Fear or Faith

The once-shepherd boy queried “whom shall I fear?” and “of whom shall I be afraid?” He might have filled in the blanks with the spear of King Saul, the rebellion of Absalom, the armies of the Philistines, or any number of persons who wanted to see this charismatic, young, anointed future-king wiped out. But David, rather than cowering in fear, affirmed: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear…of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps.27:1)

As you survey your landscape, you could probably come up with your own list of things to fear. Putin’s threat of nuclear warfare; out-of-control inflation; 401k plans that have “melted” by twenty or thirty percent, with no foreseeable endpoint; escalating crime that is creeping from “bad neighborhoods” to an ever-enlarging city circumference , threatening even your neighborhood; political polarity and divisiveness that are harsh, sometimes cruel, and at best nationally numbing as we seem stuck in a quagmire of selfish agendas, which advance personal interests at the expense of the good of our body politic; and, worse, a people who once proudly called themselves “one nation under God” morphing into a spiritually apathetic, practically atheistic nation that has embraced “gods” while abandoning the “God” that it once pledged loyalty and allegiance to. If you cannot fix on one or more of the aforementioned fear factors, there are no doubt myriad more within your life orbit. Do you suffer with a terminal disease? Are you agonizing over a broken relationship that seems irreparable? Is your job on the line, so that you are not sure from day to day if this will be the day you receive that “pink slip?” So many things that might cause us to fear!

When America was entering the depths of the Great Depression, one of our past presidents tried to allay our national fear in his First Inaugural Address, in which he assured us that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

One of our great astronomers had etched onto his tombstone the words, “I have lived too long among the stars to fear the night.”

Evangelist Jerry Sivnksty, a favorite local church evangelist who has ministered God’s Word to our generation for over 60 years, once taught our church to memorize Ps. 56:3: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” (Ps. 56:3) It’s amazing how, when a tornado or hurricane or flood warning is issued, clinging to that simple yet powerful, soul-mooring anchor of David the Psalmist will calm if not chase away one’s fears.

Then, Paul, who faced enough frightful, life-threatening scenarios in his lifetime to have died a thousand deaths, as it were, simply said, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim.1:7)

Dr. and Mrs. Nelson Bell were in China in 1938 when the Japanese invaded and put them and other Christians in a dangerous place. On Christmas Day, Dr. Bell wrote his mother, who was in America, that it had fallen on him to lead in devotions a couple of days earlier that week. He wrote, “It dawned upon me that our Lord, tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin, hungered, thirsted, was tired, became angry and gave every evidence of His humanity, but He was never fearful. Fear, therefore, must come from lack of faith—sin. Just as we never become sinless, so we never entirely lose fear, but it surely is His will for His children to live with peace in their hearts, trusting Him and His promises.”

John Chrysostom was a gifted fourth-century preacher who was exiled for his powerful preaching but could not be muted nor intimidated. He wrote: “What can I fear? Will it be death? But you know that Christ is my life, and that I shall gain by death. Will it be exile? But the earth and all its fullness are the Lord’s. Will it be loss of wealth? But we brought nothing into this world and can carry nothing out. Thus all the terrors of the world are contemptible in my eyes, and I smile at all its good things. Poverty I do not fear, riches I do not sigh for, and from death I do not shrink.”

Charles Spurgeon once commented, “It is a blessed fear which drives us to trust.”

Fixing our focus on unknown or uncertain elements can conger up fear factors. The children of Israel, having listened to the report of 10 of the 12 spies sent to scope out the Promised Land, were afraid to proceed because they feared the size of the enemy, the enormity of the task ahead, and the negative outlook presented by all of the 12 reconnaissance teams but Joshua and Caleb. Fear can rob us of potential blessings and victories, as it did that generation of fearful men and women who chose to believe the “minority report,” missing the realization of possessing that land flowing with milk and honey.

Jesus, in His classic Sermon on the Mount, addresses our common worries about life and its nagging necessities. He bids us to “Take no thought for your life…life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.” He illustrates by pointing to the ravens, the lilies, and the grass of the field, all of which are recipients of the Creator’s care. He concludes, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

Will you receive His good counsel? Review that inventory of pesky, probing, possible fear mongers on your horizon and reply, as David would, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Him.”

Bid fear farewell! Have faith!

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