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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Fear Not...

For the past two or three weeks God has continually brought to my mind and heart the words from Psalm 34:4-9:

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.  6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.  8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.  9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.

I had started having some unexpected side effects that I thought were related to the radiation treatment, but upon consultation, probably were not. After ending the phone call, my mind began to race and the idea of a “reappearance of cancer” began to loop in my thoughts. Dread, denial, and fear all seemed to coalesce; even my heart seemed to begin to race. I stopped and took some deep breaths and began to pray: “God, I trust You...” Honestly, I really couldn’t say much more. Then God brought me to His Word in Psalm 34:4: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”  God has not put me on the planning committee, and He isn’t obligated to explain to me what or why, but the greater question was and still is, “Will I trust Him?” 

I began to look at fear in a different light and jotted some notes down during my private devotional time in the morning. When we go through the storms of life, we do not become automatic experts in how to deal with the issues, however, if we allow Him, God can use those events to help mold us into His image. That’s where I am, on a journey trying to learn what God wants to teach me and to re-mold me into more of the likeness of His Son.

What are some of those fears that seem to eat us alive and consume our thoughts? Here are few thoughts:

Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment: Sometimes we base our worth on what we can do, but our worth is really based on what Christ has already done in our lives. Our pride scrambles to save face and make excuses when we fail or push us to do things we probably would not have done in other circumstances. In these situations, we need to trust our reputations to God and remember our worth is what God has already done in us through Christ. Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

Fear of suffering: No one wants to suffer; regardless of what kind of suffering it may be, there isn’t a line of volunteers waiting to jump right in to suffer. We forget that suffering is just a natural part of growing and becoming like Christ. As Paul said “...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering...[Phil 3:10]. Jesus assured His disciples: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33] Suffering is the fire that burns away that which is unpleasing to God and the anvil that helps mold us into His character.  We do suffer when we sin, but the kind of suffering to which I refer is not destructive, but constructive.

Fear of persecution: Similar to the previous one, but perhaps more related to personal freedom and those in authority over us. We should never forget that regardless of what human government may be in power, God is still on His throne and still in control. What is more, throughout history, God has allowed persecution and His Church has grown strong through it. I am somewhat amazed that we would pray, “God, do whatever it takes to bring the world to Your feet!” and then, when God allows persecution to purify His Body to be able to be used by Him, we tell Him that persecution was not what we had in mind. One issue we must come to grips with is: “Do we really believe God is who He says He is and that He is really in control?” Trust is more than a word, it is faith put into active belief. We lay our fears at His feet, trusting Him.  To be able to hear Him, we must be pure before Him and able to be used by Him.  Hear the words of the psalmist to comfort your heart and spirit:
Psalm 55:22 “Cast your cares on the Lord  and he will sustain you; he will never let  the righteous be shaken.”  
Psalm 56:3 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
Psalm 4:8 “In peace, I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

Fear of punishment: God does discipline those He loves as a loving father would his children, however, sometimes we secretly believe that God is sneaking up behind us, waiting for us to mess up so He can punish us; that He delights in making us squirm. We have misunderstood the love of God. Remember He sent His only Son to take our punishment, the punishment we really deserved, so we might have forgiveness and eternal life in relationship with Him. Rather than the “mean man” with a big stick to hit us and keep us in line, He is the loving Father that stands behinds the baby that is learning to walk to help him when he falls. Remember 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Fear of death: We all know we are going to die, but think that it is only something that happens to “older people.” If we are going to have to die, we just don’t want to suffer or cause a lot of suffering in the process.  I am not trying to minimize the grief associated with the loss of a loved one; that grief is real and we need to be honest in our feelings. I am not trying to make light of death; the finality of this earthly existence is real. While that is true, the reality of an eternity in the presence of our living Lord is also real. When Jesus was trying to walk the disciples through His own impending death, He said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” [John 14:27] Only our relationship with Christ can really give us the peace that comfort. Remember Psalm 23:4  “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, You are with me...” We will close our eyes here on earth only to open them in the presence of Christ. The longings of our entire life will be fulfilled in the twinkling of an eye. Our focus then, it not on death, but on spending eternity with God in heaven.

So what can we do? Here is a start:
[1] Verbalize your fear to God; He already knows, but being able to articulate our fear, naming our fears is a great step in overcoming them. If you have a trusted mature believer, share those concerns with them.
[2] Go to the promises of God in His Word. You can start with those listed here, or follow the Spirit’s leading in Scripture.
[3] Shift your focus from your fear to your faith in God. What caused our fear may still exist, but our focus is on Him. Each time that wave of doubt or the dark cloud of fear tries to engulf you, go back to the promise of God’s Word. Memorize the passage, say it out loud.
[4] Thank God for His provision and care; list out those things for which you are grateful. Keep a gratitude list and review it early in the morning and before you go to bed.
[5] Remember: God is in control. God loves you and has a plan for your life. You can trust God.

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