This past week I listened to a couple of messages – one on health and the other was a sermon – both on the spiritual battle that we all face in our minds. They were both on fear. The first message was from Caroline Leaf, PhD.1 She is a brain researcher and lecturer. She has been studying the brain for over twenty years. In her talk, she related that there are two emotional roots tied to our memories – faith and fear. Each memory has emotional components to them. In the brain, there is a place where memory is stored for long-term. When visible seen, the memory storage area looks like trees. The faith-based memories (aka good memories) will look like lush green trees. The fear-based memories (aka bad memories) will look like thorn bushes. Fear creates little thorn growths on the outer edges of our memory trees. (The fear-based emotions cause harm to the body.) I was fascinated with these ideas.
The next message was from Andy Stanley on the N Commandments2– the commandments that Jesus instructed the disciples in order to carry on with His movement. This first commandment in this new series is, of course – “Do not fear.” Jesus was telling His disciples all the time “do not be afraid!” He told them not to be afraid when persecution comes (and it would come). Do not fear man or what man can do to you, but fear the One who has control over life and death eternal. Fear God. We are to respect God. He has authority over life and death; He conquered death through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
In the early years of this new movement, they didn’t have a Bible; they didn’t have great instructions to live by – except what Jesus spoke and was passed along. The disciples followed Jesus for three years. They listened; they saw; then they were given the instructions to go to the world and preach the good news. Jesus told Martha when Lazarus was dead in the grave for four days (John 11:25) – “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever believes in me will never die.”
When Jesus was resurrected, they believed. Because of their belief, they no longer feared death or feared sharing the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection no matter the consequences of the persecution they would face. They would go before governors and kings; they would be flogged and thrown out of synagogues, but they had confidence in the One who sent them. They became fearless and spoke with the authority that Jesus gave them – no matter what.
One of my own struggles is fear. I needed to hear these messages this past week. For the past couple of weeks, I have been in the place of fear because of my circumstances. But what I realized in the last day or two, if everything was gone and I had nothing – is this life or death? Why am I afraid that I will have nothing? God said He would take care of all my needs. I see persecution happening all over the world today. People are leaving everything behind and fleeing to safer places. They are facing executioners and standing firm until the end. They have nothing in the end, except the One who can save them from eternal damnation. That’s enough – nothing else matters. It’s time to release the fear and know that God is enough!
My pastor concluded his message on Sunday on the wisdom from Solomon found in Ecclesiastes 12:13 – Fear God and keep His commandments (Solomon reminded us that everything else is meaningless). Voids in our lives cannot be filled by stuff or people – God made us incomplete so that we can find our sufficiency in Him alone. Nothing else matters. When fear starts to creep in, I have been recalling a new song I heard recently – “You are a good, good Father – it’s who you are. And I am loved by You, that’s who I am. You are perfect in all your ways.”3 When I remember this, I remember a good Father takes care of His children – no matter what. We are precious in His sight.
“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” Matthew 10:28-31 (NLT)
1Caroline Leaf, PhD, “My Body, His Temple” teaching series by Life Today
2Andy Stanley, the N Commandments series, Part 2
3“Good Good Father” by Housefires II, 2014