In the movie 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea there is a scene where one of the main characters finds himself on an island in the middle of the ocean. Suddenly he hears the faint sound of bongo drums in the distance and the sound becomes louder and closer. Out of the jungle a large group of cannibalistic natives appear, chasing this poor man across the beach. The hero escapes, but only by the skin of his teeth. That scene used to terrify me and an irrational fear of cannibals was instilled in me at a fragile age. In the 1830s when European explorers came to the Fiji islands they were horrified to discover the local practice of cannibalism. To me, the sake of exploration is not worth confronting that particular fear.
We all fear something! The one who claims to be fearless is afraid to admit or confront their fear. Fear isn’t wrong, it’s natural. We’re supposed to have a healthy fear of the Lord (Job 28:28). Facing our fears is a noble thing, but it really only matters in a spiritual sense.
A common phobia in our world today seems to be the fear of truth itself. Many Christians in the Lord’s church know family members and friends who have refused to listen to and act on the truth found in God’s Word. They’re afraid to give up the teachings taught to them by their families or the religious groups they grew up in. They’re afraid that the truth requires them to give up a sin they tightly hold on to and the sacrifice required to follow Christ.
The gospel of John is all about truth. In it we learn that Jesus is the only way to salvation and heaven; that’s the truth (John 14:6, 17:17). We must teach through our actions, daily lives, and yes, by inviting them to look at this great truth in Bible study. Though confronting that truth might make some fearful, we must show others that it has the power to free and cleanse us from the guilt of our sins.
When it comes to sports, there are certain ways of playing. There are rules to follow, specific plays to make, and mistakes to avoid if a team wants to succeed. This same idea applies to our Christianity. In Joshua 1:5-9, we read of certain aspects needed in order to live life God’s way. By following these things we will reap the benefits that are found inside of Christ.
Joshua says that God’s way is conditional. In Joshua 1:7, we read, “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.” God gave Israel conditions to His being their God: be strong and courageous, do all according to the law of Moses, and do not turn from the right or to the left.
Thinking about our personal relationship with God we can still apply these same commands to our spiritual lives today. For example, the blessings we are promised are received by being strong and courageous in the work place, doing all according to the law we are under (the new covenant), and not wavering in our faith. If we want to live our lives according to God’s will we must understand that our relationship to Him is conditional. Our relationship is based on our willingness to listen to His word.
We must also understand that God’s way is a command, not a suggestion (1:7-8). He is the creator. He has the authority to create the way, He has the authority to make what He says a command. If we want the blessings of following His way, we must practice the commands He has given each one of us.
Just as the Israelites were given certain commands, we also are commanded to follow certain laws. Love the Lord our God with ALL of our heart, soul, mind and strength. We are commanded to love God with every aspect of our lives (Matt. 22:36-40). When we think about our lives, every decision should be based on the will of God. We must recognize that God’s way of living is a command.
If we want to live our lives God’s way we must recognize that the blessings we are promised are conditional, and the things we read in scripture are a command. But we should find joy in knowing that God’s way is comforting. Joshua 1:9 reads, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
There is absolutely no reason for us to tremble when the Creator is on our side. There is never a reason to be dismayed when the defeater of sin is with us. We have a loving God with us wherever we go in life. God’s way of living is best, and if we will let Him control our everyday lives we can find comfort, hope, and joy in Him.
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:6-7). Peter has just told younger men to be subject to elders (1-5), and for each group to conduct themselves with humility toward each other. The motivation for this is to avoid God’s rejection. Peter quotes Proverbs 3:34 to reinforce the point.
Peter then urges everyone to humble themselves in their relationship with God. That’s the same word that describes what Jesus did by being obedient to the point of death on the cross (Phil. 2:8). It means to go lower, to surrender prestige or status (BDAG 990). This humbling concerns a specific aspect of all of our lives. Each of us has “anxiety” to cope with. By definition, an anxiety is “a feeling of apprehension or distress in view of possible danger or misfortune” (Louw-Nida 312).
Right now, there are no doubt things which make you apprehensive and distressed. You may be facing danger or misfortune. On some level and to some degree, that describes the pressure and reality for nearly all of us these days. As beings created with the freedom of choice, we can try to cope with that ourselves with our own coping tools. Maybe, in our pride, we boast in our own ability to handle it all. Not only is that a delusion and a self-deception, it is flirting with disaster. Why not choose a better way? Peter lays that out for us.
