You know, when I sometimes look back at my life as a child and teenager, one thing keeps cropping up in my memories: just how scared I was of everything! I spent much of my life in school as a worrywart, and what underlies worry is fear – fear of messing various things up, fear of other people’s judgements and criticisms, fear of embarrassment, fear of saying or doing the wrong thing, fear of the sudden death of my parents, fear of injury, illness, or death, fear of being insignificant, fear of getting anything less than an “A” on a test…you name it, I had a least a little fear of it.
Perhaps that’s partly why I’ve always noticed those many places in the Bible where God, or one of God’s representatives, proclaims, “Do not fear,” or “Do not be afraid.” Whether, as it has been said, there’s exactly one bible verse about fear for every day of the year, or whether God tells us not to fear just a couple hundred times, God’s Word addresses the whole concept of fear as a very important concept in figuring out our mission and purpose in life.
One could explain all the major mistakes and sins in scripture due to the bad influence of fear. Adam and Eve were afraid of being dumb, and the serpent’s temptation was formed on that fear: “You will not die,” the serpent said. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So the serpent is kind of saying to Eve, “God has tricked you out of being as powerfully knowledgeable as God is” – and no one likes to be tricked. There are many times when people have been tricked into investing money in risky ways simply by way of the argument that, for many years beforehand, they had been tricked by nefarious people into assuming that no such investment was possible for them. And so people allow themselves to be manipulated by their fears.
God does not want us to be manipulated; God tells us not to be afraid. Mary was told by Angel Gabriel not to be afraid of getting pregnant with the Son of God; Joseph was told not to be afraid to wed Mary; the angels told the shepherds not to be afraid of the heavenly host’s gigantic praise; John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, declared to everyone around him that one day God will “rescue us from the hands of our enemies” so that “we might serve God without fear” – which is the perfect way to serve God. In the 23rd Psalm David tells us that though we often “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” we should “fear no evil” for God’s “rod and staff” will comfort us. Twice Jesus explains that the opposite of faith is fear, saying, “Do not fear, but believe.” Paul informs his assistant Timothy not to approach life with “a spirit of cowardice.” God tells Joshua not to be afraid to take on leadership of the Israelites now that Moses is dead, because God will always be with Joshua. In the Upper Room at the end of His earthly life, Jesus comforts His disciples about His impending death: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you…Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” He soon promises them that He will return (after His resurrection).
Twice in the New Testament people are so overcome (so afraid) by the presence of Christ in all His glory that they fall to the ground in prostration before Him – first, when Peter, James and John see Christ in His transfiguration and second, when John, at the beginning of the book of Revelation, falls to his knees before Jesus in John’s vision. Both times Jesus lifts them up to their feet and gently tells them NOT to be afraid of Him. You know we can be so afraid of Jesus that we actually, for the wrong reasons, keep Jesus from doing good deeds through us, but Jesus wants us to not be afraid of Him so that we are able to do His will.
So, anyway, I hope you can see by these few examples just how important it is as a disciple NOT to be afraid. Fear is the opposite of Faith. And, perhaps even more importantly, John explains in his first letter that Fear is the opposite of Love – God’s Unconditional Love. Satan’s favorite weapon against us is to cause fear within us – fear that infects our sinful flesh, making us act out and run away from God and be cruel to other people, a fear that just messes up our lives.
So let’s turn to the first of John’s letters, near the back of the New Testament. In First John we see our Bible Boost for the day. John writes, in 1st John, chapter four, verses sixteen through eighteen: “So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this, that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as He is, so are we in this world. 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.”
This has become one of my favorite bible verses, partly I guess because of all the fear that dominated my early life. I began to realize, in my meditations on this verse, that fear is the common denominator for all the so-called “negative” emotions: not only cowardice but also anger, worry, panic, stubbornness, insecurity, being out of control, resentful, jealous, bitter, selfish, violent, embarrassed, arrogant, and holding a grudge. Each of these negative emotions starts with fear, with the way Cain felt when God judged Abel’s sacrifice to be better than Cain’s in the book of Genesis. Cain only saw that even from his own narrow point of view. He felt embarrassed, jealous, and angry, and violent – all because he was afraid to be “second best.” In his fear he went to extremes and first blamed and then killed his brother so that he would not feel fearful again; we humans likewise go to some terrible lengths to get rid of OUR fears, too – all WITHOUT God’s help.
You know, it is best, in this difficult season for the world and for our country, to be reliant on the God who John proclaims IS love and not reliant on ourselves. I know, for me, whenever I have felt overwhelmed and perhaps even took my negative feelings out either on others or on myself, I felt even worse afterwards. Our attempts at self-help in these matters often do not work.
Jesus has come to earth and lived, died, and rose again for us that we might rely even more on Him and on His Holy Spirit every day. Whenever we either act up, or feel so downhearted inside, it is best – either way – to ask of God, “God, please help me; my flesh is down, lift up my spirit; help me to figure out what I am afraid of. Help me, Lord, to see that I should not be so afraid, but rely more upon both You and Your guidance in this matter; and help me to see this situation from an entirely new perspective. I know, Lord, that You will be there for me in any case, no matter what happens in the future. Lord, You’ve got my life and the lives of others well in hand – whether in this life or in the life to come. As your servant Job once said to you, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; in both cases, blessed be the name of the Lord.” I am glad, as Job was, that I even HAVE been given a life – a life not only to LIVE, but to live by loving others, and even by being loved. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, thank you, thank you – even now. In the Name of my Lord and Savior, Your Son Jesus. Amen.”
You see, what we fear leads straight to the self-serving quality of our flesh; identifying and working against that fear is a key step in freeing you and me to serve others in the Spirit. Letting go of the fears that fill our hearts leaves an empty space which God fills us up instead with love, for God is love – unconditional love. The God who loves…loves you. Amen.
Go to kogcarmel.org and find King of Glory’s Sunday worship services as well – live at 10 am every Sunday. Archived worship services and boosts may be found at the bottom of King of Glory’s home page.