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I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Tim 1:5-7).
But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (Isa 41:8-13).
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love (1 John 4:15-18).
This weekend, my brothers are getting together to celebrate my nephew growing up into elementary school. I will not be able to attend, to be there for this special trip, because God has called me to go on a missions trip to Jordan instead. It is painful, but I know that it is less painful than being outside of God’s will.
My brother asked me to instead write a letter to my nephew, sharing memories about elementary school with him. And one of the things I realized, as I wrote this letter, is that our culture has profoundly changed since I was in elementary school. There are many things I did without my parents growing up that now would result in parents being arrested for neglect.
For example, some parents now get arrested for letting their children walk to and from the playground without them. When I was in elementary school it was rather unthinkable that my parents would have to tag along. Now it’s unthinkable that they would not.
Another one that I shared with my nephew was when we were on vacation on a lake in Iowa. I wanted to learn how to canoe, but everyone in my family was busy. So I walked down to the marina, checked out a canoe, and rowed it back to our cabin on the lake, learning how to canoe as I went. I was in first grade, maybe.
Was it dangerous? Sure. But it was just fine for parents to let their kids do this sort of thing in the early ‘90s. Now, my parents would have been arrested. A first grader rowing a canoe by himself isn’t any more dangerous now than it was then. What has changed?
We are more afraid today. That is what has changed.
There was a growing awareness that dangerous people were out there in the ‘90s, but it was acknowledged that it wasn’t too awfully common, either. But particularly since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, fear has embedded itself in our cultural psyche.
And as we are more afraid, we grow more distant from God. Because God is love—perfect love—and perfect love drives out all fear. Where there is perfect love, there is no place for fear.
And as we draw more distant from God, we grow more fearful. Because without perfect love, all there is, is fear. There is no faith, so there is no trust, so there is no security, so there is only fear.
Fear of everything. Fear of the stranger. Fear of the alien, the foreigner. Fear of the unknown. Fear of punishment.
What is the answer to such overwhelming fear?
God. Perfect love is the only antidote to our culture of fear.
As a Christian, you are a lighthouse, showing the stability of land to all who are lost in the storm. The people around you are all afraid. But you have God to hold your hand, to walk with you and guide you and protect you. You can show the love of God by your lack of fear, your faith in God’s perfect love.
They may not acknowledge it, but they are afraid. Everyone is afraid. Afraid of being mugged. Afraid of being raped. Afraid of being alone. Afraid of being poor for the rest of their life. Afraid of failure. Afraid of becoming like their parents. Even afraid of being loved.
Do you struggle with these things? Know that God is there for you. God loves you dearly. He holds your hand. He will not leave you. He will not abandon you.
So, as Paul commanded, fan into flame the gift of God. The Spirit of God. Don’t deny the gifts of the Spirit, for they are there as tools to combat the things you fear. Practice the gifts regularly, as a warrior practices with her weapons, so that when they are needed, their use is instinctual.
Trust in God and use the gifts He’s given!