VIDEO Esther: Overcoming the Things That Come to Pass – Fear Not

FEAR NOT

The Bible admonishes us again and again not to be afraid of anything, but many Americans—including Christians—let fear dominate their life.

A few months back my daughter dislocated her shoulder. At the time, it was a real mystery to us. Dorothy doesn’t recall doing anything in particular to cause the shoulder to pop out of joint; she just realized, during school, that she couldn’t raise her arm.

We found ourselves in an emergency room, talking to doctors about what might be wrong. Some kids, they said, have lax joints and this sort of thing just happens. There could have been other underlying causes, too—joint disorders or autoimmune diseases. As we sat there, a world of possibilities opened up. An injured shoulder could mean any number of scary things. More immediately, it would mean putting my daughter under general anesthesia and resetting the shoulder.

When the time came for the procedure, we moved into something akin to a large operating room. They dressed Dorothy in a hospital gown, laid her on a gurney that was way too big for her, and put an IV into her small arm. They explained the procedure and then told us to go sit nearby. “Don’t worry,” they said. “We do this all the time.” What seemed like an army of doctors and nurses lined up around her. The doctor who was taking the lead told Dorothy to start counting backwards, and they injected the anesthetic into her IV. She was quickly asleep, and the medical team jumped into action, manipulating her arm and trying to move it back into place.

Two things immediately went wrong. The first, we saw, was a sense of panic from the doctors because the joint wasn’t cooperating. The second was when an alarm sounded. The anesthetic had stopped Dorothy’s breathing.

We stared wide-eyed as they bagged her and pumped air into her lungs. Miraculously (and I really mean it when I use that word), a young doctor wandered into the room and asked what was going on. It turned out that he was a pediatric orthopedic resident, and on seeing the trouble with her joint, he quickly took over. At the same time, she started breathing normally again, and they stopped the flow of the anesthetic. The room stopped spinning. One by one, nurses and doctors left, assuring us everything was fine. And in fact, it was. Dorothy soon woke up and sipped at a Sprite. Our pulses returned to normal. We took her home and put her to bed.

My wife and I closed her door, looked at each other, and began to weep.

When you’re afraid, your body goes into action, and the fight-or-flight response kicks in. Additional blood flows into your muscles, which can make you feel jittery and edgy. You sweat or get goosebumps. These reactions are nearly universal, and part of the human experience from the time of birth. It is inescapable that you will experience fear in your life; the question to ask is how to deal with it.

In the aftermath of my daughter’s injury, our desire to protect her was strong. We wanted to find a way to lock her shoulder in place. To be sure she never had to undergo anesthesia again. In the days after her injury, if you had offered us a protective shell to put her and her sister in, we’d gladly have taken it. But something remarkable happened when we took her to an orthopedic surgeon. He more or less shrugged his shoulders and encouraged us to lighten up. “This is just her,” he said. “This is her challenge, and she can live with it.” We asked about future implications for sports and play, and he again shrugged his shoulders. “Once she’s done with physical therapy, she can do whatever she wants. She might grow out of this, or she could dislocate it again. But we can find ways to cope.”

Physical therapy became an important part of life for the next several months. Each week, the therapist would challenge Dorothy to use the shoulder more, doing a variety of exercises that brought strength and stability to the joint. The way to keep the shoulder healthy was to use it, to confront it, to challenge it head-on—not to restrain it in the name of protecting it. To me, this seemed counterintuitive.

Fear is inescapable, but our reactions to it can lead us in many directions. Sometimes our most immediate instincts—in this case, to withdraw and protect—are the exact wrong ones. What if the biblical witness calls us to courage and confrontation? It seems counterintuitive, but it’s exactly what we find when we begin to look around.

The phrase “fear not” appears dozens of times in the Bible. God says it. Angels say it. Jesus says it. It’s a persistent theme, to be sure. However, if we’re not careful, we might misread it as a moralizing statement about fear, as though the feeling/emotion itself were sinful or wrong. Instead, we should see these statements in the context of the stories they occupy. “Fear not” is the response to fear, not a shaming of it. It’s an invitation to courage—to draw near to the presence of God or go into the world with the confidence that God is with us.

An extended passage about fear is found in Isaiah 41. It climaxes with verse 10, where the prophet writes, “Do not fear, for I am with you.” The context of this scripture is so helpful for understanding why God invites us to “fear not”—the two verses immediately preceding it read, “But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham My friend, you whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you’” (Isa. 41:8-9).

Before God tells us “do not fear,” He reminds us of who He is and what He has done. He’s Abraham’s friend who has “taken” us, “called” us, and “chosen” us. This reality lies in the background of our fearlessness: We belong to God, who loves us and calls us friends. He’s brought each of us to a place where we can know Him, and as His children, we’ve been rescued from the very worst thing that could ever happen—separation from Him. We’re drawn in, and that gives us reason not to be afraid.

