Last week I shared how fear makes us think first of escape from an uncomfortable work situation, rather than looking to the Lord to see what He wants to work in us. I also stated these examples are for everyone but specific to no one, a compilation of decades of ministry experience, so too this week.
Ever increasing circles outward
When dealing with a person about an issue the Lord keeps things private between Him and that person, in their heart, as His first effort to reach them about their sin. This can be a short length of time or can go on for years, even decades, as He waits for them to deal with whatever sin they keep returning to.
Only after exhausting all efforts to deal with the person privately will the Lord then make it so a person close to them finds out about the sin - a spouse or friend for example. Let's look at a marriage situation.
Let us say the spouse finds out about the sin; The Lord's intent is that the person will humble themselves to their spouse so they may work together to deal with it, and most often, the issues in their marriage that contributed in part to the sin. That is where you will find the Holy Spirit - right there with husband and wife, keeping the sin still private, as they deal with issues.
Even if the sin is the result of baggage carried into the marriage, the Lord reveals that sin to the spouse so He might effect healing and Christ-like character, resulting in a stronger bond between husband and wife.
This same process is used by the Lord of 2 close friends - enlarging the circle discreetly, so the person can deal with the issue in the comfort of knowing the Lord entrusted a good friend.
It's all right there but you never thought of this passage in that way
We see this process in Matthew 18:15-20 where the subject of going after the lost sheep is started in v11, and continues with Jesus' teaching of how to help a person who has trespassed (v15). The lost sheep knows of his sin so that is the Lord dealing privately with him. Then Jesus says 1 person who knows of the sin goes to him to try to reconcile, and if rejected then 1 or 2 more who are now aware of his sin go to him, and if all 2 or 3 of them are rejected they tell it to leadership.
If the person rejects a leader(s) attempt to help, Jesus said to treat him with love as you would an unsaved person - not ostracized as erroneously taught by so many pastors, but loved as Jesus stated, treating them with the same love you've have for a sinner. (Matthew 5:43-45; 18:17)
For the purpose of reconciliation the original 2 or 3 gather in prayer to agree for their lost sheep friend, and the Lord is in the midst of their prayer to work repentance, healing, and restoration. (I have a couple of series on forgiveness that details this if you'd like to learn more, also Sermon on the Mount 2 covers some of this)
Back to the Lord and their heart
First a person is dealt with in their heart, privately between them and the Lord. Then if they refuse to deal with it the Lord allows a spouse or close friend to find out about it. If they still won't deal with it, the Lord will move the circle outward to a 3rd party, like a pastor, counselor - the Lord's intent there is to bring help through a respected 3rd party, still keeping the issue private, but using that 3rd party to help this person, or in marriage, this couple, and bring healing.
If the person still won't deal with the issue, their refusal may then be made public by the Lord's doing. In scripture we see this in Kings Saul and David, Annanias & Sapphira, and the man who had a sexual relationship with his step-mother from I Corinthians 5, among others.
In more recent times very public failures of well known ministers have made headlines, and in each case the Lord had followed the same pattern of dealing with sin - private dealings, then outward to spouse, then outward to ministry peers, then the public was made aware, finally (hopefully) forcing them to deal with the issues.
The Father is much larger than most Christians' view, for He works this process with people saved and unsaved alike that He may do good to them and in the hope of bringing wholeness to them: The couple down the street who divorces after it was discovered she had an affair with her boss is merely the result of her not dealing with hidden desires she harbored for years, but wouldn't deal with - in God or not.
Another couple you know where one spouse has taken their savings to feed their gambling habit so they are losing their house, and on it goes. In all these things, saved and unsaved, the Lord first attempts to get a person to deal with an issue privately, and if not, then with a spouse, and if not, with a 3rd party, and if not, then publicly...
He said, she said, someone is afraid to say
Let us say one spouse finds porn on the other's computer. Up to that point the Lord would have been working in the heart of the person to get them to stop viewing porn sites, but they haven't heeded His dealings. This lust issue was probably carried into the marriage, but now the Lord has brought a spouse into their life to help them deal with it. So at some point when not dealt with privately, the Lord allows the spouse to find out.
Fear will cause the spouse who discovers the sin to think all the worst about confronting their spouse - Will they leave me? Will they hit me? Will our friends find out? How can I trust them again? Fear also rises in the spouse who was discovered. Do they react in anger or humility? Repent or justify themselves? Now that my secret is out will my spouse stay with me? With friends it often means the end of a friendship, for that is easier for the person in sin than dealing with the hurt and pain with their friend(s).
Usually the hardest thing to do is God, the easy way out is usually the devil. Where there is comfort there is rarely growth, and where there is growth there is rarely comfort. Being a disciple and growing Christ-like is a series of hard decisions that go against the fear that says run away and start over. A person is actually in idolatry when they decide to not deal with the issue: They put the idol of self above growing in Christ.
Fear presents the worst case scenario to both spouses. In friends, fear causes offense, anger, an unwillingness to be vulnerable (again) to that friend, piling hurt upon older, upon still older hurt.
What fear says
Fear presents all the horrible things that keeps a person awake at night. Often fear tries to keep a person in indecision, for as James said, a double minded person won't (be able to) receive anything from the Lord. Fear also causes a person to make decisions that are fear based, cloaked in spirituality: The Lord is moving us on. The Lord is moving us out of this church. The Lord opened another job in another state for us.
These explanations of sudden changes in a family or marriage are often a cover for the couple having failed to deal with sin over the course of years. But decisions made based on fear are rarely the Lord's perfect will. Most often they merely delay the inevitable day when the couple will come face to face with a major decision - deal with it or not, stay in the marriage or not. Seek professional help or not. The Lord won't let go, they will come down that same road again, maybe 1, 5, or 10 years from now - but He will bring them to it again.
The things fear won't remind you of include the Lord's track record of grace and provision at every point in your life. The Lord's great love and mercy and timing He has always shown you in the past.
The Lord's promises which are not affected in the least by fear and things that catch you by surprise. We must be the ones to discipline our imaginations to think on the Lord's proven record in our lives and not to think on fearful things about the future, or how we might get hurt again. As Corrie ten Boom so famously said, "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God."
We cannot lose sight of the fact the whole reason the Lord allowed the sin to be made known is that the person and their loved ones may deal with that sin, find repentance and rebuilding of the relationship, finding greater strength in Him.
We've just scratched the surface of fear in decisions, until next week then, blessings,