Let’s survey the facts here.
GOD IS ABLE–You are entrusting yourself in His mighty hand. He is in control and has the power to rule in every situation. This is the same hand He holds you in the hollow of (Isa. 40:12).
GOD IS AWARE–He has the exclusive benefit of perfect foreknowledge. He knows what is going on now and He can see what will happen. As He works through time and events, He is choosing the proper time to lift you as you have surrendered yourself to His power and His wisdom. He knows everything that is going on in your situation. In fact, He knows about it at a much more intimate level than even you do.
GOD IS AFFECTIONATE–What motivates Him to act? He cares for you! Peter is telling us to throw all our anxiousness on God, like the disciples threw their coats on the colt so that Jesus could sit on it (Luke 19:35). Take each burden, fear, and worry you are carrying right now, that is weighing you down, and toss it into His mighty hand (a hand you will examine and find very capable–read Isaiah 40:12 again). Peter says He feels anxious concern for us. Sure, He can handle it. But it’s more than that. He wants to handle it. Why? Because you mean that much to Him!
I read this promise and I admonish myself. Why am I trying to carry this all by myself when God is offering to do this for me? He tells me to get myself out of the way and let Him handle this. Faced with my limitations and His limitless resources, it is futile and foolish to face these distressing matters in any other way!
We have entered the vestibule of a new year. Upon reflection, one might realize how subjective the significance of this day is. Neil deGrasse Tyson likes to point this out annually. For example, in 2011, he tweeted: “January 1, 2011: Happy New Year to all –at this arbitrary spot in Earth’s orbit around the Sun.” (Tyson) Consider China. They may observe the Gregorian calendar to conduct global business, but they will not celebrate the new year until February 12, 2021. Why is there a discrepancy? The Chinese, like the Jews, have a lunar-based calendar. God may have created time as a construct in our material universe, but the only “clocks” He provided were the moon and the sun (Genesis 1.14-19), and it is easier to mark time by the moon since we watch it wax and wane. The sun may appear a little lower or higher in the sky, but it is always making its same east-west circuit.
Even so, we choose January 1 as a special day to begin making necessary or desirable changes to our lives. I would hope that in an age of “fear porn,” the child of God will choose calm. I apologize if the use of that four-letter word is offensive. However, “fear porn” is an expression that has entered our vernacular. Oxford defines this specific usage of the word “porn” as follows: “[in combination or with modifier] Television programs, magazines, books, etc. that are regarded as emphasizing the sensuous or sensational aspects of a nonsexual subject and stimulating a compulsive interest in their audience.” (“Porn”) Perhaps the definition provided by a user of the less-authoritative Urban Dictionary is more accessible. “Mainstream Media content that deliberately and enticingly plays on people’s fears about disaster, disease, and death.” (Animalfarm1984)
While addressing the Great Depression, Democrat Franklin Delano Rosevelt famously stated, “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Among others, Michael Reagan, speaking of his political opponents, has altered the maxim to be “the only thing we have to offer is fear itself.” (Reagan) I imagine there are those considering that indictment up to debate. However, it is not my point to assign blame to political parties or politicians. Many thrive on instilling fear regardless of political affiliation. As one writer for a pop-psychology magazine opined, fear is “the most powerful motivator of all.” (Wilson)
I set out to recall a time in my life in which no Chicken Little was trying to scare me about something. I fail to remember a season when all was well with the world. In nearly a half-century of life, alarmists told me of the perils I face from nuclear war, a new ice age, a hole in the ozone layer, acid rain, killer bees, the deforestation of the Amazon region, the policies of Ronald Reagan, Y2K, global-warming-no-wait-let’s-call-it-climate-change-to-cover-all-our-bases, the policies of Barrack Obama, Ebola, the very existence of Donald Trump, the Illuminati, Globalists, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, and, now, Joe Biden’s socialist regime. Phew. Sadly, I have occasionally given such Chicken Littles a greater hearing than the assurances found in God’s Word.
