(Translated version, original article written on April 17th, 2020)
Dear brothers and sisters, shalom!
How is everyone doing? Grandparents, parents, and children, you are all doing a good job working together and supporting each other during this stay-at-home period. May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. May God keep you physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. Due to the pandemic, recent emotions have run high. Today, I would like to talk to you about “fears and worries” from a biblical perspective.
The Only Thing to Fear
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, when the country was in a state of panic, President Roosevelt, in his inauguration speech, said this: “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
What a courageous statement, words that could bolster a person’s spirits and cheer up someone’s heart. Fear—nameless, unreasonable, unjustified—paralyzes life, making any advance impossible. Suffering is not to be feared, death is not to be feared, the only thing to fear is fear itself. However, as good as this quote sounds, it is not from the Bible. Rather than fear itself, we need to fear another. What is it that we should fear?
Fear not, only believe!
Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, was worried and fearful, because his only daughter, twelve years of age, was dying. Anyone of us would be fearful in that situation. We feel fear when we or our loved ones are in danger. In front of everyone, Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet and implored him to save his daughter.
While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” (Luke 8:49-50, ESV)
The entire Bible’s teaching regarding fear can be encapsulated in Jesus’ words: “Do not fear, only believe!” Whether it is in this pandemic or any other circumstance, do not fear, only believe. Fear will affect your life. If you are fearful, you will be powerless—powerless to do what God wants to do, to go where God wants you to go, and to live how God wants you to live. You are a disciple of God, and God has given you a spirit of power, not a spirit of fear. Paul said to Timothy:
For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:6-7, ESV)
Timothy was an exceptional young man, and everyone spoke well of him (Acts 16:1-2). He had many gifts but lacked courage. Paul reminded him that God has given him a spirit of power and that he should use it. A person who is blessed with much but has a spirit of fear will not accomplish anything. Look at the Israelites–they were afraid to enter into the promised land and ended up dying in the wilderness. Many of us may be timid by nature, but those who have faith can make up for the lack of courage by relying on God for strength. The prophet Jeremiah, known as the “weeping prophet” because of his deep empathy for the Israelites, described being called by God in this way:
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:7-8, ESV)
Brothers and sisters, God commands us to be courageous, and not be afraid. Courage is a trademark of Christ’s followers, and God calls us to be strong in Him. It is okay to stumble or fail. Peter, who denied Christ three times, later became the utmost example of courage. When Peter and John were arrested, they faced the interrogating council with boldness and presented their case with eloquent and wise speech.
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. (Acts 4:13-14, ESV)
It is not enough to have gifts, you must also have courage. During this pandemic, some people will advance, and some who will retreat. Some churches will advance, and other churches will retreat. In times of adversity, there are opportunities for moving forward. If you retreat when times are bad, how will you move forward when times are good? During this pandemic, the church cannot congregate together. Thankfully, we can all learn how to use technology and still make the best of it. But what is the message that is being conveyed through this technology? Is it a message of courage, or is it a message of fear?
Do Not Worry
The pandemic has caused much anxiety. When will it end? Will my family be safe from harm? How will the economy be affected? Just like fear, anxiety is a type of emotion encroaches upon us uninvited. How can we combat it? When anxiety comes over you, you must use your will to command it to go away. Jesus taught his disciples not to be anxious.
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? … 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. (Matthew 6:26-27, 33-34, ESV)
This is the same principle as “Fear not, only believe!”. Jesus tells us, “Do not worry, simply have faith.” The Lord teaches us three things about worry: first, worrying is useless. No matter how much you worry, you cannot add a single hour to your life. Second, worrying is needless. God knows all of your needs. Rather than worrying about them, simply seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Third, worrying is helpless (unbeneficial). The worries of today become the worries of tomorrow. Each day has enough trouble of its own, simply take one day at a time!
The Only One to Fear
From beginning to end, the Bible tells us to fear God. Jesus said, there is only One whom we should fear:
But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! (Luke 12:5, ESV)
Brothers and sisters, let us not fear the pandemic. Even fear itself should not be feared. The only One we should fear is God alone. Those who fear God will fear nothing; those who do not fear God will fear everything.
- Do not fear, only believe!
- Do not be anxious, simply have faith!
- Fear God, and seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.
Pastor Warren Wang