No Need for Fear
Charles Swindoll told the following story about a Christmas event. A young boy was given one of the angel parts in the children’s Christmas play at his church. After the first rehearsal he ran to his parents in the church hallway. “I’m the angel who speaks! I’m the angel!” In reality he had just one line: “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of a great joy.”
As the weeks grew closer, he practiced his one line over and over, but on the night of the play, as he stood on the stage, eyes wide open in terror as he panned the audience, all he could get out was, “Fear . . . Fear.”
Have you ever struggled with fear and doubt in your spiritual walk? Sure you have; we all have. The types of situations in which fear paralyzes are beyond any individual’s imagination. As Swindoll lamented, all we whisper is, “Fear . . . fear.”
Some of our mentoring examples from biblical history would agree. Simon Peter certainly would. He struggled with it on many occasions, just like us. How many times would Jesus be forced to remind his disciples, “Fear not?” When Peter stood by a fire at night, watching the trials of Jesus, he felt fear. When he hid, watching the cross from a hill away from the troops and crowds, he faced it. He would struggle with it as a renowned apostle who was afraid of the legalists who criticized him and he had to be admonished by his friend and fellow apostle, Paul, to stand on grace.
You know the principle. On so many occasions, Jesus said, “Fear not.” We remember the angels telling the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem on the night of Christ’s birth to not be afraid. It’s almost a brain-numbing mantra that we repeat even in our sleep. “Don’t be afraid, God is great, Jesus is powerful, I’m protected, and we have no need to be afraid.” I remember my childhood Sunday School teachers reciting something similar.
But did my childhood teachers actually believe it? Do we believe it? Have we learned something about Christ from the experiences of fear, lessons that change the way we view our fear?
Peter had a string of fearful experiences in Luke 8 that taught more about Jesus. Having called his disciples to follow him, Jesus next sought to authenticate his claims of authority by demonstrating his power over all things. All four gospel writers wrote about a sequence of mighty works and miracles that demonstrated Jesus’ divine power over all things— storms that threaten to sink our plans, demonic influences that might destroy others, and diseases that may incapacitate our movements. Yet there is no power that comes close to Christ’s power. Even Satan holds only relegated power from God; he does not hold his own power. Peter watched all these things, one after the other, much like having a very, very long week.
The issue was purposefully clear. Jesus’ power forced Peter to face Christ’s authority over all things. Since Jesus has the power, He holds sovereign authority. By learning that Christ truly holds authority over everything, then Peter need not fear. Notice the order of Peter’s lesson—fear, Christ’s powerful activity, sudden recognition of authority, followed by a sense of peace, all in that order. Our transformation begins and ends with the activity and authority of Jesus, not the sense of fear. In the midst of fearful situations, we may have peace since our lives are founded upon the authority of Christ.
For those who do not know Christ well, the demonstration of his power may itself be frightening. The crowd who saw the demons cast out in Luke 8:26f were surprisingly afraid, not rejoicing. They recognized that the presence of Christ carried the authority of God, the authority of God compels obedience, and service may cost you. They were afraid and asked him to leave. Yet when we really understand Jesus’ combination of authority and grace, we suddenly understand that His power is designed for our transformation and good (the word, “save,” is used several times in Luke 8, so Christ’s power is used for our “salvation,” not our hesitation).
Disciples are free to serve Christ without fear. When Jesus asks us to do something, there is no need to be afraid since He acts with power and authority by His grace. He will empower us to do whatever He asks of us. Grace guarantees that no force can hinder His calls because He holds sole authority over everything.
“Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of a great joy.”