As a pastor, I’m regularly asking, “What are the people coming to church this week dealing with to which Jesus can bring resolution?” The answers obviously vary week to week, but there’s a recurring theme—one that I feel lately is demanding our attention more loudly: fear.
Maybe fear seems to be trending because it’s election season and presidential hopefuls are reminding us of all the problems with our world that they plan to fix. Maybe it’s because news outlets are daily finding new ways to push notifications to our phones and browsers.
Or maybe the world legitimately is just becoming a scarier place. The news media is going to make sure you don’t forget all the things you’re supposed to fear: ISIS terrorist attacks, the deterioration of principles and morals that supposedly made our nation great, climate change ruining our planet, or the prospect of a 2016 election that has many jumping on board with the #VoteNobody2016 tag. Liberals and conservatives may argue about what we need to fear, but they pretty unanimously support a platform that unless something happens, the world is headed to ruin.
And maybe it is. Actually, I’m pretty convinced that the world is falling apart. I mean, read Matthew 24:6-13, and you’ll hear Jesus himself say that it is.
And I don’t mind that it is. Obviously, I don’t like that atrocities and injustices and natural disasters are just a step away from touching our lives—or maybe already are. And I haven’t even mentioned the local and subjective fears. Things like bills, health, and the future in general are enough to keep us from ever opening our front doors.
But the world falling apart and us living in fear don’t have to correspond. In fact, for God’s people, they shouldn’t. Because fear is a lie.
Fear is mongered by the devil himself as a way to kill what God’s made you and trap you in doubt. The devil is aware of the kingdom impact a believer makes when the Spirit works in his gifts, so he’s going to use every fear he can to keep you from using your gifts. He’s going to work to tweak your insecurities in hopes that you question God’s promises and your status before him in Jesus.
Therefore, one of the first steps to overcoming fear is remembering that those things the devil wants you to question are unchangeable—God’s promises and your status before him in faith. God in his love for you sent Jesus. The salvation Jesus accomplished for you is factual, objective, and unconquerable. God’s love that we see in Jesus drives out fear (1 John 4:18).
Knowing God’s love means that you are free to not live in fear. Even if the externals that cause fear surround you, fear doesn’t have a right to hold you because God’s love lives in you.
So the next time fear threatens, take whatever’s pushing fear—whether it’s a diagnosis, the political outlook, something a spouse said that can’t be unsaid—and look at it from the perspective of your heart that is immersed in God’s love.
Here are a few points of perspective from God’s love that I use to filter the fears that the devil throws at me.
- This world isn’t my home. Did you know that God actually wants everything bad about this world—the things that cause us fear—to make us all the more eager to be done with this world (Romans 8:22,23)? We’re in this world for a purpose, but that purpose isn’t our comfort. It’s to bring God glory through our lives and our witness. When you see this world cycle deeper in its self-destruction, remember it’s not the world you’re here to save. It’s souls in it as God speaks his Good News of life through you.
- Resolution and safety come after this world. Not in this one. Jesus tells us to expect hardship here on earth (John 16:33). But at his side in heaven, he is “making everything new” as all that is broken finds restoration (Revelation 21:5).
- In everything and despite everything, God is in control. Not the president, not next year’s president, not the news media, and certainly not you. God is. And find peace in the knowledge that even events and currents in the world that seem to directly oppose God’s purposes are the very contexts in which he works his perfect plan. Case in point: Golgotha.
These perspective points don’t fix what you encounter, but they free you from the necessity to fear what you encounter. Instead of holding your fears in and trying to resolve them in your mind, take them to the cross. There, see your Savior who loves you so much that he gave up his life for you. There see your Savior look to you with that exact same intensity of love and assure you that he is with you today, tomorrow, and “to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).