By Chris Rathbone
Wow! Things sure have changed since last month! Our nation has experienced a series of rapid changes from travel restrictions, gathering restrictions, foodservice has gone to take out and delivery only, and many grocery stores are out of stock on many things, etc. These new restrictions have caused many churches to cancel services and strive to minister through social media and online sources. Last night I was so restless with the decisions that needed to be made about my church. We want to minister to people’s spiritual needs while at the same time honor our president’s request to be sure we are doing our part to help stop the spread of this virus. My advice to you is to support these decisions that pastor’s and church leaders have had to make. It’s not an easy one and it is even harder when others are putting pressure on you one way or the other.
One thing that has stood out to me through all of these concerns and changes that have taken place is how people have reacted in fear and panic. Panic buying of food and supplies, to be honest, has taken me by surprise. Toilet paper is the big purchase, which I’ve not figured out yet. To me, if one was low on food, that would be the first thing to purchase. Cleaning supplies followed and then on to the food. The problem that arises from this panic purchasing is it makes it hard on everyone else, especially the elderly who only go shopping every so often and on those who may be less fortunate financially. When folks react this way out of fear, it makes it harder for everyone else. Imagine how smooth things would have gone for everyone had many not allowed the spirit of fear to control them, especially those who are Christians. This behavior shows that we are selfish and only looking out for ourselves. It breaks our Savior’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Fear has a way of causing us to make rash and chaotic decisions if we aren’t careful. Fear can take control of people completely which leads to folks losing common sense! There’s a verse that I’ve been sharing repeatedly since all this began that needs to repeated, memorized, quoted, written down, and read over and over again! It’s from 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
Paul was writing to young Timothy. This would be Paul’s last letter before he would lose his life for preaching the Gospel of Jesus. Timothy would be left without his mentor and friend. No longer would he have Paul to encourage, teach, and challenge him in his walk with Christ and call to preach the Gospel of Jesus. He was exhorting Timothy to not allow the spirit of fear to control him. Obviously, this spirit of fear was not from God and was sent to hinder Timothy’s ministry. You see, fear of what might happen will stop what should happen. How many times have we allowed this kind of fear to hinder us from doing what we should do? Not only that, but fear can cause people to do things out of panic that they shouldn’t do (such as hoarding food & fighting at the supermarket). It causes people to react in ways that are not the way the Lord would want us to behave.
Paul reminded Timothy and us, that here is what God has given us through His Holy Spirit that indwells us who are believers. We need to remember these truths when we are faced with seasons in life that Satan uses to stir up the spirit of fear in us and keep us from trusting Jesus.
#1. We’ve been given the spirit of power. This is the power or strength to act, the freedom of action, or the right to act. Through Christ and the Holy Spirit, we have been given the freedom to act and do what God wants us to do. Fear tries to hinder us from that. Fear makes us weak spiritually, but God gives us the power to trust, to act, to serve, to behave, to speak the truth, etc.
#2. We’ve been given the spirit of love. I believe Paul is reminding us that when fear attacks, remember how much we are loved by God. Even during troubling times, His love for us does not change. Fear tries to strip us of that comfort. 1 John 4:18 states this: “There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” The weapon to combat fear is love. Reminding ourselves in scripture, prayer, worship, etc., that God loves us and commands us to love others. When we react in His love, love casts out fear!
#3. We’ve been given the spirit of a sound mind. The phrase “of a sound mind” here means “a calm and well-balanced mind with discipline and self-control”. Basically, Paul is saying that the Holy Spirit gives us the wisdom to make sound decisions when circumstances come into our lives that the devil tries to use to stir up fear. The wisdom of God through the Holy Spirit will help us make wise choices during a time of trouble. Knowledge is what we know. Wisdom is how we use what we know to benefit ourselves, those around us, and most importantly, bring glory to our Savior Jesus! We can have a lot of knowledge but not have the wisdom to use it to our benefit. Imagine how different things would be now if people would have used a little wisdom during this time in our nation instead of allowing fear to cause confusion.
Some advice I would personally like to leave you with. Turn off the news! Get the info you need but don’t sit in front of the TV for hours. The media counts on that to cause people to react in fear so they’ll have even more stories to cover. Intentionally spend time in God’s Word and prayer. This is something we all should have been doing already. If you haven’t, it’s a great time to start. Prayer and study will help stop fear from influencing our attitude and actions. Last, of all, let’s do our part to help. Whether you agree with all the decisions that have been made that have caused us to have to change a lot of our plans, let us be seen by the world as Christians who are trying to help things get back on track. Our president and government are not asking us to stop believing, praying, preaching, worshipping, etc., they are simply asking us to do our part to help ourselves and those around us. Serve others, help the elderly, stop hoarding food (selfishness), stay calm, and make wise decisions to protect yourselves, your family, and those around you. We may have to minister in different ways but that’s ok. I will be preaching on my Facebook page. That’s new to me but I’m going to use this opportunity to spread the hope of Jesus.
I believe that God will get us through this like He has other things we have faced before. When we react in fear as Christians, we are basically telling the world that WE don’t even trust God! Let us have faith and not fear! Let us be a testimony to the world around us to “FEAR NOT!”
Preacher Chris Rathbone serves as Pastor at Mine Creek Baptist Church.