Article Jul 25, 2016

Race, fear and God with us

The news stories continue to pour in and all of us—red and yellow, black and white—look on in disbelief. Could this really be happening in 2016? Police officers being shot down; cops using what appears to be excessive force resulting in the death of black men. We sense the divide, hear the divide and feel the divide. It is real, palatable, and for many, downright frightening. Because of all that’s happened (even in just the last couple weeks), the citizens of our nation are struggling with fear and are worried about the future.

I remember when I first realized that so many of these stories were beginning to affect me. I was walking out of a store when a policeman was walking in, and I froze. I halted and smiled and then began walking briskly to my car. I was surprised by my response. And I was ashamed that I stereotyped that officer. I’m thankful to God for our law-enforcement. There are honest men and women who are working hard to keep our cities safe and secure. And, yet, there’s no denying that there’s a new fight in my heart and in the hearts of many.

We—myself included—are fighting against fear. And others are fighting against being feared and misunderstood. We are fighting to learn to love, and many others are fighting to be known by their love. My prayer is that we’ll fight together and learn to fight the right fights. I pray the American church would be filled with people from all nations fighting to love one another and proclaim the unity of Jesus to the world—together.

I’ve written a book on the topic of fear and pray the excerpt below, reminding us who is in control, would encourage you as you fight against fear and for faith in the midst of trying times.

Because we know God and because we fear God, we can trust God. There is only one God, and He is our Father. He most clearly reveals Himself in His Word, so it is there that we must turn to learn more about Him and grow in fearing Him. We see His words written on everything from bumper stickers to Hallmark cards, but we can’t miss that they are the words of life and that they are trustworthy.

In Taking God At His Word, Kevin DeYoung lays out why we can trust and believe God’s Word. He says that God’s Word says what is true. God’s Word demands what is right. But it is his third point that is most relevant to me. I think we can believe His Word and even believe that we need to obey it. But do we believe it provides what is good? He writes:

According to Psalm 119, the word of God is the way of happiness (vv. 1–2), the way to avoid shame (v. 6), the way of safety (v. 9), and the way of good counsel (v. 24). The word gives us strength (v. 28) and hope (v. 43). It provides wisdom (vv. 98–100, 130) and shows us the way we should go (v. 105). . . . As the people of God, we believe the word of God can be trusted in every way to speak what is true, command what is right, and provide us with what is good.

God’s Word is good and provides what is good for us. God’s Word is sufficient for us to fight temptation and to know Him. He has given us all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). We gain wisdom from the Word, and, as DeYoung writes, “The word of the world is not like the word of God. One is new and now. The other is ancient and everlasting. . . . If we want—and if we need—a wisdom that is beyond us, that is outside of us, that will never fail us, we must look into the things that ‘God has revealed to us through the Spirit’ [1 Corinthians 2:10].” Because of these things we can trust Him and take Him at His word.

So we can rest and remember these and many more promises:

  • Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! (Psalm 31:19)
  • The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. (Psalm 147:11)
  • He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. (Psalm 145:19)
  • Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love. (Psalm 33:18)

Why all this talk about the Word of God? Because at the root of our fear, at the root of all our sin, is unbelief. In order to combat our unbelief, you and I must believe, and so we turn to God to ask Him to help our unbelief.

Depending on your Bible translation, there could be well over three hundred verses that contain the phrase “fear not.” One of the most popular occurrences is found in Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

All of Isaiah 41 points to God’s sovereign hand. And then in the middle of it, He reminds us that He is not only sovereign but also loving, good, and for us, and because of this we do not need to fear. God is with us.

So when our fear of man seems louder than our trust in Him, or our fear for the future overwhelms our thoughts, or our fear and comparison strip us of our joy, the Lord proclaims to us, “Fear not, I am with you.” He reminds us that He is our God. He is a personal and intimate God. He knew us before the foundation of the earth, and He knit us together in the womb of our mother.

When your fears tell you that you are alone, God whispers, “I am your God.” He will uphold you. He has adopted us as His children. He sent His Son to die for us. He loves us with an everlasting love. He has covenanted with us.

Your fears tell you that you have to be strong. God tells you, “I will strengthen you.”

Your fears will tell you that you will fall and fail. Your fears will tell you that you have to muster up the strength to be all that you think the Lord desires you to be, and that you must do it on your own. Your fears will tell you that you don’t measure up and never will. God tells you, “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Your fears will tell you to fear. God tells you, “Be not dismayed.

Adapted from a previous post. Excerpt from "Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves."

For more information on thinking and engaging biblically with our current cultural climate, attend the 2016 ERLC National Conference in Nashville, Tenn.

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