Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"No Fear"

When I was a kid, I was afraid of lots of things. I was afraid of monsters in my closet, shadows under my bed, and noises in the wind. I remember when it was my job to carry the table scraps to the edge of the woods after dinner, how sometimes if it was dark, my imagination would get the best of me and I would go running at the sound of a squirrel in the leaves. I was sure some terror of the night was after me. Some of my fears I outgrew, but some have persisted since childhood. When I go to the beach, I’m constantly scanning the water for a dorsal fin—and I never even saw Jaws! I have to remind myself that it’s actually more dangerous driving to the beach, than being at the beach, and that most of the things we fear never happen anyway.

Living without fear is a challenge for most of us. We find our lives troubled by the pain of loss, giving up of our desires, ignorance, impatience, desperation, despair, sickness, loneliness, death, and so many other things that threaten us. Yet even with all of this, the psalmist makes a bold statement. “We will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling (Psalm 46:2-3 ESV).” How can this be so? Because, as verse 1 states, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” This seems like an overly-simple solution to fear, so let’s see how it works. Verses 4-7 say:
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

What is this river that makes God’s home (that means YOU) glad? It’s the River of Life, that’s found in Revelation 22.1-2 (ESV):
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

This river isn't simply a water feature in some faraway Heaven. It flows from the altar, from the very Temple of God in the New Jerusalem. As the Bible says that you are God's Temple (1 Cor 6.19), this also applies not only to an otherworldly landscape, but to the soul of the believer. Jesus said of the believer: Jesus said, "The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life...Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water (Jn 4.14; 7.38 ESV).’”

This River of Life is the flow of Holy Spirit within you. Like the ebb and flow of breath within your lungs, this Life moves through your soul, gladdening the heart and giving peace to your spirit. When you become sensitive to the Spirit's flow within you, peace overwhelms the fear that threatens. God is at your center, and your center is in God; you shall not be moved.

Psalm 46.5 says, "God will help her when morning dawns." The morning the psalmist speaks of is God's illumination within the heart of the person who prays. By centering yourself in God, practicing His presence in the River of Life that flows through your soul, you find yourself strangely calm, though the nations rage and the kingdoms totter around you. The morning dawning reminds us that: God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV)."

So the light of God (illumination of dawn) and the life of God (river whose streams make glad the city of God) keep the believer in perfect peace, even when surrounded by natural and human disaster. In verse 9 we learn that God is the bringer of peace. How can we know God's peace, even as the world rages around us? “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth (v. 10)!"

Practicing the presence of God, allowing His light to dawn on you, feeling His living water flow through you, knowing God's peace that conquers fear--all these things are accomplished by one simple act: Be still, and know that God is God.

Yet, as simple as that seems, how rarely do God's people avail themselves of this peace! In contemplative prayer, we do not rehearse our fears and then ask God to take our fears away. Instead, we simply rest in God. As we find the word "Selah" (Hebrew: "Pause and reflect") three times in these eleven verses, the believer must get still, get quiet, and listen to God. In meditation, we repeat God's words of assurance to our hearts, until His promises become a reality in our souls. When it becomes a reality, our fear is replaced with the courage that comes from a heart filled with God’s love.

Fear is a dangerous thing. It can stifle, cripple, and destroy the spirit. It can rob you of the joy of the Lord, and “the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).” Fear is a robber that can terrorize your soul.
Black Bart was a professional thief whose very name struck fear as he terrorized the Wells Fargo stage line. From San Francisco to New York, his name became synonymous with the danger of the frontier. Between 1875 and 1883 he robbed 29 different stagecoach crews. Amazingly, Bart did it all without firing a shot. Because a hood hid his face, no victim ever saw his face. He never took a hostage and was never trailed by a sheriff. Instead, Black Bart used fear to paralyze his victims. His sinister presence was enough to overwhelm the toughest stagecoach guard.[i]

In contrast, the Bible say that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4;8).” Perfect love teaches you that, as the Veggie Tales song says, “God is bigger than the boogeyman.” He’s also bigger than Black Bart or your bills, legal or health problems, broken relationships, educational issues, or anything else that comes against you. When you get quiet and know that God is God, you can know God as perfect love, as your refuge and strength, as your River of Life. You find God when you practice Selah, when you pause and reflect. I pray that this summer on vacation, this Sabbath rest, this day, you will be still and know.

[i] Today in the Word, August 8, 1992.  June 20, 2016.

No comments: