Focus on Christ – Not on Fear!
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself— nameless,
unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed
efforts to convert retreat into advance” (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, first inaugural address, March 4, 1933)
Weltschmerz—a German word meaning world-pain or world-weariness is used to describe mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state. Based on the anxiety and concern contained in reports and letters we receive from those we serve, as well as a general condition of weltschmerz in our society, there is no doubt that fear, worry, stress and tension are wreaking havoc in the lives of many. Many, reacting to an endless stream of negative and depressing news, report that they are virtually paralyzed with fear.
Fear is the very antithesis of the spiritual vision God gives—it’s a spiritual malaise which causes those who fall prey to it to see things that do not, and may never, exist. In Don Quixote, Cervantes observed “fear has many eyes and can see things underground.” Disheartening and distressing news, whether in our personal lives or in that of the world at large, can cause some to not merely fear the present, but to become paranoid about the future. But when we realize that God already lives in tomorrow, we need not overly fear the future.
Some believe that daily news reports signal that the “time is short” and that we are living in the “last days.” In one sense, I absolutely agree. These are the last days for each of us, just as every human being who has ever been born in the history of this tired old earth once lived in the “last days.” News flash! Each of us has a finite period of time during which we live out our physical lives. From that perspective, all of us alive in these early years of the 21st century are living in the last days—just like every other human being who has ever lived.
But of course, this is not what many have in mind when they say that “time is short” and we are living in the “last days.”
They may also say that they see “signs all around us” which lead them to conclude that these are the “last days.” There are many reasons why we can feel threatened and worried, and so conclude that we are living in the “last days.” One source of these fears is planted in unsuspecting minds by fear-mongering religion, which causes its followers to believe that God is angry with them, and will send Jesus to sort everything out here on earth. According to these prophets of doom, immediately before the Second Coming, God will send death and destruction to all the inhabitants of the earth because he just can’t put up with us anymore.
This kind of preaching and teaching is a complete misrepresentation of God. It is a religious fabrication, a control mechanism designed to keep religious slaves in line. God is not a God of fear—he doesn’t send a spirit of timidity, but of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Jesus came to bring us rest and peace, not death and mayhem. Of course we experience pain and heartache in this world—human beings always have. Of course there will be wars, famines, nuclear melt-downs, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, earthquakes and tsunamis. The cycle of life on this tired old earth has always included catastrophes like the black plague, the Inquisitions, Dark Ages, holocausts, racial “cleansings” and genocides.
Born to Trouble
Humanity has always been afflicted with disease—today we are traumatized by AIDS, cancer and many other horrific terminal conditions. Humans have always been presented with the harsh reality of too little food and water. The nature of humans has always trended toward hatred and rapacious lust and greed. These “signs” will no doubt occur just before Jesus returns—just as they have throughout human history. Job observed, drawing on the analogy of the smoke and sparks that always fly upward out of a fire that “man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). Our lot as humans is a lot like the smoke and sparks from a fire—our troubles are certain. That’s of course bad news. But there is good news—and that is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about.
The good news is that Jesus is not only coming, in bodily form, to this earth in his Second Coming—but the good news is that he has already come. The good news gets better! He is still coming—in the lives of those who accept and believe in him (Galatians 2:20). He has come to invite us to come to him, and he will take care of our worries and fears, our guilt and our shame (Matthew 11:28-30). When we take up his yoke and follow him we can be unburdened from overwhelming doubts and worries.
In the midst of their anxiety, some have told us that they feel they just need to find the right church. Finding the right piece of real estate which has the right creeds and customs and ceremonies is not the primary call Jesus gives. He says come to him. We will find ultimate peace and joy in him, whether or not we feel we have found the “right” brick-and-mortar edifice which calls itself a church. When we are in Christ and he is in us, by God’s grace, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). Look for Jesus.
Keep him the center of your faith and focus!
Jesus has taken all of our fears, our shame and our guilt, and he gives us, in return, the peace of God: “…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience” (Hebrews 10:22).
If we are fearful, we should ask where that fear is coming from. Who or what is alarming and distressing us? Fear and worry are not the fruit of God, the Holy Spirit.
Who or what is intimidating us…and why? What is their motive in causing us to continually live in a state of agitation, worried that we are living in the “last days”? Jesus tells us not to fear!
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18).
In Romans 8:31-39, one of the great passages in the Bible, Paul provides Christ-centered comfort:
“If God is for us, who can be against us” (vs. 31). “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one” (vs. 33-34). “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (vs. 35) “…we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (vs. 37).
Let us trust God. Let us put our faith in Christ. Let us focus on Christ alone!