What do you fear most? For some people, the fear of public speaking is near the top. Having to prepare and deliver a sermon every week would be a nightmare to someone like my father – who prefers to serve in the background (but has been known to be more “out front” when duty calls). On other hand, I can’t imagine being responsible for maintaining all the complicated machinery associated with a running a direct mail business. My dad did that for years with calm, confident skill. When he finally retired, it took two or three mechanics to replace him.
Every one of us knows the feeling of fear. Sometimes it is simply the fear of failure or embarrassment. Sometimes it is a deeper, more urgent kind of fear. Getting caught out in a violent storm – or hearing a doctor say, “I have some bad news…” all fall into that last category. There is nothing quite like fear to remind us of the fact we are human – very much related to the world around us and very much vulnerable to its dangers. Fear reminds us of our human nature – while faith taps into our divine, spiritual nature.
Fear is a great motivator, but the end results of fear prove it is not a good foundation upon which to build our lives. Fear inevitably breeds ignorance and violence, bigotry and hatred, isolation and aggression. Fear teaches us other people are rivals and competitors. It tells us strength comes from power and weakness and vulnerability are bad things.
Faith, on the other hand, is a far more difficult path. But, once again, I think we can judge faith simply by the fruit it produces. The end results of a life lived in faith are love and acceptance, forgiveness and mercy, joy in the present and hope for the future. Faith teaches us that the highest good is in serving other people – even to the point of sacrifice. Faith tells us we are to love as God loves – unconditionally and without reserve. Faith tells us strength often comes through weakness and love is the most powerful force in the universe.
Roberta Porter, a Christian poet, spoke of the spiritual battle with fear when she wrote:
When fear invades, pervades, paralyzes, I remember Jesus’ love and breathe a prayer.
I do not have to wait for courage; courage is not feeling, but a response to Spirit.
I breathe out, relinquish fear, anxiety, thank God for presence.
I breathe in, receive peace and power in Spirit to speak, to move, to act, to decide, to be courageous.
In the Gospels, God’s angels speak one phrase more than any other: “Fear not!” That is always good advice. Remember, God is with you always – even to the end of the age.