This week at the Carlsbad-By-The Sea (CBTS) retirement home I started the week with an early Monday morning men’s’ breakfast meeting. The topic of conversation was the news that weekend; the fire in London, the collision of the US Navy Destroyer and various other disasters and threats to life and liberty.
It was amazing how much fear and worry the newscasts are generating these days, even though the events are happening thousands of miles away.
As I started to read, pray and research the Gospel passage this week a key idea was starting to form. It was about both fear and comfort. As Jesus is preparing the disciples to continue His ministry the Gospel text warns them of whom to fear and of the upcoming conflicts between followers of the Old Testament laws and Jesus’s new covenant.
When He talks about setting a “man against his father” or “daughter against her mother” He is using those words to describe setting one generation who follow the old laws against the new generation who are following His new covenant. This warning of conflict seems difficult to understand and is disturbing to some residents at CBTS who try to relate it literally to their own family conflicts.
But the passage also tells them of the great depth of God’s love for them and reminds them of where their focus and trust should be. Importantly it contains both a warning, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul: rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell” but also comfort in “So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows”.
It was a warning to be afraid of the wrath of God but not to be afraid of anything that man can do and this is still true for us today.
During my pastoral care visits this week I noticed that the stories on the news were used as a discussion opener into what was going on in the world. Then this leads into things they are fearful about in their own lives. This is usually more personal and related to health and family but often comes back to the question “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?”
Today we live a culture of hate, terrorism, crime, disease and many other fears that are very real to us individually. If we discuss specific individual events and want to know why a particular thing happened, we won’t be able to provide an adequate answer.
When asked, I found I could not adequately answer the question. I do not know God’s mind and see what He sees. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”
In discussing this with residents this week I found they are not looking for a theological answer (even if I had one) and any reasoned response would be inadequate. What they needed is the very real and comforting presence of Jesus Christ in their lives and I tried to provide some comfort by being present and talking through their fears with them.
There are so many worries about health, family and individual circumstances each visit is different and I found the only way I could respond is to be present, actively listen and let God guide me in what to say and when to say it.
Fear and worry do have an impact on our decisions, the way we act and it can also paralyze us into not doing something. But most of our fears are the result of us focusing on ourselves. If we focus on God then He has the power to help us overcome whatever we might be facing.
But what if we could live fearless? What if we could face our fears, confront them and overcome them?
Our lives should not be a series of fear filled events that we lurch through but should be a joyous celebration of God’s Glory and the love God has for us in every event. When researching fear and comfort it appears there are three keys to overcoming our fears:
· First, we must profess our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
· Second, by carrying out God’s will, we keep our eyes focused on His work rather than the problems we’re facing
· Third, praying without ceasing, for others and ourselves
Prayer to the Father, through Jesus the Son, in the Holy Spirit is a great gift that God has offered us so I would encouraged you to use it individually or with others
In the sermon at the end of the week I asked the congregation to change the way they act. If they are fearful or in a situation that makes them afraid:
· Remember the depth of God’s love
· Remember Jesus’s words in our Gospel today, “Do not be afraid!”
· And… Pray until you focus on God and His will rather than yourselves.
I pray that by the grace of God we do not let our circumstances, challenges or fears cause us to doubt God’s Word or stop praying
We all want our lives will be a celebration of God’s Glory and love for us rather than lives of fear!