Hi this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Nothing to fear
On March 4th 1933 newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn into office. During his inaugural speech that day, he uttered a phrase which has been often repeated for almost 90 years. It is among his more notable and quotable of quotes. In that speech he made the bold statement that “We have nothing to fear except fear itself.”
At first glance, this statement might not seem to make sense but it was proclaimed as an encouragement to the millions of Americans who heard it that day in person and over the radio. It was intended to encourage the discouraged, disheartened and yes fearful minds of the American public as they were at that time enduring the ravages of the great depression. The fear of the unknown, the uncertainty of what new difficulty lay around the corner weighed heavy on nearly everyone’s mind. The economic impact of the crash of the stock market just a few years before coupled with vast unemployment had people wondering where their next meal might come from. That impending sense of doom was complicated by the Dust Bowl that had left much of the agricultural land of the Midwest unusable to ease the crisis. The outlook for our nation was indeed bleak when President Roosevelt told the entire country that there was “Nothing to fear except fear itself.”
The bible tells us differing things about fear and without proper understanding we might even think them to be contradictory. We are told in numerous places in the bible that we should fear the Lord. In the New King James Version this phrase occurs in 52 different passages of scripture. The Apostle John writes however, that perfect love casts out fear. The one indicates that we should fear, the other, that we should not. So which is it?
This week I read an interesting scriptural account that got me thinking about this concept of fear and whether it is healthy for us or not. Acts 5:1-11 relates the story of Ananias and Sapphira his wife. The setting of this story took place in the infancy of the church. During this time, the experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit was completely new. People were not accustomed to being indwelled by the very Spirit of God and as a result they were incredibly responsive to Him. God being the selfless God that He is was through His Spirit impressing on those who were filled with Him to also be completely selfless. As a result, at that time they were wonderfully reflecting their Creator. As a part of their newfound selflessness inspired by the Character of God flowing through them, many were selling their possessions and giving the money to the Apostles. The Apostles were in-turn distributing that money to others who needed it. One man named Joseph, who the Apostles called Barnabas which means Son of encouragement, had some land that he sold so the proceeds could be given to those in need. Apparently, Ananias and Sapphira also had some land that they wanted to sell for the same reason. We can continue with their story directly from the scripture.
Acts 5:1-11 in the New Living Translation reads as follows: But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. 2 He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. 4 The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” 5 As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. 6 Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him. 7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?” “Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.” 9 And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.” 10 Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened.
What was the fear that gripped that whole community? I believe it was involuntary fear of the Lord. What I mean by that is that in so many of the other aforementioned 52 occurrances in scripture where we are told we should have a fear of the Lord, we are cautioned to do so but in a voluntary sense. In other words, we should choose to fear the Lord. Obviously, God does not want us to be afraid of Him, He desires that we would love Him. The fear of the Lord is most certainly intended to mean that we should have a respect for the awesome power and authority of God. I think that in the account from Acts chapter 5 the newly formed church saw the awesome power and authority of God displayed and their fear of His power was an involuntary response. I think that as a result of what happened to Ananias and Sapphira they realized that God was intolerant of that kind of sin and disrespect toward Him in His new covenant with people that necessitated His only begotten Son be sacrificed to obtain. I believe their fear (and the original text called it terror) was that in God’s eyes, selfishness was deserving of death, rather than let it permeate His church. God was not willing that the church being the representation of the Bride of Christ, be tainted with something that was so contrary to His nature and character. As a result, I believe the people were in fear of the Lord’s willingness to protect and preserve His church.
So why did John write that perfect love casts out fear? What was He speaking about? I referred to this scripture last week.1 John 4:16-19 says, We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19 We love Him because he loved us first. We don’t have to fear because in Jesus we are free of judgement when we stand before God. If we are in personal relationship with Jesus we will be found righteous on that day and have nothing to fear…not even fear itself.
So now, living with a sober respect of the awesome power of God and His love for you that will go on for eternity…Go Be Awesome!