few days longer.
- Is there a flower that designs and makes itself?
As for the concern about clothing, Jesus refers us to the flowers. They do not work for God, but still it is His pleasure to make them even more beautiful than the royal clothes worn by the rich and wise king, King Solomon. The Lord finds pleasure in making them so beautiful, though they are short lived. Don’t you think that He also finds pleasure in dressing you beautifully, you who are worth so much more than the most beautiful flower? “Oh you little-faith people!” Jesus probably said while shaking his head.
- Worry is for the unbelievers that have no God.
When we are worried and anxious about what we will eat and drink, we shame the Lord. Then we act just like the pagans, like the peoples of the world who do not know God. The Lord is our Father and He knows very well that we need all these things. So why worry about it?
- We have better things to do.
What He wants us to do, is to keep our minds engaged in the quest to build His kingdom, both in our own lives and in the lives of the people who come our way. When we devotedly and conscientiously spend our time thereon, the Lord will provide all these things for us as side benefits.
- Be at peace; the Shepherd watches over you.
Yet another assurance to bring us peace of mind: we are God’s own precious little flock of sheep. Like a shepherd, He takes great pleasure in caring for us. He enjoys watching over his flock, leading them to green grass and clear water and meeting their needs. To do this is no burden to God; He enjoys it. And the fields and waters He gives us to enjoy are the benefits of His Kingdom.
- Place your possessions out of reach of the devil and his minions.
The Lord Jesus takes his teaching on trusting him a step further, saying that you should sell your possessions and use the proceeds to give alms to the poor who do not deserve it. This does not mean that you will have lost those treasures; no you have just transferred them to heaven. When your earthly treasures arrive in heaven, the Lord puts them in a purse bearing your name. There they remain in safe keeping until you arrive. That purse will never grow old. No moth can crawl in to eat holes into it either. Nor can a thief break into heaven and steal it. Heaven is the safest bank in the universe.
- Where your treasure is, your heart will be also.
Remember: where your treasures are stored, your heart will also be. If you have stacks of money stored in a trunk under your bed, your thoughts will constantly be under your bed. If you have many, many cattle in your kraal, your heart will be with your cattle in the kraal. But if Jesus is the joy of your heart and you are constantly transferring treasures to heaven by doing things that please Him and build His Kingdom, your heart and thoughts will continually be with Him; way up there in heaven.
- Hold on and lose; let go and retain.
What you frantically try to preserve on earth, you will most likely lose, but what you “lose” on earth by investing it in the Lord’s Kingdom, will be preserved forever.
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