Copyright © 1998 Peter Wade. From the book, The Dynamics of Positive Living, available in our book store..
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by Peter Wade
Four times in the record of the great events of Christmas, the message from God to man is "fear not". It is a continual exhortation from Genesis to Revelation, given by angels, prophets, apostles, and Christ Himself. The command is clear and distinct -- "fear not". Since these records are written "for our learning", an examination of them will prove rich indeed to all believers.
Fear Not... God Answers Prayer
Although the first New Testament usage is found in Matthew 1:20, it will be more profitable to consider the events of Christmas in their chronological sequence. The first scene involves what started out to be a regular day in the life of a priest named Zacharias (Luke 1:5-22). It was the hour of prayer, and outside the temple a multitude of people were praying. Inside the Holy Place, Zacharias was engaged in his priestly task in front of the altar. Suddenly there appeared an angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the altar. The moment Zacharias saw this, he was troubled and "fear fell upon him" (verse 12).
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Before we jump to the conclusion that this was a natural reaction, let us notice the first words of the angel to the priest. Somehow we think the angel would deliver the important message first and then make personal reference to encourage Zacharias. But this is not the case. The first words of the angel were "fear not". Only when those encouraging words were spoken did the angel give the tremendous message concerning prayers heard and now to be answered.
Fear Not... God Loves You Dearly
Later in the same chapter, another angelic visitation is recorded (verses 26-38). On this occasion a young lady was suddenly confronted by an angel, who said, "Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee." At once she was overcome with fear, coupled with concern as to the meaning of the words spoken. But the angel immediately spoke again: "Fear Not, Mary; God loves you dearly" (Luke 1:30 Phillips).
Mary's response to the promise of a son is interesting and vital: "Be it unto me according to thy word" (verse 38). In the light of the customs of the day, this was no idle statement. It could have cost her dearly for such dedication and determination.
At this point in the record of the Gospel of Luke, the incident in Matthew chapter 1 takes place. Here we see the effect of the angel's visit to Joseph. He was greatly concerned by the unusual turn of events. How wonderful to realize that God knew this, and had a message of encouragement for him. In a dream the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, saying, "Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife" (Matthew 1:20). Fear not the present circumstances; don't react to them, but continue on with what you were originally guided to do.
Fear Not... God Will Guide You
The final scene in the Christmas story takes us to the moonlit hills of Bethlehem. It was here the temple flocks were kept until needed as sacrifices for the worship of God. One night the shepherds were startled by an angelic appearance. The record states that the shepherds "were sore afraid" (Luke 2:9). The first thing the angel said to them was "Fear not... behold... a Saviour" (verses 10-11). God's answer to fear is the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Four times in the Christmas story the wonderful encouraging command is given -- "fear not". As someone has well commented, "Fear is one luxury that neither you nor I can afford." There are a multitude of incidents in the Word where the encouraging words "fear not" are proclaimed loud and clear. A quick review will encourage us in these trying days. "Stand thou still a while, that I may shew thee the word of God" (I Samuel 9:27).
Fear Not... I Am With You
In Genesis 26:24 the Lord said to Isaac, "Fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee..." Perhaps we should remember that the same words are true to us in this age, because it is Christ in us, the expectation of glory. We should have no fear that God is not with us at all times. We know that the Father "blesses us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). We are blessed people indeed; so "fear not".
In Exodus 14:13-14 Moses encouraged the people of God with these words: "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you today... The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace."
Joshua and Caleb, the two faithful spies who came back with the good report from the land of Canaan, said: "The Lord is with us: fear them not" (Numbers 14:9). It is interesting to note the general reaction to the positive report given here. The world is so negative that a positive statement often seems wrong. "But all the congregation bade stone them with stones" (Numbers 14:10). The general reaction to positive truth is still the same today, even among Christians.
Moses was encouraged by God in Deuteronomy 20:3-4: "Let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you." So Moses declared to the people of God in Deuteronomy 31:6: "Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." Remember, these were servants in Old Testament times.
In that classic book Pilgrim 's Progress, John Bunyan relates the following incident during Christian's journey. He saw "a very stately palace before him, the name of which was 'Beautiful', and it stood just by the highway-side. Now before he had gone far, he entered into a very narrow passage, and looking before him as he went, he espied two lions in the way. Then he was afraid, and thought nothing but death was before him.
"But the porter, whose name is Watchful, cried unto him, saying, 'Is thy strength so small? Fear not the lions; for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith where it is; and for discovery of those that have none. Keep in the midst of the path, and no hurt shall come unto thee!' He went on, trembling for fear of the lions, but taking good heed to the directions of the porter. He heard them roar; but they did him no harm."
Many circumstances in life are just like that. But they cannot harm you when you manifest the more abundant life.
Fear Not... Put God first
The record of a widow in I Kings chapter 17 will further encourage us. The situation for the prophet Elijah, as well as for this widow and her son, was precarious indeed. God had sent His prophet, in a time of severe drought, to the little town of Zarephath where he was to be sustained by the widow. Now, a widow in a time of drought was the most unlikely person in town who would be able to support any other person. And this proved to be the case. For when Elijah first met her near the gate of the city, she was gathering some sticks to cook her last meal "for me and for my son, that we may eat it, and die" (verse 12).
The famine was upon the land, for the nation had forsaken the true God and were openly worshipping Baal, a god of the heathen. This was a circumstance over which the widow had no control.
