I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
- Revelation 1:9-18
“I was raised with a concept that God was a stern judge, just waiting to pounce on a little boy who might step out of line. In my early childhood, the thought never dawned on me to do anything really bad. I was too scared!
“All of these factors resulted in my arriving at adulthood with several ideas deeply ingrained in me: Don’t put down roots very deeply. 1. You could be pulled up at any minute. 2. Don’t squander what you have. You may not be able to replace it. 3. Don’t take risks. 4. Don’t fail God. …
“Anxiety manifests itself in several ways: 1. Increased irritability 2. A continual vacillation of opinion 3. Repeated errors of judgment 4. Feelings of persecution, even if no persecutor can be identified 5. Procrastination 6. Increased use of chemicals as a means of escape from pain, sleeplessness, or nervous tension 7. Low productivity.
“To overcome anxiety, you must deal with you overwhelming fear of the future. You need something that can anchor your life so that no matter what happens, you won’t be blown off course. The only thing that can anchor you is God, and the only way you discover who He is, is through Jesus Christ. Ultimately, if you will build your relationship with Him, God will enable you to face whatever is happening in your life and to come out victoriously. You may go through difficulty, hardship, or trail – but as long as you are anchored to him, you will have hope.”
- Charles Stanley, The Source of my Strength (numbers are used instead of bullet points)
As for the Scripture, anyone with hair like white wool, eyes like fire and feet like bronze emerging from a furnace, I am going to be afraid. It might be a cruel joke hearing “Do not be afraid,” or as the KJV states, “Fear not.” My knees might be knocking too loud to hear.
But John had already seen Jesus in His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration.
I cut into the quote from Rev. Stanley with just his last of four points. The first three were moving every year on average for most of his life until high school. The second was being dirt poor, and the third was a constant barrage of reminders that he should not do this or that because he might get hurt.
In a way this summarizes yesterday’s posts: a quiz about “Do not fear” and a post about “relationship instead of rules.” When there is nothing but rules, there is the constant fear of taking a step in the wrong direction. What Rev. Stanley tells us is to take our steps toward Jesus.
“Living in fear” pretty well summed up my life, up to the point where I met Jesus as a high school senior. After that point, it was overcoming those fears, as Rev. Stanley said were so well ingrained within.
I had a fear of heights. Okay, maybe a fear of falling from heights. Alright, I had a fear of that sudden stop when you hit the bottom. In college, I fell in love with rappelling from structures 150ft or higher in the air, but without a rope, I would grasp the guardrail at the edge of a cliff tightly. I hated climbing distillation towers at my first job, and I only climbed the towers that were 100ft high or less. We had tower over twice that height.
I did well in military service, but I had been married for about two years and my wife had been enlisted in the Air Force during Vietnam. She gave me wise counsel. Otherwise, I might have been lost at times, and afraid.
I had a fear of public speaking, although I could clown around on stage (living a character instead of being me). My glossophobia, fear of public speaking, was not cured until a few years out of the military.
We all have fears. After my first kidney stone, I feared the second. Now I understand what is happening, and as long as the pain is not too bad, I can handle it, with no fear. We can turn each of our fears over to God. God is stronger than we are and wiser. He knows whether the “greyhound” that is coming down the alley that we are about to enter is a dog or a bus from a famous commercial bus company. In other words, God knows our future and all things work for our good, even those things that hurt a bit along the way.
Now some things are natural to fear. If someone asked me to blindly stick my hand into a box that was rattling, I would not do so. It may be a baby shaking a baby rattle, but it might be a rattlesnake. There is a difference in fear and prudence. In the open, I can stare down a rattlesnake. I can kill it if there is no other option, but with room to maneuver, I can let him have his space and I can back away and leave him alone – as I have done on more than one occasion, although they were not all rattlesnakes. More of a variety of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, copperheads, and once with a cobra.
My wife will tell you that I do not do well with rats and mice. I have no problem with chipmunks. I get nervous when we have them invade our home, but my wife is basing her conviction on a wedding present. We got two nice cutting boards when we got married, and we still have both of them. One came with a large wooden rat with holes for toothpicks. Someone knew we would be entertaining, and the rat with hors d oeuvres sticking out of its back would be a nice conversation piece. I have great night vision, or I did back then. If I got up in the middle of the night, I would never turn on any lights, and in the dark, a wooden rat looks like a real one. Later that morning, my wife got up to fix herself some coffee and saw empty toothpicks stuck in each hole on the back of the rat. She asked why and I said, “At night, it looked real in the dark. With a bunch of toothpicks stabbed into it, I can be assured that it is dead, whether alive or wooden. Somehow, the rat disappeared.
Will God allow us to overcome our fears, deal with our fears, or leave the natural fears in the area of prudence? In some ways, our fears are a part of us. In some ways they humble us before God. But they should never control us.
With God within us, we can accomplish amazing things. Have no doubt about it.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.