Fear not, do not be afraid, is the most repeated command in the Bible. Rick Warren, pastor at Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life, says this is found 365 times in the Bible, once for every day of the year.
We need these reminders. Have you read the news lately?
You read through the news and hear stories of mystery viruses that are paralyzing children, cancer, home invasions, bank robberies, murders, abductions and attempted abductions, and assaults. This is the local news. You look around the world where there continues to be global threats, uprisings, and war. Pope Francis even stated we may be experiencing a “piecemeal” World War III.
Then of course, there is Ebola.
Do not fear. How can I not fear? I worry. I get afraid. Yes, probably more than I should. The presence of fear does not mean we are not Christians. It can tell us we have room to grow, to grow in our faith. In our latest sermon series, we have been looking at faith. In several stories where the disciples are found to be anxious and afraid, Jesus asks them why they lack faith or just out right tells them they lack faith.
One of the biggest reasons I think we “fear” is because we focus on the here and now. Consider Paul’s words to the Romans.
If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to God. (Romans 14:8)
Paul does not worry if he lives or dies. This is not Paul being suicidal where he just does not care. This is Paul focusing on Jesus, no matter what. He knows that no matter what happens to him here and now, it does not matter because either way, he is with God.
Consider the list of news events above. Why do we fear them? We fear them often because they would bring a change to our lives that we do not want, which is understandable. However, whatever we face and go through now is not the end for those in Christ.
(Warning: This next part might feel like too great of a stretch; like I am minimizing some serious events, such as war and disease.)
What things in your life can you look back on now and say, “I was afraid of that?” I remember as a kid I was so afraid to ride the Super Dooper Looper. I do not remember how many times it took my cousin to convince me to ride that roller coaster. Now it feels like a kiddy ride –although, now I fear riding some of the other roller coasters that are out there these days.
There are many things in life where we look back and wonder why we were afraid. I know this feels like such a stretch. How can you begin to compare riding a roller coaster to an Ebola pandemic? In many ways, you cannot. And yet, I’ll ask you. How do you know? How do you know you will not look back on whatever it is a year from now and say, “I cannot believe I was afraid of that.”? How about 100 years from now? How about 10,000 years from now? How about one million years from now?
Those in Christ are walking in eternity with the One who shared these words with His people:
Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
(All scripture cited above from Common English Bible Copyright © 2011)