What was it that the inspired Apostle John said? “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4.4 NASB1995). Jesus created and now sustains creation (Colossians 1.16-17). It is He who will destroy it when the time comes (2 Peter 3.10). In the interim, as God promised Noah: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8.22 NASB1995).” It may be that we figuratively see the writing on the wall as Belshazzar indeed did in Daniel 5, but even so, God will be our Rock. Even if the mountains crumble and fall into the sea, He is still our refuge (Psalm 46). It is OK to face uncertainty with apprehension like Habakkuk did as he awaited the impending Babylonian invasion (Habakkuk 3.2,16). Yet, like Habakkuk (and the Apostle Paul), we must bravely move forward, recognizing our dependence upon Providence (Habakkuk 3.17-19; Philippians 4.11-13). Regardless of what 2021 may hold, if you seek God and His Kingdom first, God has your back (Matthew 6.33)!
Tyson, Neil deGrasse (neiltyson). “January 1, 2011: Happy New Year to all –at this arbitrary spot in Earth’s orbit around the Sun.” 1 January 2011, 2:55 p.m. Tweet.
“Porn: Definition of Porn by Oxford Dictionary on Lexico.com Also Meaning of Porn.” Lexico Dictionaries | English, Lexico Dictionaries,www.lexico.com/en/definition/porn.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I wrote an article about Hebrews 10.25. In that article, we discussed the difference between a temporary stay on public gatherings and forsaking the assemblies. These are not the same thing!
That was probably 8 months or so ago. Many still face an uncomfortable decision: risk exposure to sickness, possibly giving it to family or friends, or violate public health orders to assemble.
I’d like to consider a few points:
We are to obey government as long as it doesn’t violate God’s law (Romans 13). At some point, these recommendations violate God’s command for us to assemble.
Some have become accustomed to worshipping from home or in a very limited capacity. Some have even voiced a preference for virtual worship. Fellowship, unity, relationship, and presence are a huge part of what gets us through this life with a strong faith!
Many are strongly divided over the varied issues in this pandemic. Some have allowed this to create tension between members of the church. We must remember Romans 14 – if it isn’t a salvation issue, we shouldn’t make it into an issue (see also II Timothy 2.23, 24).
At some point, we need to set aside our fear or any other reason we may have and worship together again. The early church faced the very real threat of death because of their faith and sometimes met in secret because of it.
This is not an article intending to downplay the seriousness of the virus that has made 2020 such a nightmare. Many have lost loved ones because of it. But it is my hope that we will move past our fears and fellowship together again!
1 Peter 3.8ff is a passage with tons of application. What I’d like to do is simply break it down and apply as we go.
3.8 – Is addressed to every Christian, as opposed to the gender-specific commands of the previous section. Christians are told to have a unified mindset, understanding of the needs of others, affection for each other, compassion for each other, and a sober view of self.
3.9 – In the context of being ridiculed or outright persecuted for faith, we’re commanded not to stoop to a hostile person’s level. Instead, we are only to say good things to and about them. The word for “bless” here would be like us giving a glowing review of someone, even when they’re hostile to us. Why? Because God promised us a glowing review, even though our lifestyle was hostile to Him before we were faithful.
3.10-12 – If we want to have good days, we have to control our tongues, reject evil, and actively do beneficial things for others. If we do, God looks at us with approval. If not, He is against us.
3.13 – If we pursue doing good things with energy, no one can say anything against us. Who can assault the character of someone passionate about bringing good into others’ lives?
3.14 – But even if they do is a contrast not as plainly seen in English. This verse starts with a powerful contrastive (αλλα) that points to how we should act in the face of totally unwarranted hostility. Even if our pursuit of good gets us in trouble, we can still be happy! Even in this life we cannot lose. We cannot let fear dictate our behavior, and we cannot let anyone’s intimidation cause us to react with hostility.
3.15 – Instead, we should make the most special place in our heart God’s place. We don’t serve fear, we serve God. If someone shows hostility to us when we’re doing good, we have to be ready to give a rational explanation for our hope with an attitude that proves our supernatural allegiance. Our fear of God must be greater than our fear of man.
We do this because our goal is to bring others to God! It’s hard, but we can only do it when we remove self from the equation. People tend to attack what they do not understand. By using reason and by restraining our emotional response, we can help save their souls. We were all hostile to God at one point, but we now have mercy. Being controlled and rational while under “attack” is not a normal human response. Our response can mean the difference in someone’s eternal destination!
