Encouragement From The Word

Do not fear

For a long time, we assumed these sorts of things only happened in other places: Tel Aviv. Belfast. New York.

Now we know: Canada is not immune. The terrorist attacks in Ottawa on Wednesday morning have shaken our nation in ways not previously experienced. We are vulnerable. Those who would make Canadians “pay” for our desire to see freedom and democracy for all the world’s peoples are among us.

In other words, we now live as much of the world lives.

We cannot, however, live in fear, for that is what the terrorists want. They undertake their activities in an attempt to terrorize people into succumbing to the wishes of those doing the terrorizing.

Many people in the world live in fear because of terrorism, and it is in those places where the terrorists have the upper hand.

But not all those living under terrorism live in fear. Consider the Christians in Mosul, Iraq. It is they who live with the most visibleNun_arabic_Nazarene sign of terrorism these days. It is they who have the Arabic letter nun painted on their homes by ISIS insurgents who are intent on eradicating the Christian “infidels” from the land they believe is rightfully Islamic territory.

If some armed group were threatening to remove you from your home, what would you do? If your answer is “give in”, you’re not like the Iraqi Christians. Not only are they not giving in, there are reports that more people are coming forward to be baptized into the name of the Triune God of grace – even in the midst of overt persecution.

“Fear” is not in the vocabulary of these believers. Neither should it be in ours.

The days of Christendom, even in good old safe Canada, are gone. To live as an authentic follower of Jesus today is not mainstream. It is, as it always was in New Testament times, counter-cultural. But we serve the God who enabled the prophet Elijah single-handedly to put the prophets of a false god in their place. We serve the God who enabled little David to slay Goliath the giant. We serve the God who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ.

If that sounds a little bit triumphalistic, so be it. The apostle Paul told the Roman Christians, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8.31, NIV). It is this belief that we serve the one true God that has encouraged Christians for over two thousand years.

The threat of terrorism – religious, political, or otherwise – is real for us. But we should not fear.

Take a few moments and slowly read – more than once, if you can – Psalm 46 (NLT). Allow it to soak through you and fill you with faith in the God who will protect you, who will protect all of his faithful, in the face of whatever may come before us. (When you see the word “interlude”, that’s right in the text; pause at those points and let the words sink in.) Believe what you read, and let that be an encouragement to you…and through you, to others.

God is our refuge and strength,

    always ready to help in times of trouble.

So we will not fear when earthquakes come

    and the mountains crumble into the sea.

Let the oceans roar and foam.

    Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Interlude

A river brings joy to the city of our God,

    the sacred home of the Most High.

God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.

    From the very break of day, God will protect it.

The nations are in chaos,

    and their kingdoms crumble!

God’s voice thunders,

    and the earth melts!

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;

    the God of Israel is our fortress. Interlude

Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:

    See how he brings destruction upon the world.

He causes wars to end throughout the earth.

    He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;

    he burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God!

    I will be honored by every nation.

    I will be honored throughout the world.”

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;

    the God of Israel is our fortress. Interlude

 

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Encouragement From The Word

Face your fears

Sometimes, the world seems like a more evil place than ever before.  In reality, I imagine it isn’t much more or less evil than in days gone by; it is our technological advances that enable us to know more about what’s going on in the world, thereby drawing our conclusion about evil.  Nevertheless, this has drawn out fear in some people.

The Bosma case, about which I wrote last week, is an example of this.  Advances in information sharing arguably led to Mr. Bosma’s abduction (because he was selling a truck online) and to our knowing about it (through mainstream and social media).  One could argue that the advent of terrorism, of which we rarely spoke in the past, has come as a result of how much we can know and how quickly we can know it.

And terrorism, if you think about it, has its root in fear.  Terrorism is commonly defined as the use of violence and intimidation for political gain, but if you break it down, terror itself is extreme fear.  Those who engage in terrorism are trying to make people afraid – afraid enough to give in to what the terrorists want.

Terrorism, then, doesn’t just happen with guns and bombs and planes and land mines.  It can happen even with words alone.  And because we have greater access to more words than ever before in the history of the human race, it has become easy to terrorize people with words.  Fear is struck into many hearts as a result.

What do you fear?  It’s a good question to ask oneself.  The root of our anger is fear, and in extreme cases, we are driven to do whatever we do in life by fear.  But that is not God’s plan for us.

In 1 John 4.18 we read that “perfect love expels all fear” (NLT).  The deeper we grow into the love of God – which is perfect love – the less fear we will have.  The Psalmist wrote, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.  So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea” (Psalm 46.1-2, NLT).  And who can count the number of times Jesus told us not to be afraid?

Easier said than done, right?  Fear is one of the devil’s great tools against followers of Jesus.  Face your fears head-on, mindful that you have the Creator of the universe going ahead of you and behind you (Psalm 139.5).  Give them to God in prayer, but don’t take them back.  Let God’s perfect love drive out your fears.  This might not all happen at once, but as the Lord works in your heart, you will find your fears replaced with God’s perfect love.