The other night I watched Extreme Makeover Home Edition. In this episode a new house was awarded to a woman who serves as a volunteer firefighter in her community of Bastrop, Texas. While for 27 days she fought the huge fires which destroyed 34,000 acres in Texas in 2011 (the state’s largest fire on record), her own home was burned to the ground.
During the episode, Mizzy Zdroj, the volunteer firefighter, proved to be a woman of courage, conviction, and self-sacrifice. While we don’t know much about her besides her love for family, community, and the forest, we do know that she steadfastly stayed in the firefighting battle of her life, even while her own family suffered great loss. Fear and self-preservation did not keep her from doing the right thing.
As a pastor’s wife, I am all too familiar with the frequent brushfires which are common to most local congregations. And I don’t call them brushfires to minimize these problems, emergencies or conflicts. At the root of these unexpected flare-ups there are often truly devastating dilemmas. But I call them brushfires because, even as very real tactics of the enemy, they keep the church from focusing on the task at hand: spreading the gospel and discipling believers.
Of course I’m also familiar with the brushfires Satan uses to sabotage our families, our marriages, our jobs, our community. Just when we think we have everything lined up in some semblance of order so we can make some forward progress in our relationships, our finances, our life goals, we encounter a small fire which, left unattended, has the potential of great harm and destruction. We have no choice. Once again we have to turn our attention away from the intrinsically important to address the unexpected urgent.
Ok, so we all get that.
But here’s the issue at hand. When you do have to fight a fire–in your family life, in your church, at work, in your community–with what attitude do you fight it? Do you face it head on with fearless determination, like Mizzy Zdroj in Bastrop, Texas? Or do you actually fan it into greater strength out of frustration and untamed fear?
What do we fear in such instances? What kind of fear am I alluding to?
- fear that I’ll be taken advantage of
- fear that I’ll be misunderstood
- fear that someone will get something they don’t deserve
- fear that I’ll lose something important to me
- fear that things will change for the worse
- fear that others will leave me
- fear that I’ll fail
- fear that I won’t have “enough” to make it
- fear that what I’ve built will be destroyed
- fear of the unknown
- fear of others’ opinions
But the Bible says in 2 Timothy 1:7 that our spirit of fear is not from God; He gives us power, love, and a sound mind with which to battle the oppositions in life. Why is that important to remember?
Because if you try to fight your battles, put out your fires, with fear, you stand the risk of fighting them ineffectively. You may get the fire put out eventually, but your fear will cause you to make tactical decisions that result in more destruction along the way.
Fear is not a tool of the firefighter; it is a hindrance. But it’s also a hindrance when we’re trying to fight the brushfires of life. Consider fear in the context of your latest brushfire, whatever it may be.
- Fear keeps you from seeing clearly.
- Fear diverts your attention from the crux of the problem.
- Fear motivates you to be hasty, to take short-cuts.
- Fear causes you to imagine things which are not true or trustworthy.
- Fear makes you hyper sensitive, self-insulating, overly protective of what is “yours.”
- Fear keeps you from taking a forward step and in many cases causes you to retreat.
- Fear keeps you from hearing the voice of your Chief.
- Fear causes you to leave the scene early, cop out before the job is finished.
- Fear puts you on the defensive.
- Fear spreads among others who get caught up in the fever as well.
- Fear causes you to concentrate on what you have at stake and to minimize others’ interest or the bigger picture.