October 16 – Fear

October 16 – Fear

Daniel 3:17-18

“If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18)

Though some may hold that all sin stems from the three roots of lust, covetousness, and pride, it seems apparent that some sin may result from none of these. Just as lust, covetousness, and pride are distortions of basic drives that God gave for our good, so the most basic drive of all, self-preservation, may be pursued in sinful ways. Our minds are armed with the instinct to protect self from harm or death, just as our bodies are “wired” with a defense mechanism of pain sensors without which we would be totally vulnerable.

The fear of danger is a good gift that makes survival possible. In fact, in the Old Testament the fear of the Lord is seen as the basis of all life and good. But when the strong drive for survival becomes obsessive or overpowers other higher obligations, it becomes wrong. There is no moral law that demands preservation of my well-being or life at all costs. On the contrary, a higher loyalty to God and even love for others may well demand self-sacrifice rather than self-protection. In answer to the sin of unbelieving fear stands the strong virtue of courage.

Although all varieties of sin relate to the taproot of unfaith in one way or another, fear seems to be most closely connected to lack of faith and certainly its opposite — courage — is born of faith. Of course, the absence of fear may not come from faith. A fearless person may simply be ignorant of the danger that threatens. Presumption dispels fear quite as effectively as faith. Presumption is confidence misplaced, relying on some person or something that is not reliable. We may fearlessly trust a great leader or a dear friend, only to be hurt badly. A person may receive advice from a godless psychiatrist, rely on it, and rush headlong to destruction. But confidence placed in God will never be betrayed. This confidence produces fearless courage. The lack of it leads to fearful timidity.

Ordinarily we stress the gentler virtues of kindness, humility, meekness, patience, but Scripture stresses the stronger virtues as well: courage, loyalty, discipline, endurance. The champions of the Old Testament were men and women of incredible valor. Consider how even the name evokes a sense of courage: Noah against the world; Abraham leaving his homeland; Jacob and the Angel; Joseph and the temptress; Moses versus Pharaoh; blind Samson; Gideon and the three hundred; Deborah and the weak-kneed generals; David against Goliath; Elijah and the prophets of Baal; Daniel and the lions; Esther and the king. And think of Daniel’s friends: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods!” (Daniel 3:17-18).

The Christian is called to fight aggressively for right, truth, justice. Valor is the active, aggressive side of courage, but there is a passive side as well: fortitude or endurance. The New Testament speaks constantly of this, but we don’t recognize it, for often it is translated “patience.” Patience in Scripture is not milquetoast acquiescence but tough endurance. The one who endures to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13). Those who overcome, who endure steadfastly to the end, are the ones who receive a “welcome home” and all the rewards of the victors.[83] Therefore we are enjoined to run with endurance, to stand fast, not to be weary in the battle, to put on the whole armor, to strive mightily, to wrestle, to war. In fact, through him we are more than conquerors in the face of every enemy and obstacle.

[83] Revelations 2:7, 10-11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12-21; 21:7

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