And David said to his son Solomon,“Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God—my God—will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord. (NKJ)
Feeling alarm or anxiety
I was struck by a question in Tom Wright’s book, Matthew for Everyone, that we read with Steve Robinson at Bible Class recently.
“Which command is repeated most often in the Bible?
You might imagine it’s something stern:
Behave yourself!’ Smarten up! Say your prayers! Worship God more whole-heartedly!
Give more money away!
‘You’d be wrong. It’s the command we ﬁnd in verses 26,28 and 31 [of chapter 10]: Do not be afraid.”
The author isn’t saying that we don’t need to take any notice of verses that tell us how to behave, that exhort us to pray and warn us about hoarding resources to ourselves, etc. but that there is a bigger, more fundamental issue here.
I’d not seen ‘do not be afraid’ as a commandment before. After all, how can you decide not to be afraid just because someone tells you? But we are also commanded to love – another emotion that you can’t turn on and oﬀ like a tap.
It is often pointed out that love is shown in action, despite what you feel – you may not like someone but you can still act with love. Perhaps it is the same (or rather the opposite) with fear – you may feel alarm or anxiety but you can still act with courage.
Maybe, but I think there is more to it.
A couple of days after Bible Class I was helping to teach some Persian friends about ‘The Judgement’, including if it should be feared. We looked up two passages: First, Paul telling the Philippians (3:12-13),
“Not that I have already obtained [the resurrection] or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own … I do not consider that I have made it my own.”
And the second, Jesus saying (Luke 12:32),
“Fear not, little ﬂock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
They sound at odds; one may let doubt creep in that we will do enough to be in the Kingdom and the other gives us conﬁdence in God’s grace. The lesson is, of course, that we cannot rely on ourselves to be accepted at the judgement – but we can have full faith in Him who wants to make us righteous.
We can obey the command ‘do not be afraid’ because of who it is who tells us not to be afraid – Jesus, our judge and our saviour!
Hearing those words the disciples went out to preach aware that persecution would come, but also that everyone who acknowledges Jesus before men, he will also acknowledge before the Father (Matt 10:32). We too can face our challenges encouraged by the Lord’s assurance.
We pray, above all, for peace throughout the world.
Dear Lord God,
thank you for all the assurance you have given about your grace and mercy being for us;
that the judgement need hold no fear,
even though we do not deserve pardon.
You know our hearts and minds,
that we sometimes doubt and we fear.
Nevertheless, may the knowledge and experience of your love cast them out.
You know our individual struggles, trials and temptations;
help us, Lord, to rise to them knowing we do not need to fear them
for they cannot separate us from your love.
Here are some passages – one for everyday of August – to contemplate and meditate on to keep this theme in mind for the month.
1st Deuteronomy 20:1-4 2nd 1 Samuel 12:19-22 3rd 2 Kings 6:15-17
4th 1 Chronicles 20:20 5th 2 Chronicles 20:15 6th Psalm 56
7th Proverbs 3:21-27 8th Matthew 14:26-27 9th Matthew 28:3-10
10th Luke 5:8-11 11th John 6:16-20 12th John 14:27
13th 1 John 4:17-18 14th Exodus 14:12-14 15th Deuteronomy 31:5-8
16th 1 Chronicles 22:11-13 17th Psalm 27 18th Psalm 46
19th Psalm 118:1-9 20th Isaiah 35:1-4 21st Isaiah 41-1-20
22nd Jeremiah 46:27-28 23rd Lamentations 3:55-57 24th Joel 2:21-27
25th Zephaniah 3:14-20 26th Haggai 2:4-9 27th Luke 2:8-14
28th Luke 12:4-34 29th Romans 8:12-17 30th 1 Timothy 1:5-12
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