“Be afraid. Be very afraid.” Everywhere we turn, that’s the message we hear today, from news reporters, politicians, bankers, stock brokers, auto executives, retailers, employers, even our friends and family members. Fear seems to be overwhelming the world.
As believers in Jesus Christ, are we to submit to this spirit of fear? God’s holy Word teaches us otherwise. In fact, the Bible is full of examples of God and His messengers assuring us with words like, “Do not be afraid,” “Do not fear” and “Have no fear.” I love the way these passages are translated in the King James Version: “FEAR NOT!”
The subject of fear is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. In the 14th chapter of Genesis, Abraham is in the midst of a tense confrontation with the King of Sodom, yet God reassures Abraham: “‘Do not be afraid, Abraham. I am your shield, your very great reward.’” (Genesis 15:1b)
The story of the Exodus contains one of the greatest moments in all of history. The Israelites have been released from slavery and are making their long journey out of Egypt. The land through which they must journey is a wilderness with little food or water. The Israelites are complaining to Moses, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt just to die in the wilderness?” The situation becomes urgent when Pharaoh has a change of heart and decides it was a mistake to release the Israelites. He arms his chariots and sets out in pursuit to take them back into captivity. To make matters even worse, the Israelites are backed up against the Red Sea with nowhere to run. If ever a group of people had a right to be hopeless, this was it! Yet Moses says to the Israelites, “. . .Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today. . . . The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14:13-14) We all know the rest of the story. God divided the waters and made a path of dry land right through the middle of the Red Sea so the Israelites could escape between the walls of water on either side. Wow! At a moment when all seemed hopeless, God said, “Don’t be afraid! You don’t have to do anything except trust in Me!” Can we really believe that?
The Psalms contain many assurances about fear. “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (118:6 KJV) “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (27:1 KJV) And of course, the beloved 23rd Psalm, in which the Psalmist acknowledges that even when we walk through the darkest valley (the Valley of the Shadow of Death), we need fear no evil, for God is with us!
In the Old Testament, several passages are translated, “Do not fear or be dismayed.” Wouldn’t you agree that all of us are feeling a little dismayed these days? Don Moen wrote a wonderful song inspired by passages such as Joshua 1:9:
Be strong and take courage
Do not fear or be dismayed
For the Lord will go before you
And His light will show the way
Be strong and take courage
Do not fear or be dismayed
For the One Who lives within you
Will be strong in you today!
(Be Strong And Take Courage by Don Moen, Integrity Music)
Have we become so content with our earthly comforts that we have forgotten how dependent we are on the Lord? We must humble ourselves and acknowledge that we are not in control. God is in Control, and He hears our prayers! “Do not fear,” the Lord’s angel said to Daniel, “for from the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before God, your words have been heard. . .” (Daniel 10:12) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5,6) “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) What wonderful promises these are! And yet we must never forget our responsibility to humble ourselves, to acknowledge the Lord, and to seek to please Him with our lives.
If we are instructed to not be afraid, what does God offer to replace our fear? He offers the most wonderful thing of all, peace! In the words of our Savior Jesus Christ, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27) Two chapters later, He says it this way: “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you will have tribulation (serious trouble), but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) We’re supposed to be of good cheer even when we’re facing serious trouble?
The apostle Paul faced his share of serious trouble, but he also knew the peace of God. Acts chapter 16 tells of a time when Paul and his friend Silas were wrongly accused for preaching the gospel and casting out a demon. They were beaten with rods, then thrown into prison, where they were bound by foot stocks in the innermost cell (maximum security). Under those circumstances, I’m not sure I would be of good cheer, but Paul and Silas were! About midnight, they were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them (probably thinking they must be lunatics!). Suddenly there was a great earthquake so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken, and immediately all the doors of the prison were opened and all the prisoners’ chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he assumed the prisoners had escaped and drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself. We are all here!” The jailer rushed into the cells and fell on his knees in front of Paul and Silas, amazed that they had remained in the jail when they could have easily escaped. The jailer took them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” By trusting God in the middle of serious trouble, not only were Paul and Silas released from prison, but others were led to believe in Jesus as God’s Son, even the jailer and his family!
Later, Paul would write, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication (asking with humility), with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear: “. . .Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air. They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? And can you, by worrying, add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the [ungodly people] who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25-33)
Beyond doubt, these are troubled times, but God never promised us that we would never have to face trouble. In fact, He promised us we could not escape it. But He has further promised that we can rely on Him completely to walk with us through every trial. He is the Creator of the Universe, and He is bigger than all the problems this world will ever face. No wonder He can say to us, “Fear not!”
We are worried and fearful and too often weak in our faith. Please forgive us. Please teach us to trust in You completely. Help us not to be caught up in the fears and anxieties of this world, but to lay all of our concerns before You in faith. May we know your peace that passes all understanding. May our faith in You be a shining light that turns the eyes of the nation upon You. As we humble ourselves and pray, as we seek Your face and turn from our wicked ways, please hear us from heaven and forgive our sin and heal our land. May we live each moment in the assurance that we need not fear; we can trust You in every way, for You are in control. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
*Unless otherwise noted all scripture references are from the New Revised Standard Version.
By | March 3, 2009 4:05 pm