I recently read a magazine article in which a number of religious leaders stated in seven words or less what they believed was the most important message of the gospel, along with a brief explanation of why they chose those words. In response to that article one letter writer submitted his suggestion. He said it in two words – “Fear not”. He then explained “…so much of our (American) culture is driven by fear …The gospel says, ‘Do not be afraid’ “. I have to agree with this man that we are experiencing a lot of fear in the USA and the world in these times and that “do not fear” is one of the very basic messages of the Bible. However, as I see it, human beings have always had something to be afraid of. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my share of personal and collective fears during my lifetime. Here are a few examples:
In the early 1950s, when I was in grammar school, Americans were especially afraid of communism and nuclear war. Some of our government leaders had convinced us that communist spies had heavily infiltrated every aspect of American life. In school we were used to having fire drills now and then. But now we also had to go through a new kind of drill. It became known as the “duck and cover” drill. The purpose was to enable us to survive a Russian nuclear attack in our area. It was called “duck and cover” because when we heard the air raid sirens or bells, we were supposed to “duck” under our desks and “cover” our heads. I don’t know if the authorities realized it back then, but we were being taught to be afraid. But that only lasted a few years, until someone got sense enough to admit that if there was a nuclear attack in our area, the reality was that no one would survive. Which created even more fear. Eventually we realized that while as a nation we needed to be concerned about the evils of communism and the threat of nuclear attack, we did not have to live our lives in fear. There was at least a glimmer of hope that some day the Soviet Union, and the constant fear of nuclear destruction, would be no more. About 35 years later that hope was fulfilled. But of course now we have new fears, such as terrorism.
About 30 years later I personally found myself in a situation that many Americans have been facing for the last few years. I found myself unemployed. At first I was totally confident that I would find another job with an even higher status and salary. But as the next year went by, I began to realize that wasn’t going to happen. I began to experience almost constant fear. I feared that I would never again have a job. That my family would have to totally rely on my wife’s salary. That we might even become homeless. There seemed to be no hope for me. There seemed to be no point in living. I felt like the man singing the song “Old Man River” in “Showboat”. The part which goes “…I’m tired of living, but feared of dying.” I was afraid of both life and death. But I did not give up on God. I eventually stopped trying to solve my problem on my own, and instead literally asked God to tell me what to do. God soon answered. God told me to take any job, no matter how low the status and pay, as long as it wasn’t immoral or illegal. And that’s what I did. I got a minimum wage job, trusting that God would give me the grace to move onward and upward from there, to what God wanted me to be doing with my life. And it all happened, in God’s time and God’s way. During all that time I was also I was also hearing God say “Do not fear”. From that point on, for the past 28 years, I have lived almost totally without fear. Yes, every now and then, I experience some feeling or incident that results in a certain amount of fear. But I know that’s just the devil trying to turn me away from God. And so I lterally tell the devil “go to hell”. And off he goes. I have come to realize that even when I can’t sense God’s presence with me, God is always there. always has been and always will.
At the present time there are two concerns which I sense are causing a lot of fear in the lives of Americans. These are terrorism and the economy. They are the concern of our nation, and other nations, but ultimately they are the concerns of individuals for themselves and those close to them. It all comes down to people being afraid about something terrible that might happen to them.
Think about it. Acts of terorism can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. They can happen in a place so small that it would never cross anyones mind that an act of terrorism would happen there. But it did happen, in a one room school house in a tiny Amish community called, Nickel Mines, PA. Acts of terrorism can also happen in places that are so great and powerful that it could not possibly happen. But it did happen, to the tallest buildings in the world, in what some of us consider to be the greatest city in the world – New York City. Think about it – all the security in the world cannot guarantee that this will never happen again. That’s bad news. It sounds hopeless. But the reality is that in the whole scheme of things, very few acts of terrorism actually take place. That’s good news. That’s reason to have hope that some day there will be no such thing as terrorrism.
Think about it. The economy is such that it isn’t all that easy to understand how it really works, or how to fix it. All that most of us(the so-called 99%) really know is that it has meant loss of jobs and therefore loss of income, and loss of homes. And despite all the campaign speeches and debates by the presidential candidates and their supporters about how they are going to fix everything over the next four years, the reality is that none of them has the power to fix things. For the most part, what I hear is that they are intentionally trying to fill the voters with the fear that, if we don’t vote for whoever is doing the talking at the moment, our nation is doomed. That’s bad news. It sounds hopeless. The reality is that despite the meanness and evils of politics, and despite the terrible situations the USA has been facing, the reality is that God has assured that the nation has not only survived, but has always overcome its problems, and has risen above all that was wrong. That’s good news. And that’s good reason to hope for better days and better things. In God’s time and in God’s ways.
About 2,000 years ago the followers of Jesus saw Him executed by the most powerful empire the world had known until that time. The immediate result was fear on their part. Fear that they would be arrested and executed, as was their leader. That eventually did happen to some of them. But the long term result was that Jesus who died, once again lived – and He promised to live within them through the Holy Spirit. Who would tell them what to do. And one of the things they were told to do was “do not fear” .
Based on my personal experience, and my study of the Bible and history, I have concluded that despite all the bad news, fear, and hoplessness that exists in so many people in the world in these times, there will always be good news, assurance, and hope for a better life and a better world. Yes, I believe that no matter what, the time will come, in God’s time and God’s way, that God’s kingdom of peace, love, joy, and hope will come on eath as it is in heaven. And whether that happens when you are on this earth or in heaven, God invites us all to have faith in Jesus and live that new life eternally -starting now.
God’s message “Do not fear” can be found in the Bible hundreds of times, but I will close now with just a few examples:
Joshua 1:9 – “Be strong and couragous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Psalm 23:4 – “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you (God) are with me…”
Revelation 21:4 “(God) will wipe away every tear from their eyes; death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more…”
John 14:27b – Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
From the hymn “Because He Lives” – “…because He lives…all fear is gone”
The Bible teaches that fear is overcome with faith, hope, and love. My personal experience, what I have heard from others, my study of the Bible and history, and my faith , tell me this is the truth. My prayer for you is that whatever fears you might face now or in the future, you will always let God overcome them and give you hope. My prayer for you is the same as Paul’s prayer in Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray