The Futility of Fear, 8

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So do not fear, for I am with you;do not be dismayed, for I am your God.I will strengthen you and help you;I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  (Isaiah 41:10 NIV84) 

Is there a God?  Many people wonder about that.  Philosophers, poets, and academicians have all tried to put into words an answer to that question: Does God exist?  Is it any wonder they doubt that He is there?  A lot of people who wonder about God have never taken the trouble to actually look for Him.  They may have read what others have written and perhaps considered the question with other like-minded individuals, but they’ve never seriously inquired directly of Him.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  (Matthew 6:33 NIV84) 

If a person can’t find God it’s because they aren’t seriously looking for Him.  It’s as simple as that.  It’s not like God is hiding.  God is there to be found by anybody seriously looking for Him.  However, it won’t always be that easy.

Seek the Lord while he may be found;call on him while he is near.  (Isaiah 55:6 (NIV84) 

Or, to put it another way:

Then the Lord said, My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.  (Genesis 6:3 NIV84)

So there are a lot of unbelievers wondering about the existence of God.  We Christians, though, from time to time, wonder the same things as our unbelieving friends.  You may be a genuine, born again, blood-bought believer, but still struggle with God.  You aren’t as sure as you as used to be that He really is there.  Maybe there hasn’t been a lot of communication between you and heaven lately.  Your Bible sits collecting dust, and it seems as though the Lord has withdrawn His presence from your life.  You ask:  Are you there, Lord?  Where have you gone?  It happens sometimes.  It’s always our fault, never God’s, but He lets it happen so we’ll keep on seeking Him and stop taking Him for granted.  To Christians like that – all of us – the word of The Lord simple but profound:

…do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed…

This is a declaration of fact, and it’s supposed to be a way of thinking that leads to a way of living. This declaration is followed by some promises that God makes:

I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

That’s wonderful!  But you have to believe it, and you have to live like it’s important.  After all, why would God do any of this for a person who doesn’t think He’s even there?

God is there; we are never alone.   You may feel alone; you may think you are alone, but God is always there.  God has always been there.  This is a very familiar text and it is a familiar truth, but we have to live up to it.  Do we?  The very fact that we allow doubts and questions that lead to fear to take root in our minds is proof that we don’t.  Facts are not like feelings, and most Christians seem to prefer their feelings over the facts.

Some facts to base your life on 

Let’s start with a couple of facts.  If you are a born again Christian, then you are born of His Spirit, and a member of God’s great family of faith.  Your sins have been forgiven, you have been pardoned, set free, and justified by faith.  You have become a partaker of God’s nature, and God, through His Holy Spirit, dwells within you.

These are facts.  These are not feelings or moods.  These are indisputable facts founded on the Word of God, and they remain facts whether your mood tells you so or not.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father. (Romans 8:15 NIV84) 

This is a fact!  Christians are not supposed to be “slaves” to any kind of fear because we have become members of God’s family.  Even during those times when your mood leads you to question the facts you know so well, you need not fear because nothing changes the facts.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  (2 Peter 1:3-4 NIV84) 

Facts that nothing can change!   These are promises that you, as a child of God, are entitled to claim and stand on and build your life on.

God knows this life can wear us down.  Even the strongest saint isn’t immune to the lies our hearts tell us.  So in His infinite wisdom and compassion, our Lord found a way to compensate for our weaknesses:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.   (Romans 8:26 NIV84) 

Christians really have no excuse to doubt God or fear, for even when multiplied doubts and fears get heaped upon us, it’s the Holy Spirit within us that digs us out; that brings us back to our spiritual senses.

Do not fear:  A message for the backslider 

In the context of Isaiah 41, God’s word of encouragement was given to His people who were stuck in discouraging circumstances.  As already mentioned, a lot of Christians can relate.

But the “fear not” message from God is also for the backslider.  At this time in their history, the nation of Israel had been taken into captivity.  This was a judgment of God upon a generally backslidden nation.  It may be hard to get your mind wrapped around this fact, but in spite of their judgment, God was with them while they were going through it.

For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  (Isaiah 41:13 NIV84)

It’s almost impossible to conceive, but God never left them for a moment even while they were being disciplined for their unfaithfulness.  Many of the Israelites had forsaken Him, but He in no way had forsaken them.  He was sharing with them the very stripes He had been compelled to lay so heavily upon them.  And they had no idea.

Do not fear:  A message to the fainthearted 

Was there ever a more timid, fainthearted group of people than than the Hebrews who followed Moses out of Egypt?

Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldnt it be better for us to go back to Egypt? And they said to each other, We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.  (Numbers 14:3-4 NIV84) 

What a bunch whiners.  Out of the whole population, apparently there were only four faithful:  Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb.  They pleaded with the people to look at the positive, not the negative.  You remember the report of the spies – the advance force of Israel – on Canaan, the land the Lord gave to them – I stress that:  He GAVE them the land–

They gave Moses this account: We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.  (Numbers 13:27-28a NIV84)

All that abundance, yet all the people heard was “powerful people” and “fortified cities.”  All they could focus on were the seemingly negative aspects of the report.  Thing was, it was just a report; it was not a negative one.  Their advice  proved this:

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.  (Numbers 13:30 NIV84)

Unfortunately, the other spies were a cowardly lot and enflamed the fear of the people with their own fears:  stay out of the Promised Land.

The four faithful did their best to rally the people; to fan the spark of faith inside them.  They talked to them about WHY they should have faith and WHY they should just trust the Lord.  They knew with God it would be possible to be victorious over the “giants,” but they needed to get the people to believe it, too.  Numbers 14:9 is a compelling and telling verse: 

“Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”   (Numbers 14:9 NIV84) 

Only two things could defeat the people, and neither of them were the so-called “giants.”  The two things that would defeat the Hebrews remain the two things that defeat all believers:  rebellion and fear.  And the three things that bring victory are:  obedience, courage, and faith.

There are a lot of fainthearted Christians today who are afraid of so many things.  Their fears would melt away if they would just practice obedience to God’s Word, be courageous in the face spiritual difficulties,  and most of all, have faith in God’s abilities.

Do not fear:  A message to all believers 

The Bible goes to great lengths to  show how futile fear is, and how destructive it can be in the life of a believer.  Take the case of Joshua, for example.  Here was a believer!  He served at Moses’ side for a long time until the day came for him assume the mantle of leadership.  That sounds like a promotion, but anybody who knew the Hebrews Moses was leading certainly wouldn’t congratulate Joshua!  They’d offer their condolences.

Not only were they an obstinate bunch of people, but succeeding such a towering figure as Moses was no small matter!   Could Joshua live up to Moses’ reputation?  Probably not; had it not been for the one thing:  the presence of God.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV84) 

History has shown that God’s presence in the career and life of Joshua was a fact.  God’s presence in your life is a fact, too.  But do you believe it?  Do you live like you  believe it?  If we truly believed that God is always present in our lives, we would be free from fear and anxiety.  The reality is, though, while we talk a great deal about being filled with the Holy Spirit, and we can quote Bible verses that say things like:  “be anxious for nothing,” we are anxious about everything. 

Isn’t it time to start trusting God?  You love Him, and in general you believe His Word.  Let go of your fears and practice having faith in the One who is always with you, no matter what.

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