God wants you and I fully engaged in kingdom work. And yet an element in our lives that can take us out, or simply even disable us from being engaged, is fear.
Some studies state nearly 15-20 percent of us experience a specific fear at least once in our lifetime. That research also shows in people over the age of 18, they have at least one extreme specific fear. For example, one report states nearly 25 million Americans have the fear of flying.
There are a variety of fears and within each aspect of fear there are varying degrees to that specific fear. Some fear speaking in public. Some fear intimacy. Some fear spiders or heights. Some of us can face those fears, to a degree, and some of are immobilized by our fears completely.
What are you afraid of...? Perhaps you’re afraid of the past, worried that something you did long ago will catch up to you. Maybe you’re afraid of the present and find yourself crippled by the fear of people, snakes, confined spaces, or whatever! Others of you might be fearful about the future and even death. So let me ask: what would you do if you weren’t afraid?
Fear keeps us from taking the steps we know we need to take. Fear can paralyze us. God desires to work in our lives so he can work throughout our lives to advance his kingdom initiative: the redemption of his beloved. And the greatest tool we have access to as disciples of Christ is God’s holy word. When fear flaunts itself in our face, we should run to God’s promises and saturate ourselves anew with these truths.
When anxiety, fear, worry or depression tries to take up residence in mind and heart, I have had to learn to first run to the father and refocus my heart on his wonderful promises of peace and provision sufficiency.
In Matthew 14, Jesus walks on water to the disciples who are in a boat out in a storm. They see this ghostly image and cry out in fear. In verse 17, Jesus responds to this immediately, by saying: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” It’s Jesus himself, the prince of peace, who gives us courage to face the fear. Our courage doesn’t come from inside of ourselves; it’s something we have access to because of Jesus’ presence in our lives. 1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” God is love. When we take seriously living out life of love, we abide in the father and God lives in and through us. We give this perfect love, the run of our lives, and it becomes at home and mature in us, so much so we have freedom over worry, doubt, fear, depression and anxiety because we’re centered on Christ.
When you wake up tomorrow, we will hear from the world all of its troubles. Meaning, the weight of tragedy and evil can come crashing into our lives at a moment. How could anyone not be afraid with this impending thought? Well, does Jesus have access to your life? Are you stuck in fear, or locked behind its doors? Do you want to be free and to truly worship and live in ways that don’t let fear abide in your soul, rent free, controlling your thoughts and actions?
Then we must purpose to do three things: Surrender the fear to Jesus. Ask others to hold you accountable and to assist you, even using resources like medical professionals and therapists. And, purposefully create a plan to replace that fear with God’s truth so you can rest in and abide in his promises and be filled with his courage to face the realities of this day.
Jesus didn’t say “take courage and don’t be afraid” because elements like fear, anxiety and depression aren’t real; He said it because we have access in this moment to Jesus who desires to be fully present in every moment. His everlasting peace is meant to be an abiding reality in our hearts — much like his joy, grace and mercy. Even though we will have to face evil and scary moments and wait for current circumstance to change, we don’t need to wait for his courage to abide in us and to be our sufficiency. Purpose then to let Christ rule in your hearts and be courageous, trusting in him and his provision.
Nick Emery is the senior pastor at Good Shepherd Wesleyan Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.