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Wednesday, May 1st, 2013
Fear or Faith?
“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” – Jesus (Mk. 4:40)
Many people, it seems, live in fear. Sometimes we call it by different names, like stress or anxiety or worry or concern, but ultimately it is still fear. Some fear death or pain or illness. Some fear not having enough. Some fear change or fear being alone. And some fear rejection or ridicule. The list could go on and on. It is no wonder, then, that over and over again in the Scriptures we find some version of “Do not be afraid.”
In story after story, faith is found there, right next to fear. In Numbers 13, Moses sends 12 men to spy out the land of Canaan, which God has promised to give them. Ten of these men are afraid, and two of them have faith that God will give it into their hands. The ones who are afraid come back and tell the people that the land is inhabited by giants, and the inhabitants are strong, and their towns are well defended. However, Caleb and Joshua come back and say that they should go and take possession of the land, for God is with them.
The people as a whole give in to the fear, and they lament and weep and wish that they were back in Egypt again. In the end, because they gave in to fear rather than faith, they end up wandering for 40 years in the wilderness, and only Caleb and Joshua are allowed to actually enter the promised land 40 years later.
Once again, many years later, the Israelites are at war with the Philistines. A young boy named David goes to visit his brothers at the battle site, only to find that the entire army of Israel is afraid of one man – Goliath. Goliath has been yelling at them and mocking them and has issued a challenge to them. Israel is to send one man to fight Goliath. The winner will have won the battle for his people.
David, who is much smaller than Goliath and isn’t even old enough to be in the army, essentially asks the people, “Who is this man that he would defy the army of the living God?” Then David offers to fight him, armed only with his shepherd’s sling, five smooth stones, and his faith that God will give Goliath into his hand. Of course, you probably know the ending, as David defeats Goliath and kills him.
In the New Testament, too, there are many times when the disciples are afraid. The verse above from Mark 4 comes from the time when they were caught in a storm at sea. The disciples are convinced that they are going to die, and wake Jesus, who is sound asleep. Jesus only needs to say, “Peace! Be still!” and the wind stops blowing. This is when he says, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
We could probably say that it is human nature to experience fear. However, we could also say that faith is a really good antidote to fear. In fact, 1 John teaches us that “perfect love casts out fear” (4:18). When you think about it, it is very difficult to be afraid and to show love for the people around us. When we are afraid, we think only of ourselves. When we are afraid, we are also not loving God or trusting God.
Really, it comes down to this question: Do we believe in God or not? Do we really believe that the kingdom, the power and the glory belong to God? Do we believe that God has power over all things, including those things that make us afraid?
God continues to say to us, “Do not be afraid. I am with you.” “Take courage; I have conquered the world!” (Jn. 16:33). May we continue to find our peace in Jesus.
Pastor Lynne Hutchison