Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, on 3/2/08
"For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-control" (II Tim. 1:7).
F .D. R. said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Politicians and ad executives utilize fear to move people to do whatever they want them to do. America has been held captive by the fear brokers since 911, and when the Presidential election heats up, we'll see fear and paranoia used over and over to motivate voters. The Conservatives tell us we should fear the Liberal tendency to tax and spend, and Liberals tell us we should fear the Conservative agenda, which they say favors the rich at the expense of the poor. We stand as a nation divided, polarized by opposing viewpoints, unwilling to dialogue reasonably about things that divide us. At the base of our fundamental differences is fear. The more fearful we are, the more dysfunctional and neurotic we become.
It would seem that every generation has a boogie man or nation which they label "the enemy." In our parents' day, it was Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. In our day, the lunatic fringe of Islam has become the cause of our anxieties. There are those who think it's just a matter of time until they take us over. Others think we won't be taken over by suicide bombers, but by the Chinese, to whom we owe our soul, our liver and our gal bladder. They won't have to fire a shot, but can just call the notes they hold on the zillion dollar loans they made to our government. Unable to pay, America would then be reduced to a bankrupt third world country. Eeek. That thought has driven many people to drink or Prozac.
And of course, I've only named external forces that can kill or maim us. In addition to countries who would like to destroy us, there are those nasty little microbes which have killed so many. I'm sure you've heard about the "super bug" stalking the halls of health care facilities. The Staphylococcus bacteria has gotten the upper hand on the strongest antibiotics and is a real problem in hospitals across the country. When Lenny was in the VA hospital last summer, they were using an antibacterial nose swab on every patient moved even from one ward to another to try to halt the spread of this often fatal infection. And not to be outdone, there's the common flu bug. A doctor told me recently that he was scheduled to do a surgery on a 90 year old man who had broken his hip, but he had to wait until they found a bed for him. The Neosho hospital beds are now full of patients suffering from flu and its complications, like pneumonia.
Oh, and remember Chicken Little of "The Sky is Falling" fame? We've all heard about the spy satellite that the military was going to shoot down. I'm sure there were those who were terrified that it would fall on their house killing them instantly. And if that doesn't come to pass, they fear they may die by reason of eating the tainted meat from sick cows that has recently been recalled.
Then there are fears about not having enough money to make it through the month. Some people will never have enough money to assuage their worries because their negative imaginations will always produce a scenario in which they come up short. These pitiful folks caught in the icy clutches of perceived deprivation seem to forget David's declaration that he had never seen "the righteous forsaken or his children begging bread" (Ps. 37:25).
This is an opportune moment to share a wonderful experience that validates this scripture for me. Propane is very costly these days and I thought the tank we had filled in mid December, at a cost of $351, would last a long time. Alas, no. It's almost empty and Propane is now $1.99 a gallon. The Lord knew what I didn't. He put it on the heart of a dear friend and supporter of the ministry in Texas, to send us a check for $500 a few days ago. Abba has never failed to send these unexpected bounties from heaven, just at the time we need them most. It's another example of last week's writing about the Mayonnaise Jar (See Link at End), in my youth that never ran dry of money, and God has a much bigger Jar than that. Truly, our God is an awesome God. He reigns and He provides for His children.
As someone who has waged a lifelong battle against the fear which threatened at times to bring me down, I now view all fear as systemic of our failure to believe and therefore depend upon God's promises and avail ourselves of the total VICTORY so hard won by Christ on the cross. He overcame the principalities and powers in the heavenlies, that we might live victoriously and fearlessly upon the earth. He came to destroy the works of the devil, and surely, certainly, providentially, He did not fail in that assignment. If He did, our problems are way worse than anything I've named here.
Christians who have joined a church, signed on to a program of works in an attempt to get free from fear's steely grip, only to find out that it still nips at their heels in spite of their tireless efforts, have felt defeated by doubt and despair. Fear has cut the legs out from under their best efforts to please God. There are all kinds of ways to fight fear. Some have faith in a talisman, such as a St. Christopher's medal or a rabbit's foot to bring them luck and keep them from harm. Others have confidence in their positive confessions, maybe quoting scripture, or some other "mantra" they recite when they are afraid.
Then, of course, there is that great river flowing through Egypt: DENIAL. If you don't acknowledge something, maybe it will go away. Some people refuse to watch the news because it frightens them. This lame attempt may work for a while, but never holds up when your back is to the wall and the wolf is at the door. We need more than words or avoidance at times like that. We need the power of Almighty God to deliver us from our fears, and that is precisely the reason He sends the triggering device to show us our fears so that he can deliver us from them.
