Life on the Edge:
Fulfilling Destiny with Fear and Trembling
Life in Christ is the story of soul salvation wrought out through the plan for earthly destiny. It is a story of inward pain (the cross) outworked in context of divine vision, promise and expectation for earthly fulfillment and achievement. The two are not in conflict, but in necessary complement.
Various movements have developed us in one or the other of these truths over history, usually to the denial of the other or the one. Mysticism, Pietism, early Methodism, Holiness, Deeper Life and Sonship-Discipleship arose to teach us the inner path to soul salvation. Healing, Deliverance, Faith, Prophetic-Intercessory and Kingdom arose to instruct us in God’s vision and hope for our outward present. Each has been necessary to the other, and produced its aberrations in separation from the other.
A right dynamic exists between the two. Vision for the outward truly ministered always leads to and points to the salvation of the inward. Yet inward salvation of soul is only woven over our encounter with divine promise for the present life. Ask Abraham, our father in faith.
Our inward soul salvation is paramount. It is paramount because it is eternal. It will outlast whatever manifests of our temporal destiny fulfillment. The outward promise must always serve the inward eternal salvation. It is regarding this service that we wrestle over our fears and failures of expectation in the outward present. Let’s look into this more deeply.
Fear and Trembling
Paul tells us to “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” What is this “fear and trembling?”
The fear to which Paul refers is not only our fear of the Lord and the consequences for failing to fulfill discipleship obedience. It is also a reference to the many fears resultant from our pressing the edge of faith against the unknown in hope of fulfillment of our outward vision.
Paul described his own pressings by saying that he experienced “conflicts without, fears within” (II Cor. 7:5). Those conflicts and fears were the result of his life of faith on the edge in hope of the vision and destiny for ministry the Father had planted in him. As we know, Paul was often living on the absolute edge of existence for the hope of his present vision, which was the establishment of the churches:
II Cor. 11:24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.
Life does not get much more cliff hanging than that for anyone pursuing the Lord’s life vision by faith. And you can assuredly know that in the face of each of these exigencies Paul had to stare down fear within.
Yet in light of our theme verse Philippians 2:12, we can also comprehend that Paul’s confrontation and overcoming of every one of these fears were working to the ongoing salvation of his soul. He was losing his life daily in every fear confrontation to have it replaced with the infusion of Christ’s life.
Faith and Fear
A life truly lived by faith will always surface latent fear in the soul. Our souls in their natural life are fear driven—not with the fear of the Lord, but with the many destructive fears that belong to our sin-wracked bloodstream—the fear of death, fear of deprivation, fear of debilitation, fear of debt, fear of bondage and imprisonment, fear of what others think of us, fear for those under our care. These are the common fears evoked by the challenge to faith in the hope of fulfilled promise.
Faith has two stages. The first is to overcome fear. The second is that of confidence after overcoming fear. Too often we fail to discern this distinction, tending to think of faith only in its completed stage of confidence which is marked by peace.
But at its outset, faithful action always evokes fear. Fear is a proof of where faith has not yet overcome. But its presence is not a proof that we are not living by faith. To the contrary, first stage faith always exposes fear because it challenges the security of our understanding and knowledge. And therefore fear can be as much a proof that we are living by faith as it is that we have not yet overcome in faith.
Again, our human peace and security is based on what we know and understand. When our human knowledge and understanding are threatened, that is when our latent fear is exposed. True faith constantly tests and challenges us to defy our limits of knowledge and understanding. Therefore it arouses fear on first challenge of the unknown.
Love Enabled Faith
Faith constantly arouses hidden fear before overcoming it. But faith alone is not able to overcome to save our souls from fear. To do this, faith must “work by love” (Gal. 5:6). For it is only in connection with love that fear is actually “cast out” of our bloodstream. As John says, ‘Perfect love casts out fear.”
Completed faith does not require love. Completed faith can be exercised without it (I Cor. 13:2). But in its infancy of encounter with the unknown, faith requires love to overcome and cast out fear in order to believe.
Love for our Lord then is what brings our faith to completion of peaceful confidence beyond the security of human knowledge and understanding—that is, the “peace which passes understanding.” What kind of love is this? In the face of fear, this love is not the passion of emotional intimacy. It is rather the power of determined commitment. It is the agape that determinedly lays its very life on the line for its friends despite its feelings or lack thereof.
When we are facing fear because of our faith, we don’t feel particularly intimate or passionate for the Lord. We are making determinations—whether we will say “yes” or “no.” We have all we can do to say “no” to the fear and “yes” to the Lord. That dedicated “yes” yielding irreversible fateful action is the agape of God that casts out fear. Intimacy follows later in the place of completed faith and peace.
At each place of confrontation, continually confessing “yes” to the Lord in the face of fear results in the out-casting of fear that effects overcoming faith. And in this we have just worked out our salvation of soul one degree further in glory. This is how we go from glory to glory, and how our souls become eternally saved.
Salvation Out of the Thing We Fear Most
Our Father has given us an earthly destiny to fulfil by faith in context of His eternal objective to save our souls past the time of mortality. As we have seen, that fulfillment requires encountering fear of the unknown—a fear to be evicted by love resulting in completed faith. What we must note is that the greater and deeper the soul salvation God is working, the greater and deeper the fears He seeks to confront through faith.
We know the story of Job. Job was faced with excruciating tribulation we can hardly imagine. But the tribulation was not a mere objective “test” of his faith. It was a work of salvation to the deepest area of his soul. It was a work to save him from his deepest fear and perfect him in love. Perhaps the key verse in all of Job is this:
3:25 For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me.