I wrote those words in the back of my Bible. It has helped me on several occasions to gather my wits and remember Who I serve.
In America one of the most common fears is the fear of death. I’m sure it must be true all over the world. Some are afraid of the unknown as humans don’t fully comprehend everything about the physical process of death.
While Solomon reminds us at the end of Ecclesiastes that we are to fear God, It never ceases to amaze me how an understanding of God eliminates so many of our earthly fears.
It seems that fear is really an infant quality of the new Christian. It should be. We fear God’s wrath, power, and potential punishment, but with spiritual growth comes the absence of fear.
While uncertainty shrouds the details of our future day by day, the Christian can take comfort in knowing our eternal home with God can be certain.
Timothy needed the reminder that the Lord has the ability to empower us when fear begins to creep in. Paul tells him, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but one of power and love and a sound mind” 2 Timothy 1:7.
I know that Timothy wasn’t the only one that needed to hear that. So many of us today, especially in these times, need to here those precious words of comfort. Whatever fears may be weighing you down today, may God’s Word give you the power, love, and sound mind that you need to face the day before you.
One night Chelsea and I were walking the dog before bed and came across an enormous armadillo. We were in a rural area and it was pitch black outside except for her flashlight. I had a rifle with me, so I took a shot at the armadillo. Instead of falling where it stood (as they had usually done), this one jumped a couple feet into the air and then ran off with surprising speed.
We thought that was the end of it, so she walked the opposite direction with the flashlight and the dog. In the pitch black, I heard the angry armadillo heading towards me full-steam.
Being rushed by an armadillo in the dark is terrifying, no two ways around that. The darkness accentuates our helplessness and makes defense a lot harder. I John 2.11 makes it very clear that if we hate our church family, we’re walking in darkness and don’t know where we’re going because the darkness has blinded us. If we’re in darkness, we have no fellowship with Jesus and we’re liars (1.6).
2020 has given our mortal sides quite a bit of strain. We’re so divided as a nation that a person’s political party alone is enough to preclude their value in the eyes of their opposition. The church has to be different.
Had the moon not come out just a little and the laser on my optic not worked, I would have been cut up pretty good by that armadillo. Light gave me the means to save my skin!
If we show love to our church family and are walking in the light, we have been given the ability to be saved. If we live and die in the light, we gain an eternity where there is no night or darkness in a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21 ). As November 3rd looms ominously over us, let’s remember that our eternal destination hangs – at least partially – on how we treat one another after this stressful election.
Do you remember what your childhood fears were? Maybe you never really grew out of those fears. I can remember a number of phobias I had as a child, one of which was not arachnophobia. In fact, my younger brother and I would collect spiders from the backyard and put them all in a container in our bedroom. At night we would put a flashlight behind our clear cage and watch all the spiders make their webs— occasionally fighting each other. I don’t believe our mom ever discovered this little secret. For some reason, as I grew older (more mature) I developed a fear of spiders despite having played with them often as a young kid. Fears can be funny like that. They can come from bad experiences or just somewhere in the back of our minds.
There’s a lot of fear in the world today! One of my favorite psalms in the Bible is Psalm 46. We read about what seems to be the worst case scenarios, but God still reigns over all. What if the earth gives way? What if the mountains are thrown into the sea? What if the wrong man becomes our new president? What if this virus never goes away? Even so, we have no reason to fear. God is bigger than our fears. Know we serve a Being with that much power should fill us with courage. What are you afraid of?
Owners of small dogs are familiar with how easily they can be made to bark. Small noises to us are great potential threats to them. A small ladder may be Mt. Everest to an ant, but is a way to reach the top of the pantry for us.
Our perspective drives our perception. A very large, very strong person likely does not feel threatened by anyone. A small, weak person may feel threatened by many.
Our problems in life seem massive. If we weigh them against the past, with its billions of lives and many cultures, our problems seem smaller. Compare them further to the infinite nature of God, and our problems are inconsequential.
James tells us that when we face difficulties in this life we must appeal to the One who has infinite wisdom and power, the God of the stars, the source of every good and perfect gift (1.5-8, 17). We ask Him for the ability to understand our trials. They refine us and make us mature and well-rounded. With that wisdom we can have perspective, seeing our massive trials as the small ladders they are.