Encouragement From The Word

Fear not!

I have a calendar in my home study that has a strange trait: it has two November Fourteenths instead of one November 13th and one November 14th. I suspect it’s an error, and not intentional, since I get a calendar from the organization this came from each year, and this is the only time I’ve noticed two days labelled November 14.

But it does lead one to wonder about that fear of the number 13, and some people’s ‘issue’ with Friday the Thirteenth. “Triskaidekaphobia” is the fear of the number 13; “paraskevidekatriaphobia” is the scientific name for the fear of Friday the 13th. Some say this superstition stems from the notion that Judas was the 13th person at the Last Supper, on the night before Good Friday.

In other cultures, it’s a different number than 13 that is problematic. What they all hold in common is that the fear is irrational.

A common meme that finds its way around the internet now and again says that “Fear not” appears in the Bible 365 times, once for every day in the year. I haven’t stopped to count them all, but it seems about right. When we trust in the Lord, we have no reason to fear, no reason to worry.

Sadly, though, we find it easy to fear, easy to worry, but not so easy to trust in the One who created us, redeems us in Christ, and sustains us by the Holy Spirit. That will change as our relationship with the Lord grows deeper, as we know God’s character better, and are assured more of his love and kindness.

What do you fear irrationally? Think about that, and let it be an occasion to trust in the Lord more fully.

Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last.  I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave” (Revelation 1.17b-18, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Facing fears

Well, we’ve arrived at our first Friday The Thirteenth of 2015. (Since this is not a leap year, you can expect another in March. We won’t see another until November.) Some in western culture do see it as an “unlucky” day (as if there really were such a thing as luck, but that’s a topic for another day!). The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia. I don’t know if anyone seriously fears these days anymore; most of the time, what I see on social media just laughs them off.

But one thing is for certain: human beings do have fears. It’s part of who we are as those who live in the time after the fall of humanity. And it’s amazing what we will do, sometimes, to compensate for our fears.

People who are afraid of heights, for example, will normally try to steer clear of places where they fear they may fall a great distance, such as roofs, balconies, or mountaintops. People who are afraid of dogs will try to stay away from homes where dogs may be kept as pets, or from pounds, kennels or veterinary clinics.

Some fears, though, can’t be compensated for. They must be faced.

One might be afraid of public speaking; I think I read that this is the commonest of all fears. And while some people may be able to escape it their whole lives, others must speak publicly, whether for their employment or to voice a conviction or to laud someone at a retirement banquet or a funeral. Sometimes, upon conquering the fear once, it is discovered that it can be conquered again. Soon enough, the individual realizes that the fear wasn’t all that rational after all.

Followers of Jesus, like everyone else, experience fear. But we have an additional source that can encourage us to face our fears. King David, who had his share of enemies during his life, proclaimed, “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27.1, NIV). It would have been easy for David to run into the Judean hills and hide from his enemies, but he stood fast because the Lord was with him.

Whatever fears you may face, the Lord will be with you, too. Why not make Friday the 13th an occasion to rejoice in the Lord, who has the power to take away our fears?

Encouragement From The Word

O, happy day?!

Do you have any irrational fears?  That’s typically what a “phobia” is:  an irrational fear, or a superstition.  Remember, “Walk on a crack, break your mother’s fridayback”?  Or how about “bad luck” for 7 years if you break a mirror.  All silliness…right?

Today is Friday the 13th.  Motorcycle enthusiasts in Ontario love this day, because they typically take the day off and ride their hogs to the otherwise idyllic town of Port Dover, Ontario, for a rally.  But some people have irrational fears about the number thirteen, especially when it lands on a Friday.

Any of these superstitions and phobias may haunt us as children, but hopefully, we grow out of them.  And as followers of Jesus, we don’t believe in “bad luck” anyway; we don’t even believe in “good luck”, because, as Christian writer Wayne Oates put it in his book title, luck is a “secular faith”.

In some ways, saying “good luck” to someone, if we stop to think about it, is about the same as saying, “May the force be with you.”  It may be intended as well-wishing, but in the end it is quite impersonal.

One of my university professors, a good Dutch Calvinist, never wished us good luck when giving us an examination; rather, he said, “I wish you the best of success.”  In other words, he wanted us to do well, but he knew that there was no impersonal force, or luck, that was going to help us at this stage; if we hadn’t studied, we were up the creek.  But he wanted us to succeed.

As followers of Jesus, we don’t need impersonal forces to aid us; we have the God of the universe!  Who needs “luck” or “the force” when we have the Lord of heaven and earth?!

I hope that Friday the 13th is for you, as it is for me, another day to praise the Lord and live for him – not a day to put off otherwise healthy and excellent activity.  Enjoy the day!

I look up to the mountains – does my help come from there?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.  He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.  Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps” (Psalm 121.1-4, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Do you suffer from tridecaphobia?

Do you suffer from tridecaphobia?

That’s the irrational fear of the number 13.  It doesn’t get much press, except on days like today:  Friday the 13th.  Motorcycle enthusiasts in southern Ontario love Friday the 13th, because it gives them an excuse for a road trip.  (Many motorcycle enthusiasts meet on Friday the 13th in Port Dover, Ontario, for a rally.)

Some folks, though, get a bit tied up about the number 13, to the point that they won’t stay in a hotel room with that number, or buy a house with that number, or put a 13th floor in a building.  It’s a bit of an odd phobia, if you ask me.

The word phobia just means ‘fear’.  And in theological terms, ‘fear’ has two opposites:  ‘faith’…and ‘love’.  As Scripture says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4.18, NIV).

Followers of Jesus have no reason to fear anything, but especially something like the number 13.   So what makes us afraid of things?

We live in a sinful world, in which seeds of fear and doubt have been sown in abundance.  Jesus came, and lived and died and rose again, because God loved the world just that much.  His purpose was to redeem us from the sin to which we are enslaved, which includes our fears.

The antidote to fear is faith.  Trust the Lord, and give him your fears…even your fears of Friday the 13th.