The Panic Button

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“What do I do when I’m afraid? I don’t want to panic.”

Panic causes people to do crazy things. Maybe it’s that old fight or flight response. The adrenaline kicks in and you react without thinking. Perhaps that explains what happened to Saul when he found himself outnumbered by the Philistines. He had been ordered to wait for Samuel to arrive before offering the sacrifice that would precede his attack on the enemy.

When the men of Israel saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings. ” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. I Samuel 13:6-9

Samuel arrived soon after Saul’s action, and he called the king’s offering foolish and condemned him for it. Saul acted disobediently, and fear motivated his failure. He was afraid to wait, afraid to let God handle the problem, and afraid to obey the word of God in the face of trouble.

Don’t be afraid to wait. Sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing. Sometimes obedience requires waiting. Waiting leaves room for God. Fear, however, pushes us to act now to try to escape the threatening situation. “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:25)  

Don’t be afraid to let God act. Like waiting, withholding action can be hard to do under the pressure of anxiety. We want to do something. Action makes us feel better, as it distracts us and gives a sometimes false assurance that we have the power to change the situation. If only God has the ability to solve the problem, we need to wait for him to work. His timing is best, though it often feels like he makes us wait until the desired outcome seems impossible. Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today…The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:13,14)

Don’t be afraid to obey the word of God in a difficult situation. Samuel had commanded Saul to wait for his arrival to offer the sacrifice. Yet Saul rationalized that the danger his men faced allowed him to disregard the word of God. His fear led to disobedience, and Samuel condemned him for it. His action showed that his fear was greater than his faith and his respect for God’s word. “I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (Psalm 130:5)

(Saul) feared the human consequences of obedience more than he feared the divine consequences of sin. He feared the displeasure of the people more than the displeasure of God. And that is a great insult to God. Samuel had said twice to Saul and the people in (1 Samuel) 12:14 and 24, “Fear the Lord, and serve him faithfully with all your heart.” But now the leader himself has feared man and turned away from following God. – John Piper

Sometimes in this life of faith God will remove his blessings from you. But remember that he knows how and when to replace them, either through the ministry of others or by himself. – François de Salignac de La Mothe-Fénelon

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference. –  Reinhold Niebuhr

Image by James Vaughn on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0

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