christian thoughts about today's issues
TwitterTwitter FacebookFacebook RSSRSS

Why Are You Afraid?

Pastor Chris Huff of Grace Baptist Church in Nokomis, Illinois posted an outstanding daily audio/video blog on his Facebook Page on July 9th entitled: “Why Are You Afraid?”  It focused on a passage of scripture in the book of Mark (Chapter 4, verses 35-41), where Jesus was awakened from his sleep in the midst of a violent storm aboard ship.  Beginning in verse 37, we find: “And there was a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.  And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow; and they awakened Him, and say unto Him, Master, carest Thou not that we perish?  And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still.  And the wind ceased, and there was great calm.  And He said unto them, Whay are ye so fearful?  How is it that you have no faith?  And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”  

Chris made it the question of the day:  Knowing that we serve an all-powerful God, why do we so often find ourselves afraid?  I think the question is a good one.  A few weeks back, a pretty powerful hail storm was moving through our area, and I was have a text message based conversation with my daughter Erica.  She had heard from friends that large hailstones were falling in the area and, knowing that I was out and about, cautioned me to be careful about walking around outside.  I remember replying: “Erica, I can’t imagine that God brought me safely through 13 months in Afghanistan just to kill me with a hailstone in St. Louis 6 months later.”  My response was a little flippant, and I did modify it immediately by admitting that I don’t know the mind of God – nothing is impossible; it just seemed pretty unlikely and illogical to me.  So in many respects, I understand Chris’ point, and understand the point that Jesus was making to his disciples on the boat.  However, following His ascension, many of Christ’s disciples suffered terrible deaths at the hands of the enemies of Christ.  They were imprisoned, tortured, beheaded, stoned, or beaten to death.  They met their deaths heroically, and went on to Glory as faithful servants.  However, on a human level their fears were entirely justified. 

Most Christians today do live with serious fear.  In one blog last year, I described the fear of conviction and commitment that keeps the vast majority of us from full time Christian service. (http://biblicallythinking.com/2011/fear-of-conviction)   But there are other fears that I believe are not only reasonable but healthy.  They keep us from making unwise choices that could place us and/or those we love in danger.  They cause us to use good hygiene.    They prevent us – even when our consciences sometimes do not – from things like speeding.  They keep us from saying things we might otherwise say to our superiors in the workplace.  Whether it is the fear of a traffic citation or the fear of losing one’s job, some fears are healthy responses to internal and external environmental factors.  We learn to fear unwelcome consequences of our actions as we grow up, and it’s very fortunate that we do.

In the case of the disciples on the water, do you think it was appropriate to be afraid?  I suspect that the theologically correct answer is a product of reasoning like this:  Am I where God wants me to be right this minute?  If so, am I doing exactly what God wants me to be doing right this minute?  If the answer to these questions is “Yes”, then the Christian should not be afraid.  Right?  And yet New Testament Apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ were almost all killed – many very painfully killed – for proclaiming Christ, just as Jesus Himself directed them – and us – to do in Matthew 28:19.  “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;”.  Since that time, many missionaries and their families have been attacked and even murdered on the mission field.  Many others have suffered assault, abuse, verbal diatribe, and imprisonment.  In recent months, I know of one missionary family – newly deployed to Africa – whose family was stricken with Malaria.  And I think of my own dear mother-in-law, who was killed by drag-racing teenagers as she drove toward home from the ladies’ fellowship meeting at their small country church, leaving three children at home; an event from which the family never fully recovered. 

So, when I read passages of Scripture where God instructs us as Christians to “fear not”, I do feel inadequate to the task, even when I pray for courage.  I cannot set aside human fear, even though I know my God is omnipotent, because I am not; I feel pain, and more than that, I know that those whom I love feel pain.  I fear not only pain but the pain of those I hold dear in this world, because I know that just as God did not set aside the pain and suffering of the Apostles and Disciples, He will not always set aside the pain and suffering of Christians today.  He says as much in Matthew 10, beginning in verse 37: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”  That’s no surprise to me; I don’t believe any human can count himself worthy of God.  I know I am nowhere in that realm.  Only God’s unfathomable grace makes it possible for Him to have any relationship with me.