Then we come to Isaiah 41:10: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” The Lord is “with” us. He will “strengthen,” “help,” and “uphold” us. The God who calls us His own will not abandon us. These aren’t platitudes, especially for Isaiah’s original readers, who were surrounded by hostile nations. The passage goes on to say, “Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonored; those who contend with you will be as nothing and will perish. You will seek those who quarrel with you, but will not find them, those who war with you will be as nothing and non-existent. For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you’” (Isa. 41:11-13).

Because He is our God, the threats that surround us can ultimately do us no real harm. For Israel, this promise was political. In the new reality Jesus inaugurates, these promises still hold, but in a much deeper way. We know that our enemy isn’t flesh and blood. The real enemies—those who are “angered” against us—are Satan, sin, and death. They will become “as nothing.” The kingdom of God is advancing in a way that ultimately will result in their end.

Consider, then, how that transforms the way we see our world—our “enemies,” our conflicts, and even our understanding of danger. Jesus Himself tells us, “Don’t fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28). These were hard words for Jews oppressed by Romans and hated by their Samaritan neighbors. And yet Jesus tells them not to fear what such adversaries might do to them but instead to “fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:28-31).

These should be hard words for any reader, and they are certainly challenging for us. In North America, we’re surrounded by a culture that preys on fear. It fills the rhetoric of our politics. It fuels our consumerism. It makes space for a kind of pervasive, simmering anxiety. Psychologists talk about fear as one of our “primary emotions”—an emotion that often lies underneath other emotions like anxiety and anger. Yoda spoke of this, too, when he warned Anakin Skywalker that “fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Yes, wise words spoken by a green puppet, but true nonetheless.

When I think about anger as a secondary emotion, I can’t help but think of the awful images from Charlottesville: white supremacists marching with torches, their faces filled with rage. Surely behind this anger is a much deeper fear—fear of loss, fear of inadequacy, and most of all, fear of the “other.” The response to such anger, from those who understand it, should be pity, prayer, and hope that at some point they can hear a prophetic “fear not” and repent.

What might it look like for the church to be a place of righteous fearlessness? For our communities to be marked by a countercultural spirit of confidence and courage, fueled by the knowledge that we belong to God and nothing can truly hurt us once our souls are secure in Him? What if we were a consistent, prophetic voice saying, “Fear not”? The world might be a place of greater peace. It would certainly be a place with less anger.

This isn’t to say there aren’t dangers and pressures we must face. The church is in a tenuous place in our culture, as secularism is on the rise and religious liberty is contested. But instead of letting fear drive us into the mountains or into hidden enclaves of private faith, we should follow Jesus’ invitation from that passage in Matthew: “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops” (Matt. 10:27). In other words, be boldly present to a hostile world, and make the kingdom of God visible where it is invisible. Invite the world to know the God who tells them, “Fear not.”

Likewise, a countercultural fearlessness will make us suspicious of those who stoke anxiety and rage. When politicians, pundits, and other talking heads tell us to be afraid—whether they’re fueling fear about what a party might do, what cultural changes might be taking place, or what the “others” in our world might be capable of—we should resist them. We can take seriously the call to care for the widows, orphans, sojourners (read: immigrants), the poor, the sick, the elderly, the angry, the broken, and the lost and draw near to them in spite of whatever fears might arise. We trust our lives to God’s care and move toward the world, not away from it.

Collage by Eddie Guy

BY MIKE COSPER

https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/features/fear-not


 

Esther: Overcoming the Things That Come to Pass – David Jeremiah

 

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Righteous Among the Nations

 

For such a time as this. Esther 4:14

 

At Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel, my husband and I went to the Righteous Among the Nations garden that honors the men and women who risked their lives to save Jewish people during the Holocaust. While looking at the memorial, we met a group from the Netherlands. One woman was there to see her grandparents’ names listed on the large plaques. Intrigued, we asked about her family’s story.

Members of a resistance network, the woman’s grandparents Rev. Pieter and Adriana Müller took in a two-year-old Jewish boy and passed him off as the youngest of their eight children from 1943–1945.

Moved by the story, we asked, “Did the little boy survive?” An older gentleman in the group stepped forward and proclaimed, “I am that boy!”

The bravery of many to act on behalf of the Jewish people reminds me of Queen Esther. The queen may have thought she could escape King Xerxes’s decree to annihilate the Jews around 475 bc because she had concealed her ethnicity. However, she was convinced to act—even under the threat of death—when her cousin begged her to not remain silent about her Jewish heritage because she had been placed in her position “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

We may never be asked to make such a dramatic decision. However, we will likely face the choice to speak out against an injustice or remain silent; to provide assistance to someone in trouble or turn away. May God grant us courage.

By Lisa Samra

Today’s Reflection

Are there those you need to speak up for? Ask God about the timing.

Living Without Goals

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Some of us are natural planners who know what we want to accomplish and set out to achieve it, whereas others are more flexible and spontaneous. Both approaches are determined by personality, background, and other factors but come with their own dangers. The organized people may be so focused on controlling their life that they leave God out of the picture, and the easygoing folks may end up never accomplishing what God intended for them.

