Are you afraid of something? Snakes…spiders…deep water….flying….Donald Trump….Elizabeth Warren…..getting old….living beyond your retirement funds…death..?
Most all of us would have to admit that we have a “phobia” or two. And some fears can be good, of course. We’re afraid to go to jail or get pulled over by the State Trooper so we obey the traffic laws. Children are afraid of losing some privilege or getting spanked so they avoid misbehaving. The “fear of the Lord” in spoken of throughout the Bible as a positive thing —something that was used to rescue Israel or bring people to their senses. The fear of God is a positive, helpful thing. On Father’s day I would confess that my “fear” of my biological father was based 100% on my corresponding love for him. I was never afraid of him when I was doing the right thing at the right time, but I had a fear of his response to me if I was doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Friends, my fear of him kept me in school, out of jail and employed. We should be grateful of our father’s focus and determination to raise us into gentlemen and ladies rather than morons or lazy slugs.
But I am talking about the kind of fear that can paralyze you and lead to depression. Fears can leave us unable to function. When I attempted Judo I was taught to make a loud yell before I started to throw someone because the yell would startle them, and that made them stiff and easier to throw to the ground. Fear can do that—-it can knock us out, emotionally speaking.
Do I live my life in fear …or do I live upon God’s promises? Do I boldly say that, “God is my refuge and protector”, or do I live in doubt and anxiety? That’s the challenge to consider today.
And to give be clear, regardless of my failures, sins, obstinance and stupidity, God cannot and will not fail me! So I do not have to fear. It’s the devil’s lie that He no longer cares for me or that His arm is too short. John says in 1 John 4:18, that “perfect love casts out fear.” The whole verse says this: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” The context here is important: verse 17 says, “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.
This does not mean that we will never tempted to fear, and only an idiot would never have reason to be afraid from time to time. Yet It’s only when we face our fears that we can experience the nobler things of life like courage and tenacity. You can only be shown to be courageous when you have good reason to be afraid. “Superheroes” have nothing to fear under their armor or super powers; it’s the mortals, the ones made of flesh and blood, and only the mortals, that are able to display heroic courage.
Jesus understands fear, first hand, and He knows how debilitating it is. No, I don’t think that He was ever afraid—but He was tempted with fear at the garden of Gethsemane. But this temptation to fear was not in reference to failure or pain or humiliation. His struggle had to do with carrying upon His very body the consummate sin of all mankind… and then to hang on a cross abandoned by God as He took upon Himself the penalty of mankind’s rebellion. (If you are ever tempted to think that you don’t matter, meditate upon the Jesus suffered for you. You are not a piece of trash, a mistake or an unessential man or woman—-you are precious and the focus of His separation from God for a season.)
Jesus was clear. There’s really only one thing to really be afraid of—God. He said plainly, “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" (Matthew 10:28). And yes, we can water this down any way you want, but ultimately God is in total control—-it’s best to remember that before we attempt to manipulate Him, argue with Him, expect Him to excuse our mistakes and poor choices and tell God that it’s not fair for Him to hold us responsible. He is God and He will do what He wants when He wants.
And yet throughout the Bible we hear in both the Old and New Testament this same refrain: “Don't fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.” God actually commands us not to fear, or worry. The phrase “fear not” is used at least 80 times in the Bible, most likely because He knows the enemy uses fear to decrease our hope and limit our victories. And He knows that we are inclined to fear because of the violent and uncertain world in which we life breeds fear. He knows that that fear leads to helplessness and depression.
But He provided a rescue for me from fear and depression: Jesus Christ, who is able to show me how to let go of fear and depression. I can rearrange depression and spell out “I press on” by rearranging the letters! What a difference in perspective! And in Christ, my friends, I can press on and not live in fear or the oppressive attacks of Satan himself.
The “fear” that perfect loves casts out is really the only fear we should ever have: the fear of God’s judgment. We know that a Judgment Day is coming, but those who are in Christ know the love of God, which drives away fear of condemnation. The dismissal of the fear of judgment is one of the main functions of God’s love. The person without Christ is under judgment and has plenty to fear (John 3:18), but, once a person is in Christ, the fear of judgment is gone. He is reconciled to God, and “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Today I have reasons to be depressed, anxious, fearful. It’s ludicrous to say that I don’t. It’s a scary time to live, quite frankly. And if you listen to the enemy he will whisper to you that you could be destroyed….you could fail…..you could be wrong about God…..you could be convicted about the wrong understanding of God and the wrong religion……..you could be wrong about “god” even existing…. Those things could make you worry and go to bed at night in fear!
But HIS LOVE dispels not just a few fears, but ALL fears. If we experience His love, first hand, we will want to keep in His love—because we won’t want to return to a life ruled by anxiety. If we have His love in our heart there’s no room for fear—-HE drives it out. His Holy Spirit will not permit a spirit of fear to co-exist with Him. He is more than able to extinguish anxious thoughts and the pestering attacks of those little demons.