“Fear not; the things that you are afraid of are quite likely to happen to you, but they are nothing to be afraid of.”
This morning, my pastor quoted this maxim of “real religion” from the Scottish philosopher and theologian John Macmurray. In contrast, Macmurray describes “illusory religion” as, “Fear not; trust in God and he will see that none of the things you fear will happen to you.” The illusory religion is a lie. Real religion, by Macmurray’s definition, recognizes that God does not spare his children from what scares them. Instead, God shows them that they do not need to be afraid.
Today, churches celebrated Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem in order to sacrifice himself on the cross (John 12:12-16). His sacrifice means our salvation from the judgment of our sins, namely, eternal hell separated from God. He gave himself to die so that we could be reunited with God–not to be saved from our temporal fears. Being a Christian does not mean salvation from suffering in this world. On the contrary, Jesus guarantees it. The night before he died, Jesus told his disciples that he would soon return to God the Father. He said to them, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.” He warned them right there of the trouble to come, despite also promising them peace. “But take heart!” he continued. “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Yes, there will be trouble in this world, but Jesus has “overcome the world.” He has already won the war, and he has all power. The victory is his alone.
So even though our fears are “quite likely to happen,” what reason do we have to fear them? Why do we fear when the victor is on our side? The things we fear are not worth our worry. In Luke 12, Jesus teaches his disciples to trust in God and his goodness rather than to be afraid for their lives. He goes on to explain the provision of God and the uselessness of worrying about clothes or food. Rather than setting our hearts on these material things, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Why do we grasp for petty goods when God has given us his kingdom?
In my Perspectives class, we are learning about God’s kingdom and how he has called us to spread his kingdom throughout the world. Unlike human kingdoms, the kingdom Jesus meant isn’t a geographic-bound, royal state. It’s actually more about God’s glory and authority. This is more easily understood as a kingship rather than kingdom. When Jesus says God gave us his kingdom, it means we have been adopted into his family and have inherited his salvation and power. In other words, we are royalty. What do we have to fear when we have God’s kingship?
We get all the royal benefits–and responsibilities. Part of our inheritance is to carry on the kingship and spread the kingdom. Again and again in the Bible, God tells us to serve in his great work of extending the kingdom to all corners of the earth. God chooses to use his children in his plans, and the Bible shows many such examples. From one story to the next, God calls people to follow his instructions. To Moses, these marching orders were to rescue the Israelites from slavery and lead them into their promised homeland. To King David, God established a commitment to an earthly kingdom that would make his name known. To the prophets of Israel and Judah, God’s call told them to rebuke his people’s sins, exhort his people to return to him, and comfort them in his discipline. To the apostles, Jesus sent them into the world to announce the good news of God’s kingdom.
God has been in recent months calling me to his work with a stronger voice. The call gains more clarity as time goes on. Lately, I’ve been reading the prophets in the Bible and came to Jeremiah. As soon as I read his call from God, I knew God and I were in the same conversation. Jeremiah 1:4-8 reads:
The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“Alas, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.”
God leaves no room for excuse. Especially our fears, whether of rejection, failure, poverty, or even death. None of it matters compared to fulfilling our instructions from God. He already knows what scares us, but he promises that he is big enough and strong enough to be worthy of our trust. He says, “I am with you and will rescue you.” Yes, there is trouble in this world. There is pain and death. But we have the privilege to participate in our Father’s work here on earth, and in the end, God will still be with us to bring us home.