Candid Thoughts About Crowds

The Presidential Inauguration, 2009 (Photo by the Sun-Sentinal)
The Presidential Inauguration, 2009 (Photo by the Sun-Sentinal)

I have never enjoyed being in the midst of a crowd. I like to have a bit of space. However, crowds are a fact of life. I have been a part of a crowd at churches, athletic events, airports, the streets of New York City, on a crowded expressway in Chicago, or a crammed subway in Lisbon. Crowds can make us lose our individuality. We seem to merge into the crowd as an unknown and unimportant face.

You can see this at an athletic event when somebody begins the wave. What do we do? We conform and stand up and wave our arms when it is our turn.  Also, I have noticed this when you see a subway train pass the opposite direction, the people look like one massive  block of humanity. The crowd seems to swallow up each person.

This crowd mentality has also filtered itself into our Christian faith.  We want to belong to a large group. We want to follow the new trend in Christianity. If the crowd says, we dress a certain way to church, then we dress that way.  If the crowd says a certain kind of music is better for today, then we follow the crowd.  If the latest Christian celebrity makes a pronouncement, then we follow his words like the rest of the crowd.

Churches are looking for a crowd. They want to emulate the mega church that is in their city or on the television.  A crowd equals success in the eyes of men. The church can easily lose sight of God and His working in the lives of individual people. The danger of this crowd mentality is that we can use people to build our ministries, instead of using our ministry to build people.

The Bible often shows the danger of the crowd. Joseph’s brothers were gathered together as their brother, Joseph approached. None of these brothers alone would have thought about killing him, but together they came up with their evil plan. Nobody was willing to speak out openly against the plan of the crowd. The crowd can make us commit evil deeds which we would not do alone.

When the nation of Israel was at the border of the Promised Land, the twelve spies had returned with their report of the land. The crowd said that it was too difficult and the people became disheartened. There were only three people who were willing to stand against the crowd, Caleb, Joshua and Moses. They were nearly killed for their courageous stand. The crowd can make a coward of us all.

In the time of Elijah, the crowd worshipped the false gods of the surrounding nations. The crowd had rejected the True God. Elijah went against this crowd in his great contest against the prophets of Baal.  The majority said that Baal was god. They were proven false by the God of Elijah. The crowd can cause us to turn our backs on the true God, to follow their false gods of materialism, fame, pleasure, and self-centeredness.

When Jesus walked on the earth, he would often attract a crowd, but the crowds were  very superficial in their dedication to Jesus.  After Jesus feeds the five thousand, he teaches the people about His deity. As a result. the crowd walks away because their faith was based upon what they could get out of Jesus. The crowd can cause our faith to become quite superficial, because we no longer see the need to develop a personal walk with the Lord.  Whatever our “crowd” says is what we believe. We become sheep following other sheep, instead of sheep following the Shepherd.

Jesus also warns us about the danger of the crowd when He says: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) The crowd has the idea that everybody is going to heaven. We can live as we please. The crowd has led many people to Hell because of their false notion of universal salvation.

Jesus walked upon this earth amidst many crowds, but he didn’t develop a crowd mentality. He kept His focus upon His Heavenly Father. If we are to fight the crowd mentality, we need to keep our eyes upon the Lord Jesus Christ. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:3)

“Dear Lord, I feel pressure to conform to the crowd. This is not only the crowd of the world which would turn me from my faith, but also the crowd within Christianity. This crowd would have me to conform to the latest trends and the latest pronouncements of some Christian celebrity. Lord, I need you. Help me to keep my focus upon you. Help me to walk with you and not worry about what others are doing or saying. Thank you for calling each of your sheep by name. Thank you that I can have a personal walk with you. Amen”

Moving Beyond Fear to Courage

Sleepy Hollow State Park, MIchigan- By Mark J. Booth

When fear takes its grip upon our lives, it affects our view of circumstances, of others and of the future.  Fear causes us to doubt the love of God, the presence of God, the provision of God, and even the protection of God.  Fear keeps us from doing what God has called us to do.  How can we move beyond our fears and approach life with courage?

Courage is the willingness to move forward with our lives in spite of the obstacles and dangers that we face.  The nation of Israel, including King Saul, was paralyzed by fear on account of Goliath.  His size was overwhelming.  However, David had moved beyond his fear to courage.  David didn’t see the power of Goliath. He saw the power of His God. His courage has inspired us to face life’s situations with the understanding that God is greater than anything that is happening in our life.

How Can I Move Beyond Fear to Courage?

1. Remember the presence of God.  God is with us as we travel through this life. His presence brings courage because we know that we are not alone.  If we are passing through the shadow of death. we are not alone.  If we are facing some great trial, we are not alone.  If we are facing an unknown future, we are not alone.  “Fear thou not; for I am with thee:be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

2. Enjoy the love of God.  God’s love was clearly demonstrated upon the cross of Christ.  The fear of death was removed when Jesus died upon the cross for our sins.  His death and resurrection conquered death.  If his love has removed our greatest fear, it can also take away all other fears.  A baby in the arms of its loving mother has no fear.  Likewise, we are in the arms of our loving God.  Why should we be ruled by fear? “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) 

3. Develop a fear of God.  The fear of God has been defined as: “Realizing that God is watching and weighing every one of my thoughts, words, actions and attitudes.”  The fear of God places God in His rightful place in our lives.  When our walk with God is right, we can live our life with courage instead of fear. “In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence:and his children shall have a place of refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26)

4. Walk by faith, not by sight.  When walk by faith in our loving, all-wise, and all-powerful God, we can face life with courage.  Fear cannot exist together with faith.  Fear flourishes when we see life from our perspective, instead of trusting our Great God.  When faith rules in our heart, we will have the courage to conquer any mountain that is before us.  “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him (Christ).” (Ephesians 3:12)

5. Study and memorize the Word of God.  Fear often is the result of ignorance.  When we study the Word of God, we see God working in the lives of people such as Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David and Daniel.  These people faced fearful situations; yet they faced them with courage because they knew their God. “But the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” (Daniel 11:32)  When we study the Word, we get to know God better.  The more we know Him, the more we will be able to trust Him.  Our fear will turn into courage, not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

6. Become familiar with the “fear nots” in the Bible. God knows our heart.  He knows that we are prone to fear.  We are prone to walk by sight and not by faith.  He encourages us with many of His “fear nots” in the Bible.  Here are just a few.

