It was the year 1998 when my life was changed forever — for the better, thank God! It was the year God gave me the TILE Bible reading plan. The next year small TILE groups began, and then over the next decade other groups have started both in my own church here in Florida, and across the nation. This way of reading scripture has blessed my life more than I can express. I think it was on my third journey through scripture I began to notice how many times the people of God were told: “do not be afraid.” I began jotting down the texts where the phrase occurred. About two-thirds through the Bible, I counted the number of times I had seen it. It was over 300 times!
Remember when God told Joshua multiple times, “Do not be afraid.” When an angel appeared to Gideon, or Samson’s parents, or David, it was a startling experience to see a brilliant, beautiful, shining being come to proclaim messages from God. The first thing the angel would say — and I would think that the tone of voice would be very soothing– was “Do not be afraid.”
Probably the most famous angelic message was the one given to Mary when she was told that she was to be the mother of the Messiah. “Do not be afraid,” the angel said to Mary.
But there is another visitation that is perhaps the most poignant of all. John, the beloved, was on the isle of Patmos, imprisoned on the rocky island because he preached the word of God. It was the Sabbath day and John was in a worshipful frame of mind, I am sure, because that is when God comes to us. John heard a voice like a trumpet BLAST behind him! When he turned around, he saw…seven gold lampstands, furniture found in the Holy Place of the heavenly Temple. Standing in the middle of them was the Son of Man, wearing a long robe with a gold sash across His chest. His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow! And His eyes….oh, His eyes, bright like flames of fire. His feet were as bright as bronze refined in a furnace, and His voice THUNDERED like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth. And His face was as bright as the sun in all its brilliance!!!!
John recognized the glorified One, calling Him the “Son of Man,” but the brightness of His appearance and the majesty of His voice, the golden glow and the polished bronze feet, all were too much for John. Jesus, the Creator of all things. Jesus, Who died for John’s sins to make his salvation sure. Jesus, Who served in greatest humility so recently, now was so incredibly beautiful as to take away John’s equilibrium!
John says “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living One Who died. ….” Jesus established His identity for those of us who live in this age and who take the time to read what Jesus has said which reverberates to today! Then He gave clear instruction to John regarding writing down the REVELATION of JESUS!
Then, Jesus, Who sits at the right hand of the Father, laid His right hand on John and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. …” Think of John’s mixed emotions: fear, yes, because of the immense power emanating from the Savior; joy, yes, because John liked to be a close to Jesus as possible; a feeling of sinfulness, yes, for we are all sinners.
What a scene. What a loving heavenly Father we have! Do you see Him? Merely vicariously seeing through the eyes of John is a very emotional experience for me. And each time we reach Week #33 in the TILE Bible reading calendar, the scenes of Revelation 1 become ever more effervescent, and deeply meaningful.
It was 2001 when it dawned on me that it’s very important to God that we not live in fear! Duh! Why did it take me three times through the scriptures to get the importance of this message from God. I’m so glad that reading the Bible completely each year has become a permanent part of my life, because every journey through brings new understanding about my Saviour.
Any psychologist will tell us that fear can be a debilitating emotion, affecting not only our behaviors, but our very vital organs! These bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, the gift Jesus left for His believers (that’s us) when He ascended to heaven. We need to keep our bodies healthy and functioning efficiently so that we can be living letters to our neighbors and our church family, and our own families and/or close friends.
Therefore, “do not fear” the bad economy, just tighten your belts and trust God; “do not fear” the illness you might get – some day, it could hasten it; “do not fear” your enemies (whether people or Satan’s angels) for God is greater than any or ALL of them… Oh, my friends, God is so interested in the details of our lives. He has the capacity to absorb the needs of every living human being. Lean on Him and feel His hand of comfort stilling the storms that brew all around us.
Once more, let me repeat: God does not want you to live your life in fear. He doesn’t promise that we’ll never have pain, grief, or illness, but He DOES PROMISE to walk with us through those challenges. Let His power carry you. Whatever challenges come your way, God’s presence can make even the deepest valleys bittersweet.
Remember the T-shirts that were popular a few years ago? The “No Fear” shirts? Maybe a visual might help us to move out of our fearful thought patterns into the light of more healthful thoughts In the momentous changes in our world of late, I encourage you to “Take the Name of Jesus with You” and sing about Him until your courage soars unfettered toward Heaven!