Devotion posted By Art Greco.
My title last Sunday was purposeful: “FEAR NOT” (And Other Unrealistic Biblical Mandates). Improperly understood, some of the Bible’s commands seem to be unreasonable. One such “mandate” (be not afraid) certainly makes my list. My point is that it’s no more possible to “never be afraid” than it is to “never be a normal, functioning human being.” My attending point, though, is that our word, “afraid” doesn’t quite capture the meaning of the Bible’s directive.
What Scripture is challenging with that statement is the kind of fear that attaches itself to an unhelpful plan to avoid, flee, or circumvent a challenging situation. It’s what the disciples were doing in John 20:19: “So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” It wasn’t so much the “afraid of the Jews” issue that was the problem but the “hiding behind closed doors” piece.
But do we always apply this biblical prohibition in the way it was intended? Reflect on the following examples, asking the Holy Spirit to give insight as you do. Which of these would you say the Word has in mind when it rebukes us regarding fear, and which would be outside of that challenge – not the kind of settings it’s addressing at all?
- Peter’s reluctance to be identified with Jesus after Christ’s arrest;
- A student’s unsettledness about an impending move and the need to change schools;
- Choosing not to offer forgiveness because it might backfire, possibly being misunderstood as weakness or the admission of guilt;
- Dealing with a tragic loss in your life and experiencing an almost debilitating anxiety about how to move forward in spite of the emptiness it causes;
- Turning over a rock in search of a worm and finding instead a rattle snake.
The point here?: Not all fear is the kind the Lord would need to reprove or correct. In fact, not everything we call “fear” really IS fear – sometimes it’s grief, concern, or other related emotions. And the feeling of fear isn’t really the issue in the first place; it’s the decisions we make in response to fear that’s in focus.
Now the $1,000,000 question: Are there situations where the challenge to “have no fear” is appropriate for your life? And, as importantly, are there times when you’ve been applying the “have no fear” clause (often with unhelpful and unwarranted guilt) but needn’t have been?
BE A BLESSING
Think of someone you know who might be facing something that would send shivers up your spine – or that you are pretty sure is sending shivers up THEIR’S.
Go shopping or rummaging and find a little gift that you think represents the words, “Fear not, for I am with you always.” And send or take it to them. For me, that might be a Ben and Jerry’s gift card for a cup of ice cold comfort food (New York Super Fudge Crunch, of course). For someone else, it might be a refrigerator magnet, a poem, or a simple card.
Then pray for them each day for seven straight days. Pray prayers of blessing, courage, and victory over them.
Gather with a few friends you know from MCC and Read II Corinthians 1:4-7 together. Talk about what has been, is, and is threatening to be on your “fear lists.”
Then talk about how comforting each other might be of help with addressing, facing those fears.
CLOSE YOUR TIME WITH A PRAYER, AND AN OUT-LOUD REREADING OF THE II CORINTHIANS TEXT …
… THEN MAYBE GO FOR SOME BEN AND JERRY’S.