Faith over fear! Been a minute since I heard that expression. It was really popular in 2020 something…. Yeah well, no need to revisit past controversy and conspiracy theories we have fresh ones! Haha, I am joking, kinda.
There is a variety of response to potentially fearful situations but they all sift down to two alternatives. One version crumbles and wants to hide or run away. The other fear response is to be defiant and refuse to back down. You may have heard of the “fight or flight” response.
The fight or flight response is primal. It shows up with both animals and humans. It doesn’t require an explanation because we intuitively understand it. All of us have had moments where we chose flight in the face of fear and when we chose fight in the face of fear.
Which is the right response? I don’t know.
Of course, you could go to the old standby and say “well, it depends.” To an extent this is true. Some will almost always choose flight unless they have no other option. Others will chose fight even if it calls for fake bravado and posturing. Who is to say what is the right response?
Did you know Christmas came out of fear? It’s true, you can look it up.
In Luke 1, Zechariah, who would later become Jesus’ uncle met an angel who told him he was going to be the father of John the Baptist it says he was “startled and gripped with fear”.
Later in that same chapter and angel told Mary, the mother of Jesus she would give birth to the Messiah. She was “greatly troubled.”
In Matthew 1 Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, finds out Mary is pregnant. In a dream he is encouraged “do not be afraid.”
In Luke 2, shepherds were minding their own business when it was announced to them a Savior has been born and “they were terrified.”
In every case the reaction to encountering God’s message and messengers (angels) was fear. Remarkably the first thing they were told is “Do Not Be Afraid.”
It wasn’t about fighting or fleeing. It was about choosing faith in God and trusting God’s promises instead of being afraid. Not running away, not fake bravery, simply not accepting fear.
That is easy to say.
I have been fortunate in my life. I have only experience what I would describe as real I-am-afraid-for-my-life, this-is-out-of-control type of fear once or twice in my lifetime.
I have had bouts of fear when someone I love gets a bad health report or bills stack up and money isn’t available, or the future doesn’t look good type of fear. Yeah, I get that every so often just like everyone.
But even with the run of the mill fear…how do you choose not to accept it? Doesn’t fear just happen as a reaction?
The message to those first Christmas folks was very clear, they showed fear and then they were told “don’t be afraid.” As if it was some type of choice they could make.
We are all good actors. We can fake fear and fake bravery so well most can’t tell if we are feeling it or simply putting on an act. You are the only one who truly knows, but even then, sometimes our acting skills are so good we can deceive ourselves.
It goes both ways. I have seen people who were not afraid choose fear because everyone else did. I have also seen folks who I knew were afraid do everything they could to prove they weren’t…but in both cases anyone paying attention knew the truth. Except for maybe the person putting on the act trying hard to convince themselves.
Maybe this sounds familiar. Someone who is not your favorite person shares something they are concerned about and what they want done about it. You have a different opinion. It is so easy to label them as fear-filled, and of course since you have the opposite opinion, you are faith-filled.
Boom Faith over Fear.
See how easy that is. Not sure this is the same as choosing faith over fear like we see in the Christmas story.
What the Christmas story shows us is the path to rejecting fear altogether. Not to score points, or to securely hide away from any possible danger but for something much more meaningful.
You can choose to put away fear because Emmanuel has come. Emmanuel is one of the names of Jesus. It means, God with us.
There is a fascinating process at work when it comes to fear. 1 John 4:18 says, perfect love (God’s love for us) casts out fear. This means you never have to fear God’s judgement.
2 Timothy 1:7 says, God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. This means we may not like what is happening to us or around us but we don’t have to fear any of it. He has given us a spirit of peace.
So, if I don’t have to face God’s judgement, I have God’s peace and Jesus has promised never to leave me…what exactly again is it I must fear?
Really, what is there to be afraid of?
You know why the angels kept telling all those first Christmas folks not to be afraid? Because fear was an odd/wrong response to the Father who loves them perfectly, to Jesus who has come to be with them, and to the gift of forgiveness and new life.
When you think about it, fear is a choice…just not the right one! Again, easier to say than to do, but faith reminds us, we have nothing to fear. God loves us, Jesus is with us, and we have the gift of life if we are willing to receive it.
The other option is to ignore all that God has done and live in fear. Which one do you choose?
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