365 times in the Bible God utters the imperative, “Do not be afraid.”
Viewed analytically, it appears that, after dealing with Adam and Even in the garden, God deemed it necessary to remind us daily to “Fear not” in hopes that, in spite of our propensity to fear, we, like so many including Abraham, Moses, Ruth, and others, would choose to trust and surrender ourselves to Him unconditionally.
How are we doing with that both then and now?
Heeding God’s command to “Fear not” 365 days a year, 365 times a day, 365 times a minute involves being brave by consciously and ceaselessly choosing, risking, acting, praying, trusting, and surrendering self by saying “Yes” to God while knowing full-well that “His thoughts are not our thoughts; His ways are not our ways” (Isaiah 55:8-9) but that “He knows the plans He has for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11); therefore, that “We are made for more.”
As an affirmation to each of us, the Bible is replete with stories of the ordinary person bravely accomplishing the extraordinary because “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
Suppose Esther had not with bravery decided to risk her life on behalf of God and the Jewish nation when she proclaimed, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).
Suppose Moses had not with bravery made the conscious choice to “turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up” (Exodus 3:3).
Both Esther and Moses – as can we – chose bravery over fear, a bravery illustrated by “courageous behavior or character” and undergirded by “spiritual courage, moral strength to face danger, fear, and/or difficulty.”
Perhaps one of the most familiar utterances of “Fear not!” was spoken to the shepherds, the lowliest of the low, as they were “keeping watch over their flocks by night” (Luke 2:8). An angel of the Lord appeared to them and said, “Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). How easy it would have been for them to remain in the fields scared and hiding in caves with their sheep, but instead they chose to “go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, telling all who heard them what had been made known to them about this child” (Luke 2:15-19). Because they responded bravely to God’s call upon their lives, “Good Tidings of Great Joy” were proclaimed throughout the land offering hope and affirming God’s faithfulness to all those “living in darkness” (Isaiah 9:2).
Can you imagine a dirty, smelly shepherd discovering that God had not forgotten him but that He, in fact, had a purpose and a plan for his life? What about you?
To say that “Mary didn’t let fear hold her back from bravery is an understatement.”
An ordinary 12-14 year old girl by willingly, faithfully, and obediently accepting God’s purpose and plan for her life became the mother of Emmanuel when she prayerfully and humbly responded to God’s angel Gabriel, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to Your word” (Luke 1:38). Because of her choice, Mary’s life involved great suffering. Is it possible that she knew then that the same bravery displayed in her servant’s response to God: “Thy will be done” would, likewise, 33 years later be the same bravery steeped in righteousness and servanthood spoken by her Son to His Father the night before His crucifixion? If she had known from the moment of conception by the Holy Spirit of the pain and sacrifice required in the days ahead, would she have responded differently? Would Christ to His Father? Will you?
For many today life involves suffering be it grief, poverty, joblessness, addiction, divorce, loneliness, or the like.
Likewise, for many this time of year is especially fear-filled so much so that getting out of bed in the morning is an act of bravery.
But if the lives of Esther, Moses, the shepherds, Mary, and Christ illustrate anything to and about God for all to learn, it is that He has a purpose and a plan for each life and that when we choose to be brave rather than fearful, we enable God to accomplish His will in and through each of us even if it is as simple as keeping a smile on our face and in our heart so that those who need it the most can find hope in seeing the light and love of Christ living in us.
As we journey through Advent, may we remember that the child whose birth we celebrate is Emmanuel – God with us – and, therefore, heed His command to be brave while helping others to do and be the same: “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
~ Cyndy Goldsworthy