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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JESUS ATE with SINNERS!

This confrontation of the All-Good meeting face-to-face with Serpent-breath in the wilderness didn’t go the way the Dragon had become accustomed to. Even more baffling to him was what the Eternal Son did next. Rather than going to the supposed ‘rulers of this world’ He went to the despised and inconsequential: the people of His hometown, Nazareth and those in the socio-economically challenged region of Galilee. 

¶ And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and He stood up to read…When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.
¶ Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him, and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that He was the Christ.
Luke 4:16, 28-29, 40-41

Even more baffling to the Satan was that instead whipping up the mobs and leading a rebellion, the Christ went to the shunned, the despised, the broken, the humiliated, as their dinner Guest! It seemed like an odd strategy, especially to those who had been longing for so long for the arrival of the Promised One…

CHRISTIANITY IS A PROPOSAL NOT AN IMPOSAL

I do not want to give anyone the impression that Christian is just a set of intellectually propositions. It is much more but it is certainly not less. One of the propositions that we Christians make is that Christianity is a spiritual transformation of a soul. While its propositions are true, they are not just true, they invoke a miraculous transformation in a human being. Jesus described this as being “born again” (John 3:3). The New Testament describes the moment this happens as being a transaction with God where we surrender our life and our sin to Him and He gives us His life and His pardon (1Jn. 1:8-9)! This transaction includes a hope that goes beyond the grave. God the Father adopts all those who turn to Him. It results a new way of seeing life and the world. The things that once troubled us no longer do, because we have a growing confidence that God has a plan and is currently outworking that plan. If you have never surrendered your life in a transaction with God, you can now. You are just one prayer away from peace with God and purpose for your life – both now and beyond the grave! The choice is yours. We can’t impose this offer from God on you, but I do have a proposition for you.

DIVINELY PRECIOUS TRIPLETS

Some of the profound truths in the Bible are expressed in just three words. The late J.I. Packer, one of the world’s most respected modern theologians, was asked to sum up the gospel message. He did so in just three words: “God saves sinners.” Many of the most eloquent prayers ever uttered have consisted of no more than three words: “Help me Lord”, “Thank You God”, “God save me”, “Please heal her.” One of the greatest royal invitations only consisted of three words: “Come unto Me.” Three words is all it takes to start an exciting journey: “Come and see.” Many of these three words statements, prayers, and invitations, have become divinely precious triplets that have rescued a lost soul, repaired a broken relationship, and replenished the worn-out.  

ETERNAL LIFE IS NOT JUST MERELY A MATTER OF TIME

The beauty of John 3:16 is that it is so simple it can be understood even by a child; and yet, as a believer’s knowledge of God and His Word grows, he or she will come to discover that there is a wealth of spiritually-satisfying treasure to be mined! In its simplest form, Jesus died so that all those who turn to Him in trust will go to heaven after leaving this life. Dig a little deeper though, and you also discover that the eternal life on offer is not merely about a location (‘heaven’) or a duration of time—but a quality of life and status of existence that elevates the believer into a glorified state with God Himself (Rom. 8:17; 1John 3:2). Our lives are now the training ground for our status as co-regents and co-rulers with Christ over all of His redeemed creation (1Cor. 6:2-3)! 

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU FOUND A NEWBORN BABY AT YOUR DOORSTEP?

What would you do if you found a newborn baby that someone had left at your door? Hopefully your answer sounds similar to “I’d take care him or her.” What if it wasn’t a baby? What if it was a young child or a teenager, or an adult, who turned up at your door requesting to be helped? I hope that each of us would also be prepared to help whoever it was. What if it was not an abandoned child, a youth, or an adult? And what if it was not your front door? Instead, how might we each respond if it was a spiritually abandoned, and spiritually hungry, person who turned up at our church seeking help to know how to be saved? While you might feel a similar compassion as you might have felt for the child at your door, you may not be as confident in how you would spiritually help this person seeking a spiritual connection for God through Jesus Christ. “Where would I begin?” “How could I be an effective discipler of a new believer?” you might ask. Well, I’m glad you’ve asked. For any Christian to effectively disciple a new believer it must involve an individual, a small group, and a congregation.

A DECREASING VISION

There is one sin that is worse than all others. It is the worst because it is insidious and imperceptibly deceptive. It is always at the root of all other sins. It was the original sin. In C.S. Lewis’s classic book, Mere Christianity, it warranted an entire chapter (“The Great Sin”) and Lewis claims that it is the greatest threat to any person – including the Christian – and their standing before God. Thus, to be truly spiritual, Spirit-led, Spirit-empowered, and spiritual, demands that the man or woman of God be on guard against what Lewis called “spiritual cancer” — pride. To have any chance of guarding against the spread of this deadly spiritual and character blighting ‘cancer’ requires that we adopt a decreasing vision of ‘greatness’.

