In this message, Pastor Erin talked about how, even though we often choose fear, we can forget fear and choose power, love, and self-control instead.
City Lights Church is a contemporary Christian church located in the northwestern part of Richmond, VA. City Lights Church is a part of the Vineyard USA network and an ARC family member.
Hey there! And welcome to the City Lights Podcast. City Lights is a church located in the northwestern part of Richmond, Virginia. For more information about City Lights, you can visit us at wearecitylights.com. Now enjoy today’s message.
Well, welcome to City Lights. My name is Erin and I’m on the team here and we’re so excited that you’re joining us. We want to wish our moms out there a super happy Mother’s Day. We love you guys, and we appreciate you so much. So if you are taking notes and following along this week, you can title this message Today I Choose.
So as many of you watching may know or may have at least witnessed, motherhood and parenthood in general can just cause feelings of fear and timidity. It can make you feel like, “am I even doing anything right? Do I have any control over this?” It can cause a lack of confidence. It causes me to second guess a whole lot of things, and honestly, it’s into constant, uncharted territory, right? So it feels like every time we start to get one thing down, we get sleeping or eating, and then all of a sudden there’s potty training and talking and walking, and then we move on to friends and emotions and school, right? And then we move on to home schooling, which that was a curveball that most of us didn’t plan on doing. And to be honest, I’ve pretty much come to terms with the fact that I was not built to be a preschool teacher. I’m a great substitute for the time being, but that was not my calling in life.
So it’s really hard, and it can be ever changing, right? So for all my mom’s out there, I do think that there’s one challenge that we can all agree on that we probably faced at some point, and that is the challenge of sleep, right? So you would assume that you have this baby human and they would be able to pick up on things that should come naturally, right? Like sleeping. Nobody ever prepared me in my life that I was gonna need to teach another tiny human how to sleep. There’s no instructions on that. There’s no owner’s manual that comes with our children when we get them. It’s just that sleep is one of those things that you do, right? No, for kids, for babies, that is not the case. In the very beginning, they fake us out, and for about 72 hours they sleep a whole lot. And they’re beautiful and peaceful, and they sleep, sleep, sleep. And then they just flipped the script, right? And then all of a sudden, there is no more sleeping. And you’re just grasping at every tip and trick and tool and podcast and swaddle and swing and any gadget that will help you to get this tiny human to sleep.
So our daughter Kingsley is 2 now. But she was just like that. She slept the entire time we were in the hospital. Perfect, beautiful angel. And then when we got home, night time did not exist for her, sleeping was no longer a thing. And we tried a 1,000,000 different things to try and get this to work, all while second guessing if any of it was really going to do anything. Once we actually got her to sleep in the bassinet next to our bed and kind of on some resemblance of a sleep schedule, I would still wake up frantically in fear every couple of hours just to check on her to make sure that she was still breathing.
Then we finally get that down. She’s sleeping next to our bed. I have a little bit less anxiety, not much. And then we decided to move her to her own room, right? So new challenge. But we were determined to make the transition. So we spent all this time going back from our room to her room and rocking and trying all sorts of different things to get her used to her own crib in her own room, still frantically waking up every couple of hours and staring into the blinding baby monitor to make sure that her tiny little lungs are still going up and down. So finally we get her sleeping and she’s sleeping in her own room. It’s going good and everything is fine. And then three or four months hit and all of a sudden – sleep regression. For those of you who do not know, sleep regression is a time in a baby’s development where they 100% totally forget everything that they have learned about sleeping up to this point, which results in moms like me feeling crazy and worried and second guessing everything I did up to now wondering if they’re ever going to sleep again, rocking her to sleep, bouncing her to sleep, swaddling her up, putting her down and literally slinking down onto the floor like How the Grinch Stole Christmas style, and army crawling out of the room to avoid any sudden movements and no noise.
