fear

Brace Yourself

How many times have you heard these words of warning?  We’ve all heard them in movies right before the plane crash or right before the train derailed and right before the car crash scene.  Those are good words of warning and given in split second timing in order to lessen the personal damage of the impact.  Anytime you know a potentially hard impact is about to take place, you should call out, “Brace Yourself.”  Right now with the spread of the coronavirus, the government is telling us to brace ourselves because what is hitting us and what is about to hit us is going to be extremely difficult to endure.  Did you hear that?  What is about to unfold in our nation is not going to be over anytime soon, and it’s going to have a potentially devastating impact on every family.  I hate to talk like that, but even in God’s Word we find this warning to brace ourselves, but only using different terminology.  Here’s a few examples.

Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on the way. And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, “since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?”  Genesis 18:16-18

“And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “[As] the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.” Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. “And it will be [that] you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”  1 Kings 17:1-4

“Come, my people, enter your chambers, And shut your doors behind you; Hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, Until the indignation is past. For behold, the LORD comes out of His place To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; The earth will also disclose her blood, And will no more cover her slain.”  Isaiah 26:20-21

Please know this, I know another day is coming that will make this season in our country seem minor and that’s why as you brace yourself you need to draw near to Jesus Christ.  He can still send the ravens to feed you and help you find water, but He is using our government to tell us something bad is coming, stay at home, and we will take care of you.  The other religious leaders in the Old Testament mocked the true prophets of God when they gave a warning and people still mock today.  I hope I am wrong, but go ahead and brace yourself in the ways you can, but especially draw near to the One who can supply your every need—Jesus Christ!  

The Shepherd’s Voice

The disruption of the coronavirus is unlikely anything we have ever experienced before, at least in its scope and magnitude. We have faced other deadly viruses and outbreaks and plagues, but nothing, at least in my lifetime, that has disrupted and derailed as this has. But we have experienced disruption and sudden changes of plans. In fact, your whole life has been a series of disruptions of one kind or another, and many have been discouraging and upsetting, but you’ve been able to navigate through them all. Now our lives have been turned into a massive maze with uncertainty at each step. That’s why we need a shepherd to guide us through. Jesus said these words:

 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” John 10:1-5

David said, “The Lord is my Shepherd” because David realized his own need for someone to help him navigate through life. Not only is Jesus referred to as the Good Shepherd, but He is also the Great Shepherd who never leaves you nor forsakes you. He knows that we don’t know which way to go. We think we do, but even the Bible says two times, “There is a way that seems right to man, but the end leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12, 16:25.

If there was ever a time to tune into the voice of God, it is now. His voice will do more for you than all the other voices around you or in you. His voice will guide you through the pandemic maze. His voice will usher in peace, strength and hope even in the most troubling times of life. His voice is like a whisper, so you must be intentional about hearing it, and when you do, you will be able to stand when others crumble. Listen to the voice of the Shepherd.

Perfect Peace

“You will keep [him] in perfect peace, [Whose] mind [is] stayed [on You,] Because he trusts in You. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, For in YAH, the LORD, [is] everlasting strength.”  Isaiah 26:3-4

Perfect peace sounds pretty good right now, but it also sounds impossible.  In order to keep your mind glitching with thoughts that are fearful, keep your television on the news channel.  To keep your thoughts racing with fear of the unknown, keep searching for the news alerts on the internet.  If you want fear to ramp up anxiety and worry, read every post on Facebook that highlights the opinions of people who don’t know what they are talking about.  But if you want to experience perfect peace, you must focus—focus your mind—on the Prince of Peace.  You must unplug from all the fear outlets and mentally plug into the strength and power outlet of prayer and God’s Word.  The new nature you have in Christ did not come equipped with fear.  What is the condition of your mind?  There is nothing wrong with being concerned and to be aware of what’s taking place, but those news outlets will only tell you not to panic, but they won’t tell you how not to panic.  

Go to work mentally and spiritually lifting your thoughts towards God.  Tell Him, “Father I know you have all things in control.”  Bury yourself in God’s Word, even reading out loud if necessary.  God is going to tell you what to do and when to do it if you will be more tuned into Him than the fear outlets.  Grow in your love for Jesus Christ and you will evict the fear out of your life.

