One of the most oft-cited commands in the Bible is stated as “Do not fear,” or “Be strong and courageous.” In our modern era in the west, often if you want to grow in courage and fearlessness you need to go look for growth opportunities, whether it be through rock climbing, quitting an old job to begin a new one, having some kind of difficult conversation, or some other initiative. These need to be sought after increasingly if we want opportunities to grow in courage because our world has seemingly become so insulated. We now stand in a moment where the opportunity for courage and fearlessness has found us.
As everyone speaks on social media and news outlets and during work breaks of the spread of a virus at a global level, we as Christians are not immune to such realities. However, our response must look different, and there is reason why it can look different. To put it succinctly, God is, He will never leave or forsake us, and we are called to fear Him, which produces an other-worldly fearlessness in us.
First, God is. No one made Him and no one adds anything to His being, He supplies life to all (Acts 17:25). In any and every circumstance we are drawn back to the simply and yet profound truth that our God is “I am” (Exod. 3:14). God stands as sovereign over this world, in absolute and supreme power, working all things according to His plan in whatever way He pleases (Ps. 115:3; Eph. 1:11). Nothing will thwart His purposes or stay His hand (Dan. 4:34-35), He is God over all. All are called to recognize that the God of the Bible is the true God who created and sustains that creation, there is no other god.
Second, this sovereign, all-mighty God will never leave us or forsake us. Joshua was told this as he was exhorted three time to “be courageous” (Josh. 1:5-9). In fact, if you read the ending chapters of Deuteronomy and the book of Joshua as a whole there is a constant refrain, a command and a grounding reason to follow that command. To paraphrase these passages, this saying goes like this: “Be courageous, God is with us.” Hebrews 13:5 picks up on this when speaking of contentment. Thus, whether we are thinking of being content with what we have or a call to courage we are compelled to do so because God is with us and He is our sufficient portion that supplies sufficient grace (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
Finally, we are called to fear God, and this produces a kind of fearlessness in the world. In the beginning of Matthew 10 the disciples are being sent out to do ministry, and Jesus tells them it is going to be difficult, promising they will appear before magistrates and suffer ridicule. But he then says “Have no fear of them,” (Matt. 10:26) and to “not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28). Rather, we are to fear God “who can destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matt. 10:28). Jesus, therefore, is calling us to a proper fear of God, and the fear will displace improper fears, of those who persecute us, but seemingly of many other things as well, including viruses that can spread rapidly. We walk in reverence and worship of the one true God, who knows the number of hairs on our heads (Matt. 10:30), we walk in faith, and we walk courageously in the midst of life circumstances.
Our God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29) and so we worship Him in reverence and awe and joy-filled trembling. And as we do, we walk in fearlessness in this world, because God has redeemed us, He has called us by name to live for His glory, and we are His (Isa. 43:1). When we pass through grace difficulty we are called to be courageous and fear not, because this sovereign, self-existent, all-powerful, merciful, and just God is with us and will not leave or forsake us.
Fear is palpable in our world presently. Answers are not readily available and virtually all of our lives are being affected in one way or another. And it is not only this moment and this circumstance. Fear will grip us at various moments of life, and we must ready our minds and our hearts and our wills as Christians. We do not know all that will take place, but we know our God, and therefore our response, by God’s grace, should differ from that of the world. It is a time for people to see and ask about the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). Brothers and sisters, God has not called us to fear of this world, He has called us to live fearless lives, knowing that greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Let’s leverage our lives with trust in God and Spirit-empowered courage to do all He calls us to do, proclaim the good news of salvation to be found in Jesus Christ alone, and live for the glory of His name.