But isn’t that how life goes? Right? So we go through things that cause fear and doubt, and then we finally get things kind of smoothed over. Things seem to be going okay, we’re not rocking the boat, things seem to be working out. And then, bam, everything changes, right? Life throws us a curveball, things that we didn’t expect. And then all of a sudden, you’re army crawling around trying not to make any sudden movements or rock the boat. Then life circumstances can come in, and it can cause feelings of that same self-doubt, second guessing, feeling unsure, and lacking confidence as we move into this uncharted territory that seems to keep evolving as we move forward in life.
So that does lead me to my starting point. My starting point today is: I often choose fear. Now if we’re being honest, I think that that’s how most of us live our lives, right? When we’re confronted with the circumstances of life, we often choose fear. There’s anxious feelings about moving forward, right? There’s fear to take chances, afraid of the unknown. We have anxious thoughts about things that we don’t have control over what’s coming next, which we never can really anticipate. But the destination point that I want to bring us to today is: forget fear. I will choose power, love, and self control because I refuse to live my life in a place of fear.
2 Timothy 1:7 tells us this, “for God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self discipline.” Now I want to make it clear, if you have fear in your life, if you have fear, if you have timidity, if things bring so much fear, like the idea of getting yourself out of debt and doing that hard work brings fear. If you have anxiety about confronting somebody or a situation that you know you have to confront. Maybe the idea of parenting scares you. I’ve been in that club. Maybe your current life circumstances, our current world circumstances bring in so much fear and so much anxiety about what’s gonna happen next.
Fear and timidity are real, and they are valid, but they are not God. Something can be real, but it can also not be God’s best for you. So to say, “Don’t be afraid” and then disregard any of the realities of your circumstances is really just foolish. But real power comes from understanding your situation and then choosing God in it, choosing that power and that love and that self discipline.
So there’s a story in the Bible that I want to follow today about a mom who was rightfully afraid, and yet Jesus notices her in her situation. So in Luke 7:11-18 it says, “soon afterward, Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Naan and allowed a large crowd followed him. A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her.” I want to pause here because there’s a few things that I want to highlight. So the name of the village is called Naan. The word Naan in Hebrew means “beauty” or “green pastures,” and Jesus is coming towards the village of Naan or the village of Beauty and the text says that the funeral procession was heading out of the village called Beauty or green pastures, and Jesus approached them at the gate. And I want you to know today that Jesus will approach you when you feel like you are leaving the situation of green pastures, that Jesus sees you in your situation even before you see him. When life doesn’t feel full of beauty, you’re not alone.
The Bible says that the young man who has died in this story was probably only about 13 years old, right? So he was just a boy, and I can imagine the intense heartbreak that that mother is going through. But the story also tells us that she was also a widow, so you can imagine that she’s already suffered such great loss in losing her husband and now her son, and she has fear, right? That’s real, valid painful fear. To put it even more into context, in the time of this story to not have any male head of household, so to not have your husband or to not have a male heir, to take over your household could eventually lead to that woman’s eventual homelessness.
So we imagine her in this situation, and it’s pretty dark. It’s pretty intense, right? She has a lot to fear now. The verse that we read earlier is one of those verses that’s easy to read, and it sounds great when we read it right. It’s probably on tons of plaques at Hobby Lobby. “I won’t have a spirit of fear or timidity, but I will have a spirit of power and love and self control.” But that’s kind of hard to put into play when we’re really faced with tough things. So I want to give you three ways that you can forget fear and to choose power, love, and self discipline. It’s a model that I believe that you can really live your life by, and that’s to pray to practice and to protect.
So my first thought for us today is pray to live with power. Pray to live with power today. Because guys, it really starts with prayer. So in order to have the ability to face life and all the circumstances that come with it, we really have to be connected to God. And most naturally, we tend to put people to stand in the place where Jesus is supposed to be, right? And that leads to disappointment. It can lead to unmet needs. It can lead to a lot of trust issues, right? So community is wonderful and we were meant to be in community, but other people were not meant to carry all of the burdens of our fear and our doubt and all of the worries that we have. But God promises that he can handle it, and that we’re to cast our cares on him. So we need to talk to him, right? That’s how we communicate. So prayer can seem intimidating. But prayer is really just a conversation with God. It’s talking to him just like you would any other person that you have a relationship with. There are no right words that you have to say when you’re praying besides the true and honest ones that come from your heart. And I want you to know that you are stronger than you think. And you have access to that power that this verse is talking about.
