Fear grows like a creeping weed across our landscape.
Fear has been sown like seed, fertilized like grass, watered and encouraged in every way possible, 24/7 in our online age.
Fear has been sown by government and media, by national and foreign powers, by men and women, doctors and nurses, friends and neighbors.
Fear of sickness.
Fear of death.
Fear of dying alone. Fear of causing someone else’s sickness or death.
Fear of greeting others, fear of shaking hands. Fear of comforting a friend with a hug.
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)
What kind of fear should Christians entertain knowing God doesn’t give his children an attitude of fear, a way of looking at life that’s fearful?
To be sure, viruses, plagues, storms, and wars that kill some and harm all must be considered soberly with a respect for the potential impact they might have on us or others. But I don’t believe the kind of fear being sown in our world these days is generally of that godly, sober, and rational variety.
I picked up a hitchhiker once and, in our conversation, learned he was heading west, to the mountains, to ride out the impending nuclear fallout he was sure was coming soon.
“What then?” I asked him.
He was confused.
“What happens after you survive the nuclear fallout?”
“I live,” he said.
“But then you die,” I replied. “What happens then?”
Death comes to all of us. We all die. Unless you’re Enoch or Elijah, or you hear Jesus call and join him in the air in the rapture of his Church, all of us face physical death, the end of life in this body on planet earth.
If we all die, then avoiding death can’t be our ultimate goal; no one can succeed in that. So what should our goals be if not, ultimately, to avoid death? To what should we aim with our short life filled with toil and sorrow (Jeremiah 20:18), sin and sorrow, sickness and ultimately death?
For one who knows their sins are covered by the atoning blood of Jesus, that they are a child of God through simple faith in Christ, fear of death should be a non-issue. Christians should be impervious to the seeds of fearfulness being sown all around us today.
Instead, Christians are called to see their life on earth the way an investor sees his client’s wealth— something to be invested wisely for the sake of the one whose wealth they’ve been entrusted with. God has given us life and breath. Christ has purchased our lives with his blood. We’re not called to fear death but rather to ask the Lord how our lives can best be spent in his name and in his cause in the days we’ve been given. We don’t choose the day of our birth or the day of our death (Job 14:5).
As a steward of the time, energies, gifts, resources, and relationships Christ gives I must ask, How can I do the most good and get the best return on the investment that is my life, for Christ’s sake? What does faithfulness to Jesus look like in these unstable days?
For some of us, risking health and life in caring for others in extremes is our investment for Christ, as nurses, doctors, and health care workers of all stripes. For others, avoiding the threat of sickness in all the ways we can is a key goal, not out of fear but so we can continue to serve the vulnerable among us.
If Christians lived in fear of death, they would never have served the dying during the plagues in the Roman Empire and later throughout Europe. If Christians feared death, there would be no martyrs because believers would have loved and saved their own lives, rather than trading lives that perish for crowns that don’t (Revelation 2:10).
Christians through the ages have lived bold and fearless in the face of threats and death, believing Jesus’ words,
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”Luke 9:23–24 (ESV)
Ask yourself this, or better, ask God— how do I best serve in this current crisis? How is my life best spent in the present circumstances?
The apostle Paul said that to die, and therefore to leave earth and be with Christ in heaven, was far better, more desirable than continuing here below. Yet he concluded that God meant to preserve his life through many difficulties so he could continue to share the gospel with the lost and serve God’s children in the Church (Philippians 1:24).
If we live, we are Christ’s. And if we die, we are Christ’s. In our living and our dying the issue isn’t fear, but faith.
Friends, forget fear. Leave panic behind. Calmly pray. Find strength in Christ and his promises. Find your courage in God’s word and share your faith and courage with fearful souls who need this reminder— I am Christ’s and Christ is mine.
It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who found their home with God.
It is not death to close“It is Not Death to Die,” Sovereign Grace Music, 2008
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before your throne
Delivered from my fears.