“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”   1 John 4:17-18

You will never experience perfect peace from the Prince of Peace until you fix your mind upon Him.  He is all around you right now, so plug into Him.

Watch and Pray

To watch and pray is the Believer’s most important activity, but especially during times of uncertainty and fear.  Sometimes we pray, but we don’t watch, and other times we watch without much praying.  When we watch and pray in tandem, we can receive just what we need to get through the hour, day, week or months.  If we pray and don’t watch, we miss what God is trying to say to us.  If we watch without praying, we end up full of anxious thoughts, but when we watch and pray, God shows us that He is with us.  

Jesus said to His disciples, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed [is] willing, but the flesh [is] weak.” —Matthew 26:41

You are being severely tempted right now to give yourself over to fear.  You are being tempted to live by the old nature rather than the new nature.  The new nature we have in Christ did not come equipped with any fear, but fully equipped with faith in God.  One thing to watch is not so much the news, but to watch yourself, that you don’t give in to the fear.  

“Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.”

—Mark 13:33

“Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  —Luke 21:36

God in heaven sees those among us who give themselves to this spiritual activity.  He knows the very ones who ask for eyes to see and ears to hear.  God will honor those who occupy themselves in the disciplines of watching and praying.  When we give ourselves to prayer, it’s like using the pry bar on our spiritual eyes to give us vision more than most people can see during a crisis such as the coronavirus.  

By now you may have gone a great deal of time in your walk with God without really knowing how to watch and pray, but now is a good time to learn how.  Only by faithful and fervent praying can you see the warnings and affirmations and directions God is giving.  In the days ahead, learn how to watch and pray and what you will see is your fear fading and God’s presence appearing in so many different ways.  Believe this, there is more taking place right now than what you see and hear in the news.  But the only way you will know is by watching and praying.  Watch and pray! 

Do Not be Afraid

You do not have to fear!  Fear of the coronavirus is widespread and a real concern, but it should not strike fear in the child of God.  One question might be, is it possible to not be overcome by fear with such a fearful global pandemic?  Is it possible that someone can be full of peace instead of fear and still not be foolish, careless, and ignorant?  The answer is YES!  Not only is it possible to have great peace in a fearful event, but it is Biblical.  It is Biblical and it is also unnatural.  The natural thing to do when you hear pandemic is to be afraid and shut yourself inside your home and hope it all just goes away.   And you can do that, or you can live the peace-filled life God has called every one of His children to live.  Look at what this scripture says:

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “[He is] my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler [And] from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth [shall be your] shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, [Nor] of the arrow [that] flies by day, [Nor] of the pestilence [that] walks in darkness, [Nor] of the destruction [that] lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; [But] it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD, [who is] my refuge, [Even] the Most High, your dwelling place.”  Psalms 91:1-9

Anyone can have the supernatural surpassing peace of God during a crisis moment, but only certain ones do.  And they are not foolish, careless, or ignorant, they are the ones who make the Lord their dwelling place.  So let me ask you, are you making God your dwelling place?  If you don’t, then fear will come knocking all the time like an uninvited visitor to your home.  When an uninvited visitor shows up at your house and you really don’t want them to come in, all you have to do is step outside with them and close the door behind you.  You don’t have to invite fear in, but close the door to your dwelling place.  A final thought here is that you can be born again, saved, and have the Holy Spirit, and still not make the Lord your dwelling place.  It takes constant effort and spiritual striving to do so.  You must love the Lord with all your heart for Him to ever be your dwelling place.  My favorite place is to be is at my house.  It is my dwelling place because I sleep there and rest and relax there.  My house is my dwelling place because after I have gone out, it is the place I always return to.  My house is my dwelling place because I’m there everyday and enjoy being there.  When the Lord God Most High becomes spiritually what your house is physically, then He will be your dwelling place, and fear does not come in the house where the Lord lives.

Where is the Line?

With the fear of the coronavirus spreading faster than the virus itself, some may wonder where the fine line is between preparing and staying protected and maintaining your peace and witness for God.  You could argue both sides, and in doing so, catch the sharp opposing opinions of others.  You should be washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze even without a virus spreading.  You also should be trusting in the protection of Almighty God for your life and health.  God has given us wisdom to put into practice, and you can do that without getting pulled into the parade of panic.  If God in heaven does not count your heartbeats and have the days of our lives numbered in His book, then fear and panic are warranted, but if you believe in the sovereignty of God over your life, then use your wisdom, hold your peace, and keep your witness for God.  

