What do you do when your worst fears come to pass? Do you find yourself acting like Corporal Jones of Dad’s Army fame, crying ‘Don’t panic! Don’t Panic! How can we act when everything collapses and all we want to do is hide or die?
Welcome to Part Two of the Life’s Journey series for Easter 2021 – Good Friday
Few of us are likely to face physical death because of our faith in Jesus. However, physical death is not the whole story. Deep disappointment or hurt; betrayal by those we love; betrayal by ourselves through our own failure to live up to the standard we expect of ourselves. Shame. Painful arrows of deadly words spoken to, or against us. A turn of circumstances that seems to leave no way out.
We all know these common sayings: ‘I could have died on the spot’. ‘Something died inside me’. ‘I wish I was dead’. Common, because we say them so often.
Would you like to handle your greatest fears in a better way?
The truth about fear is that it kills us, mentally, emotionally and physically. Job said ‘what I feared has come upon me’. That’s because fear, when not dealt with, is often self-fulfilling.
The truth is, of course, that most of our fears never come to pass! Yet, still we struggle. And if they do indeed come to pass, we are ready to collapse.
As we look afresh at the Easter events we can learn lessons to help us conquer our fears once for all.
The Disciples on a Journey with Jesus
We know that Jesus had been repeatedly breaking the news to the disciples. He would go to Jerusalem, be betrayed, and there he would die.
This had been shocking to them. How could he be the Messiah, the Christ as they had come to believe, if he was dead? What about the good news of the Kingdom of God that he had taught, brought, and proclaimed? What about their own reputations? After all, they had travelled themselves to towns and villages, publicly proclaiming that the kingdom of God had drawn near; in fact, was already in the midst of them. How would they live with the shame and their fear?
The Unexpected in Life
Pity the twelve! How confused must they have been? Having heard Jesus telling them that he would die in Jerusalem and decided to go and bravely stand with him, even to death, they arrived at the city. But there was the joy of Palm Sunday! Surely, he wasn’t going to die after all, although his cleansing of the Temple probably worried them. Not a good move? Could the timing have been any worse?
And yet the week unfolded with Jesus continuing to be popular, and the centre of attention. He was majestic. This was the moment of triumph.
Their fears had probably diminished, or gone altogether, and then suddenly, only a few days after the joyful entrance, betrayal! Their worst fears were realised. Talk about an emotional rollercoaster. What they most feared was coming to pass after all.
a) I thought we were following Jesus forever. If he dies – fails us – so does everything we have believed and trusted in.
b) If Jesus willingly dies, it’s a betrayal by him of us, of everything he has taught and preached, and of the crowds of people who have followed him.
c) Have we wasted the last few years of our lives? Left our families, homes and friends for nothing?
d) If Jesus is put to death, we are likely to be next.
e) If we live, how will we cope with being a laughingstock, having so publicly trusted in him?
f) How can we cope with the shame of having travelled around towns and villages, proclaiming that the kingdom of God is here. Everyone knows! We will never be able to show our faces again.
g) Let’s RUN!!
h) Let’s HIDE!!
Jesus on a Journey with the Disciples
For Jesus, everything was different. He was in the same ‘happenings’ as the disciples, but even as he shared his journey with them, his life story was so very different to theirs.
Trusting in his Father, knowing that the times was right as planned from before the foundation of the earth, he was preparing to lay down his life as a sacrifice for many.
And Jesus too faced great fear. It was prophesied by David in Psalm 55:4-5. ‘My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.’ Now Jesus, the Son of David, was actually experiencing it in the garden of Gethsemane. ‘And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.’ Luke 22:44.
Why did he have to endure such extreme fear? Because he had to fully enter into the depth of human fear in order to conquer it and set us free from its domination and power. He faced fear and overcame it, all for love. ‘By this we know love, that he laid his life down for us.’ 1 John 3:16. Not for himself. For us!
The disciples abandoned Jesus for fear of the Jews and fear of death. Whereas they ran in fear, Jesus entered into the experience of that powerful fear and conquered it. We do not have to live in fear anymore.
His story is bigger than yours and he knows what he is doing. You are wrapped up in his victorious story. For now, our understanding is limited and we cannot see the end from the beginning. But a day is coming when we will understand and marvel.
Two Life Lessons from Acts
See Peter, the one who betrayed Jesus, now in a prison cell. Peter the brave-mouth, who had run away. Peter the shamed. Peter, under arrest and facing execution, asleep between two soldiers, bound with chains. Asleep!
Paul and Silas. Beaten with many blows. Now in prison with their feet in stocks. A place for fear. What were they doing? Singing at midnight, with the other prisoners listening to them!
How could frail humans face such fear and respond to their dire situations in such a manner? It wasn’t natural. It must surely be supernatural.
They knew Jesus. Jesus who conquered fear, that we might not be lost in fear again.
They knew Jesus. Jesus, who is always sharing his life with us, as we share our life with him.
Their trust and their confidence were consciously fixed on him. Just as ours must be.
God is the greatest storyteller, dramatist and playwright the world will ever know. Nothing in life is ever left out. Everything we face, every strand of our life, is woven into the telling of his saving grace. It’s caught up in the ever-expanding story of his ever-expanding kingdom.
In an insecure world, we are made secure by becoming his children through the spirit of adoption. Our security is not found in our circumstances but in his overwhelming favour toward us. His “Amen’ promises. The bond of never-failing steadfast love that pour out from his to us.
The Cross stands tall over your history and mine.
Redeemed – we are his.
Death – where now is its sting?
The fear of death – conquered forever.
Facing brutality or death in the morning, bound, Peter slept. Paul and Silas sang. They knew in whom they had believed and trusted. And in both cases God acted outside their common understanding and set them free of their fears, just as he will do for you if you wait for him.
Jesus liberates us from our fears. In the end, the things we fear will never be the end of the story.
He alone will be our end and our beginning.
Helpful Scriptures when facing fear include
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will not fear, because you are with me, armed with a rod and staff. Psalm 23:4
When I am afraid, I trust in you. Psalm 56:3
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1
I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:31-34
Since the children share in flesh and blood, he himself became flesh and blood, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Hebrews 2:14-15
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18
But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So do not worry or be afraid of their threats. 1 Peter 3:14
‘Do not fear’. Instruction of Jesus, multiple times.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the cross! Thank you for all that Jesus did. Thank you for what I see in the disciples. Help me to die to my fear and put my trust in you alone.
Have you found another scripture that has strengthened you when you are stressed out of your mind with life’s twists and turns? Please comment and share the reference with us.
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© Roy Godwin 2021