Television, Internet, newspapers—any media; take your pick, and it will be full of bad news—violence, dissention, hurricanes, fires, deception, scandals, unemployment, and more. So, while only God himself knows exactly where we are in terms of the end times, we’re certainly far enough along for people to be overcome with negative emotions—disgust, hopelessness, anxiety, depression, worry, fear. But, as He explained what end times would look like to the disciples, Jesus said that these things should not be frightening .
“See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:4-12)
He must have been kidding!!! Could knowledge of such a dire future be comforting? Yes, because it comes with His promise.
But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:13-14)
These days it can be hard to trust others because, somewhere along the way, deception and manipulation seem to have become acceptable behavior in order to achieve a goal. Some might ask how we can trust what Jesus said? How do we know that He was any different than our leaders today; that He was telling the truth? What’s His track record? Are we really supposed to believe that we don’t need to worry? That doesn’t seem logical, or even possible!
Evidence that God’s word is true is overwhelming, and many volumes have been written documenting fulfilled prophecies and promises. So let’s narrow it down and get specific regarding His track record with people who were told not to fear. Is there proof that He came through for them—that He kept His word?
Abram was already 75 years old when God told him to pack up, leave his home, and go to another country; all based on His promise that, “I will make of you a great nation.” Years passed—difficult years—years of famine, fear, family friction, battle—years in which no heir of whom a great nation would come had been born.
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” (Genesis 15:1)
Even more difficult and disappointing years passed before Isaac finally came along; and Abram, renamed Abraham, was 100 years old. Yet, through all of the trials, he steadfastly chose to believe God and to continue on in faith.
Isaac had grown up and married when there was another famine, and God showed up to restate the promise he’d made to Abraham.
And the Lord appeared to him and said, “… I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” (Genesis 26:2-5)
And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” (Genesis 26:24)
Eventually Isaac’s son, Jacob, had his own encounter with God.
Then God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, “Jacob, Jacob!” And he said, “Here I am.” So He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.” (Genesis 46:2-4)
Fast forward to Joshua, just after Moses’ death. Here he was, 80 years old and taking over the leadership of the Children of Israel, with years of battle ahead in order to seize the land of Canaan. Talk about someone who could’ve been frightened! There were giants in that land, and 40 years earlier all of the Israelites except Joshua and Caleb had been so scared that they’d refused to go forward, and ended up wandering around the desert until they all died and a younger-and-braver generation grew up.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-10)
[After Joshua’s death] the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so. Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. (Judges 2:16-18)
And along came Gideon. One day an angel showed up with the news that God was calling him to undertake the thankless task of leading this unrighteous bunch.
Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” (Judges 6:22-23)
And how about some prophets? Jeremiah and Ezekiel were both commissioned by God to warn His hard-hearted people that they were headed for destruction—not a fun job, to say the least.
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; or to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:7-9)
And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. (Ezekiel 2:6)
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Joshua; Gideon; Jeremiah and Ezekiel; all were told by God to not be afraid in the face of tremendous trials. Oh, but they were Bible heroes—they were special—right? No, they were ordinary men, and the only thing that made them that made them any different than others is that they made a choice to believe that God’s would be faithful to His promises. They all chose faith over fear. They all understood the truth of words that had not yet even been written by Paul the Apostle…
… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5: 3-5)
Still, they lived so long ago in Old Testament times—surely it’s different now. No, not unless we choose to ignore Jesus, who repeatedly encouraged His followers, “Why are you so afraid?” “Take courage.” “Don’t be afraid.” “Why did you doubt, you of little faith?” “Do you still have no faith? It is I—don’t be afraid.”
So here we are, living in difficult, disheartening and even frightening times; and like those Old Testament believers, we have a choice. We can choose to dwell in the mire of fear, or we can exercise our faith in God, for He can be trusted to keep His promises.
But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. (2 Thessalonians 3:3)