No Fear in Love

One of the most important concepts that we find in God’s Word is the concept that “fear” is a feeling that is a great opponent of faith and of love. We know that “do not fear” and “do not be afraid” are phrases that occur a lot and are sent from God or God’s agents to the rest of us at least a few hundred times in Scripture. As John writes in his first letter: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” Also, we read in Hebrews that Jesus came and died for us sinners so that “through death [Jesus] might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death” – that’s freeing ALL of us sinners, “held in slavery by the fear of death.”

I’ve prayed a lot about that verse in Hebrews, and it seems to me that this “fear of death” is really a “fear of any kind of loss” – fear of the big D “Death,” yes, but also our fears of experiencing “little deaths,” “little losses” like fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of embarrassment, and fear of the loss of a job or a relationship, or a possession or possessions, and the like. Finding that our main spiritual enemy, feeling-wise, is fear – we Christians can jump to the wrong conclusion; we can equate fear only with cowardice. The result is that the devil traps us into doing many stupid things only because we want to avoid being seen as a coward. So then, for instance, we don’t take precautions, or we feel that showing a certain bravado – say, during this COVID time – is the best way to show others that we have put our entire faith in God to protect us…no matter what we do. Contrary to that, I’m reminded of Christ’s reaction when tempted by Satan to jump off the top of the Temple in Jerusalem just so that, in being rescued by angels, Jesus could PROVE to those watching that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus refused Satan’s DARE, and quoted Scripture IN His refusal, informing the Devil: “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

With this in mind let’s turn to the character of David in the Bible – the one who slew Goliath. After that David was taken into King Saul’s household as a young man. He was Saul’s favorite for a while, partly because he played music and sang so well, soothing Saul’s spirits. But when David also became a great warrior and commander of the Israelite armies – and when Israelites began chanting that “Saul has killed his thousands, and David has killed his TEN thousands” – Saul’s jealousy knew no bounds, and he tried to kill David. Now, David, since he HAD killed Goliath and HAD been a successful commander, could easily have become overconfident, let his fear of being called a coward get the best of him, and just remain at Saul’s court, where he likely would have been killed. But God, through Saul’s son and David’s close friend Jonathan, warned David to flee; David himself, a praying man, sensed it was better to go away also. So our “Boost from the Bible” today comes from a verse within this story, 1st Samuel 20, verse 42: “Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between my descendants and your descendants forever.’ And David got up…and left.”

In this COVID time period, as our faith is being tested, it is important to realize just HOW our faith is being tested. Just as when someone wants to argue with us, and we sense, spiritually, that such an argument at THAT time would only make it worse and so we decide to walk away…just so should we take every precaution not to spread this disease, but just walk away. The brave future king David went into hiding for long stretches of time – went into quarantine, so to speak – and avoided a confrontation, which ended up benefitting Saul, himself, and whatever God had planned for David to do later as a good king over God’s people in Israel. Later on while Saul searched for David, David twice could have killed Saul – David’s lieutenants both times urged David to do so – but, mindful of how Saul was God’s servant as king, and mindful of what was best in the long run for Israel –David refused, and let Saul know he refused to kill Saul. It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul once wrote, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” While our society rages on, demanding tit for tat and calling those who don’t fight cowards, our God says in place after place in Holy Scripture that we should NOT let ungodly fear triumph; we should not be led by our ungodly fears and do OUR will instead of GOD’S will; and that we should think, in the midst of a crisis, NOT about our own pride, but about what God wants us to do to help others, no matter how we “look” while doing so.

Recently I was told at our church facility that there was a non-member – an old adversary who had bothered many churches and their pastors – going from one to another to do so – this old adversary had tried to contact me and would call back again. It had been four years since his last time visiting us. I told the person who took the call that I was not ready to talk to him that day. It may have seemed cowardly to do so. But in the days since, I have been thinking about that next conversation with him – if it ever takes place – and, after praying a lot about it and after reading and thinking about scripture – now I am ready for that conversation, if need be. Discretion can lead to proper discernment of how to handle something. Now is not always the best time. I often counsel new couples that, after a sudden, big fight, get away from each other for a short time before returning to the disagreement, thinking and praying about what was said and what should be said next, and meet again when your feelings have calmed down. I also counsel them to talk to people you trust – just as David talked to Jonathan, both God-followers, and together you may guide each other in godly ways. As David and Jonathan said to each other, “Let us go in peace, having sworn together in the Lord, to follow the Lord.” And both David and Jonathan were able to follow the Lord instead of their own fears and their own pride because those obstacles were gone.

Here’s another example of discretion: when Jesus fed the 5,000 men (plus women and children) in the gospel of John, John reports that “when Jesus realized that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, Jesus withdrew from again to the mountain by Himself.” (John 6:15) Jesus knew that there were times to withdraw, times to pull back in order not to make a mistake. And there, on the mountain by Himself, He prayed to God about this and about what was next in His journey.

We know of at least ONE psalm that David wrote and sang during his time on the run, his time away, his time in danger, his time alone: Psalm 63. Maybe some of HIS words will resonate with us at this time, as we see the value in sometimes staying away from others, while knowing that God is always there. David said to God: “O God, you are my God. I seek You…my soul thirsts for You; my flesh faints for You, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon You [O God,] in the sanctuary, beholding Your power and Your glory. Because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on Your name. My soul,” David wrote to his Creator at one of the worst times in his life, “is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises You with joyful lips when I think of You on my bed, and meditate on You in the watches of the night; for You [O God,] have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.”

Sometimes the best action is the prayerful, waiting on the Lord, kind of action. May you, whether it be in the day or in the watches of the night, go to God for help when feeling isolated, and, like David in danger, live “in the shadow” of God’s wings, singing for joy.

Amen!

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