The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Do Not Be Afraid of Sudden Terror

Do not be afraid of sudden terror, Nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; 26 For the Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught.” (Proverbs 3:25-26).

April 15th is Patriots Day in Boston. And this year this holiday day was punctuated with an apparent act of terror as two bombs were detonated and two others were discovered and diffused before they could be detonated. The evidence and facts are still being accumulated and processed. Two are known dead with nearly 100 injured at this writing. It is being called an act of terror. This is the first of a crowd bombing like this on our turf. Experts in the field of terror will tell you they have been training for such a day for some time now. It was only a matter of time they say. That time of terror has arrived.

How can we cope with terror? How can we prepare for sudden unexpected vicious violence? Wisdom is the ability to solve problems. Biblical wisdom is solving problems from a biblical world view; from scripture. Proverbs is a wisdom book. In Proverbs it states, “Do not be afraid of sudden terror, Nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; 26 For the Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught.” (Proverbs 3:25-26). The solution to coping with the climate of terror is do not be afraid, have faith God will get you through.

“For the LORD . . . will keep your foot from being caught,” does not necessarily mean if you put your faith in God that you and your loved ones will suffer no physical harm or even death. God’s people are not exempt from harm. There have been many Todd Beamers who have stood up against evil with clarion calls of, “Let’s roll!”  They have given their lives. We should pray for their families who were left behind.

God can and often does protect us from physical harm, but not always. How do we deal with the fear of harm and death? The apostle Paul was one who faced the threat of death regularly. He was imprisoned with the threat of execution hanging over his head many a time. But imprisonment and the fear of death did not deter him. In fact he wrote four inspired letters from prison. In one of those letters Paul was inspired by God to write, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Paul looked into the teeth of death and actually looked forward to it. How was he able to do that?  

Fear is the foe of faith. Fear and faith are diametrically opposed to each other. Either fear will conquer your faith or faith will conquer your fears. It is possible to turn the tables on fear. There is a way to use your fears to build your faith.  We can begin to find that way in our verses from the wisdom book of Proverbs. The phrase, “Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes,” tells us a few things. First it tells us some scary things. There is such a thing as “sudden terror,” of frightening things that will come upon us unexpectedly. It also tells us that “trouble from the wicked” will come. You might be thinking at this point, Okay, I thought you were going to help me overcome my fears and now I’m more frightened than before! Well hold on because it also says, “Do not be afraid” of those things. That is an exhortation, an urging to take a step of faith. We need to by faith not be afraid, or not allow our fears to overwhelm and overcome us. The next verse gives us the reason we should act in faith and not be afraid. Faith is not a blind leap into darkness; it is acting on God’s word.

We need to use our fears to drive us to God. The inspired writer goes on to say, “For the LORD will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught.” The word “LORD” is God’s most holy name. This name describes God as eternally existent and totally sufficient. God is always present and always able to do what He purposes to do. God is always all He needs to be to fulfill His will. And the LORD is on our side (Romans 8:31-32). It is the LORD who “will be your confidence.” The word “confidence” comes from a root word that in other contexts is translated “folly,” or “silliness.” Is it foolish and silly to trust in God? No. But when God is your confidence and overseeing you, there is a freedom and security to be happy, even silly, to have fun again. With God’s help we can overcome our fears and live on.

The word “confidence” can also be translated as “security.” The New Living Translation of the Bible translates these words, “for the LORD will be your security.” I have friends in Homeland Security and they are good at what they do. But whose security would you rather trust in Almighty God’s or puny mans’? I’m going with God’s security. When our confidence is in the LORD, we can move on, we can start to live again. We can overcome our fears by placing our confidence in the LORD’s security.

The last phrase to consider is, “And will keep your foot from being caught.” This is imagery of the hunted escaping the hunter. These words do not mean we never suffer physical harm or death.  They do mean we can find comfort and relief from our fears through faith in God

From a scary prison cell Paul wrote, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. 13 Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.” (2 Tim. 1:12-14). These are some of the last words written by Paul as he was approaching execution. They point us to the primary solution of overcoming fear. We overcome fear and terror through faith in God.

Paul acknowledges his suffering but says he has found a way to weather the fearsome terror of persecution. He was courageous in the face of fearful circumstances. Where did he find such courage? Paul had faith in God. He personally knew Jesus as Savior and Lord. He fought fear with the statement, “for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” That “Day” was either the return of Jesus or the day of his death. Either way he had faith in the ability of God to keep what he had committed to Him. That is the key; Paul was totally surrendered to and committed to Jesus who, “has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:11).  He knew Jesus well enough to trust Him with everything, even his loved ones (Acts 20:32). Paul was not caught up in fear; he was caught up in Jesus.

Timothy was likely a timid and prone to fear person (2 Tim. 1:7). Therefore Paul exhorted Timothy to “hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me.” Paul told Timothy to build his fear overcoming faith on the word of God. He told Timothy to hold the truths of God’s word tight, “in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” Paul pointed Timothy to seek an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus. And Paul told Timothy to do all of this, “by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.” You can’t overcome your fears without the Holy Spirit in you. Without the Holy Spirit a person is spiritually dead and on their own (Romans 8:9-11). With the Holy Spirit you experience the presence of Jesus who promises His disciples “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5; John 14:16). With Jesus you can overcome any fear. You must be born again to have the Holy Spirit in you (John 3). It is the Holy Spirit within who manifest Jesus to a person (John 15:26).

Do you want to face your fears, the terrors of this world, on your own? If you do, you will inevitably be swallowed by fear. But there is a way of escape. Admit your sinfulness (Romans 3:10, 23), turn from your sins (Acts 3:19), confess them to God (1 John 1:9), and receive by trust in Jesus the free gift of forgiveness for sin and eternal life in Christ (Romans 6:23; John 1:12). Knowing Jesus is what eternal life is all about (John 17:3-4). Then, like Paul, you will know who you believe in. And that is what you need to overcome the fears connected with the threat of sudden terror.

There’s one additional part to overcoming fear. We pray through the fears and terror until the peace of God comes. In prison Paul was inspired to write,  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7). Paul exhorts us take a step of faith away from fear and into the presence of the LORD through prayer. The prayer that overcomes fear is called supplication. Supplication is a fervent, heartfelt passionate plea to God for help. Cast your cares on God through supplication prayer (1 Peter 5:7). Martin Luther used to say, “Pray and let God worry.”

Paul also tells us to pray with thanksgiving. This thanksgiving is offered in the midst of our fears. This thanksgiving is offered to God in the confident hope that God will answer and meet our need.  We pray to God with thanksgiving before He answers. This too is an act of faith and trust. The promise then is that, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” That is what we want, God’s peace to dissolve our fears.

Prayer is a valuable weapon against fear and terror. John Bunyan exhorted, “Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, a scourge for Satan.” Without prayer you are more susceptible to fears and terror. But prayerlessness may indicate a more serious problem. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Prayerlessness may be a symptom of lack of spiritual life. Without spiritual life we are destined for an eternity of fear and terror. Jesus said we ought to fear the One who holds our eternal destiny in His hands more than those who threaten our temporal lives (Matthew 10:28).

Faith in God and a declared dependence on Him in prayer is ultimately how we overcome our fears and the threat of terror of this age. “Do not be afraid of sudden terror.” Instead put your faith and trust in God and get on your knees in prayer. God’s fear defeating peace is only a prayer away.


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