And the passage in Matthew continues:  “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.  (Again, I refer the reader to my earlier blog on the fear of Commitment.)  He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Clearly, those apostles, disciples, missionaries, and other Christians who have been martyred for the cause of Christ qualify here.  The rest of us live in fear; at least that’s what I think.

What do you think?

5 Responses to “Why Are You Afraid?”

  1. Chris Huff says:

    Glad my devotional today made you think. I certainly think God gives us certain “fears” (for lack of a better word) in order to keep us from danger. But even that only makes sense in a fallen world, because a world without sin would have no dangers in it. So I think any fear we have is ultimately a result of sin, whether our own personal sin or else the general presence of sin in the world. But the more we trust Jesus, and the more we pursue joy in Him, fear begins to diminish because we realize that God works for the good of those who love Him. That doesn’t mean we won’t experience hardships, but rather that the wise, sovereign, omnipotent God is with us, accomplishing His purposes through us. So what have we to fear?

    • Bill Duncan says:

      Chris:
      Thanks for your comments. I know you are right – the closer we are to Christ, the more our fears diminish. However, they never completely go away. Even in the garden as Jesus was about to be captured and taken to his death on the cross, He asked God the Father to “take this cup” from Him if that was possible. I don’t know whether that is properly characterized as fear or just a natural human pain avoidance response, or the desire of Jesus not to be separated – even for 3 days – from the presence of God the Father. Perhaps it was all three of those things. I can only say that I have often been afraid. I have never been where I should be in my personal relationship with Christ – who is? – but I know God put me in Iraq and later in Afghanistan for purposes of His own. Yet I was often afraid while I was there. In 2006, when I first arrived in Iraq, car bombs, rockets, and small arms fire surrounded me. We were rocketed regularly, and it seemed to me that I never went more than 45 minutes in daylight hours without feeling a car bomb shaking the ground beneath me. I gritted my teeth constantly while riding through Baghdad just waiting for an IED to blow my legs off – or worse – as we drove along in a convoy of Hum-Vees. I knew I was where God wanted me to be, and doing what He wanted me to do. I knew that God was (and is) capable of protecting me in any situation, and He did. But I also know that He doesn’t always choose to do that, and physical harm DOES come to those who are doing their best to follow Him. So I still believe that fear is a natural thing, even for Christians. Perhaps it is one of the ways the God causes us to depend ever more on Him, and ever less on our own strength.

  2. Marie Luft says:

    As we grow older I do believe the fear of death actually decreases, but fear (I think it’s more often termed anxiety) seems to increase over everyday things such as health, money, even driving in the big city 🙂

    • Bill Duncan says:

      Marie:
      That is a really interesting point. I do know some folks who seem to fear death less as they get older, but not many – even among the family of Christ. Many work as hard as they can to hang on to every last breath here on Earth, when they know full well that their heavenly Father as well as thier spouse and many other dear family members await them on the other side. It always gives me pause. I have no wish for my life to end prematurely, and I certainly have no affinity for pain. But I don’t think I actually fear death very much, and as I get older and more weary, probably fear it less each day. I do worry about the welfare of my children and grandchildren after I am gone, but thinking back I know that my own grandmother worried about my welfare too – so that is probably pretty normal. We always want to protect them, but the truth is that the best thing we can do is raise children to be strong, tough individuals who can deal with whatever life brings their way.

      As to the relationship between fear and anxiety, I think it’s analagous to the difference between pain and itching. Same thing, just much lower level……

      • Marie Luft says:

        I agree with all of your comments on this … I think fear and anxiety can be divided into two parts. 1) Real fear where our human fight or flight instinct comes into play and we have no control over it;… a chemical is released in the brain. Hard to know if the disciples were that afraid or if their fears come under category 2) the “itch” of anxieties. Another famous man, FDR, once said “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”; it was meant to salve our fears then, just as Jesus did with his disciples … in laymen’s terms, “don’t worry, it will be alright”. I think some people just have more faith that this will be so, and I think that that faith comes from knowing that you are a christian .. whatever happens, you will be alright.

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

Powered by WordPress | Designed by Elegant Themes