Have you ever read an excellent book more than once? Then on a subsequent reading you discover something different that you didn't notice the first time you read it? Perhaps you may have viewed a movie for the first time. And later you thought you would watch it again. Did you notice something 'fresh' on the second viewing you didn't hear the first time? I've read some outstanding books several times, and I always seem to find something that I didn't notice before.
The Pastor was mentioning something along those lines last week in class. Can you imagine a scenario like this when your Pastor gets in the pulpit to preach:
"Today we are reading from... Oh. You've already heard that scripture. Well, Jesus said in the parable of the... Oh. Wait. You've already heard that one, too. Anyway, when Paul traveled from Antioch and arrived in Cypress, he.... Well, I guess you've heard that story, too. God bless you. We'll see you next Sunday. You're dismissed in Jesus' name."
We enjoy teaching and preaching the Bible, even though we may have heard topics at least once before. We need to continue hearing it as it strengthens us and establishes us. Hearing it again and again builds your faith.
Today I am bringing you Something Old.
Let's consider a phrase for starters.
"Fear not" - how many times is it in the New Testament? In the gospel of Matthew it written five times. Luke records eight instances. And John only has it once. Have you ever read these phrases?
"Be not afraid,"
"Let not your hearts be troubled,"
"Be of good cheer,"
"Be not affrighted,"
Let's view some instances, and perhaps we can glean some nuggets!
Joseph was afraid - Matthew 2:22
Jesus said, "Be not afraid." - Matthew 14:27
Peter was afraid; - Matthew 14:30
The disciples were sore afraid. - Matthew 17:6
Jesus said, "Be not afraid." - Matthew 17:7
The one talent man said: "I was afraid," - Matthew 25:25
Jesus said, "Be not afraid." - Matthew 28:10
The people of the Gadarenes were afraid. - Mark 5:15
Jesus said, "Be not afraid." - Mark 5:36
He said again, "Be not afraid." - Mark 6:50
The disciples were sore afraid. - Mark 9:6
They were afraid to ask him. - Mark 9:32
The disciples were afraid. - Mark 10:32
Mary and the women at the tomb were afraid. - Mark 16:8
The shepherds were sore afraid. - Luke 2:9
The disciples were afraid. - Luke 8:35
Jesus said, "Be not afraid of them," - Luke 12:4
The women at the tomb were afraid, - Luke 24:5
The disciples were afraid. - John 6:19
Jesus said, "It is I; be not afraid." - John 6:20
Jesus said, "Neither let your heart be afraid." - John 14:27
Pilate was the more afraid; - John 19:8
Cornelius was afraid, and Christians were no doubt afraid of Saul. - Acts 10:4
The men with Paul at his conversion were afraid. - Acts 22:9
I believe humanity is the same no matter when they may have walked the Earth. I expect they are still the same as the individuals walking around today. You may say, "Well, that was then. It wasn't anything like it is today. Today, it is modern. We have technology."
I believe the crowds those days said the same thing. When they were alive, the world had advanced to its present level. They had at their fingertips the most current items of the time. The Bible is showing us that when Jesus came along and subsequently the apostles started their missionary work, people were afraid. Afraid of the unknown, anxious of change, and apprehensive of bucking the status quo.
You have doubtless heard about the type of life Saul of Tarsus led by persecuting, jailing, and killing Christians. Read Acts chapter 9 for the full story about his conversion to Christianity. Observe in Acts 9:26, Saul arrived in Jerusalem for the first time after his transformation; "the disciples were all afraid of him," and probably with excellent reason!
People are fearful and can be anxious. A large part of humanity scare easier than others, and there are a few extraordinary people that nothing frightens them. However, if you have followed the Apostle Paul and his exploits on his missionary journeys, you might expect that he is one of those rare men that never get scared. You may expect that after a year wandering with Jesus and performing miracles and such, that he would be full of faith. Or what about 2 years? How about 7 years with the Lord? He should be really humming now, and nobody could stop him. Let's bump it up to 10 years. Do you think Paul would not be anxious after 10 straight years of walking with God and seeing and doing several miracles?
Let's keep going. How about 15 years with the Lord? He shouldn't ever be frightened again. "So, what are you getting at?" you ask. Well, I'm glad you asked! Even 18 years after his conversion and walking with Jesus, the Lord told the great Apostle Paul in Acts 18:9; 'Be not afraid.' How can this be? It's because we are all human, and that is how God designed us. Sometimes we get fearful and the Lord has to console us. Well, that should have taken care of Paul's fear. He shouldn't have any more problems in that area.
He continued walking with God and preached mighty sermons, penned letters to the churches he founded. By the way, those letters (epistles) became part of the Bible. Paul wrote most of the New Testament. How can someone so close to God have fears? Look in Acts and you'll discover 8 years after the Lord told him not to worry, the Lord's angel told Paul to "fear not."
