This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free, compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Joseph Ton (Romanian Christian writer), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. John 11:25)
The Lord Jesus Christ delivers us from fear. Apparently, He does so in different ways. Hebrews 2:14 says: 'Through His death.' The Son of God loves me. He saw me with my sins, my failures, and my treason and even so He still loved me. He came to earth to take my sins upon Him. He died my death, went to hell--my hell--and He rose again. That is why Christ can say: 'I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades' (Revelation 1:18). Christ died my death and now He says: 'death is My messenger' to invite you to heavenly glory.
Joseph Ton was once arrested by the police in Bucharest. One of the officers threatened to kill him, but Joseph smiled and said: 'If you shoot me, I will enter eternal life. You cannot frighten me with that prospect!' He was not afraid to die, for a Christian will never die.
'Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:55).
'For I am convinced, that neither death, nor life... will be able to separate us from the love of God...' (Romans 8:38-39).
A moment of introspection: Throughout God's Word, there was a current of human fear displayed. In the New King James Version, the word, "fear" occurred 732 times in the Bible. Some fear was tacit, at other times more open and terrorizing. Men fought against men, nation against nation, peoples against peoples. And history bore witness to the strife and to the pain. Even today, humans fight humans, peoples fight peoples, nations attack nations, and history continues to bear witness to the fact that little has changed. We live in the biblically foretold time of wars and threats of wars (Matthew 24:6). We live in a biblically foretold time of lawlessness (Matthew 24:12). Even nations will be in perplexity and humans will be in fear at what is happening in the world. (Luke 21:25-26). But what does this mean to each of us who are blessed to be born for "such a time as this"? (Esther 4:14) Are we to reflect or mirror the angst of our age? Certainly, God's Word tells us not to fear, but to be bold in proclaiming God's Word and His Son's soon return. The Scriptures adjure us not to fear what other people can do to us (Matthew 10:28). Hebrews 12:3-4 suggest to us, that many have not experienced opposition to the extent that Jesus did, and that we are to take Him as our example.
Some might say, "Afraid--who, me? Nah." But our persecuted brothers and sisters often face opposition as fearsome as Christ did, within their countries. And as is colloquially said, "the proof is in the pudding"; or, fear is revealed in times of opposition. God's Word says that "the fear of man lays a snare..." (Proverbs 29:25). Adam Clarke, in his commentary on this verse, says
"How often this has led weak men, though sincere in their general character, to deny their God, and reject His people! See the case of Peter; and learn from this, O reader, that where the mighty have been slain, you will fall, unless you call on the Strong for strength, and for courage to use it. Don't be ashamed of Jesus or of His people, or of his cross. Glory in this, that you know Him, are joined to them, and are counted worthy to bear your own cross."
Proverbs adds to Adam Clarke’s writing about weak people, by asserting that whoever faints in the day of adversity has small strength (Proverbs 24:10). When persecution comes, and foes oppose, don’t faint; call on "the Strong for strength", that we do not fall where the mighty have been slain. Aristotle would add, "No one loves the man whom he fears." We are called to love our enemies. (Matthew 5:44) Isaiah cautioned us, as he did the people of his land, against sharing the widespread angst or fear concerning our times. In Isaiah 8:11-13, he said to the people, "...do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread." Jeremiah spoke to the fear among the people of his day and place, saying "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8) "Heat" in this sense might mean opposition, terrorism, lawless mobs, murderous times, legal actions, or other tumult. Note that our work for the Lord goes on despite such opposition, "for it does not cease to bear fruit." Paul wrote to Timothy and encouraged him in these words: "...fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:6b-7) God does not instill fear of people or situations in our hearts; the fallen one does so. Adam Clarke spoke with some wisdom in asserting that we will fall where the mighty have been slain unless we call on the Lord (the Rock) for strength and for courage to use that strength.
Overcoming fear tests our faith. A saying is worthy to consider: "Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there." (Unknown source). We have the resource(s) to overcome fear, and doing this does test our faith. Untested faith is no protection from Satan’s "flaming darts" in the day of battle (Ephesians 6:13-18). What might be Satan’s flaming darts?
Terror-induced fear Loss-induced despondency Despair over finances
Horror-induced fear Loss-induced depression Discouragement
Fear of impending harm Worry about potential threat Defeatedness
Fear of loss Anxiety for the future
"Someone says, ‘I thought that when you become a Christian, Christ sets you free from the kingdom of Satan, and the Devil no longer can touch you—that you have nothing to do with the Devil anymore.’ Is that our concept of the Christian life? Nothing could be more wrong. When one becomes a Christian, the battle only begins." (Spiritual Warfare, by Ray C. Stedman, p. 52, Word Books Publisher, April 1976)
"The Devil can never get us back into the position of unconscious control which he once exerted over us, as he does over the rest of the world. But the Devil can demoralize the Christian. He can frighten us, make us miserable, and defeat us in many ways. He can make us weak and barren and unfruitful in the things of God. It is quite possible, at least periodically, to be more miserable as a Christian than you ever were before." (ibid., p. 53)
"The one thing Jesus said over and over again to His disciples was, ‘Fear not. Be not fearful, be not anxious, be not troubled.’ Why? Because ‘I am with you,’ He said. From fear comes despair, the opposite of hope, and hate, the opposite of love. That is what the Devil is after. If you give way to fear, you will soon be discouraged and defeated. If you give way to defeat, you will begin to hate and the Devil will have accomplished his purposes. He has destroyed, he has ruined, he has laid waste that which God loves and desires to bless." (ibid., p. 64)
"There are two general divisions or classifications of the pieces of armor, and these are indicated by the tenses of the verbs which are used. The first division, covering the first three pieces, is something we have already done in the past if we are Christians: ‘having girded your loins with truth’; ‘having put on the breastplate of righteousness’; ‘having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace.’ The second division includes those things which are to be put on or taken up at the present moment: ‘taking the shield of faith’; ‘take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit.’ We are to take up these aspects of Christ which we take up again and again whenever we feel under attack." (ibid., p. 69)
But what if our faith is untested? That would be like one saying "I have faith", but having never “taken it out of the box”. If we are to take the shield of faith up again and again, how would we do so with faith that remains untested? One has faith, but it is untested. Will it withstand the “flaming darts” as noted above? Is the shield made of "wicker", as some shields were, or made of "metal-banded wood" as other shields were constructed? Will it suffice to meet the assault of battle? "Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there." With what faith would we rather repel fear—shield of known value, tried construction, proven worth? Or faith unused in skirmishes, faith untried in daily application/use?
Joseph Ton had faith sufficient for the battle, when arrested as a Christian. He knew the One who delivers us from fear. His faith gave him the undergirding for boldness in the face of opposition. He knew that neither life nor death can separate us from God's love; he knew that faith taken to the point of mortality faces no sting, no finality--but rather, victory in death. Jesus prepared the disciples for the future, by saying "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) So to those with anxious hearts, we say "be strong; fear not"; why? Because God is with us; He is our fortress, our stone, our Strength and our help in troubling times. May it truly be said of us, at the accounting for our lives on the day of judgment, that we had great strength, solid faith that stood the test, the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), and the perseverance to finish the course of our life on earth, still standing.