Posted by: Mike Willoughby | February 22, 2010

Do Not Fear – Lean On Me

 

Have you ever felt defeated by fear and anxiety, unable to find the strength to take the next step?  I think when you look at the disciples of Jesus who in Luke chapter 24 were gathered together after his crucifixion, you see a group of people who were paralyzed by their fear and doubt concerning their future.  Their individual and collective expectations of the coming Messianic Kingdom had been dashed on the cross and with the Messiah’s body lying in a tomb they simply did not know what to do next.  Even the reports of the empty tomb from Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James seemed only to compound their confusion and anxiety.  In response to their fear, Jesus gave them the gift of his physical presence, reminded them of the testimony of the scriptures and he demonstrated his power over death which is the ultimate display of strength and power.  I believe Jesus gives us these same gifts to confront fear and uncertainty as I’ve written in the last three installments of Do Not Fear

However, I’ve saved the best gift for last.  As Jesus was saying his earthly “good-byes” to his disciples, he repeated a promise he had made many times before.  There was a helper coming that would give them (and us) the strength needed to keep the faith in times of trial and persecution.

“And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:49

Jesus had been preparing his disciples for his death and his return to heaven for months prior to his crucifixion in order that they would know what to expect and so they would respond to the events of his death, resurrection and ascension with faith and not with fear.

“And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.”  John 14:29

It is in this same chapter in John where Jesus promises that God would send his Spirit fully to strengthen his disciples.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:15-17

I know we gain strength from God’s Spirit because the apostle Peter encourages us to use our gifts with the strength that God supplies and the apostle Paul identifies the source of that strength.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” I Peter 4:10-11

“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:9-11

As Christians, we enjoy the same promise of God’s Spirit as those disciples who were are gathered together in their fear and doubt.  Just as they were strengthened for their walk of faith by God’s Spirit, we are also given strength for our walk of faith.  The key to receiving his strength against fear comes from understanding how God empowers us through his Spirit to defeat fear and anxiety in our lives.

I believe most of the fear in our lives comes from apprehension about what the future holds.  I am not afraid of the past which is set in stone and cannot harm me in the present.  Most often my fear comes from not knowing what the future holds and further from obsessing over all the many possible negative things that could happen as my imagination runs wild thinking of all the various ways things could go wrong.  This pattern of thinking is very unhealthy and totally unproductive since we have no control over the events of the future.  God gives us the gift of perspective by assuring us of our eventual place with him in heaven, but while here on earth, we have no assurance that things will not go wrong in the future.  The way for us to defeat fear in our lives is by focusing on using the strength that God supplies to deal with the troubles of the present and wait upon the Lord to help us deal with whatever troubles the future may bring.  I believe God promises to give us the strength to deal with today’s troubles.  However, he does not promise to give us the strength to deal with all the various imagined challenges of the future.  We live in the present – only God lives in the future.  We can defeat fear through the Spirit by living in the present and dealing with the challenges of the present.

Jesus expresses this idea in Matthew 6:25-34

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

How can you defeat fear and uncertainty in your life?  Only through the strength that God supplies!  Rest in the assurance that God through his Spirit will supply you with the strength you need for this day. 

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God,
   the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
   his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
   and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
   and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
   they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
   they shall walk and not faint.
                                Isaiah 40:28-31

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!


Responses

  1. Good stuff, Mike!


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