“Get Real” is a phrase that we sometimes hear when someone perceives that we are being unrealistic about something. Usually this statement is made when people think we’re asking or expecting too much or when they judge that we are exaggerating.
Well, in this post I want to “get real” with you. Someone asked me to share something from my own life which at first I was hesitant to do, not because I was ashamed or embarrassed about what I was being asked to share, but because I really didn’t know how profitable it would be to anyone else for me to talk about myself or I questioned whether anyone would really be interested in knowing about my life. However, as I reflected on Scriptural precedent, I realized that there were many times whether the apostle Paul talked about something out of his own life and certainly there were many times where the Psalmist opened up about what was going on in his life. And these men were inspired by God to do it. These men “got real” and since whatever is found in Scripture is for our teaching, reproof, correction and training (2 Timothy 3:16, 17), that’s why they must have done it. They must have thought that sharing personal matters out of their own lives could be used for the spiritual benefit of others. Somehow they believed that “getting real” about what was going on in their lives could bring glory to God and good to other people (I Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Psalm 115:1).
Now, I’m not suggesting that my attempt at “getting real” is inspired by the Holy Spirit as theirs was. It’s not! Actually it’s motivated by a request from someone who knows me quite well who thought that my experience in the past could fulfill the very purposes for which these biblical people “got real”. And I figure if I have biblical precedent and if somehow my early experience in the ministry could be of some use to others, perhaps I should do what this person was suggesting.
So here goes. In particular, I was asked to “get real” about some aspect of my Christian ministry forty eight years ago. The specific aspect of my life on which I want to reflect is related to the issue about which we wrote a book called The Fear Factor. I want to “get real” about the problem mentioned in Proverbs 29:25, “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper.” If you had asked me at the beginning of my Christian ministry, do you have a “fear of man” problem, I would have probably said, “Not really, I’m trusting in the Lord so I don’t fear people. After all, I’m a Calvinist who believes in the Sovereignty of God. Why then should I fear people?” And if I had answered in that way I would have meant what I said and to some degree it would have been true. However, having grown in my understanding of what it means to fear man and how the fear of man manifests itself, I know now that I was to some extent caught in the snare that Proverbs 29:25 is referring to.
And how did this fear of man manifest itself in practical ways? Let me enumerates some of the ways. I do this because I’m convinced that this fear of man is such a subtle thing that many people don’t recognize they are doing it even though they are. Also, I want to make it clear that I’m not saying that even though I’m seventy years of age and have been in Christian ministry for forty eight years I have completely escaped from its snares. By God’s grace and to His glory, I think I have grown, but I still have some growing to do. I explain how the fear of man manifested itself in me to my shame then and even now. Anyway, having made that explanation, here are some of the ways in which the fear of man manifested itself in me.
- A desire to impress people with my knowledge of Scripture and theology, my skills, abilities and education, my credentials and being somewhat disappointed when they were not as impressed as I had hoped they would be.
- A desire to control situations and make them come out the way I wanted them to because when I was in control I was comfortable and felt successful. I cloaked that under the guise of a desire for God’s glory.
- A sense of uneasiness in social situations because I really was not good at small talk or developing conversations.
- A sense of uneasiness when someone disagreed with me, reproved me, criticized me, tried to correct me and suggest that there might be a better way of doing something or understanding an issue.
- An excessive sense of responsibility, being overly conscientious in my studies and in my preparation.
- Not being able to lighten up and enjoy leisure time or vacations or just hanging out with people, manifesting a seemingly austere manner that intimidated people.
- A sense that nothing I did was done well enough, but should have been done better with the thought being that if I had done it better people would have been impacted more.
- Judging my efforts on the basis of people’s response to them, too much concern for the approval and applause of people.
- Being uncomfortable and intimidated when in the presence of people who knew more than I did or were much more fruitful than I was.
Well, this “getting real” business is getting downright painful. I wonder, is that the fear of man creeping up again? Anyway, I think that is enough “true confessions” for right now. Again, I want you to know that I share these things not to have a let it all hang out session, but rather to enlarge on what fearing man involves and how subtle it can be. You see, I could rationalize all of these things and put a spiritual twist on most of the things I was doing. I could use euphemisms or I could blameshift to put the responsibility on others or on my upbringing. I could explain and excuse all these behaviors in various ways, but if I do that I would not be real or accurate. God is at work in me (Philippians 2:13; Philippians 1:6) and, by His grace, I have made some progress, but in the words of Paul I haven’t yet attained perfection, but I’m pressing on to lay hold of that for which God laid hold of me when He brought me to Christ. And, while not excusing or minimizing my sin, I thank God for the cross and for the promise of I John 1:7 & 9 and 2:1 &2.
So my concluding encouragement to all of you who may be reading this post is, “Get real” with God. Identify ways that you may be overtly or subtly being affected by the fear of man. Repent, confess, go to the cross for forgiveness and get up with a renewed determination to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:10 -14).