Fear Not

It might be surprising to hear that the most oft-repeated command in the Bible (in its various manifest phrasings) is “Do not be afraid,” or “Fear not!” when our children were little, we taught them many songs from scripture verses. One of those came from Psalm 56:3 – “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Fear, as it turns out, is endemic to human life. We know this experience as fright, being scared, anxiety, alarm, panic, trepidation, distress, dread, consternation worry, and unease. None of these words feel good in our stomachs.

Change is often a source or cause of fear. Fear is often a response to uncertainty and the unknown. This is one reason why Jesus taught us (commanded us) – “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). When we fail to live with hope in the current moment, we become hostages to the fearful uncertainty of tomorrow, and our hearts often panic and move into paralysis to God’s promises. Discipleship shuts down, players move to the sidelines, and many concerned people move “undercover” to “wait out” the coming storm (whatever it may be).

I want to suggest that the major changes we are facing today…
  • The UMC denomination changing and splitting;
  • Our receiving a new pastor in July
  • Financial challenges in our nation’s economy and our church budget
  • Another election year bringing divisive and caustic rhetoric (corrosive to the soul
and community unity)
  • Our shrinking membership and programming
  • Personal health and the capacity to engage
All of these are very real and impactful transitions. They matter and can be frightful as looming ideas and realities. But none of these coming realities are to shape or detour our discipleship. You and I live in a space called TODAY. This moment, even as we breathe, is the moment we are called to follow Jesus, look for him, live like him, love like him, serve like him, and defer like him. You see, Jesus had his anxious, fearful, and dreaded moments too. But this is how he lived in each moment (scary or ordinary): “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

I love that word “nevertheless.” It is a sentence and a game-changing declaration. It means, “Yet, except, however” and is a resolve to do two things simultaneously: (1) acknowledge the reality of our pain, fear, uncertainty, and dreaded anxiety about something while we (2) determine to abide in our story, not pull back, not stop hoping, living, loving, praying, and chasing after God’s dream of His Kingdom coming down here on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).

I have lived and ministered through many uncertain passages in my life and ministry. I have never pulled back or dropped out. I have never stopped giving, serving, loving, hoping, or believing that my obedience to Jesus Christ is to supersede the life-church-world conditions through which I pass. Navigation is not always smooth or easy. Learning to trust God in uncertain days can be very stretching and even wearisome. This we all know and are all too familiar with.

I believe the more we abide in our Lord Jesus, the more we remain engaged in His family (the church), the more we take into our lives his character attributes (discipleship & obedience), the more joy and deep meaningful satisfaction we will experience as we journey through life. Nobody lives well waiting for storms to pass. I love the plain and simple language of this quote by former politician Newt Gingrich: “Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” This is where real love, devotion, and commitment kick in. And now, please receive my Credo:
cre·do /ˈkrēˌdō,ˈkrāˌdō/
“a statement of beliefs or aims which guide someone’s actions”
  • I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior
  • I believe in His church (the body of Christ) as my primary family of faith formation
  • I believe in the mission and ministry of His church to help, hope, heal, and love
into life
  • I believe I am needed, trusted, called, and consecrated for this lifestyle of
  • I believe culture and society, politics and ecclesial bodies, can distract me from
my primary purpose in life
  • I believe I am called to stay in the story, persevere through hard, uncertain times,
and engage each day in hope, wonderment, and joy!
  • I believe in the history and story of OHFUMC
Until my very last day, I will give all that I have to serve and bless this body, and build her up in love. I am asking us all to be filled with hope and expectancy (not because of our circumstances) but because of our Lord who is our mighty lover, forgiver, deliverer, and life-giver! God has promised to be with us and for us through very perilous and difficult passages through life. We should not look at our looming changes, we should look at our might Lord, and rejoice. Here is how Isaiah said it (43:1-5a---with a few of my own creative edits):

“But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, [Oak Harbor], he who formed you, [United Methodists]: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change!”
Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
Pastor David 😊

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