A Study on Fear – Part 4
“Do Not Be Afraid”
Have you ever found yourself in a place where you feared for your life? I have talked to soldiers who survived wars who told me of times when they thought they would die. I have talked to cancer patients who believed the time of their departure was at hand. I have talked to people who were in serious accidents who said they believed they wouldn’t survive. Many of us have experienced a time or a moment whether we wondered if this was it.
Well, I want say I believed death was certain, but I wasn’t sure what would be the end of the story. It was a cold blustery April morning in 1989. My friend and fellow church member called the night before and said that he was worn out and wanted to go fishing the next day, did I want to go? Peggy was seven months pregnant with Caleb, so I asked her if she cared if I went with John. She reluctantly agreed.
About 5 am the next morning John pulled up in the driveway and I threw my fishing gear in the back of the truck and we headed to Lake Murry in Columbia. We had about a 1 & ½ hours on the road so we talked and caught up a little. He was telling me how tough planting had been over the past few days and how it seemed like all of his equipment was breaking down. The weather outside wasn’t the greatest, but we were not worried. We drove into our friend, Roy’s home about daylight. We followed him in his van to the boat landing. Roy was going to show us where they had been catching fish and then we were going to bring him back to the landing and go fishing. We loaded up the 12 foot, 25 horse powered motor boat and left the landing.
The weather had not gotten any better. Now it was very overcast, the wind was blowing pretty hard, there were white caps on the small waves on the lake and off we went. And it was now raining a soft rain, but we were going fishing. The motor fired to life and we headed out into the wide open water.
The wind was now howling. Roy was in the front of the boat, John in the back and me in the middle. As we rounded a large point, the motor began to sputter. John was working trying to get the motor running correct. Roy was trying to guide us and I was having to rely the information because John could not hear Roy. The water was coming over the side of the boat. We were in a cove about 500 yards from the shore. The motor quit as we turned toward the shore. The next wave came over the front of the boat and I was now sitting in water up to my seat. About this time Roy stepped off the front of the boat into the water. Later I learned he thought he could stand up. He couldn’t swim. As Roy stepped out of the boat more water poured in. I believed the boat was going to sink. I grabbed my floating cushion and stepped out of the boat to the left. John had his back to us and when he turned around he recognized we had abandoned ship. He too stepped out of the boat and instantly the boat flipped upside down. The air captured under the boat caused it to float. He was yelling at us to come back and hold on, but we could not hear him. Roy began to sink from the weight of his heavy coat. I swam up and gave him my cushion and grabbed a floating cooler.
The water was cold, we were hundreds of yards from the shore and there was not another human in sight. I was a little worried. I thought of Peggy home and pregnant with our child. I thought if something bad happened how would we explain it. I was scared that we might not all get out of this. As I was taking inventory of everything I happened to look around and see John motioning for me to come back to the boat. I had probably drifted about 20 yards from the boat. Holding on to the cooler, I went up and turned Roy around and pushed him into the boat. I helped him scoot up on the front of the boat where he would be safe. I grabbed hold of the side of the boat and just hung in the water. We were at the mercy of the wind and the waves. Every few minutes Roy would ask me could I feel the bottom. I would tell him no.
Finally after about 2 hours of slowly moving towards the shore I felt something under my feet. I began to tiptoe on the bottom. I didn’t say anything at first, but waited until I had firm ground under my feet and I announced I could touch. Roy slipped off the boat and we all pulled the boat up to the shore. We walked to the boat landing and Roy left. John and I were able to get the truck down to the boat and with the winch on his truck we were able to get the boat up and back on the boat trailer. We were now safe.
When I see John, we laugh about that incident today. Yet for a little while I feared for my life. It was a real fear of what would happen because when I was in the water I had no real control of what was taking place.
That was 31 years ago this month. Let’s fast forward to today. We are all living in uncertain times. These are unprecedented times. For almost every one of us we have never lived when we were told to stay at home. We are not allowed to eat at restaurants. We are asked to keep 6 feet away from one another. For the first time in all of our lives we are unable to come together and worship in our sanctuaries. We are not in control.
The fear comes from an unseen, uncontrolled, non-discriminatory virus. Some have lived through it, but many have died. We have no vaccine or medicine that is a cure. People are afraid that being in a crowd could cause them to get the virus. We are afraid and skittish about gathering, shaking hands and hugging. We are afraid of the unknown. So what do we do about it?
I hope we have learned a little about the word fear and what the Bible says about it. What I would like to do for the next few minutes is talk about why we do not need to be afraid. Why the Christian has hope beyond fear and that although we need to practice good hygiene and practice common sense we do not need to fear this virus. We need to trust in our God who is bigger and greater than a virus. I would like to explore some passages in the New Testament where we are assured that God is for us.
1. Romans 8:14-17
The eighth chapter of Romans is all about the contrast between the flesh and the Spirit. Paul points out that if we live in the flesh we are slaves to our body, but if we live in the Spirit then we are a slave to God. As Paul continues to expound on this topic he concludes by giving us these final words. “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. The Spirit you received does not make your slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry ‘Abba, Father,’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
Did you get that reference to “fear?” When the Spirit of God resides in our lives we have no reason to fear. We are not subject to the worries of this world. Yes, any of us could contract COVID-19. Yes, we might even die from the disease, but the disease will not be the winner. If we have the Spirit of God living in us then we are the winner whether in life or in death. We do not need to fear if it happens. We are trying to stay safe. We are playing it safe. We are doing our best to wash our hands, stay at home, and practice social distancing. Yet we are not afraid. We know Jesus and are assured that in all matters that He will win the day in our lives.
