Do not be afraid! I haven’t counted, but my sources tell me that the Bible gives us this imperative no less than 365 times. That’s one, “do not be afraid”, for every waking morning. Before the election I wrote a blog entitled “God’s Got This”. I was focusing on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but also this idea of fear. I’m finding that this fear needs to be addressed again. I’m looking around at my Facebook feed, and listening to some of my friends, and the one emotion that seems to be driving the train is fear. People are afraid of refugees because they’re afraid of terrorists. Some of the terrorists (certainly not all) are Muslim, so people are afraid of Muslims. People are afraid of the President because he has blocked refugees and may be seeking to ban Muslims. People are afraid of one another, of the economy, and of the future. People are afraid to unplug, to unwind, or to disconnect. There’s so much fear! It pervades our thinking and our doing. I would love to say that we really have nothing to fear, but that would be untrue. All of these things that we tend to fear are valid. They can be scary, and they’re not exhaustive. There are plenty more things to be afraid of. The Bible doesn’t say, “There’s nothing to fear”, the Bible says, “Do not be afraid”. So don’t do it!
I’ve been reading through Jeremiah. Poor Jeremiah had a tough go. He was always bringing the bad news when the other prophets were saying “peace and safety”. Jeremiah was right about the coming judgment and destruction while the other prophets that were preaching peace and safety found a bitter end. We love to quote Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” This is a beautiful verse; so full of hope and expectation. But the context of the verse should give us pause. Jeremiah is writing a letter to the exiles, those who have been snatched up out of their homes in Jerusalem and Judah and taken by force to Babylon. Among the exiles were the King and his family, Daniel, and the three fiery furnace characters, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Jeremiah tells these and all the thousands of other exiles to; “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare”. While other prophets were telling the people that within two years the people were going to return to Jerusalem, and the Babylonian King was going to have his yoke broken, God was telling the people through Jeremiah to settle in for the long haul journey by seeking the welfare of the city and increasing in number.
Seventy years! That’s how long Jeremiah told them they would be in Babylon before they would be able to return in peace. Seventy years is an entire generation. They had much to fear. They could have feared losing their heritage and their faith. They could have feared not ever returning. They certainly could have feared death. But Jeremiah, after telling them the length of their sentence and what they must do tells them that there is a hop and a future secure for them. God knows what He is doing and He has a plan.
Even today God knows what He is doing. God knows what He is doing with our world and our country and our state and our community. God knows what He is doing with your family and your job. God knows what He is doing with your health and your finances. God has a plan to prosper you and not to harm you. Does that mean we have nothing to fear? Nope. It just means we need to keep on trusting Him for the prosperous and purposeful outcome that we know He will bring. And while we’re at it, we need to seek the welfare of our cities and communities. We need to multiply! Yes, have more babies, but also, share the Gospel of Christ and pray the Lord of the harvest would send out workers into the field. The Gospel harvest is ripe, especially in times of struggle. So do not be afraid. Set your mind on the things that are above where Christ is seated, and do not be afraid.