Friday, March 18, 2016

Faith vs Fear

Imagine being taken to a place where sexual immorality is rampant, pagan rituals are extreme, and the idea of worship combines both. Imagine that the place has been declared off-limits by all who adhere to the pre-dominant faith of the day. And that faith wasn't some obscure faith, it was faith in the one true God. Now, imagine that you are not taken there against your will, but are led there by the Son of God.

This was the situation when Jesus led His disciples to Caesarea Philippi (c.f. Matthew 16; for a complete - and long - look at the details of  the location as well as Jesus' purpose for going there, see the post on Fairfax Baptist Church's blog, here.). The location was a place where gods were worshiped, but also feared. One god, in particular, was the god named Pan. Pan was the Greek god of the wilderness and the mountains. But he was also the god of fear (from which we get the word "panic".) It is this place that Jesus chooses to lead His disciples to ask the question that leads to the truth of who Jesus is - the Messiah, the Son of the living God (Matt 16.16). This truth leads to Jesus promise to build His church, a promise made more conspicuous because of the location.

Jesus is clearly pitting the idea of faith against the nature of fear. The contrast between the gates makes this obvious. Fear is consumed with the "gates of hell" from which all kinds of terror might come. However, the keys (to lock or unlock an unmentioned gate, that is, to bind or loose) Jesus gives to His followers (not just these disciples, see Matthew 18.18-20) are presented because of their faith.

So, Jesus launches the movement of His church (the people of faith) in an area known for worship of the god of fear. This is certainly worthy of our reflection. It is often said that the Bible says, "Do not fear" once for each day of the year. But, we must admit, that is much easier said than done. But just because we may experience fear, we can (and must) choose not to live in fear. Fear chokes out faith. The Bible says "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the convictions of things not seen" (Hebrews 11.1). Fear, on the other hand, is an emotional response related to the idea that danger awaits.

And this is the true nature of Jesus purpose in choosing the location. Jesus knew what awaited Him. His time to complete His mission was drawing near. The weight of the world's sin was literally upon Jesus causing Him to cry out to His Father for another way to be made (Matthew 27.39). Jesus faced a "danger" that none of us can truly fathom. Yet, His faith allowed Him to overcome whatever fear may have tried to cripple Him. Jesus knew that the promise of what was to come far outweighed whatever He would have to experience in the present. The anguish with which He prayed suggests this was not easy for Him (He did sweat blood as He prayed - Luke 22.44). But that is one aspect that makes faith in Christ possible for me. In the midst of my fear(s), I know that my Lord struggled. But through the assurance of faith, I know that my Savior overcame.

Personally, I would rather not be led into a place like the one Jesus took His disciples. If I was there, I would like to know that Jesus was with me in that place, like He was with His disciples. But for me, for each of us, we can choose to allow our faith to overcome our fear. We must choose to believe Jesus' promise to securely build His church - a promise based upon a faith in the One who cannot fail.

My fear may infringe on my faith sometimes. The "oh me of little faith," is still learning to cast those fears aside and live according to the faith I claim to have. It is not always easy, but it is necessary in my training to become more of the man that God wants me to be (Romans 8.29, Ephesians 5.1).

Faith versus Fear. Really, it should be no contest. But it is, because we allow it to be. So, let us remember the example of Jesus, and later His disciples, to live boldly, despite what may be happening around us. After all, what is happening around (or to) us today, pales against what will be true of eternity for those whose faith is in Him.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.