October 4, 2012

Do not fear, only believe

The word ‘fear’ appears more than 300 times in the New Testament. Some of those instances are commands to fear God. Many of them are telling me not to be afraid of anything else.
In one passage, Jesus was speaking to the crowds when the ruler of the synagogue came to Him asking that He heal his sick daughter. However,
While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. (Mark 5:35–42)
Jesus’ words remind me of that silly song, “Don’t worry, be happy” as if just saying it will erase all worries. I can only imagine the fear in this father’s heart when his servants said his little girl was beyond hope, but I cannot imagine what went through his mind when Jesus offers what sounds like a pat answer, a cliché: “Do not fear, only believe” as if the man could turn off his emotions and turn on some faith.

Yet this isn’t the only time Jesus says this to fearful people. When three of His disciples were on the mountain with Jesus and heard a voice from heaven, “they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and have no fear’” (Matthew 17:6–7). Again, can anyone simply get up and turn off their fear?

The same thing happened when the disciples were in a boat during a storm and saw Jesus coming toward them walking on the water. They were terrified, but “immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid’” (Matthew 14:27).

How can a fearful person just turn it off? In my experience, the only people who can do that are those who hear this ‘do not fear’ from someone they totally trust. I’m thinking a small child with its mother. The child is anxious about something but at the reassuring words of a mother who has never lied to him, he becomes calm.
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:2–4)
Being like a child is only an example. To turn off fear, I also need the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart and mind, but that is also possible, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). 

Jesus made fearlessness possible. He offers me Himself and His peace to replace fear --- and the privilege of prayer to talk to Him and to access this amazing peace. I do not have to be overcome by anxiety and worry.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5–7)
Today may bring fearful situations, but I do not need to fear. I have challenges looming on the horizon, but I do not need to fear them either. I could make a long list of fearful things as our world is in a mess, but I do not have to be afraid. The One that I totally trust told me so.

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