Fear is something that I’ve become well-acquainted with. I am often confronted by a brother or sister in Christ who is experiencing fear because of the dire circumstances that surround us in a world that has become so unsettled. Fear that our religious freedoms are on the brink of being taken away. Fear that non-Christian religions are gaining ground in America. Fear of our national debt. Fear that North Korea will launch an attack. Fear that a cataclysmic economic collapse looms on the horizon. Fear that life will never be like it used to be.
A little closer to home is a fear that has gripped me about my own life and ministry. When I was younger I had so much more confidence… some might say cockiness! I thought I was invincible, that I had the answer for everything… that as long as I worked hard and held faithfully to the Gospel, life and ministry would be a continual incline of ever-increasing success. And don’t get me wrong, God has been so good to me, so generous and kind. But in His wisdom He has also allowed me to bloody my “ministry nose” more than once in recent years. Discovering that I am not invincible, that I don’t have all the answers and watching fleshly confidence fade away like the evening sun has created within me an unexpected and uncomfortable fear. Do I have what it takes? Can I actually continue in ministry? Am I washed up and if so, what’s next for me? Yes, I know what it’s like to live in fear. I can sympathize with all who look at their life and the world and wonder if they have what it takes to make it another day.
Despite my ability to sympathize, I must call myself and any other believers into account. Fear is NOT the path for a Christ-follower. Now, apart from Christ, there is every legitimate reason in the world to be afraid. Without Him, we are left to our own abilities to deal with life’s complex issues. That in itself is enough to generate fear. Our natural abilities are no match for all the turmoil that surrounds us. But in Christ, there is never a legitimate reason to fear. Our lives are in the hands of the One who created all things and sustains them. He is the one who allows nations to rise up or causes them to fall down. Despite the chaos around us, God’s hand is sovereignly upon this world and upon our lives. We are safe in Him. I’m not saying that we may not encounter difficult times, loss of job, wealth, health or even life. We may in fact suffer, but we will never do so apart from God’s loving hand moving us through difficulty for His ultimate glory and our ultimate good. That’s what the Apostle Paul is talking about when he writes: “All things work together for good, for those who love God, and are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 He does not say that all things work together for our “comfort” or “Convenience” or even for our “happiness.” But as the children of God, everything our loving Father allows us to go through, it is for our good.
So here’s the big question: What good is Paul talking about? It’s found in the next verse, Romans 8:29: “For those whom He foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son…” Everything a child of God faces, both those we would call “positive” and those we think “negative” have a purpose to fulfill. Molding us into the image of Christ Jesus our Lord. Yes, my head-on collision eleven years ago was a transforming event. The breakdown I suffered last December, a transforming event. Even the birth of my first grandchild, a transforming event. All things work together for my good. I praise God for that.
I’ll close with this… “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 Christ-followers have the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within. We have the love of Christ that has been poured into our hearts…and we have the Word of God that transforms our minds to live and see life from God’s perspective. Yes, the world can be a scary place and life’s unexpected turns and twists will threaten to dredge up fear. But let us keep our eyes on Christ, holding to the reality that He is bigger, stronger and able to make all things work for our good. Let us not fear, but live life with purpose and faith.