My teen son Pierce and his crew have an expression they bandy about a lot: "No fear," usually delivered with sophomoric swagger.
Chemistry exam? No fear.
High speed pitcher? No fear.
Highway driving? No fear.
Amid ongoing and escalating worldwide drama of both the extreme and mundane variety, "no fear" sounds pretty darned good. For Christians, "no fear" is actually a command. A direct order from the God of the Universe. "HOW?!," we may want to holler. A World Health Organization-sponsored study found a more than 25 percent worldwide increase in anxiety post-pandemic. One source says some 264 million people globally suffer from anxiety. That's a lot of anxious people, people!
Fear and foreboding.
On the surface, scanning the headlines of any news source, it would seem quite legit to be anxious. Some days, it's tempting to be a prepper, and barricade oneself in one's abode. A recovering scaredy cat, I have my moments. A couple of weeks ago on a Friday, Eliza Fletcher, a 38-year-old mother of two, was abducted by a stranger in Memphis during her regular early morning jog, hauntingly witnessed by an impotent traffic camera. After a struggle, he forced her into his SUV and drove off, her water bottle and shattered cell phone--and his slides--left behind on the indifferent street.
I too am a jogger who runs fearlessly in the early morning dark and a mother of two boys. Amidst a tsunami of horrifying headlines these days, I was unexpectedly sideswiped by the impact of this woman's predicted fate. Saturday morning, I went for a long run in broad daylight. Sunday is my day off. Monday, I ran in the 6am stillness, but I was burdened with dread, having learned Eliza was found dead. I admit it was scant comfort knowing that she was a Christian and I have confidence in a blissful heaven. Let's not even talk about her family and friends. Heartbreak. Horror.
Regardless, don't be afraid.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid [emphasis mine].” John 14 : 27 (ESV)
Yet, God mentions fear--by most counts--somewhere in the neighborhood of 365 biblical times, repeatedly urging against it. I've included just a few examples here. The fact that God repeats Himself that much means He knows we'd fear a lot. In fact, evidently, pretty much daily.
I'm also often reminded that every Bible hero, from the more pitiful Gideon, to the daring David, experienced documented fear.
I especially like the story of Moses, who as an adopted heir to pharaonic power, fearlessly murdered an Egyptian guard in a fit of righteous rage. Interestingly, much later, after God's 40-year wilderness training program, he cowered when God called him to liberate his people. God still used him--and all the other folks, too.
I recall other prophets who practically had to be bullied into fearful compliance (think Jonah or Peter). Or even Paul, who encountered all manner of terrible abuse (2 Corinthians 11:24-27).
They felt the fear and did whatever it was anyway.
So, what does God mean by exhorting us to be fearless?
Many modern-day heroes have faced down fear or persevered in spite of it. I think of the countless martyrs through the ages, some of whom were burned at the stake or stood before firing squads. Did they not feel terror when the match was struck? Did God grace them with last-minute angelic anesthesia? I believe that pain and fear are transcended by Christ's surpassing peace and ultimately, totally erased by the euphoria of an inexplicably joyful heaven.
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication 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 (ESV)
Some people say I'm fearless. I've faced down some demons (internal and otherwise), taken bold risks, and tend toward adventure like SCUBA, spelunking, solitary travel, bungee-jumping, and going mask-less...It's true. In some ways I am fearless. Mostly, though, it isn't so much fearlessness as it is faith.
Faith is the antidote to fear. Believing that God is alongside us, before us, and behind us, emboldens us. Each time we push through the fear, we get a little braver.
The threat of failure or fracture is less daunting, knowing that God has us snug in His hand. Whatever real or imagined threat pales in the face of eternity. This side of heaven, it's more to the point to say the fear of whatever pales in comparison to fear of God. That's really the only bona fide fear to have. Proverbs 1:7 says,
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor, theologian, and anti-Nazi dissident, was imprisoned and sent to the gallows for associating with those plotting to assassinate Hitler. (Here's a great book about this fella.) Bonhoeffer said this:
"He who fears the face of God does not fear the face of man. He who fears to face of man does not fear the face of God."
God says it more bluntly:
"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." Matthew 10:28
In the mystical, mysterious, and apocalyptic book book of Revelation, John writes some words we'd all do well to heed these days:
Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Revelation 3:10
If it seems to you we've been waiting a long time for Christ's return, a topic of ridicule even then, remember, too...
But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:7-9 (ESV)
I know, I know...this all sounds rather fire and brimstone, not at all like the gentle Jesus we see on The Chosen. What's up with that? It seems pretty harsh and terminal. Thankfully, this same God offers Good News.
The Good News is Jesus Himself, offered as the life-saving remedy:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish [emphasis mine] but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. John 3:16-18
Just repent...and believe already! Or vice-versa!
Love, peace, joy, and grace in Christ,
PRAYER: Jesus, I don't want to be condemned or to perish, anyway you define it. Please forgive me and receive me into Your Kingdom. Amen.
TAKEAWAY TOOL: Use your Bible concordance or Google 7 instances of the word "fear" in the Bible. Jot down a favorite to memorize.
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