What are You Afraid Of?
In a world awash in fears, is there an antidote to fear? Some fears are reasonable and they prompt us to take measures to protect ourselves and others. The fear of a communicable disease should motivate us to quarantine and practice good hygiene. And these are reasonable measures to take when dealing with contagions. But, other fears are unreasonable. They undermine our health, and in reacting to them we bring the consequences we feared upon us. But as Christians, followers of Jesus, we do not need to be overwhelmed by our fears. For Jesus has given us a gift of peace and that peace will calm our fears. But how do we receive this gift? And what exactly is this peace that Jesus promises?
A Great Gift from God
Jesus was going to bequeath to his disciples an inheritance of peace, (eirene gk. or shalom heb.) This peace meant wholeness, inner quietness, and rest. It was the ability to be calm in every circumstance, and thus would be a source of courage and strength. With this kind of peace our hearts would not be troubled or fearful. And yet, we know over the millennia people have had reason to fear. Modern current events are no different from their ancient counterparts when it comes to a fearful litany of wars, deceptions, and plagues. Yet, Jesus admonishes his disciples, ‘Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’ Jesus did not want his followers to be cowardly and timid, living in dread and paralyzed by their fears.
The Spirit and the Promises
The anti-dote to fear, and the source of power was God’s spirit. It was the spirit of power, self-discipline and love that could overcome fear and timidity. While in the midst of a sudden storm on the Sea of Galilee the disciples cried out in fear. The boat was about to be swamped, and they thought they were about to die! But Jesus’ response was, ‘Why are you afraid?” His antidote to fear was faith, that assurance that God would protect them. But how could Jesus have that faith and the calm peace of mind that allowed him to quiet the storm? And can we have that same peace?
Jesus trusted in the sure promises of scripture, and he encourages his disciples to do the same. Jesus and his Father promise that they will never desert us or leave us helpless. The Lord promised to sustain us and never leave us behind, or cast us out. He is always faithful, semper fidelis. If we are his followers, then he will lead us, so we will not perish or die without hope. He has promised to give us eternal life. Both, the Lord Jesus our Messiah and the Father, assure us that no one can snatch us out of their hands. Why have they made these promises?
Job’s Antidote to Fear
Our peace of mind that comes from our faith in God’s promises and offers us the antidote to fear has one source. We can trust God and prevail in our spiritual warfare, and overcome our fears. But as Job learned it was not enough to have heard about God, we need to know him intimately and personally. Job, though a man of integrity, still had his fears. Satan was allowed to take away all of Job’s wealth, his family, and his health. This was what Job had feared, that all of his ‘right living’ could not protect him or his family against the evil actions of others. And, he wondered if God was indeed fair, or even paying attention.
Eventually, the Lord spoke to Job, and he came to see God’s greatness, his goodness, and his purpose. No longer was Job just a distant acquaintance of the Lord God, and merely one of many of God’s wonderful creations. Now Job knew in his heart that he was a beloved son, with a great future with God and hope in a resurrection. This knowledge helped Job conquer his fear and love others, even those who had misjudged him.
The Father’s Love
It is God’s love that undergirds our faith and gives us peace. And that love was given full expression when the Father was willing to offer his son. Their willing sacrifice meant that our failings could be forgiven and we could have the hope of eternal life. We could repent and change our ways. We do not need to fear what people might do, or what events might transpire. God’s love for us is so great and intimate that he can count the hairs on our heads. It was through knowing the Father’s unchanging love, that Jesus was able to endure the crucifixion without fear. And Jesus offers us the same kind of peace of mind, one that is the result of knowing our Father’s love for us. For we are his beloved children.
It is through God’s love that we are perfected to be like our Saviour. Through this love, we can overcome our fears and embrace God’s purpose for us with courage. It is God’s perfect love that casts out fear. So ultimately, it is godly love that gives us faith and peace. This is the antidote to fear.