Have you noticed that when you are about to take a big plunge into something, people will say, “Awe, don’t be afraid!”? Why is that? I mean you are about to plunge into something, an unknown to you, and you are to “Just Do It?” I don’t know about you, but I have a healthy dose if fear when it is something huge. You know, jumping out of airplanes huge. We have a one of the world’s largest parachute jumping place right here. I do not see what the attraction is. You could not pay me to pay to jump out of an airplane in a non-emergency. I would never, ever jump out of a plane for fun! I mean ever. That goes for bungee jumping, free-style rock climbing, snorkeling with sharks. I have done my share of scary things, but I guess they are not crazy. I have tried to snow ski down a slope when I was just off the bunny slope. Not such a great idea since I ended up in a pile at the top of the ski lift with every one yelling at me to get out of the way. A little difficult when you are buried in snow all jumbled up with your skis, poles and gear. Or the time when I went on a zip line about 200 yards over a pond without any harness??? What, am I crazy or something? I actually did that. Or backpacking 10 days in Yosemite with about 100 people in my college days. We did about 10 miles a day, and then on the last day there was a 10 mile midnight run. I had hurt my knee so I got out of that. Whew. It was close. But I did do an all night solo on the trail with no food, sleeping bag, or company. I just had my trusty whistle. We were told to build a shelter and not to go to bed too early. Well, I built my bed with pine needles under a fallen tree, and thought I went to bed late. I think I was up by 3 or 4 because I had to wait quite a long time before someone came to get me. Each one of these times I was told to ‘not be afraid.’ I wonder why we tell people not to be afraid. I have told my children that. I have told myself that. Why?
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and very courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
God gave this command to Joshua just before he took some very big steps. When I read the Bible, I notice a common theme. God tells His people to “Fear not.” Whether it be Abram, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David, Joseph, Mary, Peter, Paul. I think God tells His people not to fear because He knows we are a fearful people. And, each one of these people is about to embark on something very huge. They are not jumping out of a plane, or even doing an extreme sport. They are about to do a mighty work with God. Which I think is better. Way better. When you do a mighty act for God there are lives changes, land conquered, victory in the camp. Amazing results. Not just personal bests, bucket lists or a dare. Rather, an opportunity to be involved in a work of God.
During the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas I read the accounts in the gospels about Christ’s birth. And guess what? God, through an angel, tells Zechariah, Mary and Joseph to not be afraid. Sometimes more than once. Why would He do that? I find this fascinating. Since I have been doing this type of study for years, I have looked at these passages a lot. And it has occurred to me that God wants us to trust Him. No matter what. He even gives us the faith that we need to do just that.
Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. An author is a creator of a work. Well, in this case, it is our faith. We don’t even have to conjure up the faith to trust. He gives it to us. So, when I read in the Bible an account where God tells someone not to fear, I look for what is about to happen. God has done some amazing things with some very timid people. And what is more, these people have risen to the challenge and they are not considered timid anymore. David slew Goliath. Moses led over a million people out of Egypt to the Promise Land. Joshua brought down the walls of Jericho with a shout. Gideon conquered the enemy with a tiny army and torches. Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. Mary got to carry the baby Jesus. Joseph got to raise Emmanuel. Peter started the church. Paul reached out to the Gentiles, and lo and behold, we have been grafted into the family of God.
I believe God wants us to be fearless. To simply trust Him. And I think He knows that it is hard for us. That is why there are so many promises in the Bible of His Presence with us. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Psalm 23:4 Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. Hebrews 13:5.
These are pretty strong words. And they have helped me quite a number of times. When I had to go the the ER right after I had my cholecystectomy because I thought my lung collapsed. I was fearful. But, I knew God was with me. Or all the tests they had me do to help with a diagnosis. During the MRI, I quoted memory verses. At the time I was working on memorizing the book of James. There really is not a whole lot that relates to fear in that book, rather it was the discipline of putting my mind on the things of God. And it was very comforting to me to be saying His Words out loud over the roar of the machine. Try it. It really helps. That’s why I think it is important to memorize Scripture. It is when we are alone and facing a crisis, decision, or something beyond ourselves, that we can say His Word out loud to dispel the darkness. Because fear, indecision, chaos all have their roots in the same spot? Our enemy, Satan. He wants us to be so rooted in fear that we are immobilized. Inactive. Stuck. He wants us to doubt God and His Presence with us. He wants us to question the very precious promises that are written in the Bible just for us. He wants us to rely on ourselves and forget God. But I say: “Fear not!” Believe in God. Believe in His Word and the truth that He is mighty, powerful and awesome. Believe that He is for us. And with us. And in us. After all, His Name is Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21. He saves us from our very own selves. Our fear. It can no longer have a hold on us. We have been set free.