The Lord is the refuge of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Ps.27:1
I was struck this week by Nehemiah’s confident perseverance in the face of fear. He had undertaken a daunting project—the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. He was surrounded by enemies opposed to this work. But he didn’t succumb to their taunts. He refused to be discouraged or to run and hide. He just kept on building and spurring the work crews on till the job was done.1
It set me thinking about my fears. I am easily disheartened, readily fearful. As a Mom I know the taunts that can come when a daunting project is undertaken. Rearing children is such a task. Mine have outgrown their nest but not their mother’s care. It’s the most natural thing in the world to fear what may come of them. The possibilities are endless. This is the stuff of nightmares. And yet we serve a living God, an awesome God, a God who is worthy of our fear and our faith.
Because Nehemiah feared God he persevered, refusing to be deterred even by threats to his life. (See Neh.6:10-14) Because he knew his calling and His God, the fear of man had no power over him. What if I were to fear God like that?
What if we were to fear God alone, no one else and nothing else—only Him? Not impending disaster, not pain, not cancer, not prodigals straying forever, not… (you name it), not radon poisoning (see cancer), not loss of life, of love, of current comforts, not even being laughed at, only God.
What if we were to relinquish our insistence that life go as we desire, (i.e. no disaster, no pain, no cancer, no prodigals, no loss, no ridicule…) and rest our case with the One who has given us life and truly keeps us in life for His glory, not our own, for His purposes, not our comfort, for His Kingdom’s sake, not the success of ours?
Could such a fear of God free us from all our petty temporal fears–even those fears we mothers legitimize as needful for the well-being of our offspring? These are my thoughts as Mother’s Day makes it approach. Fearing God leaves no room for fearing for our children’s welfare. Our worst nightmares are no match for His power. He calls us to stand firm in faith, to call on Him, and to find our refuge in Him when fears array themselves around our sleepy heads. He is their Savior, not us.
He may well call us to face our fears with sling in hand, to take action. But these Goliaths of the mind won’t topple by our strength, we must come in ‘the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel. ‘
I Sam.17:45. He must win the battle. And it will be our faith not our fear that brings the victory. If God is our singular fear we are in Good Hands.
Jesus’ own words come to mind: “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” 2 In this context Jesus was warning his disciples not to fear the Pharisees or be tainted by their hypocrisy. Their hearts were hard toward God despite appearances. They lived to look good before people and to be made much of. Consequently their own fear of men exceeded their fear of God. And in fact it undermined their ability to believe in Jesus. (see: John 5:44) But this fear was propagated because they held great power to ostracize those who believed. Jesus said, Don’t fear them; they may kill you but that is all they can do.
If we are honest with ourselves, this fear of death lurks in the backdrop of our worst nightmares and is the root of many fears. And yet it is for this that Christ died for the godless: “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” Heb.2:14,15 What if we were to relinquish our right to life and health and happiness and trust God with the length of our lives and the quality of our days? What if in the face of each of our worst fears we were to confess that God is our One and only fear and leave the outcome with Him?
Jesus continues: Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. But interestingly, He is not finished. He goes on to say that: Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God. Lk.12:1-8
It hasn’t yet become a matter of life and death in North America to confess that we are God’s and obedience to Him takes precedence over obedience to the laws of men. But it may yet… Perhaps it would be good to practice putting the fear of God before our other petty fears. And don’t miss the rest of the picture—the Son, Jesus, confessing that we are HIS before the angels—His trophies, ‘the children God has given me’. (Heb.2:13) If we are His He will keep us by His grace, safe and sound for eternity. And by His grace our own children will be there to present as well—‘Behold, I and the children God has given me.’ This is my Mother’s Day hope and prayer. I will trust Him with the outcome.
“Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your… sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” Neh.4:14
“For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.’ But now, O God, strengthen my hands.” Neh.6:9
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet…Heb.12:12
Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. Heb.10:35,36
And He will be the stability of your times,
A wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge;
The fear of the LORD is his treasure. Is.33:6
Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity. Pr.28:14
Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are now her children if you do right and let nothing terrify you. I Pet.3:6
1 I haven’t begun to do justice to the story of Nehemiah. Please read it for yourself in the book by his name! It is a strong and encouraging testimony to the courage that comes with fearing God alone and living to do His will.