home > Pastor’s Desk > 2022 > March 25th > NEVER BE AFRAID AGAIN

Never Be Afraid Again (header)

Fear can be crippling. Being afraid is often the result of not what is happening, but what we fear might happen. Such fears make each of us vulnerable to withdraw, give-up, hide, or excuse ourselves from ever trying something new. The result of this happening is that we each become less than who God has created us to be and in the process we deny the world the benefit of what God can do through us. In the Bible there are many stories of many heroes who learned the secret of overcoming their fears by trusting God and learning how to ‘fear’ Him despite their circumstances or fearful expectations. We read of how Kings led their vastly outnumbered army to defeat immensely more powerful and ruthless enemy armies by fearing the Lord. We read how previously unsure, uncertain, unable people became fearless, decisive, and confident and able to solve previously insurmountable problems by simply fearing the Lord. We read how the arrogant were humbled and transformed into gentle and caring souls when they experienced the fear of the Lord. Then, in the early chapters of the Book of Acts when becoming a Christian could cost you your life, we read of the numbers of Christians exploding across the Empire because they also no longer had a reason to be afraid because they had learned what it meant to fear the Lord.

¶ So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up.
And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
Acts 9:31

 

OUTNUMBERED, OUTGUNNED, OUTMANNED, YET NOT AFRAID!

¶ Jehoshaphat lived at Jerusalem. And he went out again among the people, from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim, and brought them back to the LORD, the God of their fathers. He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, “Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the LORD. He is with you in giving judgment. Now then, let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the LORD our God, or partiality or taking bribes.”
Second Chronicles 19:4-7

King Jehoshaphat led the nation of Judah into revival even though they faced enemy forces on nearly every part of the borders. The secret to his leadership success is revealed in the one thing he insisted from his leaders – that they learn to fear the Lord.

And he charged them: “Thus you shall do in the fear of the LORD, in faithfulness,
and with your whole heart”
Second Chronicles 19:9

The result of fearing the Lord was that his officials refused to take bribes, they refused to pervert the cause of justice, and they refused to be intimidated by enemies. When someone truly fears the Lord they trust God more than they are afraid of those who try to intimidate them. King Jehoshaphat took the commands of the Lord through Moses seriously –

¶ “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you,
but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him,
to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
Deuteronomy 10:12

Jehoshaphat believed the words of the prophet Samuel who said that if Israel’s kings would fear the Lord they would trust God and therefore be faithful to Him by implication then, God would protect them from their enemies (1Sam. 12:24). 

¶ And the fear of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that
were around Judah, and they made no war against Jehoshaphat.
Second Chronicles 17:10

 

UNSURE, UNCERTAIN, UNABLE, BECAME FEARLESS, DECISIVE, & CONFIDENT

Someone has wondered how Lazarus viewed problems and threats after Jesus had raised him from the dead. When Jesus appeared at the tomb of Lazarus four days after Lazarus had died and been buried, He wept (John 11:35). F.W. Boreham suggested that Christ wept not because of what had happened to Lazarus, but because of what He was about to do to Lazarus in bringing him back from the dead.

¶ Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odour, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard Me. I knew that you always hear Me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that You sent Me.” When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
John 11:38-44

Bizarrely, after Lazarus had been raised from the dead, the Jewish religious leaders sought to put him to death (John 12:10). I can imagine that if Lazarus had discovered this plot to put him to death, he would have been somewhat bemused. Did these religious leaders really think that mere death threats could make Lazarus fearful? Perhaps through his pre-mortem illness (Jn. 11:1), which his sisters were hoping that Christ would come and heal him of (Jn. 11:3), the ailing Lazarus had become unsure, uncertain, and fearful. But after experiencing healing when his pain-ridden body was vacated for a pre-resurrected pain-free immaterial body, and he was ushered into glorious comfort that awaits the righteous, he could never be fearful of death or the trials of this life ever again! Lazarus’s fear of the Lord before he was raised from the dead would have been profoundly boosted after his death as a result of his experience in paradise where there was no sorrow or pain. After his being raised from the dead by Jesus, no more would the thought of dying ever cause him to be afraid. Lazarus had now discovered that the fear of the Lord was the fountain of true life (Prov. 14:27).   

 

ONCE AFRAID, ARROGANT, AND THEN HUMBLE & GENTLE

Discovering the magnificence of the fear of the Lord is a very humbling transformation. Saul of Tarsus was an arrogant, fearful, man. He was fearful that the growing number of Christ-followers would undermine his world and everything he believed in. As with most violent men, he too was afraid and responded to what he was afraid of with murderous violence (Acts 9:1). Then he experienced the fear of the Lord (Acts 9:5) and his newfound fear meant that he was no longer afraid (Acts 9:18, 20). From that moment, Saul became Paul and he lived with a constant awareness that Christ was not just with him he was always watching over him (Matt. 28:20). Living in the fear of the Lord transformed Paul from an angry, afraid, man into a gentle, humble, man (1Thess. 2:7). And this is what the fear of the Lord does to a person.

