Category Archives: Biblical Principles

FOMO: Fear of Missing Out

FOMO is really a thing. It’s a malady of the mind most generally characterized by a feverish inclination—perhaps even an obsession—to act upon a particular “opportunity” before it’s deemed the dreaded “TOO LATE!” Symptoms of FOMO often include anxiety and indecisiveness leading to irritability, insomnia, irrationality and, in extreme cases, a nasty rash.

Fear of missing out.

Exemptions

There are no exemptions. FOMO is an affliction to which no age, nationality, race, religion, gender, social status or economic rank is immune. And there is no vaccine. A person with FOMO is hijacked with the terror of missing that “once-in-a-lifetime” gig, often referenced in places like Wall Street (probably the most famous of all high-stakes casinos), on college campuses (epidemic among first-semester freshmen), amongst indiscriminate news junkies, and perhaps most notably, in singles’ bars.

While usually not fatal, FOMO has been known to lead to poverty, drunken episodes followed by indeterminate blackouts and miserable hangovers, night terrors involving Russian collusion in pre-K classrooms, and marriage/children/divorce (or just children). Currently there is no cure for FOMO so people exhibiting symptoms—especially bad decision-making—should be quarantined without electronic devices to aid in making bad decisions until such time as the fever passes. Unfortunately, this could take months. Or maybe it never passes.

But God.

As with most horror movies involving most monsters, any prospect driven by FOMO never really ends well. And we know that. Mostly. Nevertheless, we chase that “opportunity” anyway—even when every alarm in our heads is blasting like a Cat 5 tornado siren but still, we’re compelled to ignore that warning and chase the impending disaster. And why? Because we want that thing—whatever “that thing” is—and we know deep down that if we wait to hear from God, he’ll tell us to pass on that particular prospect. So we cover our ears and plow forward.

Never underestimate the human tendency toward self-deception.

The Hardest Thing

Fear, as we know, is the opposite of faith, and faith is the ability to trust God—no matter what. Faith equals trust. The problem is that sometimes we have less trouble trusting God to do something he tells us to do than to not do something he says to wait on. And why?

Because we’re afraid of missing out.

Eve was afraid of missing out in the Garden of Eden when the devil convinced her that God was withholding knowledge from her—the knowledge of good and evil. So, instead of doing any fact checking on his little accusation, Eve ate the magic apple that was supposed to infuse her with vast knowledge, understanding and insight. And we all know how that ended. Ironically, her IQ probably dropped several hundred points as she munched away.

FOMO often leads to heartbreaking losses in many areas: prosperity, reputation, love, opportunity—and most tragically, a loss of destiny. Or it changes a destiny forever. Abraham had received a promise from God that he would have a son with Sarah and birth an entire nation. However, it didn’t happen by the time Abraham thought it should and so he arranged to have a son with a younger woman. Eventually, Sarah had a son but the damage had already been done: Both of Abraham’s sons, Ishmael and Isaac, fathered nations and the Arabs and Jews have been at war ever since. And why? Because Abraham suffered from a severe case of FOMO—fear of missing out.

The 21st Century

I wish I could say that FOMO is a thing of the past and that, as Christians led by the Spirit of God, we’re past all that. And we would be—if we listened to God. However, listening for God’s permission is often difficult, especially when we have a deadline to meet or that “opportunity” will—POOF—vanish. Instead, motivated by fear, we close our eyes, grit our teeth, and plunge all in.

Here’s the bottom line: God is more interested in what we’re learning than in what we’re getting.

And, given that, it doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict that God may allow that “opportunity” to crash and burn so that we don’t get the mistaken impression that any day we ignore God’s input is going to be a good one. God will not reinforce the idea that fear should be our motivator over faith. Let’s remember that as we’re destiny chasing.

Four More Ways to Shipwreck Your Destiny

Last week we discussed the first six ways to shipwreck our destiny. As noted, a shipwreck usually occurs as a result of some tragic accident or unforeseen error, and it could also happen due to a lack of awareness about any of a dozen situations or circumstances. As a result, many shipwrecks throughout history might have been avoided.  Sadly, however, for lack of information or attention, ships are wrecked, lives are lost, and dreams destroyed.

Unfortunately, the same can be said of many destinies.

  “‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge'” (Hosea 4:1).

The fact is, there are Biblical principles which will keep our destinies from floundering on the high seas of life. However, whether we’re aware of them or not, if we violate these principles, we can shipwreck any good thing we’re trying to do. Last week, we listed several hindrances to destiny, our first six. They are: not putting God first, misusing our authority, disobedience, failure to love others, unconfessed sin, and unforgiveness. Unfortunately, not knowing about these principles does not exempt us from the consequences of violating them. In other words, it’s not enough to know what we should do in terms of fulfilling our destinies; we must also be aware of we cannot do lest we risk failure.