Now when I say power, I don’t mean it in the way that our world sees power, right? So our world sees power as dominance and as greed and overworking and taking care of me and having control of the situation. But those things, in reality, are indicators of a spirit of fear because they’re all a reaction to saying it’s all up to me. This is all on me, and that’s a pretty scary place to live in as Jesus followers. Our power comes from God through his Holy Spirit.
So we see in Romans 8:11, the spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you. That’s pretty powerful. God’s definition of power is this: It’s the courage to face fear. It’s the ability to persevere when things get hard or they seem impossible, strength for us to encounter dangers and difficulties and hardships in our lives. Ephesians 3:16-17 says, “I pray from his glorious and unlimited resources he will empower you with his inner strength through his spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him, your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” So I encourage us all to pray for that power, the power of God in our lives to let him be the one that you run to, that you go to first before you seek advice from a friend, before you vent to a family member. Let God be the one that hears your heart. First come to him and pray with him and pray that the Holy Spirit will give you strength and give you what you need to confront that situation.
So I know that I spend way too much time anxious about things, fearful of things, worried about things. Worry is a trait that I definitely have a lot of and wish that I didn’t. But I will say that I’m a work in progress, right? I’m learning to constantly stop and pause and learning to pray about my worries. Learning to pray and give God my anxieties, learning to pray about those things that scare me, right? And I want to give them over to God because I am choosing to forget fear, and I’m choosing to pray.
So now we go back to our story and we see that Jesus approaches the funeral procession at the gates and he practices love. Which leads me to my second thought. And that is practice living with love today. So there’s a freedom that we find in a life that’s modeled after Jesus and Jesus chose to have compassion, and he chose to live in love. And we can also choose to practice love instead of letting fear paralyze us so that we are no longer helpful to ourselves or to others. Because even in the midst of fear and uncertainty, choosing to love others brings freedom.
So check this out in the story it continues, it says, “When the Lord saw the mother, his heart overflowed with compassion. ‘Don’t cry,’ he said,” and I just love how human Jesus is right When we see Jesus all throughout the Bible, you see him in moments where he was just moved by compassion for people because he loved them. This wasn’t a pre-written story, these weren’t decisions that Jesus had to make, but because he saw people and he was moved by compassion we see many miracles all throughout the Bible. And I also want to remind you that just as we see those things in the Bible, my friends, Jesus sees you. He sees us in our situation and he has compassion for us. He’s gonna be there.
It’s interesting, to even look further into the story, the reason that the funeral procession was leaving the city was because unless you were royalty, you were considered unworthy to be buried within the gates of the city. So that’s where fear comes in, right? Our fear comes in and it says you are unworthy. You’re not worth anything. You’re not good enough. But Jesus speaks and he says to us, “You are worth dying for.” You see fear is thrown in our faces all the time, right? Most products even out on the market are sold with the basis of fear and how, if you buy the products that it will relieve the fear. That’s why we’re buying all this toilet paper, right? But really, marketers are aware of that, and that’s how they plan to market products.
But imagine if we practiced love instead of fear. That’s the way that Jesus lived his life. To live like Jesus means to live with unconditional love for humanity. Practicing love allows us to get outside of ourselves, right? It allows us to be purposeful in someone’s story, and then we get the chance to join in their joy of their story and their journey.
And practicing love like Jesus in the simplest but most profound way is easy. Just like in the story. It’s saying kind words and doing good deeds. So you’ll notice, Jesus says to the mother from a place of compassion, “Don’t cry.” He’s bringing her words of comfort, and he doesn’t stop there. The story continues in Luke 7 and says, “Then he walked over to the coffin and he touched it and the bearers stopped. ‘Young man,’ he said, ‘I tell you, get up!’ And the dead boy sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.”
Your words, your actions, you choosing to love others can resurrect things in other people’s lives. Your choices can resurrect other people’s self worth. It can resurrect joy. It can resurrect confidence, it says in John 14, Jesus says that his followers would do even greater things. So just know that when you choose to practice love, you are being an extension of Jesus into our world and you’re having an impact on people and making this world a better place. And I don’t know about you guys, but I think that our world needs that right now. It needs people to choose love.