Psalm 91:5-7 says, “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, [Nor] of the arrow [that] flies by day, [Nor] of the pestilence [that] walks in darkness, [Nor] of the destruction [that] lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; [But] it shall not come near you.”

Don’t read this wrong, you are going to die unless Jesus Christ returns before that time, but even in facing death, there is a place for you to go and take refuge.  The safest place you can be is as close to God as possible.  That’s the emphasis in this Psalm, to make God your place of refuge and dwelling place.  To make God your dwelling place means you don’t stop in for visits, but it’s a lifestyle of connection and communication with Him.  God can do for you what no mask or hand washing or quarantine can ever do.  Be quarantined by the Almighty, and He will see you through deadly viruses, and even death itself will not shake you.  

Shut-Ins

Churches have certain people they call “shut-ins.“  These are the people who are physically not able to make it to church.  Many shut-ins live in their homes with 24-hour care, while others live in assisted living or nursing homes.  The shut-ins did not all of a sudden decide they were done with church and no longer wanted to attend, but because of age or failing health or accidents, they no longer have the ability to be in church.  Of all the places most of these shut-ins want to be on Sunday morning, it is with their church family.  But churches have another kind of shut-in today.  Look at this, “Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  John 20:19

The disciples were shut in because of their fear of the Jews.  It is definitely biblical for Believers to come into the house, shut the door and close the world out.  But what happens with many is they receive Christ as Savior and remain shut in and never go out.  Jesus said in John 10:9 “I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” 

God has called every Believer in Christ to go in and-out.  Christ did not save us to be spiritual shut-ins. Strangely, a Believer can go out and still be shut in if they never speak a word about Jesus.  Walking out of a church building does not mean you are not a shut-in.  Spiritual shut-ins are those who never let the light of Jesus shine through their lives.  Yes, shut yourself in to be alone with Jesus and have fellowship with the body of Christ, but then go out and be the witness God has made you to be.  

SQUEEZED!

Most likely in countless bathrooms across this country, there are tubes of tooth paste mangled and distorted lying next to the sink.  Even when the tube has been completely flattened out, we still count on there being enough for one last brush, so we squeeze, fold and crimp for that little dab to come out.  You paid good money for it, so get as much out as you can.  We do that with other things as well, like those squeezable sour cream containers.  It says on the back, “Now you can squeeze a dollop of Daisy,” and we might as well because we paid for it. 

Many times in life, God does to us what we do to the tubes of tooth paste and sour cream, He squeezes us!  When those unexpected trials come and we experience affliction and deep pain, sometimes that’s God squeezing us to get more out of us.  And the truth is, we need that spiritual squeeze from time to time.  I’m certain that God has put more in you than what He is getting out of you.  Think about it, Job got squeezed.  Naomi got squeezed.  Paul got squeezed.  Jesus got squeezed on the cross by the weight of humanity’s sins.  

Some squeezable containers get clogged in the narrow openings, so they require being squeezed with a little more pressure.  And then there are some that stay free flowing all the time.  God wants you to be free flowing requiring only a touch, and the life of Jesus comes out.  That only happens by continual surrender and faithful obedience to His will.  Some wonder at what God is doing in their lives in times of hardship, and the answer is, He is trying to squeeze some Jesus love and Jesus mercy and Jesus goodness out of you.

Philippians 2:12-13 says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for [His] good pleasure.”  

You have the opportunity to work out what God has already put in you so He doesn’t have to squeeze it out.  Are you tender to His touch, or have you become hard and clogged up?  If you are a child of God, then He paid for you, so He feels free to get as much out of you as possible.  

“Holy Father, I lift up that person right now who is feeling the pressure of your squeeze.  God I know that deep pain and heartache, so I plead with you to speak to that person and give spiritual understanding to recognize you and give them power to surrender.  Father I pray that they will even recognize how they may be resisting you.  I pray that You will move on that person this moment and reveal Yourself to them.  Thank you, Father, for Your everlasting mercy and the sufficiency of Your grace.  Lord, we give ourselves to You and to the work of reflecting Christ to the world. This we ask in the name of Jesus, Amen.”  

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