FEARS — COMMON BUT UNNECESSARY

Fear.  We all have things that we are afraid of, and many of them are legitimate. Chapman University has begun an annual study of American fears, and the results from the second annual survey that have recently been released.  The random survey questions cover 88 fears in various categories, such as crime, economic, environment, government, illness, claustrophobia, public speaking, and even questions about clowns.  

They found that in 2016 Americans were most afraid of “Corrupt Government” by a whopping 60.6%  The next closest fear was of a “Terrorist Attack” which bore a percentage of 41% with “Not having enough money for the future” coming in as number 3 with a percentage of 39.9%.  

Clearly, our world is full of fearful things, and this has been true throughout all of history. There have always been tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, severe ice storms, etc. Then, too, some of the things that mankind is capable of today were not dreamed of 1000 years ago, or even just 100 years ago, but even then there were fearful things.  Consider the 1st Century Christians and the persecution under Nero or the harm done to Christians in the Middle Ages, or even more recently, to the persecution of Christians in many countries of our world today.  These are fearful times.

But, sometimes, looking back on our fears, we laugh at how we could have been frightened at all.  For example, we watch the original television Star Trek series now, 50 years after its original airing in 1966, and we wonder how we could have been frightened by the special effects in that program!  They are now so “cheesy” to us, but then I well remember being glued to my chair in fear that Captain Kirk was going to be vaporized! 

My Grandmother was beyond fearful and well into terrorized when she lost track of me while she was babysitting when my parents were at some appointment away from the house.  She was from a small town in Wisconsin and we lived in the big city of Chicago. 

chicago-downtown-from-prudential-building-circa-1960

Downtown Chicago. This picture was taken from the top of the Prudential Building, “Top of the Rock”, in the early 1960s.

 

She was uncomfortable in such a large city and she just “knew” that there were evils hidden around every corner.  One problem she had was that she remembered that the infamous gangster Al Capone lived in Chicago, and when my parents returned home, they found her in the middle of the street, screaming my name, crying that Al Capone had kidnapped me.  (Actually, he had been dead for about 4 years at this point, but that was irrelevant to Grandma.)  I had simply walked away from the house with my puppy and had gone to a house around the corner to show my friend’s Grandmother my puppy.  She invited me in for cookies and I was watching the Howdy Doody Show on TV unaware that Grandma was in the street screaming.

Fears can cripple us from rational thinking.  They are disabling and they damage our lives in ways that are too numerable to count.  Fears of flying, fears of spiders, fears of going outside, fears of being in large crowds, fears of high places, fears of being in small spaces.  The number of fears is too great to count because they are the fabrication of our own minds and each of us are unique.

Certainly there are fears that are normal.  If we are in the woods and are bitten by a poisonous snake, we need to take immediate action to remedy the problem.  But the fear of potentially being bitten by poisonous snakes should not stop us from enjoying God’s creation in nature, and even in the woods.

Scripture has quite a bit to say about fear.  In Isaiah 35:3-4 we read:

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.  Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of   God. He will come and save you.”

In Joshua 1:9, God is directing Joshua in how he is to lead the people after Moses’ death.  God says:

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.”

This peace and lack of fear is available for the believer in Jesus Christ and in our God, as is seen by David’s psalm:

Even though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

I suggest that the ultimate antidote to fear is found in Romans 8:28, 38-39:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. … For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Read that again – NOTHING will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

God is omnipotent and omniscient … He is all powerful and all knowing.  Therefore, He not only knows what is going to happen to us, He has it in His control.  His purposes will be fulfilled even if they are difficult for us to understand and to live through.  We have to have faith that our Heavenly Father will not put more on us than we can handle (although at times in my life I have thought that perhaps He had more confidence in me than I had).  During the rough times in my life, I have rested on Paul’s comment about his own “thorn in the flesh”:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9.

Fears – yes, we all have them.  But thanks be to God they don’t have to be disabling.  No, we are more than conquerors through Christ who saved us.  When we are weak, then God is strong through us.  When we are afraid, He will give us courage.  God has promised that His grace is sufficient for us, no matter what the trial might be. 

Listen to the song “Perfect Peace” as sung on the album Scripture Memory Songs – Overcoming Anxiety.  The words are taken from Scripture and provide balm for troubled hearts. 

