As we enter into this New Year, I sense that fear has a grip on our nation and our world in a new and profound way.
While American families gathered for a hearty Thanksgiving meal, news broke about a new strain of the COVID-19 virus. Named Omicron, the heavily mutated strain was discovered in South Africa, and it wasn’t long before it was found in numerous other countries across the globe, including our own.
Despite comments from the doctors who originally spotted it that the cases seemed mild, strict travel bans were instituted worldwide. Fear spread like wildfire as the media warned of grave dangers from this new variant. Harsh lockdowns and closures were once again threatened.
However, COVID isn’t the only front where fear is rising.
Inflation has skyrocketed to the highest level seen in decades. People are struggling to handle the surging prices in groceries. Gas prices have soared more than 30% since the current administration came into office at the beginning of 2021, and many families are worried about whether they can pay their heating bills this winter.
Violence—I mean brutal, wicked violence—has taken hold in major cities from coast to coast. School shootings, horrendous killings of innocent parade bystanders, brazen daylight looting and stealing, and other evil acts have made people feel unsafe.
Add to that the helplessness that people feel as they watch our government seek to turn our country into a socialist welfare state, that if continued, will take us down a proven, failed path. I recently saw a survey where more than one-third of young people say “there are other countries in the world that are better than the U.S.” More than half of young Americans believe our nation is “in trouble” or “failing.”
But the follower of Jesus Christ must not succumb to such apprehension. Instead, this should be the prime hour and time for believers in our Risen Lord and Savior to stand firm in their faith and bear strong and godly witness to a panicked world.
The Lord admonished the Prophet Isaiah, who was speaking God’s truth to a decaying Jewish culture: “Do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isaiah 8:12-13).
You see, the perfect antidote for battling the fears that have become endemic in nature is a well-placed trust and confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ who rules over men, nature, nations, diseases, presidents, prime ministers and every single aspect of life.
This is what Jesus said:
“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). A proper reverential respect, awe and admiration of the One and Only Holy God should give us the perspective we need as the world swirls and spins in fear around us. God is in control. He holds the world in His hands.
Immediately following the Lord’s strong command to fear Him, Jesus revealed the all-encompassing care the Father has for His children. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).
Think about that for a minute. If God takes personal notice of every bird that falls in the distant Amazon forest, then will He not provide every necessary thing for us? The Lord Jesus Christ died for our sin on the cross, was buried, and then on the third day God raised Him from the dead. If He cared enough to save us from eternal damnation and give us the gift of everlasting life, will He not tend to our every need?
Yet, as the Scripture instructs us to fear God—not man—it also recognizes that fear does rise in the believer’s heart on occasion. The Lord knows our tendency to worry and fret, and He also tells us what to do about our worries. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh [or any circumstance in life] do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4).
I personally believe that the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is in the not-too-distant future. The Bible clearly tells us that as that moment approaches, the situation in the world will grow more and more desperate. Fear-inducing calamities will intensify across the world.
The Scripture is clear that unbelievers who haven’t repented of their sins and put their trust in Christ are living without any regard for the holiness of God. “There is none righteous, no, not one. … There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10, 18, NKJV).
But the redeemed follower of Christ can always find safety by taking refuge in the shadow of the Almighty, who promises to protect and provide for His blood-bought people.
We can look confidently to all-knowing, all-powerful, Almighty God in simple trust and faith when the turbulent waves of anxiety that sweep through our so easily frightened culture are raging.
Back when my father was growing up during the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared in his first inaugural address: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That’s pretty good advice, but it doesn’t come close to matching the powerful truth of God’s Word.
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Unless otherwise marked, Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. The quotation marked NKJV is taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Photo: Thomas J. Petrino/©2021 BGEA