Job had lived an upright life and had been abundantly blessed for it. But his uprightness covered a subterranean pool of fear—the fear of losing all he had. Thus his actions of habitual worship, while righteous, also worked to appease a latent obsessive fear—his greatest fear. They subtly served as a “buy off” against having to ever face the real possibility of God’s removing of his children whose own spirituality he had serious cause to doubt:
1:4 His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 When the days of feasting had completed their cycle, Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all ; for Job said, "Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." Thus Job did continually
This was a real issue for Job rarely if ever perceived at the foundation of the story. And against this light, for Job to fulfill His perfected destiny, it was necessary for God to touch him in the place of his greatest fear. And it was through the fearful tribulation of his exceeding loss that Job developed the faith by love to overcome and be saved far beyond what he realized he needed to be.
Most importantly, the Lord wants us to see that in the end, Job “fulfilled his destiny.” And he did so “in the land of the living.” Job was given more than he had before he lost everything. True, his trials were not the direct result of a stirred faith mission or vision (such as with Gideon). Yet he still pictures God’s process to save our souls by faith from that which we fear most en route to the fulfillment of promised destiny.
Fulfilling Destiny in the Face of World Tribulation
At this hour, the world is descending into the prophesied tribulation of all mankind consummating in the return of the Lord and His fully revealed immortal kingdom. The “birth pangs” of this tribulation have been increasing over the last 150 years, seen in the numerous world conflicts and wars of this time. Greater wars than these remain ahead.
As these pangs increase, all life is negatively stressed exposing people’s fears. Economies are collapsing. Lawlessness is mushrooming. In this context, the costs of faith vision against the unknown are escalating. In this tension between growing world tribulation and promised destiny, the question looms, “Do I still have a future? Is it possible for my destiny to be fulfilled?”
This question reveals a divide between those who believe in destiny to the denial of tribulation, and those who mock destiny in the face of tribulation. But for our Father, there is no contradiction. The promises of destiny are true. There is a hope and a future. Yet by a wisdom that is beyond us, the prophecy of world tribulation has been deemed necessary to their fulfillment.
Our Corporate Destiny
As shown already, promised destiny is linked to our soul salvation. And salvation can only come by facing the fears exposed through tribulation conditions. Worldly pressure therefore does not destroy our destiny. It is necessary to it. The fact that so many are being affected now on such a huge scale shows however that the Father is not just after saving our souls individually. He is after saving the soul of the corporate church worldwide. Worldwide tribulation bespeaks the fearful trembling outworking of corporate salvation and destiny.
Our challenges in faith and fear are no longer isolated and individual. They are becoming more and more intertwined with those of our fellow believers as we are all affected by the same global conditions. In this, God is showing us that our destinies are not isolated. We are all part of a bigger picture. And we have to find our place in that picture to find our individual fulfillment. In this, we will increasingly have to face our fears together. This is how unity is formed.
Many now are losing homes and means of sustenance in the face of the economic crisis developing worldwide. The buying power of the world’s fiat currencies is shrinking daily. Unemployment is rampant in many places. Others are losing families. Whole cities and regions are beset by certain immoral powers affecting the entire church. Ministries and churches are shutting down. Brethren are being jailed and executed for the sake of the gospel, and otherwise for the sake of faithful challenge to the rule of lawlessness. As one American movement leader has lately repeatedly said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are in 1939 Nazi Germany.”
Yet the Lord still says to each of us and to us as a whole, “I have given you a future and a hope.” The growing tribulations are not in conflict with the genuine promises, but necessary to the surfacing of the fears beneath our faith for them.
Speaking of this same time of tribulation, Daniel says that “many shall do exploits.” The conditions now challenging us are not just about themselves, but about the great extents of new faith and love to be evoked by them on our way to glorification. Reaches of faith challenging depths of fear never seen before are going to be made in this generation.
Western Faith at the Crossroads
The nature of western Christian faith is in transition. The previous general accord with society is crumbling. As it does, the subterranean fears of the saints are being increasingly unmasked. The timing of the personal prophetic promises, the Spirit’s whispers of challenge to believe, the exposure of our fears by that challenge and the arrival of end time birth pangs is all synchronized. Many of the prophecies have been true. But the attached soul saving costs of faith involved with their fulfillment under these conditions could not be foreseen and were never factored in.
Because of this, the love of many for the prophetic and for the Lord is growing cold. Listen, the life of genuine faith and love is not for the faint of heart, and never has been. Many have assumed they have faith yet have never allowed faith to touch their fears so as to be put to the test against them.
Amid these converging realities, we have to choose—to determine whether we will keep loving God beyond passion to say “yes” to the irreversible actions of faith associated with promise in the face of our deepest fears exacerbated by rapid world deterioration.
One purpose of this article is to help you make sense of the hope of your promise challenged by the conspiring fearful conditions of this world toward the ultimate saving of your soul for the next age.
Be encouraged then and exhorted:
In the Spirit of committed love, work out your soul salvation against the fear and trembling exposed by the call of faith toward the fulfilling of your destiny both here and in the age at hand. The first fear to overcome is the fear of having to confront your deepest fears. As the unbelieving Franklin Roosevelt said in prophetic wisdom,
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Start here. Resolve in committed love before the Lord to overcome the fear of exposure to your deepest fears. Stand up by sheer love to the fear exposed by faithful action. And you will overcome, your destiny will be fulfilled, and your soul will be saved.
New Meadow Neck, RI
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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Page created February 18, 2013