DON'T BE AFRAID
|Copyright: V. Gilbert and Arlisle F. Beers|
SCRIPTURE encourages us many times with the words, “don’t be afraid.” It tells us that the only thing we should fear is God Himself, but for Christians who have conquered the Dragon by the blood of the Lamb it is a holy fear; one that attracts rather than repels, one that leads us to love and to trust God above all things and to rest peacefully knowing that He will deliver us. This is the faith that Elisha possessed.
But if Scripture admonishes us so often not to be afraid there must be a reason. There must be many things that make us anxious. For Elisha’s servant it was a battalion of Syrian soldiers armed to the teeth. They wanted Elisha dead or alive because he had such a powerful gift of prophecy that he perceived even the Syrian battle plan in advance and told it to the king of Israel. When they discovered that he was in the city of Dothan they sent their best troops to surround the city. When Elisha’s servant saw the hoard of enemy troops he trembled with fear, but Elisha was worried not at all.
We, too, are surrounded by the ever present threats of sin, death and the devil. We know that to be the case, but we aren’t always aware of the different forms they take. Satan, for example, rarely shows up in a devil costume, and according to St. Paul can appear as an angel of light, when it suits his purposes.
Many of the threats come from the church, from the “false sons within her pale.” Rather than preach Christ crucified; rather than exalt the Word and the Sacraments which transmit salvation to us, these “synagogues of satan” justify sin. They discount Christ until He is nothing more than a nice person who teaches others how to be nice, but Jesus did not bless little children, or warn away any who would harm them, or provide Celestial Warriors to watch over them because He is nice, but because He is God! because He is love! and because He is, as we sing in hymn 351, “all compassion!” The devil has his people outside the church too. On the street they deal drugs, on the internet they dispense pornography, in finance they advocate greed, in political office they promote worship of the state, and in entertainment they advance godlessness. Sin is also our constant enemy. Though our slate is clean before God by faith in Christ, we still have Flesh which produces a never-ending stream of malicious thoughts, words and deeds. These are as offensive to God as they are harmful to our neighbor, and so we must never cease to struggle against them. However, because we have this millstone hanging around our necks we should be all the more scrupulous, even fanatical, about our attendance at God’s House where our vices are absolved by absolution, and dissolved by the Sacrament. Death, too, makes us afraid; not only the final nail in the coffin, but all the tacks along the way: illness, aging, depression, addiction, poverty, crime, continual wars, endless disputes and the like.
What could Elisha possibly have known when he says to his young aid, and to all of us: don’t be afraid? Through the eyes of faith he saw what his servant could not, and what we cannot: a vast army of horses with chariots of fire greater in number and superior in power than the army that surrounded him. It was no mortal army that God sent to protect his prophet, or to protect us, dear Christians. Quite the contrary, the Lord of Armies sends warrior angels who are all-business, and who never fail to protect us from the otherwise unbeatable foe. It is by their tireless aid that God fulfills His promise to, “defend us against all danger and guard and protect us from all evil.”
Now chances are slim that we will ever see them with our own eyes, but what our eyes don’t see our hearts are taught to believe, so that under all circumstances we too can confess: greater are those who are with us, than those who are with them; or in the immortal words of St. Paul: if God be for us, who can be against us?
Consider too the many potent weapons God has graciously put at our disposal for the conduct of spiritual warfare. First we have Jesus who died and rose again in order to destroy the works of the devil and to defeat death, which Scripture calls “the final enemy”. We have the Sword of the Spirit which can fell the devil with one little word. We have one hundred and twenty three years of continual mercy poured out on Christ Lutheran Church which, since 1889, has provided new birth to the Lord’s little ones by the washing of regeneration; pardoned the sins of the penitent; filled the hungry with Good Things and conveyed to us every spiritual blessing in Christ. We have pastors and fellow Christians, singers and musicians, feasts and holy days, a rich fare of lessons, numerous prayers and hundreds of hymns to bless us and keep us at all times. And as if all this were not enough every Christian, adult and child alike, has his own personal guardian angel who is fully-prepared to visit the wrath of God on any who would harm us, mislead us or tempt us, the Lord’s little ones, into sin. Without doubt temptation must come, and there are many enemies who surround us, but whatever the opponent we can always rest confident in these words: don’t be afraid for greater are those who are with us than those who are with them. Amen
~ Rev. Dean Kavouras