Good evening, Toccoa First family. It’s Tuesday, March 31. Welcome back to my series of devotional videos.
I’ve told you before about some crazy, recurring dreams I have. They’re often related to my experience in high school and college. In one, for example, I’m in college—again. I’m back at Georgia Tech. There’s a class that I’ve blown off the entire semester. I haven’t even bothered to go to the class since the beginning of the term. Now it’s final exam time time, and not only am I completely unprepared; I don’t even remember where the class meets. I have to ask someone where to go.
Back in the ’90s, I saw this very nightmare portrayed on an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So it must be fairly common!
Here’s another bad dream: An administrator from my high school calls me out of the blue. She explains that there was a mix-up on my transcript, and as it turns out, I didn’t complete all the credits I needed in order to earn a high school diploma. So I need to go back to my old high school and take some more classes! Yes, a 50 year old man back in high school. That’s not weird. And oh by the way, if I don’t go back and take these lasses, my high school will call Georgia Tech and Emory University and revoke my college degrees! Because somehow my high school has the authority to do that!
Well, you get the idea… It’s easy enough to look online and read about interpretations of these kinds of dreams: They mean that I am afraid. And in the wake of this pandemic, I often wake up feeling afraid… Not terrified, not panicked—just a very low-grade kind of anxiety.
Maybe y’all do, too?
And I want someone to pat me on the back and tell me that my fears are justified; that this pandemic is an unprecedented crisis in our country’s history, so it’s completely understandable that I feel this way. “There, there, Brent. It’s okay to be afraid.”
But I’m sorry… Is it okay? Jesus tells us not to be afraid… of anything. It’s a gentle command, perhaps, but it’s still a command of our Lord!
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:25
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31
Or how about these words from the apostle Paul:
“[D]o not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6.
So being afraid is a problem for us Christians. I realize we don’t have much control over our emotions. Fear is to some extent an emotion. Often we feel what we feel, and there’s nothing much we can do about it. Yet I’m reminded of something that Martin Luther once said of a different feeling—lust—some 500 years ago: “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” These words also apply to the feeling of fear.
We may not be able to control the initial feeling of being afraid, but we can do things to prevent it from “building a nest in our hair.”
When we let a momentary feeling of fear build a nest, well, we can be sure that this feeling has crossed over into sin.
And this sin, like other sins, represents a lack of faith: we forget that our heavenly Father is always taking care of us, or we don’t really trust that he is, or we don’t trust that he knows what’s best for us, or we don’t trust that he knows how to run the universe as well as we do.
Just yesterday, I was reflecting on the first chapter of Proverbs. I was struck by these words from verses 20 to 22:
Wisdom calls out in the street,
she shouts loudly in the plazas;
at the head of the noisy streets she calls,
in the entrances of the gates in the city she utters her words:
“How long will you simpletons love naiveté?
How long have mockers delighted in mockery?
And how long will fools hate knowledge?
Notice: The voice of wisdom has been personified as a woman who cries out in a noisy street; she shouts loudly; she stands at the city gates and speaks, where everyone can see and hear her. She’s not hiding; she’s not being subtle. What she asks us to do is perfectly clear. It’s no mystery; it’s no secret. The question is, are we willing to listen to her and do what she says? Is it worth it to us?
Let’s apply these verses to myself… when I wake up feeling anxious, after having had fearful dreams and reading so much scary news… If I choose, I can easily let these feelings take control of me; I can let them rob me of my joy; I can let them prevent me from being thankful and full of praise to God for giving me a new day of life… I can choose that. I can reach for my smartphone, read the scary headlines, read the fearful Facebook posts and terrifying tweets… and start to feel hopeless.
But the alternative to living like that is as clear as that woman standing at the city gates and shouting loudly in the streets to all who pass by. And she, this voice of wisdom, is saying something like this
Open this book. Read its God-breathed words. Read its promises. Commit them to memory and recite them to yourself. Remind yourself of who you are as God’s beloved child! And pray! And as you pray, believe that the Creator of the universe who knows you and loves you more than you can imagine has the power to take away this fear! And he wants to take away your fear! Because after all, he didn’t give you a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control. Claim that promise for yourself!
Granted, it takes work to do that… It’s easier to let the devil dictate your feelings to you, to whisper into your spirit all the reasons you have to be afraid, to justify your feelings to yourself and say, “I can’t do anything about it. I’m powerless over fear. It is what it is.”
No! God is telling us, don’t settle for being afraid! Don’t baby you sinful thoughts and feelings, saying “there, there, it’s okay.” It’s not okay! Kick those sinful feelings to the curb! Use this book to help you. And pray… Amen?