Monday, July 13, 2009

"Whom Shall I Fear?"

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? (Psalm 27:1)

Now it was their turn. What they had seen Jesus do, they were being told to do.

Jesus’ instructions must have been daunting to those disciples; they would heal all kinds of sickness; they would preach the good news of the kingdom; they would cast out demons; they would restore leprous skin to wholeness.

Along with the instructions, Jesus gave authority. He didn’t tell them to do something they couldn’t possibly do. He told them what to do and promised them the power to do it.

Their effectiveness would be closely connected to their faith, their willingness to trust and to risk. They were not to pack a bag or take money with them. No last minute ATM withdrawals. No backpacks with peanut butter and saltines and Vienna sausages. They would live in complete dependence, claiming nothing for themselves but the grace of God.

Authority to make a difference in the world thrives in a trusting heart.

And, according to Jesus, that same authority becomes a shriveled empty husk when fear is present. Jesus made this plain to those whom he called to whom he gave authority. Be on your guard. You will meet resistance. But don’t be afraid. Don’t fear those who can do nothing more than kill the body. They have no real power.

Fear will quench your power. Trust will feed it. (See Matthew 10:5-30).


Ours is a fearful age. We are eaten up with anxieties. In recent months our fears have been rooted in the economic crisis. These fears are not entirely unsubstantiated. People are really losing jobs and homes, and when this happens some measure of concern is perfectly understandable.

Nevertheless, the pervasive dis-ease in our land is hard to deny. We’re afraid for our children and the would be abductors and abusers that lurk in the most benign places.
We’re afraid of illnesses and words like “pandemic.” We know all too well now that we’re not immune from terrorists.

Psalm 27 asks a question that’s critical for our time. “Whom shall I fear?” The answer is implied: “I will fear no one.” Psalm 56 asks the same question with different words. “What can mortal man do to me?” Again: the answer is “nothing.”

Questions like these are intended to help us re-vision the realities around us. It’s not that the Psalmists never felt fear or anxiety, and is certainly not true that the Psalmists had no reason to be afraid. They felt fear and they had good reasons for being fearful.

But fear did not define reality for them. These words of prayer are a way of claiming that God stands at the center of all things, every threatening circumstance, every unnerving piece of news.

We need to pray these words because now it is our turn. Jesus sends us into this anxious world to do what he did and live as he lived. Don’t be afraid to love people. Don’t be afraid to offer blessing. Don’t be afraid to help. Don’t be afraid to speak of your faith. Fearful, anxious people are too busy stockpiling resources and building bomb-shelters to go into the world and change it.

What do you fear today? How does it hinder your walk with Jesus?

“Lo! The hosts of evil round us scorn thy Christ, assail his ways! From the fears that long have bound us, free our hearts to faith and praise. Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the living of these days, for the living of these days.” (God of Grace and God of Glory, The Hymnbook, 358).

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