And the peace of God which passeth all understanding  shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7 [KJV]

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. 

Isaiah 26:3 [KJV]

Father, I pray that these words from your Word will provide comfort and blessing to those who read them and that Your perfect peace will rest and abide on us even during tumultuous times because we have confidence that You are in control. 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 8 – JOY, Part Two

JOY – EFFERVESCENCE EVEN IN CHAOS

PART TWO

In the last post we began thinking about Biblical Joy.  In so doing, we noted that Joy is the first fruit, not gift, of the Spirit.  This means that Joy is not bestowed on one person as a gift but someone else does not have that gift so they don’t have Joy.  Rather, the Christian has Joy in her heart because she has the Holy Spirit in her heart — it is there, whether or not she feels it at this moment!

 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23.

 

What does Scripture say?

 

In the New Testament church, we can see evidence of the Joy in the Lord by the rapid expansion of the church.  [After all, who wants to join a bunch of sourpusses?]

 

These Christians had something that no one else had to offer … not just eternal life after death, but a way of living that gave them Joy even in the dreary, persecution filled existence that the people experienced in their day-to-day lives.

 

Picture Paul and Silas – they are in prison after freeing a slave girl from a demonic spirit.  In Acts 16 we have the full story.  The relevant part for this discussion comes after they have been severely beaten, put into the inner cell, and fastened by their feet in the stocks.

 

I don’t know about you, but I would be particularly happy in this situation.   But, listen to what Scripture says Paul and Silas were doing:

 

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was such a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken.  And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.  When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”

Acts 16:25-28.

 

The jailer brought them out of jail and that very night, the jailer and his whole family believed on the Lord Jesus and received eternal life.  Paul and Silas understood that their physical comfort was irrelevant — if they could win one person, whether prisoner or jailer, to Jesus, the pain of prison was worth it.  The joy they had was from a supernatural source – it certainly was not just positive thinking!

 

In 1 Peter 1:3-9, Peter tells the people that they can rejoice in salvation through Jesus Christ even though they are suffering now, knowing that their suffering is proving their faith which is more precious than gold and it would all be to the praise and glory of Christ.

 

Both secular and Biblical History tell us that the 1st century was no picnic for Christian believers.

 

Charles Spurgeon, a minister of the 19th century (1834 – 1892) became the pastor of the Park Street Church in London, England and, in 1855, began to publish his sermons weekly.  Today, they make up 57 volumes of The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit.  In a sermon on the fruit of the Spirit – joy, [contained in volume 27,] Spurgeon references the 1st century Christians and their experiences in the catacombs.

 

Turn now to the poor, hunted Christians and read the inscriptions left by them in the catacombs.  They are so calm and peaceful that you say instinctively – a joyous people were wont [inclined] to gather here.  Those who have been most eminent [prominent] in service and in suffering for Christ’s sake have been of a triumphant spirit, dauntless because supported by an inner joy.  Their calm courage made them the wonder of the age.

 

Spurgeon continues –

 

I do not know how much Tiberias and Nero used to sing – happy men they certainly were not.  I can hardly imagine them singing, except at their drunken orgies, and then in the same tone as tigers growl.  But, I do know that Paul and Silas sang praises unto God with their feet in the stocks and the prisoners heard them.  I also know that this was the mark of the Christians of the first age, that when they assembled on the Lord’s day it was not to groan but to sing praises to the name of one Christos, whom they worshiped as a God.

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

How did those 1st century Christians have such joy even in horrific circumstances?  Jesus answered this question when He said:

 

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33.

 

The Christian’s Joy is not superficial or fake.  It is not a plastic smile.  This mandate is not superficial cheerfulness or irrational escapism but our joy is grounded in the cosmic reality that our Savior has overcome the world, sin and death.  His victory means that we too have overcome the world – not because of anything that we have done but because He is covering us with His blood stained arms.

 

Listen to the text of John 16:33 as found in the song entitled “I Have Overcome the World,” sung on Integrity Music’s Scripture Memory Songs album “Overcoming Guilt.

 

So, where do you find your Joy?

 

Look to Jesus Christ.  Only through His work alone can you received His Joy through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.