So yes, we need to be careful and safe, but we do not need to fear because the very God of the universe lives in us.
2. 1 John 4:18
I know everyone calls 1 Corinthians 13 the “love” chapter, but for me there is no better expression of love than is found in 1 John. Chapter 4 is all about the love that God has for us and how He showed it in His son, Jesus. One of the verses that is found in that chapter is verse 18. It says, “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.”
Let’s state some obvious facts: God loves us! He created us to have a relationship with Him. He sent Jesus to the world to fix our sin so we could have that relationship with Him. When we put our faith and trust in the work of Jesus Christ we experience a love that will not fail.
Those are all obvious facts to the Believer. Yet some of us still will fear the world more than we will trust the love of God. If God loves us so much He will not allow a virus or anything else this sinful world can concoct to ruin our relationship with Him. Yes, I’m sure there are some believers who have died of COVID-19, but that virus didn’t still the love of God from their lives. They do not have to fear death on this earth because they have received life from Jesus. Jesus is the giver of eternal life.
Yes, I understand we do not want to die. Yes, I understand that this virus can cause death and has caused many to die, but if you are a Believer then you can be assured that this life is not the end. If you are a Believer and you are not sure then you have allowed punishment or the fact that you are not convinced that God’s love conquers all. Listen verse 19 says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” That love doesn’t go away because of death or anything else. Paul made that quite clear in Romans 8:31-39. So do not fear what a virus can do. Just be smart and trust the love of God.
3. Revelation 1:17-18
I can’t begin to imagine how John felt while Jesus spoke the revelation in the book by the same name. John, that disciple whom Jesus loved, was taken and shown many things that we probably will never understand. In the beginning of that book we find Jesus revealing himself to John. In verse 17 John reacts to Jesus revelation and Jesus answers him in verse 18. Here are those words, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said, ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and hades.’”
What a statement. Jesus the one who was dead is now alive and holds the keys to our very existence. And how does He reveal Himself to John, “Do not be afraid.” You see when you find yourself in the presence of a Holy God it seems as if death is sure. The very presence of a Holy Deity is enough to shake a person to their bones. John was no difference. He remembered what he had been told as a child growing up, “No man sees God and lives.” And yet here John was standing in the very presence of God. The one John had walked and talked with telling him not to be afraid.
Now I’m no expert, but which do you think is scarier, COVID-19 or the presence of God. For me there is no comparison. To stand in God’s presence is something we should be in awe. We should never take for granted the Holiness of God. Isaiah bowed down. Just about every person who saw a representative of God bowed down. John falls to his knees. Do you think you and I will do any less? Yet how many people in this world today are more afraid of the coronavirus than they are of standing before a Holy God? Why are they afraid of the virus, because they do not want to get it and die? We love this world maybe too much and are not really prepared for the next life.
Now please do not misunderstand. I am not for just opening up the country and seeing individuals get sick and have problems, but I do want to go on record and say I am more in awe of God that I am afraid of COVID-19. Yes, we need to continue to practice good hygiene. Yes, we need to continue to continue social distancing. Yes, we need to pray for a vaccine or cure, but we do not need to be so afraid that we bar ourselves in the house never to come out again. Before long we are going to be allowed to come back to God’s house of worship. Will you come? Will you be afraid? The God that John met in the book of Revelation is the same God who looks after you today. He is the same God that could speak a word and we would no longer have a virus. Are you ready and willing to put your trust in God in everything?
4. John 16:33
This is one of my go to passages. We all have trouble. We all handle trouble differently. We all worry to some extent about our own trouble and the trouble in the world. Yet Jesus says this to 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.”
In this worldwide pandemic have you had peace or worry? Have you been scared that things might never be the same or do you realize that maybe things needed to change? Have you go peace that one day we will be back to a better normal or are you afraid that the world will never be the same? Have you worried about essentials or have you had peace that God will supply all your needs through His riches in Christ Jesus?
One of the things I know of for sure is that we have taken for granted all of the good things in this world. We have taken each other for granted. We have taken hospitals, police, firemen, paramedics, school teachers, small businesses, and on and on the list goes, for granted. We just always expect them to be there. We just expect our needs to be met by someone here on this earth. May it is time we get back to waiting on Jesus to supply those needs. Maybe this time of pandemic will help us to trust Jesus more and or services less. Not that we do not need them and not that they are not important, but just how much do we depend on Jesus?
I know through all of this I want the Peace of Jesus not the fear of the world. I want to remember that even in my trouble I do not have to worry because Jesus has me in the palm of His hand. Jesus has already defeated the worse thing this world can do to me. This world can and will one day kill me, but I do not worry because I will not stay dead. I will arise and live with Jesus in the place He has prepared for me.
So let the trouble come. I am “taking Heart!” I am standing on the promise of my Savior and Lord who told me He had overcome the world. We have been talking a great deal lately of really not know what and who to believe on all the stuff on the virus. One person says one thing and another says another. So let’s decide to listen to the one who has never led us astray. The one who has overcome the world. Don’t fear trouble! Jesus has overcome all trouble this world could ever throw at you!!
Do you have a Jesus smile on your face right now? Are you watching the news and wondering if we will ever get back to normal? Will we ever get to go back to church and hug and shake hands? Don’t focus on the trouble! Focus on Jesus! Read His promises! He is someone you can depend on. He is someone you can rely on. He is the First and the Last! That means He was here when it started and He will be here when it ends. Put your faith and trust in the one who has overcome the world!!!!