The supply of this woman's need came as she followed God's three-fold pathway to deliverance. Take careful note of the steps involved in her case, for you can apply the same steps in your own life.
First, upon the instruction of Elijah, she put God first in her thinking, and this made all the difference. We read that Elijah said unto her, "Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son" (verse 13). Would you have done it? If you want God's help in any situation of life, putting God first is always the first step on the ladder to blessing. God's commands often run contrary to human reasoning, but put God first, He will not fail you.
Second, the widow had her trust in God's promise. And we read that "There hath not failed one word of all his good promise" (I Kings 8:56). God's promise to her was that He would supply her every need until the natural means of supply could once again provide her necessities. "For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth." But this woman had to go one step more before this became a reality in her life.
The third step was just simply the step of action. That is, to put into action her belief in the promise of God. The moment she fulfilled the condition of the promise, God went to work on her behalf. The Bible says: "And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days" (verse 15). Some scholars tell us that the "many days" actually was a full year, or perhaps even two! She gave part of one meal and God fed her a full year. How great is our God! Is this not the same message preached by Jesus in His great Sermon on the Mount: "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? ... for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:31-33).
Fear Not... I Am Still With You
David said in Psalm 23:4, "I will fear no evil: for thou art with me." This positive statement can be re-echoed by all believers. Notice also Psalm 118:6, "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear." Feed your believing and your doubts will starve to death! Just feed your mind these encouraging thoughts from God's Word and you will find that doubt will fly out of the window. "The Lord is on my side: I will not fear. "
Isaiah wrote many times the powerful words "fear not". For example, Isaiah 41:10, "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
Jeremiah proclaimed, "Fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, saith the Lord: for I am with thee..." (Jeremiah 46:28). Someone has estimated that there are at least 365 verses in the Bible against fear, and not one in favour of it! God's constant message to his people is "fear not".
Fear Not... Believe Only
In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 8, there is an interesting record in verses 41-44: "And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus' feet, and besought him that he would come into his house: For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he [Jesus] went the people thronged him. And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stopped."
Notice the interesting point shown by the repetition of the words "twelve years". The little girl in verse 42 was just twelve years of age. The woman in verse 43 had endured her affliction for twelve years. Thus twelve years previously in one household there was joy over the birth of a daughter; in another house there was concern over the first symptoms of a disease that was to grow more irritating.
"And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched Me? And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue [dunamis, power] is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him and how she was healed immediately. And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort [the positive equivalent of "fear not"]: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace. While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master. But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole" (Luke 8:45-50).
Isn't that tremendous? These same words that angels gave to four different people involved in the Christmas story, were the same words spoken to Abraham, Isaac, and all through the Old Testament, through the Gospels, even in the book of Revelation -- "fear not". It is not by accident that right throughout the Word of God we are encouraged to "fear not".
I particularly want to emphasise verse 50 because it ties the negative and positive together so wonderfully: "Fear not: believe only..." The moment you believe, you will not fear. Fear and believing cannot exist side by side. "Fear is faith in Satan; faith is fear in God." Of course, by "fear in God" is meant awe. Fear is believing faith in Satan, and wherever we fear we will not believe God, and in that particular area of our lives we cannot manifest the more abundant life. But the moment we start believing God's Word things happen, because all believing is receiving.
Fear Not... I Believe God!
In the book of Acts there is another occasion that will bear investigation. Chapter 27 records the storm which shipwrecked the apostle Paul on the island of Malta. For two weeks it raged and they were blown aimlessly, not knowing what to do.
However, there was a believer on board. "But after long abstinence [not fasting and prayer, but lack of food due to the conditions] Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs [in view of what I just said to you], be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me" (Acts 27:21-25).
No matter how impossible the situation appears to your sense-knowledge, God's exhortation remains unchanged, "fear not". Paul was confident he would make it to his destination, for God had indicated that he would. Notice verse 24: "Thou must be brought before Caesar..." This was God's will; therefore nothing could happen to Paul until he stood before Caesar. What was to happen at that point of time had not yet been revealed, but we know that Paul, as a son of God, would be looked after.
On only one other occasion did Paul need the encouragement of the words "fear not". The incident concerns his ministry in Corinth and is detailed in Acts 18:1-17. After a negative response from the Jews, Paul moved his teaching headquarters from the synagogue to a house next door owned by Justus. In a vision one night the Lord said to Paul: "Be not afraid [fear not], but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city" (verses 9-10).The words "be not afraid" are a translation of the same Greek words we have been studying -- "fear not".
The scope of the usage of "fear not" (me phobeo, in the imperative or command mood) speaks loudly to earnest students of the Word. In the Gospels they are used 20 times, the Acts, 2, Revelation, 2. The Old Testament equivalent is used over 100 times. However, they are not used in the Church Epistles. Even in other grammatical forms of the words we find only one usage in the Epistles, and that is in a conjectural question (Romans 13:3, me phobeisthai) .
To understand why the words are not used in the Epistles, note these verses: "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption [sonship], whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15). "For God hath not give us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7).
The manifestation of the more than abundant life is a life without fear. It is God in Christ in us -- and God's attitude towards fear is "fear not".
This article is Chapter 8 of the book, The Dynamics of Positive Living. Some copies of the paperback are still available.
This page Copyright © 1998 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is from the King James Version. This article appears on the site: http://www.peterwade.com/.
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