We live in a world that has figured out how to monetize fear and anxiety. Whether you’re checking your Twitter feed, watching cable news, or listening to podcasts or talk radio, you are in contact with people whose job it is to get you to keep watching, keep listening or keep clicking. And if they’ve learned anything in the past five years, it’s that we are people who are prone to pay attention and stay engaged when we are anxious or fearful.
Fear can be our friend. Healthy fear keeps us away from danger. Our fear instinct can alert us when something is wrong or when we need to be more aware, more vigilant, more careful.
Fear can also be sinful. The Puritan John Flavel in his book A Practical Treatise on Fear (also known as Triumphing Over Sinful Fear) differentiates between what he calls natural fear, sinful fear and religious fear (or the fear of God). What separates sinful fear from natural or religious fear is one primary distinctive: unbelief. Fear crosses into sinful territory when it causes us to lose our grip on God and His providence.
Here’s where Psalm 46 comes to mind. This psalm that was the inspiration for Martin Luther’s great hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God is a charge to face our fears with courage and strength as we lean into God and His promises.
“God is our refuge and strength,” the psalmist writes. “A very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
When trouble comes and panic sets in, God is not far off. He is not disengaged. He is very present. And He is near us to help us. When we need courage and protection in the face of fear, God is the source of both. He is our refuge and strength.
The psalmist goes on to paint a picture of stability and courage even in the face of great calamity. “Therefore,” he says, “we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:2-3). At that point, the psalmist instructs us to take a minute and ponder that thought. That’s what “selah” means.
It is God’s very near presence and His divine providence, demonstrated through the years that gives us the ability to stand strong in the face of the fears that flood the airwaves and social media. Psalm 46 ends with this clear declaration: “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:11). That’s why we can remain steadfast and unmovable in the face of hardship and upheaval.
Joshua faced a daunting task when he became the leader of the nation of Israel following the death of Moses. It was Joshua’s job now to lead God’s people into the Land of Promise. Had there been no enemies waiting for them in the land, Joshua would have still faced the challenge of leading a fickle and often faithless people.
That’s why God came to this new leader in Joshua 1 to call him to courage. He promised Joshua success in his assignment, but told him to find his courage in two sources. First, God said, good success and prosperity will be yours if you continually meditate on and proclaim “the book of the law” – God’s word – and if you are careful to obey it. And second, God told Joshua that he was not to forget that God would be present with him wherever he went. “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).
The next time the fear or anxiety impulse hits you, make it your first response to draw closer to God. Go to His word. Speak it out loud. Meditate on it. Ask God to be for you what the psalmist proclaims Him to be – your very present help in trouble.
“The name of the Lord,” the Bible says, “is a strong tower. The righteous man runs into it and he is safe” (Proverbs 18:10). Next time the cable news guy says something that makes you anxious, remember that you have access to a Strong Tower who is here to keep you safe.
SUNDAY ~ AUGUST 29 ~ Fall KICK off
Can I ask you to circle a date on your calendar? This is kind of a “save the date” announcement.
August 29 will be a fall kick off day for our church. We’re still putting together plans for that day, but along with some fun and fellowship, we’ll be outlining ministry plans for the year ahead. There are a number of exciting things in the works for this fall and beyond. We’ll have more details in the weeks to come. But for now, plan to be at church that Sunday.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 22 ~ joe & dana neff
And as long was you’re circling dates on the calendar, on Sunday, August 22, Joe and Dana Neff with be with us during our worship service. We’ll hear and update from them that morning about the work they are doing helping to advance Christian education in what are some spiritually hard to reach places around the world.
In addition to sharing with us during the service that morning, Joe and Dana are planning to meet that afternoon with all who would like to hear more about their efforts and how God is at work through the ministry they are part of.
There is perhaps no other place in scripture that provides us with a picture of the full humanity and the full deity of Jesus than what we have in John 11. The same man who weeps at the death of his friend in the next moment summons him from death to life. We’ll examine the penultimate miracle performed by Jesus as we gather to dig into God’s word this Sunday.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!