Conquering fear with faith

Conquering fear with faith

Conquering Fear with Faith

BY BENNETT ROLAN | BSF Blog Editor 

L ying facedown, Joy Machunga was prepared to die. Her leg throbbed after being brutally kicked, but she did not dare to move. Shots sounded overhead, and Joy prayed in silence.

“I just said, ‘Lord, take control.  

After several days in Abuja, Nigeria, visiting a BSF class as an area advisor, Joy was on her way home to the city of Jos 

Between Abuja and Jos, bus drivers choose between two routes. One, though longer, is highly populated and typically safe. The other is infamous for gang activity and carjackings. That day, Joy’s driver chose the latter.  

“I just assumed without asking that he would take the safer road,” Joy said. “When I realized he was going the other way, I said, ‘Nobody goes that way. It’s shorter by how many minutes? Maybe 30? Is it not better to be safe than arrive somewhere early?’

With mounting concern, Joy texted the BSF teaching leader in Abuja to pray as they continued down the deserted road.  

“Five minutes ahead of us, I saw another bus parked on the side of the road, all of their luggage was on the ground,” Joy said. “I thought they probably had a flat tire or engine trouble. Then I saw the man dressed in black with a gun.”  

When fear grows

When the bus stopped, one of six gunmen ordered the driver and passengers to lie facedown on the road.  

“I pretended I didn’t understand the instruction,” Joy said. “If you are lying on the road, and a car comes at a high speed, that’s very dangerous. So I walked to the side of the road and brought a mother with an 8-month-old baby next to me. We were lying on the ground when they started asking for money.” 

When Joy replied that her money was still on the bus, the man kicked her in the leg before retrieving her bag. Minutes later, another car pulled into view, but before the gunmen could target the driver, the car turned and sped in the opposite direction.  

“This guy started shooting, and it became very clear to me that these people could shoot or kill anyone here,” Joy said. “I prayed for that car to get away.” 

“This guy started shooting, and it became very clear to me that these people could shoot or kill anyone here …”

When the car was out of the gunmen’s range, they turned their anger on Joy and her fellow passengers.  

“They came back, stood over our heads and started shooting again,” Joy said. “They shot into the air to frighten us. 

Then, without warning, the men ordered the hostages to return to the bus and leave.  

Faith can prevail

“Everyone stumbled into the bus,” Joy said. “People were crying, so I said to them, ‘Please don’t cry,’ because I wanted the driver to concentrate. Then I started to think, ‘Let’s give thanks to God because nobody was hurt or shot.’ There were eight people on that bus. Eight families could have been mourning that day. So, I started singing.”  

In a confident voice, Joy sang a familiar Nigerian hymn. Two men joined the song, and within minutes their weeping turned to worship.  

“We had prayed for safety and protection,” Joy said. “Other people had not been that lucky.” 

That night, after thanking God with her husband, Joy slept soundly, and “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” guarded Joy’s heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7)Today, when Joy remembers her experience on the road from Abuja, she prays for a fellow passenger, a young Muslim man.  

“When we got off the bus, he just said, ‘Thank you, madame, thank you.’ I pray that what happened on that bus and our reaction to what happened would speak to his heart.” 

“I pray that what happened on that bus and our reaction to what happened would speak to his heart.”

Building a Hebrews 11 faith

Joy’s ability to look beyond her circumstances and trust the Lord is the very definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1:

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” 

Whether she lived or died, Joy’s confidence was in Jesus. Her assurance was in the one true God, who would never leave her. And her response was to worship and point others to Christ 

Hebrews 11 then lists men and women of remarkable faith throughout Scripture. In a modern version of the chapter, we could easily add someone such as Joy: “By faith, Joy prayed and trusted God, even though her very life was threatened. By faith, she worshipped on the bus as a testimony to God’s goodness and glory. For Joy was looking forward to eternity with Christ and counted her life as nothing compared with Jesus.”

Though her faith is extraordinary, Joy is an ordinary person. Like the men and women of Hebrews 11, she is tempted with worry and fear.  

As part of her job for a Christian ministry, she helps fellow Nigerians who have been violently persecuted for their Christian allegiance. During her first visit to a devastated village, Joy felt despair. Months earlier, she questioned God’s plan and purpose during the trying death of her mother.   

Through these difficult situations, Joy took time to pray, seek God’s wisdom and ask for increased faith. In all these circumstances, Joy’s “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” was confirmed.  

Practicing her faith in tough moments prepared her for that day on the bus. Just as God strengthened Abraham and Moses, He is faithful to build our faith today. For Joy, much of that assurance has come from knowing God intimately through His Word.

Just as God strengthened Abraham and Moses, he’s faithful to build our faith today.

“I thank God for the tool of BSF and wisdom to be able to walk through the Word step by step at every level,” Joy said. “I’m so thankful. Knowing about Him and knowing Him for who He is through His Word are different. I’m a living testimony of how practical His Word really is.” 