And the last thought that I want to talk about today is protecting your soul with self-discipline. So we see in this story that Jesus gives the boy back to his mother. I love this part because he is safe and protected in his mother’s arms, and that’s where he belongs, right? As we are learning to live this out and to not choose fear, we need to make a daily choice to put our soul in the place that it is protected and surrounded and filled with Jesus. And to do that, we have to demonstrate self-discipline. And I don’t mean by self discipline, I feel like it gets a bad reputation, it’s not this rigorous obeying daily rules, and you have to do X, Y and Z right. But self-discipline means to be able to choose what is true over what we feel and what we fear. Choosing what is true. Discipline is the habit of choosing God daily, right, and we can do that in simple ways. We can do that through our devotionals, which is just deliberate, intentional time that we sit down to sit, read and to listen to God, and to journal. We have a small group that’s teaching that right now. We can be together in church community. We can pray, we can choose love. We can practice these disciplines and choose God on a daily basis.
And don’t get me wrong. This is a lifelong journey, and it looks different in different seasons, but it’s a journey of committing ourselves on a daily basis. So when Jesus teaches the Lord’s prayer, he says, give us this day our daily bread, right? And why does he say that it’s daily bread? Because we have to refresh it every single day. We have to seek that nourishment for our souls every day. We cannot live on yesterday’s leftovers, so there is no substitute for the presence of God. If you’ve ever felt God’s real presence in your life, you’ll know there’s nothing else like it. And this is the way that we protect our souls, by allowing our soul to rest in the arms of God, just like a son to his mother.
At the end of this story, it says, “great fear swept the crowd and they praised God saying, ‘a mighty prophet has risen among us and God has visited his people today.’ And the news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding countryside.” So when we see people in the story, they’re proclaiming what God has done, and that is what we can choose to do, another way to continue to proclaim God’s work in our life. We remember our stories, right? Remember what God has done for us, what God has done in us, remembering those moments that you saw God move, you felt him move in your life, and I want to encourage you, don’t let fear steal the things that God has already done for you.
It’s like me with Kingsley during that sleep regression, right? I’m sitting here in her room, pleading with her, “Don’t forget what it’s like to have a good night sleep. Don’t you remember what it was like? Those were good times, right?” God wants us to practice that self-discipline and keep our mind’s focused on him and keep our souls wrapped up in his arms. And to choose him on a daily basis. Self-discipline by definition is the ability to pursue what one thinks is right, despite the temptation to abandon it. So don’t take the temptation to choose fear. Instead of choosing fear, I will choose to pray for power, to practice love, and to protect my soul through self-discipline.
So let’s pray guys. God, I thank you so much for your story, Lord. This story in the Bible that shows so much about your character, who you are and that you see us in difficult places and that you have compassion for us, you feel for us you say, “don’t cry.” You’re worried about the things that worry us and you want to come in and bring that safety and that security. And God I pray for all of our moms out there in the middle of this season of life. That they know that you see them. You see the unseen things that nobody else sees. God, that you see them and that you promise that you will be there. God help us to choose power, to choose love, and to choose self-discipline over fear and anxiety and worry because those are not the things of you God. So we pray for the ability to choose. It’s our choice. So today we say today I choose you.
And maybe you don’t know this God that I’m talking about. You know, maybe that sounds good, but it’s not something that you’ve ever experienced in your life, and you want to know what the best part of that is? It all starts with a prayer. If you want to know God more, if you want to take one tiny step closer to God and say I don’t know everything; I don’t have all the answers, but I do want to trust in you. You can follow me in this prayer. Just say God forgive me for my mistakes. Make me new. I want to trust in you. I want to learn about you. I believe that you sent your son for me. And today I choose to trust you. In Jesus name. Amen.
Thanks for checking out the City Lights Podcast. If you’d like to partner with us financially, you can go to wearecitylights.com/give or you can text any dollar amount to 84321. Thanks for joining us today.