Disclaimer: That does not mean, of course, that we cannot receive forgiveness for these sins; we certainly can. However, receiving mercy for our sin does not always mean that the consequences of our sin will be negated. And that’s not punishment; that’s just the principle that “we reap what we sow.” That said, there are four more Biblical principles which we would do well not to violate.

Thing #7: “Evil Speech.”  

Our words can be another hindrance to prayer. Gossip, slander, accusation, arguing, lying, complaining—all of these can impede our prayers. Now, thank God for his mercy because who hasn’t, at the very least, complained? But for those who continue in these things without repentance, their prayers won’t accomplish much. Isaiah admonishes, “’If you do away with the pointing finger [accusation] and malicious talk… then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday [revelation]. The Lord will guide you always [direction]; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land [provision] and will strengthen your frame [healing]…’” (58:9-11, interpretations mine). Peter says, “’If you want a happy life and good days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies’” (3:9).

Thing #8: Pride.  

This is another no-no if we’d like our prayers answered. We all know pride is bad—no surprise there. For example, Naaman implored the prophet Elisha to pray for his healing from leprosy, but when Elisha told Naaman to go and dip in the Jordan River seven times, Naaman thought that ridiculous and refused. His pride got in the way. Consequently, he didn’t have his petition for healing granted until he decided to humble himself and take a dip. Then his prayer was answered. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5-6).

Thing #9: Wrong Response to Authority. 

We see this principle in Paul’s warning to children to submit to and obey their parents and they’ll be blessed. Why? Because their parents are the authority over children. But that warning about authority applies to all of us, not simply children.

And why does God feel so strongly about submission that He ties conditions to responses to authority? Because anarchy ensues and societies are destroyed when people rebel against authority.

Therefore, in order to preserve society, God has built into His principles the condition that if we submit to authority, then we will be blessed. And answered prayer results in blessing.

Thing #10: Having Faith in Faith, Not In God

“Having faith” is not about how much faith we have, it’s about whether or not we trust God. Period. The problem is that sometimes we treat faith like heaven’s money; if we just get enough of it, we can cash it in for whatever we want. But it doesn’t work that way. That’s because the essence of faith is the question “Do I trust God—whether or not He answers my prayers the way I want Him to?” That’s vastly different than “Okay, God, here’s how much faith I have so here’s how I want You to answer my prayer.” Faith is not cash, and God is not a vending machine. If we think so, I think I can predict that our prayers won’t be very effective.

Bottom Line:

We are not saved by works—not disputing that—and the idea here is not to bring fear or condemnation but freedom and success. But the success of the works that we are called to do on this earth (our destinies) certainly depends upon whether or not we obey the principles affecting answers to prayer. Remember, God promises that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer” (I Peter 3:12).

And when God hears our prayers, our destinies are fulfilled.

 

The “Unprecedented” 

Business with Closed Sign

   We’re living in “unprecedented times”. The phrase itself has become a cliché and we toss it around like it means something—but it does. It means we’re going through something with this pandemic that has no precedent—no prior example—as to how we should think, talk or behave in the midst of it. And when that happens, when we have no idea how to respond to difficult circumstances, we often default to one question:

   “How can I …?” (fill in the blank)

   How can I… pay the rent/mortgage…? keep from getting sick…? feed the kids…? save the business…? find another job…? take care of the parents…? et cetera…

   The problem is, we’re asking the wrong question. And we’re not the only ones.

That’s “Unprecedented”.

   Once upon a time, a young girl named Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel who told her that she would become pregnant with the Son of God and that he would be the hope of Israel. However, Mary’s very first words were not amazement that the baby would be the savior of Israel or even the Son of God, but rather, “’How can I have a baby? I’m a virgin.’”

In other words, “How can I do something that is both impossible and has no precedent for me to follow?”

   Sound familiar? I might have asked that question a time or two…

Role Call

   Rewind to the Old Testament. When Abraham was told by God that he and Sarah would have a child in their old age and that their descendants would be like the “stars of the heavens,” his first response? “’How can I become a father at 100…?’” 

That was unprecedented.

   Esther? “How can I go before the King without being summoned? I could die…”

   Gideon?  “But Lord, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh and I am the least in my entire family.”

   Moses? “How can I lead the people out of Egypt? Who am I to appear before Pharaoh?”

    It was all so, well—unprecedented.

The Default Mode

   Every one of those people operated under the mistaken assumption that they were the ones who had to make it happen—whatever “it” was. Note the repeated question—often the very first words they uttered—“How can I…?” The thing is, you and I do the same thing, we ask that same question: How can I…?

