Fear and Faith
Fear and Faith
Even after years of being a Christian and reading the Bible, I am often amazed by things which Jesus says. The real Jesus breaks through the “imagined Jesus” I sometimes make up in my own mind. Or as my British friend the Rev. Mike Endicott says, my own sometimes “out of focus (oof)” Jesus gets replaced by the real Jesus you and I find in the Bible.
Take the issue of fear. As a pastor I have often said to people who report being afraid, “It’s natural and normal to be afraid. God understands.” (I do believe that God still loves us when we experience fear, but I now believe that He wants to free us from bondage to fear by replacing it with childlike trust in Him.) Let’s look at a couple of scriptures I have noticed lately.
1. In Luke 4:40 Jesus is asleep in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, accompanied by his disciples. Waves start to swamp the boat, and the terrified disciples wake him up. He then says to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (If I were remaking Jesus in my own image, I would perhaps have him say, “you need more faith,” but not “have you no faith?” Jesus here seems to regard faith and fear as polar opposites in a way which does not usually occur to me.
2. In Mark 5:36, the synagogue ruler in Capernaum, Jairus, comes wanting Jesus to heal his daughter who is dying. Jesus accompanies Jairus, but on the way there a woman with an issue of blood touches the hem of his garment, and Jesus feels power go out of him to heal her. After commending the woman’s faith, Jesus starts to continue with Jairus, but then word comes that his daughter is already dead. Notice what comes next: “Ignoring them, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, ‘Don’t be afraid, just believe.’” In other words, “Don’t fear, have faith.”
There it is again, the stark choice between polar opposites presented by Jesus: Reject fear, choose faith.
Someone has pointed out that the Bible says “fear not” over eighty times.
Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Isaiah 43:1 says, “Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.”
At John 14:27 Jesus 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.”
It’s not that God gets mad at us (or rejects us!) if we fear. It’s that He knows that fear is paralyzing and debilitating. He knows fear is not good for us! So God, who will care for us, wants us to “fear not” and instead to trust Him!
I have been reading Psalm 91 a lot lately. Let me share again with you the first six verses, and pay attention to the part I underline:
“1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
“You will not fear”! This is God’s will for us! Ask Him to help you overcome fear in your life and to completely replace it with trust in Him! It is His will for you.
Winfield Casey Jones is a retired pastor and can be reached at email@example.com. This column first appeared in the Pearland and Friendswood Reporter News.
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