If I asked you what you were afraid of today, what would you say? I’m not talking about things like spiders, snakes, or mice, but things that have your stomach tied up in a knot. For me it’s COVID 19 and everything related to it. It’s being fearful about my kids and grand-kids coming down with it, or my elderly Dad, or my health-compromised family-members succumbing to the virus. But II Timothy 1:7 tells me, “God didn’t give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” Fear tells me that I can’t, while faith tells me it’s already been done. For Romans 8:15 says, “You didn’t receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of son-ship.” And this son-ship tells me that through Jesus Christ, God has adopted me and you as His son or daughter thus making us a heir to His promised salvation. Thus we have nothing to fear, for the fear of death is gone…and if you really think about it, fear of death is the origin of all other fears.
Right now as America is in the middle of protests, riots, looting, and vandalism across our land, a new fear has reared its ugly head. With COVID 19, it was fear of the unknown, but with the onslaught of these violent public disturbances the fear has become much more personal in nature. That’s why these verses in Isaiah are so important for us today. We don’t need to dread, or be fearful of harm or danger because our God is not only our kinsman redeemer but also our avenger. He is always with us even when we go through fire and water, bringing us to a place of abundance. (Psalm 66:12) That’s because we are His treasured possession, (Deuteronomy 7:6) and He will fight for us; we need only to be still.(Exodus 14:14)
As the persecution not only persisted but increased for the Church in Thessalonica, Paul wrote this second letter to comfort and encourage them. He exhorted them that in spite of all the hardship they were currently enduring, they needed to continue their good works…which evidenced their faith. For fundamentally, good works and faith go hand and hand to show not only who a person is but how they are to behave. Later in this letter, Paul used the motivating statement, “Stand firm!” Right now, that statement is something all Believers need to hear. Stand firm in the face of fear and anxiety. Stand firm in the face of danger and trouble. Stand firm in the face of hardship and tribulation. For our Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. (II Thessalonians 3:3)
I think David summed up the verse above best when he wrote, ” It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” (Psalm 118:8) If COVID 19 has shown us anything it’s just how frail we are and how precarious our way of life is. This virus has exposed to us that mankind is extremely vulnerable and as a whole powerless against it. So as David wrote, we can’t depend on man to protect us…only God can do that. In Psalm 55 when David was overwhelmed with fear he, “hurried to my place of shelter far from the tempest and storm.” Our trust then must be in God not man, for He is our rock where we can take refuge…that place of calm and peace, where we can feel safe.
The apostle Paul who wrote this is probably one of the best examples of someone who looked beyond discouragement and refused to give in to despair. For here Paul calls the overwhelming mental, physical, and spiritual distress he has endured as “light and momentary troubles.” But how could he do this? The answer is simple…he was allowing the Lord to renew and restore his mind daily…or as Colossians 3:10 tells us, “Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” When we become discouraged, fearful, or overcome with the current troubles in the world today, we need to be reminded that as we go through all these hardships, they are achieving for us righteousness and eternal glory for His namesake. Therefore, we do not lose heart.
The world seems to be worshiping at the altar of the god of the unknown right now…trying to appease something they don’t understand…filled with panic rather than peace. But here Paul recognized this and instead pointed the people of Athens to the one true God. In talking to the Samaritan woman at the well Jesus spoke of this, “You Samaritans worship what you don’t know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (John 4:22-23) Bottom line, the world needs Jesus right now. They need to turn away from the god of the unknown with all its distress and fear and instead face their Savior, Jesus Christ, and receive peace and comfort. So ponder this… now might become one of the most important times in modern Church history for souls coming to Jesus out of fear and desperation. The question is – Are you ready to make the unknown known to them?
Psalm 13 is short…just 6 verses, but within it are emotions we’ve all felt. For Satan would like us to believe that when we’re going through desperate times…it’s because God has abandoned us. David laments to the Lord in the first few verses, using words like, “Have You forgotten me? And why are You hiding Your face?” Those raw feelings of doubt and questioning where God is only compound the sorrow, anxiety, and distress we already feel. To the point we’re asking, “Do You even care about me anymore, God?” But as David lifts this lament to God, his focus changes from himself and his situation, to who God really is and His promises. For at the end of Psalm 13 David declares, ” But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.” (Psalm 13: 5-6) The grief and heartbreak may not have changed in David’s life…but what did change was his perspective and the assurance that God was still there.
Satan wants us to believe that we are who we are based only on the internal and external events of our life. That our life has been shaped and molded solely by our environment, culture, and all the trauma we’ve endured. For when we believe this, we’ll blame our parents, or our cultural upbringing for where we’ve ended up…rather than realizing that it is God who can shape our future…not the bad things that have happen to us in the past. Satan wants us to believe that our past dictates our future, and that generational chains cannot ever be broken off us. He wants to keep us in fear and doubt, accepting that we can never change. But if we’ll receive God’s grace and proclaim, “Yes, I once was…But God is willing and able to work in my life now!”… the Master Potter will form something beautiful out of that lump of clay we call our life.
These verses can give us great insight into what it takes to combat doubt and fear in our lives. The first part gives us clear directions as to what our responsibilities are. We are to be steadfast trusting in the Lord at all times…calling on Him first, and not as an afterthought. We are to turn our back on our old sinful ways, but even more importantly, it says we are to not tolerate or enable sin to remain in our house. This is called compromise, and unfortunately many a Christian household has crumbled when questionable moral concessions have been made. As we work on our responsibilities, we can as Job 22:26 says, ” Find delight in the Almighty and lift up our face to God.” For when there is no longer the guilt and shame of sin weighting us down, we can lift up our head and look straight into the eyes of Jesus with a clear conscience…free of self-doubt and fear.
Even Paul had times when he thought he was the only person in the world working for the Lord. And when people verbally assaulted or berated him for the Gospel Message he likely wished he could just run away rather than stand up to them. But God showed him in that vision that he wasn’t the only Believer in Corinth…that he needed to keep preaching the Good News despite the attacks…and that God was with him through it all. For one of the biggest tools in the arsenal of Satan is to make us believe we’re alone and separated from God and others…out there by ourselves without any support. But we’re not!