“Don’t worry,” we often find ourselves saying—without any way to relieve the circumstances provoking the worry or any ability to change the mindset of the worrier. Christ used similar words during His brief ministry on earth: “Fear not” or “Be not afraid” was an encouragement which He frequently repeated to troubled disciples or others who came to Him.
Fear of need. We can readily identify with some of the concerns that the Lord told His disciples not to fear. To those who would worry about meeting their needs—what they would eat and what they would wear—the Lord responded, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk. 12:32).
Fear of hatred or persecution. Other fears, namely, open hatred and persecution, believers to this point in this country have not experienced. But we can appreciate the genuine concern that such a prospect engendered, particularly as we see growing antagonism toward Christianity in our midst. To such fears the Lord responded three times: “Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known . . . . And fear not them which can kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. . . . Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:26, 28, 29, 31). No one likes to think about such possibilities; they are particularly frightening, and so the Lord Jesus tells His disciples three times to not be afraid.
Fear of the death of loved ones. Which one of us has not dreaded or feared the death of a loved one? When the ruler of the synagogue came to Christ to request the healing of his daughter, before he could fairly get his request answered, messengers came to tell him that his daughter had died. “As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe” (Mk. 5:36). How quick the Lord is to comfort this man in his grief.
Fear of the blessed way and work of the Lord. What is striking in the gospels is that the Lord reserves the most “fear nots” or “be not afraids” for circumstances arising out of a positive blessing that has been misunderstood. As the disciples struggled on the stormy Sea of Galilee, they saw but did not recognize the Lord walking to them on the water, and “they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid” (Matt. 14:27). On a later occasion, the Lord is gloriously transfigured before Peter, James, and John. God speaks out of a cloud to them. “And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid” (Matt. 17:7). Just prior to His crucifixion, the Lord tells the disciples of His impending death and the giving of the “Comforter.” Aware of the fear arising in their hearts, the Lord says: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Still later, the Lord appears to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary just after His resurrection and greets them with the words: “All hail . . . Be not afraid” (Matt. 28:9, 10).
How gracious the Lord is. Whether the fear has been provoked by a natural calamity, just the anticipation of a calamity, or the complete misapprehension of an absolute blessing (as fully half the cited instances involve), the Lord’s message is the same: “Don’t be afraid.” All fear is equally misplaced. Some causes seem more justified than others, but there is never cause for fear. First, some things we anticipate with fear never come to pass. Second, for those trials that we must endure, He provides sufficient grace. And third, for the blessings He sends that we misunderstand, He provides illumination so that we may come to appreciate them. Truly, there is reason to rest in the Lord. He has the ability to change the fearful circumstances that engulf us or to change us in the midst of fearful, engulfing circumstances—or both.
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