Fear is everywhere. We see it on the national scene with the way politics have become meaner and even violent as protestors clash on the streets. We see it in the faces of earthquake victims and people stranded in airports in Europe due to the recent volcanoes in Iceland. We see it in our churches where there are dwindling numbers and rising costs. At a Town Hall meeting recently some people told me they came because they feared that their church was going to be closed. We experience fear personally with health issues, family relationship strife and financial shortages.
It’s been said that fear is “false evidence appearing real” (an acronym for F. E. A. R.) and indeed, much of what we fear, is exaggerated in our mind by the emotions of the anticipated calamity. It’s been said that 75% of all the things we fear never happen and 10% of it is not nearly as bad as we expected it would be. However, some things we fear are real and serious. Getting a diagnosis of cancer and seeing the spot on the X-ray film is hardly an imaginary monster under the bed.
Our faith teaches us that we can experience a difficult ordeal without fear. I John says that “perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:18). We have the resources of God at hand that we are not fully taking to heart when we live in fear. As the hymn writer says “Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer.” (“What a Friend we Have in Jesus”) That is good advice. The thing that the gospels record that Christ said more than anything else is: “Fear not!” It can be found 52 times, one time for every week of the year. The presence of Jesus can relieve our fear and show us the way forward. The more perfected we are in love, the more we trust and the less we fear. It is a journey of Christian perfection as we travel with Christ.
Steve Bradbury in a recent edition of “Encounter with God” (Scripture Union) describes the world of the Apostle John, who was exiled on the Island of Patmos for preaching the Gospel. “The power of the earthly emperor who demanded their worship must have seemed far more real than the power of Jesus, who had not met their expectation of returning in triumph. Wherever we are, no matter how crushing our circumstances, there are wonderfully liberating truths that we can grasp in faith. There is only one God who loves us and has freed us from our sins, whose Kingdom is already under way among the ordinary and even fearful people who serve him, who holds the keys to eternity, and who holds us securely. It is this all-powerful, all-loving God who says to us ‘do not be afraid.’” (Revelation 1:17)
The powerful Roman government has been gone for centuries. The seemingly weak church of the first century still lives on today. That is because of this powerful, curiously amazing God we serve, who works through our weakness and makes a way in the midst of our fearful circumstances to bring about God’s ultimate kingdom.
Look at your fears in light of the whole picture of God’s final kingdom and the sure promise of eternal life and the fear of our times are mere brush fires by comparison. I Peter 1: 4-7 reminds us that our “ultimate inheritance is imperishable, undefiled and kept in heaven for us as we are being protected by the power of God through faith. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
So fear not! Christ is with you! Hold on to the God’s eternal truths as you experience troubles and fears in this life. Trust God to see you through. And to our churches, who are experiencing fear due to low membership and resources, I say “Look up!” Pray for a vision for new ways to reach out to the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Turn your fears into positive energy around new mission and ministry through the power of God!