Fear can make you do some crazy things. It can physically shut your body down. It can convince you to make decisions that you’ll later regret. It can convince you to buy some products and get rid of others. As followers of Christ, we have to be very careful of what we fear.
None of us are taught how to fear. At varying degrees, we just enter the world that way. And to make it all better, our parents lie to us. They tell us, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” As we get older, we realize that they were lying to us. There’s plenty to be afraid of. It might not be under our bed but it’s certainly outside our door. If not, we tell ourselves, why do we have security systems on our cars and homes? But then we get even older and we tell the same lie to our kids. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. Go back to sleep.”
Jesus doesn’t work this way.
Consider the story of Ananias. Ananias doesn’t get much attention. I don’t know of any VBS themes devoted to him. But if you’re a Christian, it’s very likely that the story of your salvation could be traced back to Ananias. All by God’s grace, of course.
God came to Ananias in a vision one day. Ananias responded like any good follower of Christ. “Here I am, Lord.”
By the time Ananias found out what God was requesting, perhaps Ananias was wishing that he wouldn’t have answered so quickly.
There was a man named Saul. He was well known among Christians for all the wrong reasons. He wanted to kill them. And God wanted Ananias to meet Saul.
Ananias was afraid. So afraid that he felt compelled to talk the Sovereign God of the universe out of his plan.
But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” Acts 9:13-14 (ESV)
As if God would say, “Oh. Good point. I didn’t think about that. Scratch that. My bad.”
When I read this, I picture God laughing when a frightened Ananias talks about the “authority from the chief priests.” Do you remember one of the last things that Jesus told his disciples after his resurrection? In Matthew 28 he told them that, “All authority in heaven and on earth” had been given to him. All authority. Ananias had either forgotten that or hadn’t learned it yet. And the same seems to be true of us.
In this age of fear over elections and Supreme Court appointments and terror strikes it is important for us to remember who the authority really belongs to.
It’s not Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
It’s not ISIS.
It’s not the Supreme Court.
It’s Jesus. And any authority anyone on this earth has ultimately rests under his authority. He gives it. He takes it away. All for the good of his Church.
When the Lord responded to Ananias, he didn’t say what parents usually say. He didn’t say, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” And he didn’t even promise that Ananias would be safe. He just said, in so many words, “Go, because I’ve got a plan for Saul and you play a part in the beginning of it.”
So Ananias went. He wasn’t given the assurance that his going would be free of difficulty or danger. But he wasn’t going alone. He was going with the presence of his Lord. And he was going in the fear of the Lord.
The fear of the Lord is different from the fear of man. The fear of man sees man as ultimate and leads to paralysis. The fear of God sees God as ultimate and leads to worship and obedience and joy.
It’s a scary world that we live in. There is plenty to be afraid of but we must be careful what we fear. It is impossible to simultaneously live our lives in fear of man and obedience to God. Our only hope is to fear God.
If we allow the fear of man to consume us we will eventually embrace evil. Our fears will convince us that evil is our only option. But if we fear God, that is, stand before him in reverential awe and obedience, we will see the world in a whole new way.
Yes, the world will still be a frightening place when we fear God.
But the terrors of this world will have no control over us.
That’s because our eyes will be fixed on the Authority that is over this world.