Encouragement From The Word

Conquering Fear

Nelson Mandela once said, “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Well, I assume he said it, because, you know, I read it on the Internet.  If he didn’t say it, I’d be surprised, because it sounds like something he would have said.  (And don’t worry, I’m sure he meant it to apply to women, too.)

There is wisdom in those words.

Each of us has fear over something – maybe even every day.  But whatever the subject matter is, we all, from time to time, feel afraid.

To be sure, the current global pandemic has placed fear in a lot of people.  In some ways, I don’t blame them; the Coronavirus is an Unknown Entity in so many ways, and none of us – not even the experts – have been down this road before.  And as parts of the world and parts of our world begin to open, that may strike even more fear into some.

The good news for followers of Jesus is that conquering fear – that to which South Africa’s great freedom fighter commended us – is eminently doable, because we have the Holy Spirit living in us and through us.

In 1 John 4.16b-18, we read, “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.  Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love” (NLT).

More often than not, I hear that read as the second-most-favourite Bible passage used at weddings.  But, like its first-place neighbour, 1 Corinthians 13, the context for the passage is not a wedding, even though each passage applies in that kind of setting.  Of course, its context also was not a global pandemic (unless you count sin as a global pandemic, and that’s certainly legit!).  But the principle fits.

Focus with me on one phrase:  “perfect love expels all fear.”  Perfect love is the love with which God loves us, the love that sent his only Son to the cross for us, the love that brought him back from the dead, the love that sent the Holy Spirit on his followers with tongues of fire.  That love, Christian friend, lives in you and me.  And that love expels all fear.

It’s easier to say than it is to live out, however.  Our minds easily get caught up in fear over any number of life situations.  But when we remind ourselves of God’s great love for us, and our desire to follow and serve him in the power of the Holy Spirit, he will cast out all fear.

Being rid of fear certainly shouldn’t rid us of caution.  Just because we’re called to live in love and not in fear doesn’t mean we should be stupid.  But it does mean we can rest in the confidence that God goes ahead of us in solving whatever dilemma causes us fear.

I have no idea if Mandela knew the Lord.  But the best way to conquer fear is to let him do it through the Holy Spirit.

Encouragement From The Word

Get the job done

As is quite common with newly-elected politicians, the new mayor of the city of Toronto, John Tory, has come out of the gates bucking to get the job done. Yesterday, he announced that traffic gridlock in that city will be a top priority. Indeed, he said that even if he had to drive a tow truck himself, he would do everything he could to ensure that traffic begins to flow more smoothly within the city as soon as possible.

Whether or not you appreciate his politics, you have to admire Mr. Tory’s gumption. He wants something to happen, and he’s prepared to roll up his sleeves and make it happen. Now, he may have been speaking somewhat rhetorically, but if he is serious about his own participation in solving the problem, that’s impressive.

How often are we, as God’s people, quick to point out a problem? If we’re honest, most of us can think of more occasions than we can number when we’ve been willing to highlight a problem. And how often have we, as God’s people, been just as quick to jump in and help solve the problem?

Hopefully, almost as many times as we have pointed out problems, we have helped find solutions. But that’s not always the case. The most helpful and effective people are those who will not only show us what’s wrong, but will help us make it right.

Jesus was like that, wasn’t he? More often than not, in his case, the Pharisees would point out the problem, and he would create the solution. But one example of Jesus acting on his own came when he cleared the temple of the money changers and buyers and sellers of animals for sacrifice (cf. Matthew 21.12-13). He saw the problem, and he solved the problem – in a more practical way than some people were (and are) comfortable with!

The hands-on Jesus might seem a little less “meek and mild” than the teacher Jesus. But there is only one Jesus. And he, too, is bucking to get the job done. Are you?

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him” (1 John 4.16b-17, NIV, emphasis added).

Biblical Messages

LOVE ONE ANOTHER: How to tell the difference

Few topics are harder to preach about than the reality of evil in the world – not because it’s hard to find examples of it, but because evil does not want to be exposed for what it is.  Therefore, preparing to preach, and actually preaching, on evil spirits is very difficult, because those evil spirits work to try to keep you from exposing them for what they are.  Such was my challenge this week.

John, in writing his first letter, is dealing with false teachers who are denying Jesus’ incarnation.  John, then, out of love and care for his flock, writes to remind the church that believing Jesus is God-in-the-flesh is the litmus test for teaching.  He writes this in 1 John 4.1-6.

Listen to the message here:

Biblical Messages

In memory of Barb

It is not an easy thing to bring the Word at the memorial service of a close loved one.  Such was my task on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, as I preached at the memorial service of my mother-in-law, Barbara Tubb, in the Presbyterian Church in St. Marys, Ontario.  You can listen to the message of hope, based on 1 John 4.7-21 here: