Friday, March 27, 2020

Do not be afraid

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15)

I have contemplated coming back to this blog many times over the years, but nothing ever came to mind that I felt was worth saying. That changed a few days ago. A lady in my church lost her job because of things closing down due to COVID-19. The last active post I had on my blog was a poem I had written entitled “Do not fear”. I thought that maybe it could be of some encouragement to her, so I sent it her way.

That got me thinking about how, even as believers, so many of us struggle with fear. In these uncertain times, that struggle is likely so much greater. If you find yourself in this situation, hopefully these words can be of some encouragement to you as well.

How do we combat the temptation to give in to fear? There are literally hundreds of verses telling us, “Do not be afraid.” Many of these give as the reason you should not fear: “Because the Lord your God is with you.” We’ve read these verses so many times. We know this, we believe this in our minds. But our hearts are still troubled. What is the secret to overcoming this fear? I believe the place we have to start is understanding what fear truly is.

Fear is the expectation of loss of something we value.

Whether it’s your life, your health, the life of a loved one, your job, your house, your freedom, your sense of security, your actual safety, or any of a number of other things we value, we are afraid when there is a real threat of losing that which we hold dear. The greater the threat or greater the value, the greater the fear. So how does this help us?

The apostle Paul knew something of loss. On his very first encounter with Jesus, he lost his sight for three days (Acts 9:9). He lost his sense of safety (2 Cor 11:26). He often lost the basic necessities needed for life (2 Cor 11:27). He lost his health (2 Cor 11:24) on many occasions. He lost his freedom (Phil 1:12-13) and even his life, all for Jesus.

And yet, what was Paul’s response to all of this loss? He compared the value of what he was losing to that of the riches of God’s grace in Christ, and he found that there was really no comparison at all.

But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ. (Phil 3:7-8)

That’s not to say Paul was never afraid. Fear in a moment of danger is a natural response, and Paul was in danger often. But fear was not his master. It did not temper his boldness nor impede his mission. For Paul, to live was Christ, and to die was gain.

How do we overcome fear? We start from a place of changing the way we think about what we value in this life. Compared to “the surpassing value of knowing” Jesus, everything else we have in this life is worth nothing at all. What’s more, while we will eventually lose everything in this life that we value, the one thing we will never lose is the one thing that is infinitely valuable: the riches of God’s grace in Jesus Christ our Lord. All praise and glory to our great God!

Though we will not eliminate fear’s presence in us this side of heaven, by God’s grace and mercy we can eliminate fear’s power over us. Changing the way you think (Romans 12:2 NLT) is only the first step, but it is a foundational step. So much of our fear stems from us maximizing the world and minimizing our God. Renew your mind, and be transformed!

When fear threatens to take hold of you, take hold of Jesus. Turn your eyes to Him, and give all your worry and fear to Him. Give it, don’t just share it. Lay it at His feet, and then turn your back on it by jumping into His arms.

You are not a slave to fear. You are a child of God.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

Up next: Trusting God in uncertainty

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