The ultimate example of what living in the fear of the Lord was declared in 750BC by the prophet Isaiah to be the coming messiah.

And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD
And His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what His eyes see,
or decide disputes by what His ears hear,.
Isaiah 11:2

No one exemplified living in the fear of the Lord more than Jesus did. According Isaiah 11:3, Jesus delighted in the fear of the Lord. That is, Jesus delighted in the knowledge that everything He did was watched by His Father. Jesus described the fear of the Lord in terms that would bring comfort to every person who turns to Him in faith and obedience – but in terrifying terms for those who refuse to accept the love of God (Matt. 12:36-37).

 

NO LONGER AFRAID

Little wonder then, that when people encountered the Christ they experienced the fear of the Lord. Thus, in the early chapters of the Book of Acts, the apostolic preaching of the gospel resulted in new believers walking in the fear of the Lord –

¶ So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up.
And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
Acts 9:31

Three things resulted from these members of the early church learning to walk in the fear of the Lord. Firstly, they experience the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Secondly the Church (and churches) grew exponentially. Thirdly, they were no longer afraid of death. Athanasius, writing about A.D. 280 described this change in attitude about death by the early believers as “the disciples of Christ [now] despise death”. By despise Athanasius was saying that the early Christians were no longer afraid of death.

All the disciples of Christ despise death; they take the offensive against it and, instead of fearing it, by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ trample on it as on something dead. Before the divine sojourn of the Saviour, even the holiest of men were afraid of death, and mourned the dead as those who perish. But now that the Saviour has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing, and prefer to die rather than to deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they die they do not perish, but live indeed, and become incorruptible through the resurrection.
On The Incarnation, Athanasius, A.D. 280, Chapter V, The Resurrection (27)

 

ONCE YOU DELIGHT IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD,
YOU NEED NEVER BE AFRAID AGAIN!

When the early Church walked in the fear of the Lord, their lives reflected a sincerity of authentic trust in the Lord. The fear of the Lord brought a fear to sin or compromise and it also led to these early believers no longer being afraid of death despite the threats that came from the Jewish leaders, then from Rome. This is why I am bewildered by the spate of high profile Christian celebrity preachers who have been exposed for compromised lifestyles which has brought great disgrace to the cause of Christ. It is my pastoral hope that we will learn—and delight in—the fear of the Lord so that we be quick to repent when we fall, eager to seek God’s will in our lives, and strive to make Christ known by how we live and by our preparedness to confidently share the gospel. And we can do this because through Christ we never have to be afraid again!

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

1 Comment

  1. LYDIA

    Thank you Andrew. Many thoughts came to mind to the point where I had already highlighted some words ready to paste. Then I came to the last paragraph, the punch line. If every person on God’s green earth were to look up to their Creator, the One who set the Universe in place in perfection, the One who in His delight created a planet, the Earth, to be enjoyed and cared for which at the moment is being bombarded and ruined and has been in the many years gone past as well, what a feast it would be if ALL acknowledged the He is the Ruler and none other, the One to be feared above all others. I wonder how many leaders of this world at present fear the Lord? Yet I do know of one, our own Queen Elizabeth 11. She has kept the faith and still running the race and soon she will be called Home in His time.

    I love this line: “Did these religious leaders really think that mere death threats could make Lazarus fearful?” It is truly laughable really, that for Lazarus to have been raised, knowing that life eternal is just ‘around the corner’, that the religious leaders of that day where ready to kill him, to die again, so that he could be stopped from spreading the news! No, nothing stops the Lord!

    Fear itself is between the ears. With our eyes closed we can very deliberately think of something fearful and then very deliberately think of something very beautiful and peaceful. Being able to do this, we can most decidedly scale a mountain with God on our side. Fear of others or what they can do to us can be thrown out the window, because God is our Protector and none other!

    As you said Andrew, fear can be crippling and it is. You wrote: “In the Bible there are many stories of many heroes who learned the secret of overcoming their fears by trusting God and learning how to ‘fear’ Him despite their circumstances or fearful expectations.”

    I really appreciated you walking thru all this.

    Reply

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5 INDISPENSABLE GUIDELINES FOR NEW PARENTS

This is not for everyone. If you are already a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my other more abstract Pastor’s Desk articles. If you are not a parent and have no intention of ever being a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my more weighty articles on FindingTruthMatters.org. If you are not yet a parent and one day hope to become a parent, this is for you. Find a quiet place, take the next six minutes thirteen seconds and use the reading of this article as an investment into your future parenting strategies. I did not invent these guidelines. Like many parents who have also discovered the value of these guidelines, once discovered, they seem obvious. These successful parents probably grew up with own parents who inculcated these guidelines almost intuitively. However, my suspicion is that this is becoming increasingly rarer. As with all true guidelines they are adaptable, flexible, and are not a guarantee of parental success — but if ignored they become the point in the mathematical problem solving where you can see you made an error in your working out. In other words, while these guidelines may not guarantee success, if ignored their neglect almost certainly leads to frustration and disappointment. Here are five indispensable guidelines for every prospective new parent.

