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?
Fear of the unknown…it seems like the entire world is reacting. So how can we as Believers respond the most appropriately to it? First, let’s ask ourselves a few questions. Has the Lord suddenly lost control and climbed down off His throne? The answer is no, for Hebrews 13:8 tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Next, do we believe in the authority and sufficiency of God’s word? If the answer is yes, then we must believe this Scripture that God did not give us a spirit of fear but of strength, love, and a sound mind…a sound mind meaning wisdom, good judgment, and prudence. And if this is so, we must also believe Scriptures such as Hebrews 2:51 that exhort us to not give in and become a slave to fear. Finally, as Paul exhorted Timothy to lead by example, we must then apply our God-given sound mind to everyday actions, all the while praying Psalm 91 to counteract this fear of the unknown.
For many, the bondage of fear stops us from being able to move forward with life. We long to be liberated from the paralyzing emotions, but feel there’s little we can do to change. But if we’ll take the time to study a few Scriptures, we’ll discover that God has already made the way for us. It starts with this verse in Psalms. When I cry out to the Lord, He answers by liberating me from the terror I’m going through…in other words, setting me free from its control. And this freedom from fear can only be found in the truth of the Gospel. For Jesus declares to us in John 8:32, ” If you hold to My teachings, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” There can be freedom from doubt and fear, and it starts with the saving revelation of the Gospel Message.
These verses come from a Song of Praise David sang to the Lord after God had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies. Out of David’s heart came thanksgiving for God’s steadfastness…even in the face of calamity. And the deep-seated trust David had in God is not only evident here, but elsewhere when he declared, “I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” (Psalm 23:4) David was able to turn fear into faith by keeping his eyes on God and not his situation.
Later in this same Chapter, Jesus repeats these words again, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) In both verses Jesus is telling us that we have control over doubt, fear, and confusion…”Do not allow (or permit) your hearts (or minds) to be troubled. (confused and/or terrified) ” He wouldn’t be telling us to do something if it wasn’t possible for us to achieve it. Now stop and read that last sentence again please! Jesus is telling us that we all have the direct influence within us to rein in and exercise restraint over fear…but it’s contingent on our trust in Him. In other words, a troubled heart is an unbelieving heart. So our success over doubt and fear lies largely in how we build our faith in God. And this confidence in Him only comes by reading the Bible and praying daily…for you can never fully trust a stranger.
Angels of the Lord had warned Lot and his family of the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah… and to flee and not look back. But even with the warning…Lot’s wife still turned back towards what once had been her life and lost it. Jesus also reminds us of this in Luke 17:32, when He told His disciples, “Don’t go back.” So why are we so prone to do exactly what the Lord tells us not to? When our fear of the unknown outweighs our faith in God…we go back. And when anxiety supersedes what we know in our heart to be true, our mind goes back to familiar coping mechanisms…allowing fear to crowd out our confidence in God.