It has become clear to me that the only way to rise up on Eagle's wings is to be wrapped in the unconditional love of God. You cannot soar in the heavenlies when fear paralyzes your mind and heart. Perfect love casts out fear. When I'm afraid (I gave up denial a long time ago), I turn it over to God, praying, "Father, You have not loved me perfectly in this area, because I'm afraid. It may be my fault, but I can't do anything about that. Do what You need to do to show me Your love so my fear will be cast out." He has always answered that prayer.
To the degree that we don't know God is in control of all things, we will be afraid when life throws us a curve ball. Knowing that He has it all in His hand allows us to sleep while the boat is battered and punished by a storm tossed sea.
There's a great story found in II Kings, 6: 8-17, about God's protection of Israel against the country of Aram (Syria). The Prophet Elisha would be in great demand today by the NSA and CIA, for God always showed him the King of Aram's next move, so that when Aramean troops got to the battle site, Israel was forewarned and waiting for them. In his frustration, the King of Aram began to suspect he had a spy in his midst. "He summoned his officers and demanded of them, "Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?" "None of us, my lord the king," said one of his officers, "but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom" (II Kings. 6:11-12). He instructed them to find out where Elisha was.
When the report came back that Elisha was in Dothan, the King sent horses and chariots and a strong force which surrounded the city by night (Vs. 13-14). Early the next morning, Elisha's servant went out and discovered that they were surrounded by their enemy. "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked."
"Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha" (II Kings 6:15-17).
Two points leap out at me from this account. The first is that in Old Testament times, the prophets of the Lord had power and insight and truly spoke from God, unlike so called prophets today who often are "prophesying out of their own minds," to borrow a phrase from Jeremiah and Ezekiel's observations (Jer. 23:16; Eze. 13:17). You could take the word of Elijah and Elisha, Moses, Amos, Daniel, and the others to the bank because it was solid gold.
Secondly, the story illustrates what I've long observed and that is that the things we fear are mostly in our minds, like the little kid who is sure there's a monster under his bed. But no matter what we fear, when we don't see God's absolutely sovereignty over all things, we have no idea how He is going to protect us. Like Elisha's servant, we see the enemy clearly, but until God opens our eyes, we do not see the horses and chariots of fire all around us.
I'll say it again: the single most effective defense against fear is the unconditional love of God, for when we truly feel it, we understand Isaiah's words: "I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things" (Isa. 45:5-7). All power lies solely in the hands of our Heavenly Father.
I have no faith in the government's ability to deal with the lunatic fringe of Islam, or anything else for that matter, because God puts all nations and peoples in their places and uses them as He sees fit to produce the greatest good. The Bible itself is the testimony of God's dealings with all humanity whom He always planned to bless in Abraham's seed, which is Christ Himself (Gal. 3:16). In the ancient world, the three great military powers which threatened Israel were Egypt, Assyria and Babylon.
Here's Ezekiel's description of God moving these nations like pieces on a chess board: "I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon and put my sword in his hand, but I will break the arms of Pharaoh, and he will groan before him like a mortally wounded man. I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, but the arms of Pharaoh will fall limp. Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I put my sword into the hand of the king of Babylon and he brandishes it against Egypt. I will disperse the Egyptians among the nations and scatter them through the countries. Then they will know that I am the LORD" (Ezek. 30:24-26). When the Lord God Almighty reveals His unconditional love and total sovereignty over all things to us, only then can we relax into the Everlasting Arms, knowing that our Father has our safety and security in the palm of His hands.
There's a modern day story whose author I cannot remember, though it may have been in Billy Graham's book on Angels. A young woman was walking home late at night through a dangerous neighborhood. She was frightened when a menacing looking man approached her, but he let her pass and she got safely home. The next morning, she heard about another woman walking the same street who was raped shortly after she herself had been there. She went to the police station and told her story about the man who had approached her and they asked if she could identify the suspect they had picked up in the rape case.
When she saw him, she gasped, because it was indeed the very same man who had frightened her so badly. She asked if she could question him. Reluctantly, they took her into the interrogation room, where she asked him with trembling voice why he had not attacked her, but instead had gone after the other unfortunate young woman. He replied, "I'm not stupid. There were three strong men with you." Of course, she knew they had to be angels, for she walked alone, so far as she could tell. She said after that, she knew who protected her life. It was not the policeman on the corner that she could see, but her heavenly Father whom she could not see who kept her safe in the shadow of His wings.
Father, You're our rock; You're our fortress; in You do we trust. Of whom should we be afraid when we walk with You? Our nation stands at a crossroads, awaiting Your perfect will to be made manifest in our lives. You are the God of all men, all nations, all religions. Open our eyes to see You in all men. Open our hearts so that your love will flow from us to all we meet. Open our spirits to receive You in Your fulness. In Christ, we ask it, Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail Address)
The Mayonnaise Jar
The Glory Road
This writing was uploaded to the web 02/21/08,
by Jan Antonsson, webmeister,
and last updated 11/23/08.