F. E. A. R.
Today is Palm Sunday when the Christian church remembers Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. The crowd was rapturous, yet less than a week later at least some in that crowd were in a different crowd, the one screaming out for Jesus to die.
Jesus knew what was about to happen as He rode into Jerusalem. I can't imagine Him giving the royal wave to the adoring crowd as He contemplated what lay ahead. I do imagine that He felt a level of fear - He was, after all, a man.
Fear is arguably one of the most important tools Satan uses against us. If he can get us to fear, our faith is diminished and he can more easily rob us of our inheritance.
In the next few paragraphs I offer some antidotes to fear.
F: Forget what lies behind
Often, we have fear because of our past. Things have been said to us or we have had experiences that leave us fearing that we don't measure up to anyone's or even God's standards. By the grace of God, we can forget our past and look forward to what He has for us in the future.
IgniteLife's scripture for the year is from Isaiah 43:18-19.
But forget all that (I did before) - it is nothing compared to what I m going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway though the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. (New Living Translation)
God encourages us to look forward to the future, for He is going to do something new.
Regardless of our past we have the assurance that we are a new creation in Christ. Our past does not disqualify us in any way when it comes to the blessing of Go. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:17, 'This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!' We don't have to look back on our old life. All that matters is our new life in Christ.
As to the Christian life, the apostle Paul used an athletic metaphor. In his epistle to the Philippians, he wrote:
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it (the heavenly prize), but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us (Phil 3:13-14, NLT).
Jesus was able to overcome fear and endure the cross because he focused on the joy that was set before Him. Let us, therefore, forget what lies behind us and look forward to our future too.
E: Expect God to fulfil His promises
God fulfils His promises. He is a promise-keeper. He does not go back on His word.
God says this about Himself:
Listen! The Lord's arm is not too weak to save you, nor is His ear too deaf to hear you call. It's your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, He has turned away and will not listen anymore. (Is 59:1-2, NLT)
We can be assured that God hears us and acts on our behalf. God never reneges on His promises. It is only our wilful sinning that makes Him seem afar off.
The greatest promise in the whole of history was the promise of the New Covenant inaugurated when Jesus declared, 'It is finished,' from the cross. The Messiah had been promised and, at the first Christmas, the angels declared God's peace on earth and goodwill toward us. God certainly delivered on this promise! Because of the cross, God's promised are sealed. He hears our prayers and His arm is strong on our behalf.
The author of the book of Hebrews records, 'Then He said, "Look, I have come to do your will." He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect.' (Heb 10:9, NLT) Jesus knew that His mission on earth was to inaugurate the New Covenant.
A: Affirm the goodness of God
Another antidote to fear is to affirm the goodness of God. The Bible demonstrates that God is good. Psalm 145:9 (NLT) declares, 'The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all His creation.' There are, in fact, over 60 verses in the Bible that declare the goodness of God. Find them and speak them out whenever you feel like being negative.
This is, perhaps, the most important way of dealing with fear. Affirming the goodness of God will produce life in your world. Negative people rarely see anything good in anyone or anything, and they certainly don't understand the goodness of God. I declare His goodness every day, especially when things are not going 'my way'. Proverbs 18:21 reminds us, 'The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.' We must take care not to speak death. Speaking of the goodness of God is speaking life to your world.
R: Receive His love
If we forget what lies behind, expect God to keep His promises and affirm the goodness of God daily, then we will be in a good place to receive His love. He loves us anyway, but we need to be in a position to receive His love. Here are two passages that speak of God's love for us:
Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps His covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes His unfailing love on those who love Him and obey His commands (Deut 7:9, NLT).
But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's grace that you have been saved.) (Eph 2:4-5, NLT)
See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don't recognise that we are God's children because they don't know Him. (1 John 3:1, NLT)
We ought to meditate on how much God loves us. We ought to consciously receive His love. You see, the perfect love of God casts out all fear (see 1 John 4:18).
There you have it. The antidotes to fear. Forget what lies behind, expect God to keep His promises, affirm that God is good, and receive His love.
Questions for reflection/discussion
1. What emotions do you think Jesus experienced on what we now call Palm Sunday? Was fear one of them?
2. Do you have some ideas to share about how we can put the past behind us and forget it?
3. Share three examples from the Bible and/or your own experience that show that God keeps His promises.
4. Reflecting on your own speech, would you say that you are a creator of life or death? If the latter, how might you use your tongue to create a different world for yourself?
5. Cory Asbury's recent worship song is called Reckless Love. It has caused some debate about its theological accuracy. Cory himself says the song was inspired by the parables in Luke 15 and that the word 'reckless' was used to describe God's love as illustrated by those parables. Read Luke 15 and discuss whether you would use the word 'reckless' to describe God's love for us.