Do you believe it may be normal for a person to become occasionally fearful? Even though there are countless variables, I think when we face uncertainties, fear can try to place its icy grip on our souls. But that is where being a Christian pays dividends untold. Consider this portion of scripture and read what Paul endured:
2 Corinthians 11:20-33 (KJV) For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.
After all Paul endured and experienced with the Lord, he wrote in what I believe to be his last epistle this conclusion:
2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV) For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Paul grew in his walk with the Lord. He became strong when he trusted God, and he could have lost his life in any of those situations he listed. He escaped death because it was not his time to leave this world. He had complete confidence in the Lord. What was it Job said during his trial?
Job 13:15 (KJV) Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him:...
In our current time of uncertainty, it's simple to be fearful. What does the future hold for me? There are churches the government has closed, chained, and fences placed around the property. Oh yes, and this is after they threw the Pastor in jail. Sure, I would maintain it would be simple to be afraid. But I would also add, trust in the Lord and lean not unto your own understanding. God is not oblivious to world's current events.
Some years ago when I moved to California, there was anti-Christian activity occurring specifically with our local assembly. The Pastor was a long-time friend and related interesting incidences that occurred before we arrived. He would stop by the church during the week and find 'curses' placed upon the door. He found animal parts left with blood smears and curses scrawled to intimidate the people. I believe they actually thought that these things would influence and harm us.
If you are any kind of devout Christian, you understand that Satan and any of his minions have absolutely no power over Christians. Yet, they will still try to instill fear in Christians. Pastor used to call these curses 'whammies' and would mostly ignore it.
He added there was one day the purveyors of the 'whammies' showed up near the church. There was a large bluff overlooking the building, and it was quite high. After the church service, while church members exited and conversed with each other in the parking lot, someone noticed a man at the precipice of the bluff wearing a long, flowing, white robe observing the church activity. He waved his hands frantically and was obviously chanting something. However, because of the distance, no one heard what he was saying.
Someone brought it to the attention of the Pastor. He looked up at this fellow for a moment, stretched his arm out and pointed his finger at him and yelled out, "I rebuke you in Jesus' name!" Naturally, since they could not pick up what the man was chanting, he could hear nothing they said or yelled. As Pastor spoke that, immediately the stranger fell backward to the ground out of sight.
A few minutes later, he returned and resumed his peculiar behavior. Pastor rebuked him again, pointing his finger at him, and the man fell backward and out of sight. This was quite a display of power. What happened next was even more extraordinary. The man clad in white appeared again, but a second man wearing a red robe accompanied him. They both waved their arms and chanted, even though we couldn't hear them due to the distance.
Pastor again repeated the same action, and they both fell backwards out of sight. Some bold members assembled and drove up there, but the area was vacant upon arrival.
You may recognize what occurred, and perhaps there might be readers that do not. What really happened here was a blatant spiritual assault by the enemy (Satan's minions). In scenarios like this, normal communication is not mandatory. Paul is clear what he means in the book of Ephesians:
Ephesians 6:12 (KJV) For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
This was a spiritual assault and a spiritual response. Satan cannot stand against true Christians who live for God according to the Bible. I could write a great deal about Christian living here, but I'll save it for another time.
Remember. The enemy relentlessly tries to force us into fear. Don't surrender to him!
Given Power Over the Enemy
Jesus was clear in Matthew:
Matthew 10:1 (KJV) And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.
He also said in the book of Luke:
Luke 10:19 (KJV) Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
This is when you engage your faith. Periodically these encounters will frighten you, and they're designed to do just that. But we must stand strong and believe what Jesus said. He gives us that power and has promised that nothing shall by any means hurt us. Naturally, we are not walking upon real serpents and scorpions. Jesus is talking about spirits here. It doesn't mean we go hunting them. But should we encounter them, we are to tread on them. Through the power of Jesus and his blood, we can be victorious.
Take Up Serpents
Jesus also said in Mark:
Mark 16:17 (KJV) And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
These signs shall follow them that believe. These signs shall follow them that believe. These signs shall follow them that believe. Did I say that more than once? I know, I know. When you hear this verse, you think of those snake-handling churches that pick up dangerous snakes and drink poison. I am not saying this at all. Remember what Paul said. We are not wrestling against flesh and blood. Remember when Jesus told Pilate His kingdom was not of this world? He said if it was, his servants would fight... physically fight.
Christians are in a spiritual war, and that's precisely where the fight is. It's in the spiritual realm. The enemy will relentlessly try to convince you you have no power over him. His lies can persuade anyone. But that is when we combat his lies with the Word of God. Jesus did this when Satan tempted him. Jesus countered with the Word of God, and Satan could not withstand.
Remember that Paul said we have not been given the spirit of fear. We need not to be afraid. We can have perfect peace during a storm if we will just trust Him.
We shall be victorious!