Is it right for Christians to be afraid?
I’m sure many would say, ‘No! A Christian has no reason to ever be afraid.”
HOW ABOUT JOSHUA?
How do you visualize the great and mighty Joshua? I think of him as a tall, strapping man. Not someone you would want to mess with!
- He was bold
- He was brave
- And he was fearless
Now do me a favour and read the following verses.
The LORD gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: “Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.” (Deuteronomy 31;23 NIV)
After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide:
“Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them–to the Israelites. (Joshua 1:1,2 NIV)
“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:6-9 NIV)
- What phrase occurs frequently in the above verses?
- Why do you think it was necessary for God to repeat these words to Joshua?
FEAR AND TREMBLING
The prophet describes Isreal’s enemies as being afraid and trembling.
Habakkuk 3:7 GNB
‘I saw the people of Cushan afraid and the people of Midian tremble.
The fear and trembling of Cushan and Midian reminded the prophet of how God had intervened between Israel and her foes in the past.
- Can you recall occasions when God intervened to rescue Israel?
A FEARFUL SITUATION
- Do you remember an occasion when God intervened to rescue you from a fearful situation?
In December 2019 my wife Shirl and I were on our way to Hoekwil near George in the Western Cape (South Africa) to join our family for Christmas. A fair distance from any large town our car broke down completely. We were stuck on the roadside with no cellular phone connection and we had very little data on our phone. For those of you who know South Africa, this is a very dangerous situation. We had every reason to be afraid. We hastily prayed, asking the Lord to protect us, and to “send an angel.”
Suddenly, a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction made a U-turn and pulled up behind us. A young fellow asked whether we needed help. Without us asking, he transferred data onto my wife’s phone so that she could phone our insurance company and our son in Hoekwil.
He was deeply concerned about two elderly citizens waiting on the roadside for their car to be towed away. He insisted on taking us, together with our pet cockatiel, to Storms River in the opposite direction to the way he had been driving. There we were able to wait at a fast-food outlet until the tow truck and our son came to the rescue.
It was no surprise to us to discover that this young fellow and his wife were committed Christians. It is wonderful to know that the same God who constantly rescued Israel from her oppressors is available today to rescue His children from the problems that we often face.
The pandemic that has hit the world has introduced us to a variety of reasons to be fear-filled.
- Some are fearful of even being inoculated against the virus because of the weird stories that have been circulated.
- Others are concerned about being hospitalised because they have heard of folk who have actually contracted the virus in hospital
- Then there are those who are afraid of losing a loved one to the dreaded disease.
- Some have become shut-ins in fear of having contact with someone who may have the virus.
- Parents are fearful of allowing their kids to go to school.
And so the list goes on.
Apart from the virus-related fears, because of man’s sinfulness, we live in an imperfect world where we are constantly confronted by overwhelming factors which induce fear.
I have not done an actual count myself but I believe phrases like ‘ don’t be afraid’ ‘fear not and others that touch on the aspect of fear, appear something like 365 times in Scripture. The Lord certainly understands the human tendency to be fearful.
We opened this session by looking at the fearfulness of Joshua. But he was not alone. Many of the other greats of the Bible entertained fear.
When commissioned to go rescue his people from slavery in Egypt Moses was fearful and made excuses.
“Who am I to go to the king and lead your people out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)
“Suppose everyone refuses to listen to my message, and no one believes that you really appeared to me?” (Exodus 4:1)
“I have never been a good speaker. I wasn’t one before you spoke to me, and I’m not one now.” (Exodus 4:10)
Jonathan told David, the giant killer, “Don’t be afraid,…. My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you.” (1 Samuel 23:17)
During Jesus earthly ministry many believed in Him but we learn,
“Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue;” (John 12:42)
Peter who had been a close follower of Jesus throughout His earthly ministry boldly proclaimed on the night of the Last Supper, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33) Yet we know when challenged about his relationship with Jesus out of fear he denied knowing Jesus three times.
Even our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane experienced fear and prayed for the cup to be removed, but then accepted the Father’s will. Luke records that. “:….being in anguish, he (Jesus) prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)
Our adversary Satan is out to get us. He will use whatever means at his disposal to get us to lose faith in the Almighty God. Fear is but one weapon in his armoury.
As opposed to the fear that Satan seeks to instil God’s Word encourages ‘Godly’ fear
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.(Proverbs 9:10)
Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD evil is avoided. (Proverbs 16:6)
Matthew Henry comments,
“All the wonders done for Israel of old, were nothing to that which was done when the Son of God suffered on the cross for the sins of his people. How glorious his resurrection and ascension! And how much more glorious will be his second coming, to put an end to all that opposes him, and all that causes suffering to his people!” (Matthew Henry’s concise commentary of Habakkuk)
Praise God we are on the victory side. Our captain Jesus Christ assures us,
“My little group of disciples, don’t be afraid! Your Father wants to give you the kingdom”. (Luke 12:32 CEV)
“I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn’t like the peace that this world can give. So don’t be worried or afraid.” (John 14:27 CEV)
“The LORD doesn’t hate or despise the helpless in all of their troubles. When I cried out, he listened and did not turn away.” (Psalm 22:24 CEV)
Yes! Christians do encounter situations that cause us to panic and become fearful. Satan is out to get us and if he can use fear to get us to lose faith he is only too happy.
Is there something that is really robbing you of peace of mind? Don’t hesitate, to share your fears with Jesus right now. Jesus has promised us His peace. Ask Him to take away your fear and replace it with that peace of mind which demolishes all fear.
Are you aware of someone who is going through trying circumstances? Spend some time praying for that situation right now . Contact that person and ask if there is anything you can do. Assure that person that you will continue to uphold them in prayer.
P.S. If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.