THE WIND BLOWS WHERE IT WISHES – SO IT IS WITH THE SPIRIT

This week I have heard of yet more stories of people who had no knowledge of Christianity as they grew up, yet had an almost sudden conversion to Christ. This has included the stories of several Muslims (now ‘former Muslims’) who knew nothing to very little about Christianity, and had always been taught that Islam was the one true religion, who then heard a Christian explain the gospel and were then supernaturally converted to follow Christ. (Several of these Islamic converts to Christ also had supernatural dreams where they claimed that Jesus appeared to them!) I also heard of an atheist scientist who been taught that science could explain away the need for believing in a God, who then heard the gospel and was resoundingly converted to Christ. The other story I heard was closer to home and involved a young lady who had grown up in an atheist home where her parents were actually hostile to religion and forbad her from anything to do with Christianity. Years later, she ventured into a church one Sunday morning, heard the gospel, and was converted to Christ. Each of these stories confirm what Jesus taught about the work of the Holy Spirit and His mysterious and surprising dealings with people to undergird the church’s preaching of the gospel.

I WAS IN THE SPIRIT ON THE LORD’S DAY

A year earlier all hell had broken loose when the tyrant emperor Caesar Nero had outlawed Christianity; and now, the last surviving apostle of Christ had been banished to Patmos Island. All looked bleak. The youngest of Christ’s apostles, John was just a teenager when he witnessed the brutal and protracted execution of Jesus. John, now in his fifties, had many reasons to feel disappointed and even disillusioned with God. His apostolic colleagues had each been martyred – having been put to death in often gruesome ways including: crucifixion, flaying, and beheading. On this barren rocky island, separated from the woman he had pledged to her crucified Son that he would look after, and away from the people that Christ had shed His blood for, John was alone. Ever since Jesus had risen bodily from dead, these life-time faithful sabbath-keeping Jews now recognised that Christ had sanctified the first day of the week, Sunday, as His day. It was also on this sanctified day that Christ poured out Holy Spirit on his gathered disciples. Ever since that day, no matter how he felt or the circumstances he was in, John had made it his custom to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. And his first Sunday on this island of banishment was no exception. He was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. While some weak Christians find disappointment with God an excuse to forsake God, John did not. While some weak Christians allow their excuses for disappointment with God to walk away from their church family, John did not. John’s example has something to teach us. 
¶ I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…
Revelation 1:9-10a

THE FRUIT DIET WORTH MORE THAN MONEY

How different would your life be if you were filled continually with the Holy Spirit? This seems to have been the experience of at least the first Christians. We know that Jesus told His disciples after His resurrection to “receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20:22) which may have been the moment that they were “regenerated” which is a fancy way of saying that they were born again (Jn. 3:3). But then Jesus told His disciples to wait for the outpouring of the Spirit (Lk. 24:39; Acts 1:4) which was yet to come. The effect on the disciples when this happened was dramatic — especially in the Simon Peter (Acts 2:14). He went from being a cowering timid fearful backslider to being a bold courageous fearless leader of the Christ’s Church (Acts 2:15-39). Then some days later, as Peter was about to bear witness before the rulers of Judaism, he was filled afresh with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8). When Peter met again with the other believers to pray, all of them were filled with Holy Spirit again (Acts 4:31). Thus, being filled continually with the Holy Spirit seems to have been the usually experience of the early believers. As the Church grew and spread, the early Christians’ understanding of who the Holy Spirit was and what He wanted to do in each believer and church also grew. They discovered that the Spirit didn’t just fill them to be bold proclaiming witnesses, He also enabled them to bear witness to the power of Christ by how they lived. The apostle Paul called this, the fruit of the Spirit. 

HOW TO MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL

One of the emotional/intellectual problems that people who accept that there must be a God that resembles closely or exactly the God described in the Bible have had over the years is the problem ow Why would an all good and all powerful God allow suffering, evil, and tragedy in His world? Either He is not really all good and doesn’t care — or He is not really all powerful and is unable to do anything about it. Theologians refer to this problem as Theodicy (the problem of evil). This problem is resolved by asking a greater question: Does God ever ordain or allow what we perceive to be “wrong” because He has a morally good reason for doing so? This greater question is answered when we reflect on Christ’s passion and crucifixion. By working through these questions we may be able to understand why God might allow or ordain natural evil (floods, fires, disastrous weather events) and committed evil (such as wars, violence, crimes against people, brutal oppression of others). Especially when we view the world from the perspective of there being an eternal Judge who redeems those who turn to Him, and holds to account those who don’t. This is why answering the question of destiny is so important to making sense of life and the world we live in.