   Bottom line: You can’t. Neither can I.

   Right now, in this moment in history, our “dream” might be to write a book or to start a business or simply to have the means to keep the business afloat or the family healthy and fed. And yet, we can’t. We simply can’t make the impossible happen by ourselves. But here’s the good news: Despite the fact that it was impossible for Mary, Abraham, Moses, Esther and Gideon to accomplish the promise they’d been given or to achieve the goal they were assigned, that unprecedented dream happened, that impossible goal was met.

And here’s why: It wasn’t up to them—it never was—although they thought it was. It was always up to God to bring that thing to pass.

   That’s where we often get stuck and then fall into despair—because we think that we have to make the thing happen. We don’t. That’s all. And when we finally grasp that, we can have peace in the midst of those I can’tsituations. 

   And that is not unprecedented.

  

God Is Always Watching.

gods-eye-nasa
“God’s Eye In the Sky” (NASA photo)

   Click. The backdoor lock sprang and the doorknob turned. Flashlight off, the intruder paused, listening for the piercing scream of an alarm and hearing none, nudged the door open a tiny crack. In slow motion, he peered around the edge of the door and then crept forward, a stealthy shadow, into the house.

   “Jesus is watching.”

   The man froze in mid-step, bulging eyes straining to distinguish the source of the soft, croaky voice floating from the thick darkness.

   “Jesus is watching.”

   The burglar drew in a sharp breath and sighed in relief.

   It’s just a bird! A stupid, idiotic bird!

   The man clicked on his flashlight and aimed it in the direction of the voice.

“Birdie,” he whispered, “it’s hunting season.”

    His light beam danced around the room and then stopped, catching the reflection of a pair of red, glowing eyes and a set of very white bared fangs.

   The voice croaked again. “Meet Jesus.”

God Sees.

   God is always watching. Whether that thought brings any comfort or not is another story entirely. But it should. The knowledge that when things go from wrong to very wrong, from a  small mishap or a disappointed expectation to a long-term heartache or a sudden tragedy, God is aware.

   “‘I have seen the anguish of my people in Egypt and have heard their cries [and] I have come down to deliver them . . . for I know their sorrows’” (Acts 7:34, LB; Exodus 3:7, NKJV).

   If you remember, the Israelites suffered as slaves under the cruel oppression of the Egyptians for 400 long years. And in all that time, God was silent.

   But God was watching.

   God witnessed every whipping, every beating, every deprivation, every shameful violation, and every degrading humiliation wrought upon the Israelites by their slave masters. God heard every mournful, wailing prayer, every desperate, sobbing plea for help, and every heart-splintering scream for deliverance as His children begged to be freed from the vicious brutality of the Egyptians. He also listened as the Israelites shouted at, bargained with, cussed out, and  even forsook Him for other gods because of His silence. For silent God was—for centuries.

But Why?

   God does nothing arbitrarily. God had a plan for the birth of a new nation, a people of His own to proclaim His name throughout the whole world. But before that could happen, that  people suffered slavery for 400 years at the hands of the most powerful gods known to man at that time. Nevertheless, throughout all of those  excruciating years, God never missed a single moment of the suffering of His people; He saw it all—the shredded flesh, the indelible scars, and the tears as numerous as the grains of sand upon the earth.

   Perhaps, in the midst of the pursuit of the destiny that you were 1000% certain God had called you to, things have gone terribly, terribly wrong. Maybe you struggle to find the strength to make it through just one more day. Or perhaps circumstances in life—your hopes and dreams—have simply not happened the way you’d hoped they would happen and every day you feel that you’re sinking deeper and deeper into the dark and formless void of hopelessness and nothingness.

   Maybe you’ve ceased to dream at all.

In the Desert of Hopelessness

   That’s how the Israelites felt. And my guess is that’s precisely how Moses felt after squandering  his identity as an exalted Egyptian prince and ending up instead a forgotten fugitive on the backside of the desert with nothing to his name except the rags on his back and a crooked staff in his hand.

   Even so, God never relinquished His watch over the Israelites nor over Moses; night after night, year after year, decade after decade, He never failed to see. And in the end, God delivered His people in a way far more miraculous than they could ever have  imagined and, in doing so, proved Himself to be the God above every other god on earth.

   If you’re in that place, that desert where dreams die and only hopelessness reigns, then hold to the truth that, in order to rise from the ashes, we must first walk through the fire. And should you find yourself in the flames, don’t lose sight of one thing: It’s all part of the plan. Nothing can happen or is happening that God does not see.

   Our God is the god of the Resurrection—and He’s watching over you.