WHAT WOULD IT TAKE FOR ATHEIST & MAGICIAN PENN JILLETTE TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN?

I’ve been praying for Penn Jillette for some time now. It began when I first heard him ridicule the Bible and Christianity. My fascination with Penn (and Teller), and other world-class magicians, has been due to my pursuit to develop my craft of preaching. There are a lot of similarities between preachers and magicians (just as there is also a lot similarities between solo musicians and preachers). I seek to learn from magicians about how to keep an audience’s attention, how to tell a story, and how to make a point by employing the element of surprise. But there are some significant differences between what magicians do and what preachers do though. A magician is deliberately deceptive. A preacher is striving to uphold truth in an honest way.

THINK ABOUT THIS

In Australia, it’s football finals time and the U.S. the last Grand Slam event for the year has just concluded. I find a lot of life lessons from observing elite athletes — including and especially those who play football and those who play tennis. Most people might consider football to be a team sport and tennis to be individual sport. But the distinction is not so clear these days. Often times footballers are individually coached by “position coaches” and a tennis player is often just who the public sees of a team of people responsible for the performance of that player. At the time of writing, there are remaining four Australian Rules Football (AFL) teams about to play off in the Preliminary Finals (including my beloved Geelong Cats). Last weekend, Carlos Alcaraz of Spain defeated Casper Ruud of Norway. Both players have intriguing stories which I will mention shortly. In the AFL, after a disastrous last season, the Collingwood Magpies appointed a new coach for this season, Craig McRae. Even though they got off to a slow start this season, under McRae’s oversight ended up having an 11-straight winning streak toward the end of the season and now look like genuine  Premiership contenders. What do Carlos Alcaraz, Casper Ruud, Craig McRae, and the Collingwood football team, all have in common? All the players at the elite level of their sport make an enormous commitment to train, practice, sleep, hydrate, and eat a regulated diet. Yet at the very highest levels in their respective sporting codes the difference between the elite and the extra-elite is no longer skill or fitness. In fact, the difference between them is so applicable to everyday life that it may be the most relevant and do-able thing you hear for a long time. So, think about this.

LOOKING BACK OVER THE PAST 200 YEARS

As Kim and I enjoyed our weekly coffee-date this morning at Stillwater, she looked out ruminatively across at all of the development that has taken place over the years where the North and South Esks merge to form the Tamar River.

“I wonder if the settlers who came here two hundred years ago” she asked, “could have imagined the silos would have been built over there and then turned into a luxury hotel, or that two bridges would have been built here, or that their tiny village would grow into a large city?”

“What’s more interesting” I responded, “is if anyone today can envision what it will all look like in another two hundred years!”

And my response then got me thinking. Could it be possible to imagine what Launceston will end up looking like in two hundred years—and, what about our church? What will our church will look like in two hundred years?

relevance-intact-the-place-of-the-church-in-tasmania

Tasmanian churches play a vital role in our state as a moral compass and social leader. Our moral compass was given to us 2,000 years ago by Christ  who then commissioned the Church to preach, teach, and care in His Name. The Church’s role as a social leader was instigated by Jesus who embraced the shunned, condemned oppressors of the vulnerable, and upheld the sacredness of every human life and taught His followers to do likewise. Two thousand years later, Tasmanian churches gather weekly and continue proclaim the good news that Jesus taught, care for the poor and homeless, feed the hungry, welcome refugees, and provide thousands of young Tasmanians with an education. This is why the former Examiner deputy editor recently described the Tasmanian Church as “the most fundamental pillar in society” but then described it as being led by “a pious clique of fancy robed hypocrites, with less and less relevance each year to the wider community” (28/8/2022). The basis for his sharp criticism is grounded in his assessment that the Tasmanian Church has not recalibrated its moral compass to align itself with culture’s progressive values. Here’s why I disagree with the esteemed former deputy editor.

THE GOOD SAMARITAN AND THE INN-KEEPER

WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR? The Jewish leaders had a very strict understanding of who God accepted and who God rejected. Obviously, they taught, God had accepted the Jews as His favourite – particularly Jewish men. Jewish women were sort of accepted, but only as second-class members of God’s people. This obviously also meant that unless a gentile (a non-Jew) converted to Judaism they could not be accepted by God. Therefore, God rejected all gentiles — and He especially rejected Roman gentiles — but He reserved His ultimate rejection for Samaritans! Jesus then tells the Temple-lawyer the story of the Good Samaritan.

THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.