Fear is something we gain or lose, depending on our ability to trust God and His power to redeem our circumstances.
It was about twenty-one years ago a pastor-leader, who I have learned much from, took a group of men to Armenia to meet with some pastors and their wives from Iran. They met secretly in this neighboring country to avoid the dangers that this meeting would pose to the Iranian Christians. In this meeting, a man who had been arrested by the authorities in the late ’90s told his story of overcoming fear.
The young pastor was imprisoned and the Iranian guards were getting ready to execute him for continuing to share the gospel in his homeland, after being warned not to. Before execution, the custom is to shave the head of the “criminal”. This had occurred and he knew that soon he would be taken from his cell and put to death. While pondering this and thinking of his family he became very distraught, wondering why God would let this happen. Then the Holy Spirit reminded Him that he was being counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake and that he should rejoice instead. When the scripture in Matthew 5:10-12 came alive to him, he began to rejoice and sing and dance in his cell. The guards, surprised and troubled over his actions, called their supervisor. They ended up releasing him because they were so troubled over the fact that he was rejoicing that he would be put to death for Christ’s name and for His glory – they would not allow it!
To Fear or Not…
When Jesus gathered His twelve disciples, He gave them instructions, as recorded in Matthew 10. He told them not to be afraid because our Father cares for His own. Jesus uses the example of a sparrow falling to the ground, He told them of God’s awareness of this and that we should not fear because our value to Him is much more important than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:26 “But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. 27 What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! 28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.[j] 29 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin[k]? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. 32 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.”
Jesus indicates that His followers are precious to our Father. These disciples needed to understand that they belong to Him, they’ve been adopted and have become His children. This relationship is reciprocal, it involves fidelity on both sides; God the Father toward us and us, His disciples, to Him. Jesus reassured these believers that they who possessed this relationship need not fear.
Many live in fear but fear the wrong things.
What about you?
Are you able to see God as your Father who dearly loves you? If not, Find someone who you know honors God and humbly begin a discussion with them. Many are going about living as though there will never be a day of reckoning. Do you wait for something tragic to happen before you consider you’re relationship to God? Has this pandemic caused you to think more earnestly about your life, your mortality? It should, but don’t stop there.
Some people do not realize that there will be a day of judgment when we will ALL stand before God and give an account for our lives. Conversely, there are those who have once known the gospel and are now living in rebellion to God’s will; they will suffer much loss. They are the ones Peter warned about (2 Peter 2:20-22) who once knew God but turned away to fulfill their own lusts, living according to their own desires. “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:20-22 (ESV)
Human pride and arrogance defy God’s rightful place in our lives. This attitude of indifference toward our Creator is dangerous and damning. Rather than reckoning with our lost condition as humans, some take the attitude that James describes in chapter 4:13-15: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’”
Our current pandemic…
Living through this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 coronavirus should cause us to pause and consider our lives. How are you doing with yourself? Are you at peace and content being alone or contained with your family? What are you truly living for? If everything ended today, would you carry regret when standing before God and having everything in your life made known? Or would you be ready and thankful for the years you were given? What is the substance of your life?
Perhaps you are stuck in a place you never thought you would be. When you look at your life you wonder, “How did this happen to me?” Your gradual slide into the muck began with some offense, a loss, a divorce, a sinful relationship, an addiction; these situations can leave us feeling displaced, removed from a sweet-spot we once enjoyed. Then along comes a confining situation that exposes us to ourselves: a quarantine of sorts. Remember the young pastor with his head shaved and the gallows prepared? Or think of Sampson, tied to the pillars of the temple, disgraced and being made fun of (Judges 16:28-30). Had God forgotten them? God has a way of bringing hope to any situation. His perspective causes us to see differently. He has the power to turn things around for His glory if we will allow Him to.
I spent nine months in Romania going through my own pregnancy of sorts, the process of adopting our four children. At times it was very uncomfortable, I suffered physically, and it felt very restricting — I was contained in a foreign land. I thought the main purpose of this experience was adopting our four children, yet God used that time to create in me a new level of faith and understanding of His faithfulness.
I hope this containment time will cause you to reflect upon your situation, and where you are in life. Let us consider where we stand with God. Think about: What is most important in my life? Whom or from what do I draw comfort? Am I obeying His call upon my life or denying Him by living for my own desires.
He’s giving us time to reflect during the coronavirus and giving us the grace to receive His gift. Will you spot Him during this time and receive what He offers? If you do, humble yourself and initiate change by making things right with those you’ve wronged. This is the first evidence of a sincere turning away from self, to God. Your act of building a relationship (as much as depends upon you) with someone you’ve avoided will open the door for God to pour blessings into your life. Then you can confidently say, I will not fear because I belong to God.
Photo Credit: Pixabay, CDC