In today’s passage, we see the Christian life compared to a race. As believers, we are admonished to exercise discipline and self-control in order to obediently follow the heavenly Father’s plan for our life. Otherwise our efforts will be as unproductive as a boxer who throws wild punches and never hits his mark.

Going through life without any objectives leads to wasted time and energy, mindless drifting, and mediocrity. After all, you can’t aim for nothing and expect to hit a bull’s eye. This is true in relationships, work, finances, and personal goals, but it’s also true of our spiritual life. Paul’s desire to fulfill the ministry God gave him was so strong that he was willing to give up his rights in order to reach the lost with the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Therefore, the apostle made his body his slave in order to finish the Christian life well.

One day we will all stand before Christ to give an account of our life and have our works evaluated by Him in the judgment (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Therefore, today we must live with the goal of honoring God and bearing fruit as we seek His will.

God Has Chosen Us

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” (Ephesians 1:4) 

Although we cannot really understand how God could choose us (same Greek word as “elected”) before the creation of the world, we can rejoice in the fact and praise Him for “his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9). The preceding verse (Ephesians 1:3) testifies we have received “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ,” all “according to the good pleasure of his will” (v. 5), “according to the riches of his grace” (v. 7), and “according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself” (v. 9). It must thus all be “to the praise of the glory of his grace” (v. 6).

It is clear from this passage that God’s choice of us was not simply a matter of His foreseeing our choice of Him, but was a choice solely by His own will and grace: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit” (John 15:16). This in no wise lessens our own responsibility to trust in Christ and to believe “the gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1:12-13), even though in our finite minds we cannot understand how to correlate these two concepts. Both are true, because both are taught in His Word, and both are occasions for rejoicing because they reflect both His love and His omnipotence.

God told Jeremiah: “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3). Before the world began, God knew each of us and loved us, and prepared to die to save us from our sins and then to draw us to Himself. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it” (Psalm 139:6). We can only thank and praise Him, and then seek earnestly to live fully for Him all our days. HMM

Habit of Holy Thought

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

—2 Corinthians 10:5

What we think about when we are free to think about what we will—that is what we are or will soon become….

Anyone who wishes to check on his true spiritual condition may do so by noting what his voluntary thoughts have been over the last hours or days. What has he thought about when free to think of what he pleased? Toward what has his inner heart turned when it was free to turn where it would? When the bird of thought was let go did it fly out like the raven to settle upon floating carcasses or did it like the dove circle and return again to the ark of God? Such a test is easy to run, and if we are honest with ourselves we can discover not only what we are but what we are going to become. We’ll soon be the sum of our voluntary thoughts….

The best way to control our thoughts is to offer the mind to God in complete surrender. The Holy Spirit will accept it and take control of it immediately. Then it will be relatively easy to think on spiritual things, especially if we train our thoughts by long periods of daily prayer. Long practice in the art of mental prayer (that is, talking to God inwardly as we work or travel) will help to form the habit of holy thought.   BAM044, 046-047

Take control of my thoughts and move me along in the development of the habit of holy thought. Amen.

 

As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks

As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God.—Psalm 42:1.

Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.—Ephesians 5:19.

 

Lord, make my heart a place where angels sing!

For surely thoughts low-breathed by Thee

Are angels gliding near on noiseless wings;

And where a home they see

 

Swept clean, and garnished with adoring joy,

They enter in and dwell,

And teach that heart to swell

With heavenly melody, their own untired employ.

John Keble.

 

Let your heart and desires continually hold converse with God, in heartfelt simplicity. Reflect on Him with feelings of love and reverence, and often offer up your heart, with all that you have and are, to Him, in spirit and in truth, as cordially and sincerely as possible. If through weakness or unfaithfulness you forsake this exercise, which is so incredibly helpful and beautiful, all you have to do is, meekly and heartily to begin again; and do not be weary of it, although in the beginning you may not find any great advantage from it, or make any rapid progress in it. It is not true that such a mode of life is hard; it is easy and pleasant to the spirit, and becomes in due time like a heaven upon earth. A little patience and courage alone are needed.

Gerhard Tersteegen.

 

Our Precious Repentance

“And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed.” Ezek. 20:43

When we are accepted of the Lord, and are standing in the place of favor, and peace, and safety, then we are led to repent of all our failures and miscarriages toward our gracious God. So precious is repentance, that we may call it a diamond of the first water, and this is sweetly promised to the people of God as one most sanctifying result of salvation. He who accepts repentance, also gives repentance; and He gives it not out of “the bitter box,” but from among those “wafers made with honey” on which He feeds His people. A sense of blood-bought pardon and of undeserved mercy, is the best means of dissolving a heart of stone. Are we feeling hard? Let us think of covenant love, and then we shall leave sin, lament sin, and loathe sin; yea, we shall loathe ourselves for sinning against such infinite love. Let us come to God with this promise of penitence, and ask Him to help us to remember, and repent, and regret, and return. Oh, that we could enjoy the meltings of holy sorrow! What a relief would a flood of tears be! Lord, smite the rock, or speak to the rock, and cause the waters to flow!