God knows that we cannot develop our faith alone. So in Hebrews 12:1-2, He gives us a simple guidance: In a single sentence, we are told to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  

Hebrews 12:3 tells us that, like Joy, when we focus on Christ, we “will not grow weary and lose heart.” 

“You have to do what God is calling you to do,” Joy said. “If God is calling you to do it, He’ll take care of it.”   

Introducing Generation Z

Introducing Generation Z

Introducing

Generation Z

Introducing Generation Z

BY KIM HURTADO
BSF RESEARCH ANALYST
“… we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
His power, and the wonders He has done.” – Psalm 78:4b

I recently asked my son what he wanted to be when he grew up.  

Expecting to hear the words “doctor,” “engineer” or “behavioral scientist,” he quickly dashed those hopes. 

“YouTuber, mom,” he said. “I want to be a YouTuber.”  

It’s no wonder. Last year, a 7-year-old reported earning $22 million from his personal YouTube channel, Ryan Toysreview, where nearly 19 million subscribers watch him unbox and play with toys. 

Meanwhile, my daughter burst out laughing as she scrolled through my iPhone pictures and said, “Aww … what a cute old-people selfie!” When I asked, “What’s an old-people selfie?,” she fell on the floor in hysterics.  

(Apparently, an “old-people selfie” is a photo of your entire face. Young people intentionally crop out half of a face to make their photography more interesting.) 

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Gen Z.   

Who is Gen Z?

Gen Z are those born from 1999 to 2015. This generation currently constitutes the largest percentage of the country’s population, eclipsing American Baby Boomers, who held the majority for close to 50 years. 

The old order is fading, and the new order is growing 

What do Gen Zers believe?

The U.S. marketing research firm Barna Group says that unlike previous generations, when it comes to religious identity, only 4% of Gen Z have a biblical worldview. 

The percentage who identify as atheist – 13% – is double that of all U.S. adults. That may seem like a small number, but Americans are saying, “there is no God” at increasingly younger ages.

According to Pew Research Center, the “nones,” or people who do not identify with any religion, are at the highest percentages in history. This includes 23% of all U.S. adults and 35% of U.S. adult Millennials, a trajectory that Gen Z will continue. 

And more than half say that happiness is their ultimate goal in life, which equates to financial success.

What’s influencing them?

Gen Z is the first generation to have been exposed to smart technology and social media from birth. According to Barna, 57% of kids and teens look at the screen four or more hours per day; 26% spend eight or more hours a day on their devices – that’s an entire work day!  (My son requires an entire power strip to charge his devices!) 

In this digital world and as a result of social media, we have entered the era of the “democratization of influence.” In previous generations, family heritage and upbringing were the top influences in forming a person’s identity. But Barna reports that Gen Z ranks these fifth.  

While family, teachers, pastors or coaches used to be the primary voices of influence, we now compete with a multitude of worldviews streamed directly to kids’ devices. This generation is being discipled by their smart phones, YouTube and Google. 

This generation is being discipled by their smart phones, YouTube and Google. 

As a result, Gen Z is exposed to a false sense of reality. YouTubers often spend hours editing videos to portray a personal brand. On social media, kids are less likely to cultivate meaningful relationships because of an increased pressure to create a flawless, happy, successful or funny persona.   

The same technology that was designed to “make the world more open and connected,” which was Facebook’s original mission statement, is helping kids disengage from physical communities and relationships. 

Therefore, it should not surprise us that we are seeing an exponential rise in depression and lonliness.

From 2000 to 2016, the U.S. suicide rate increased 30%. Among females, the number skyrocketed to 50%. For teen girls, the number tripled since 2000. 

We can help

Surprisingly, Barna research shows that this young generation – whose top priority is attaining happiness and financial success – is willing to ask difficult questions about the meaning of life. The study reports that the rise in moral relativism, or the lack of a strong moral code, arises more from a confusion about truth than an actual rejection of it.  

So, this generation is not necessarily rejecting the God of the Bible. They know little about Him.  

What an opportunity! In love, patience and understanding, let us help them see the Lord. 

Judges 2:10 reminds us that there were consequences when the Israelites failed to instruct their children in the ways of the Lord.

 “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10)

Let us not repeat that.  

My hope is that God’s Word awakens an excitement to reach the next generation for Christ, instilling a sense of purpose and mission in each and every one of us.   

We do not have to know all the answers. We can simply share what God has done for us. Through our time in God’s Word in our BSF studies, we have much to share!  

As we look beyond ourselves, let us be willing to engage – not just with our minds and our theology, but with a humble heart, free of judgment. We can have a heart that is willing to say, “I don’t know all the answers. But I know that I love you. Let’s search for the answer together.”   

“My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth.  I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old – things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.” (Psalm 78: 1-7)

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