It’s a refrain that echoes over and over again in the pages of Scripture, a command given by God to His people. He said it to Abram when Abram wondered when he would see his promised heir. He said it to His people as they looked at the odds stacked against them in the Promised Land. He said it to Joshua as he prepared to take the reigns of leadership from Moses. The words echo through the psalms as a means of encouragement during worship. It seems that God is very concerned about fear in His people – specifically, He is concerned with removing it from them. God does not want us to live in fear; indeed this is part of the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment (2 Tim. 1:7).
Ever wondered why, though? Why is this commanded repeated so often? Why is God so concerned that fear is removed from the hearts of His people? Let me briefly suggest three reasons for you:
1. Because He loves you.
This is the most basic reason. It’s because God loves you. I think about all the times as a father I’ve cracked the closet door with the light on; all the times I’ve tested smoke alarms so my daughter can know they work; all the times we have fast forwarded through scary movie trailers on television; I have done these things because I love my children. And in my love, I do not want them to be afraid.
I, like any father, am just a shadow of the true Father. My love is woefully inadequate and incomplete compared with His great love. So, if we as sinful fathers, do not want our children to be afraid, how much more must our Heavenly Father? Not only that, but unlike us, our Heavenly Father can do much more than whisper assurances about fear; He can actually and completely guard the hearts and souls of all His children. God has loved us completely and fully in the gospel. And that love drives out our fear.
2. Because He is transforming you.
God also tells you to “fear not” because He is transforming you. John Newton, the writer of Amazing Grace and a former captain of a slave ship, reflected on this spiritual change God was bringing to him: “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”
It is indeed true. God is transforming us, from glory to glory, into the image of Christ. That transformation does not take a physical form (at least not yet), but it does affect every other part of us. In Christ, our tastes are being transformed. So are our desires. Our priorities. Our emotions. And yes, our whole way of thinking. That includes ridding us of fear. As we are being transformed into the image of Christ, our focus is less and less on ourselves and more and more on the greatness of Jesus. It is, then, increasingly difficult to be afraid when our eyes are fixed on Him.
3. Because He is concerned with His own glory.
It’e true that part of God’s desire for His people to not live in fear is about us. It’s about our well-being, and about our spiritual transformation. But there is another even more important element at play here. That is, God’s own reputation. He commands that we not fear because He is concerned with His own glory.
Stop and think about how our fear reflects on the character of God. What are we saying about Him if we live in a state of fear? We are saying that the God we claim to serve, the One we claim sent His Son to die for us, actually does not love us enough to keep us from ultimate harm. Or we are saying that He is not powerful enough to keep us in Him. Or He is saying that this world with troubles filled can actually undo us, and not just threaten to. The reputation and glory of God is on display through our level of fear.
So fear not, Christian. Fear not, for you do not just have a God who claims to love you, but One who has demonstrated that love at the cross. Let His care, His power, and His glory wash over you and find that fear has an decreasingly small place in your soul.