  • Fear not in your life’s journey. “And the Lord appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee,” Genesis 26:24
  • Fear not concerning your daily needs. “And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.” (1 Kings 17:13-14)
  • Fear not when in danger. “And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”  (2 Kings 6:16)
  • Fear not in times of weakness. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee;” (Isaiah 41:10)
  • Fear not in times of trials. “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee,I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee;and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned;” (Isaiah 43:1-2)
  • Fear not in times of failure.  Here is what God said after the Israelites’ failure at Ai. “And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed:” (Joshua 8:1)  God did bring the victory after their previous failure.  
  • Fear not in times of sickness or nearing death. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

“Dear Lord, thank you for assuring me that you are with me throughout this life and for all eternity.  Thank you that you give me the courage to move forward in my life in spite of the obstacles that are before me.  Please, give me the courage to live each day for you. ”

Author’s Note: This is the second article in the series called “Moving Beyond!”

Moving Beyond Doubt to Faith

Morning sky over Sydney, Australia-Photo by: Mark J Booth

Faith in God can often be elusive in our lives.  We know that we should have faith in God; yet everything around us is crying out saying: “Can you really trust God?”.  “Why is God taking so long.?” “Where is God in all of this?”  How can we move beyond these doubts and live in faith towards God?

How do we doubt God in our daily lives?

  1.  We doubt the protection of God.  We feel vulnerable when events bring hurt into our lives.  Like the Israelites, we feel that God has left us on our own.
  2. We doubt the promises of God.  God’s Word is full of promises, but we don’t accept them for our own lives.  We feel undeserving.  We may be ignorant of his promises.  We think these promises don’t apply to our circumstances.  Thus, we lose out on the blessings that these promises provide.
  3. We doubt the presence of God. God says that “He will never leave us nor forsake us.”  We look for God, but we can’t seem to find Him.  We may think that he doesn’t care.
  4. We doubt the power of God.  Paul says: “I can do all things through Christ which sterngtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)  However, we fail to experience this power when we are expecting God “to come through for us.”
  5. We doubt the provision of God.  God says that He will take care of us; yet we fret and worry about our money and possessions.
  6. We doubt the plan of God.  God is not working in our lives in the way we would like.  We decide to go our own way. Joseph could have doubted God’s plan because the path was dark and difficult to which God had called him.

What causes us to doubt God?

  1. We doubt God because of our own human nature.  One of the conflicts we have in our Christian life is that we choose to walk by sight and not by faith.  We allow our circumstances to cloud our view of God.  Sin blinds us to the reality of God’s Word and His Promises.
  2. We doubt God because of the influence of others.  When those around us doubt God and His Word, they can infect us with this same thinking.  The ten spies influenced one another to doubt God.  Caleb and Joshua had enough faith to withstand the pressure from the other spies.
  3. We doubt God because of the many obstacles that happen in our lives.  Job had some difficulties with his faith because his whole world had collapsed.  Likewise, we tend to doubt God in the tough times.
  4. We doubt God because of his “divine delays”.  God doesn’t work His plans in our time.  Because of this, we become impatient and we begin to doubt God.  We say: “Why hasn’t God done something!”

How do we move beyond doubt into faith? 

We know that we should walk by faith and not by sight.  We know that living by faith pleases God, but we still struggle with our doubts.  What can we do to cultivate our faith.

  1. We cultivate our faith through reading and studying the Word of God.  Romans 10:17 says:  “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  The reading of the Word enables us to learn more about God, His promises, and His working in our lives.  The more we know God; the more we will trust Him.  The heroes of the faith in Hebrews knew their God.  This resulted in their unwavering faith.  How well do we know our God?
  2. We cultivate our faith by learning to cry out to God.  Once Jesus met a man whose son was demon possessed.  This father understood his need to cry out to God:  “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)  Crying out to God is saying: “I can’t do it.”  “I can’t continue without you.” God will respond when we cry out to Him.
  3. We cultivate faith by choosing faith when doubt is crying out to us.  When we choose faith, we are siding with God and His Word.  We put aside our viewpoints and opinions and accept the ways of God.  2 Corinthians 5:7 says: “(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)”  Paul made a choice to choose faith in spite of all the obstacles.  Our problems should be stepping stones to our faith and not stumbling blocks to our faith.

God is totally worthy of our faith.  He doesn’t need to prove Himself to us.  When we choose to move beyond doubt unto faith, we will live a life that is pleasing to God.  “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)  Faith in God brings pleasure to God because it shows that we know Him, we love Him,  and we need Him.

Faith is a choice in the midst of obstacles.  Let’s move beyond our doubts and place our faith in Him.  Doubt will make cowards of us all.  Faith will enable us to face life with courage.  Doubt will keep us from moving forward in our Christian life.  Faith will keep us walking close to God.

“Father, I doubt you quite often.  I choose to walk by sight instead of by faith.  Like the man who cried out to you to help his unbelief, I cry out to you: “Increase my faith.”