Sunday, April 26, 2020

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Don’t Be Afraid

My wife and I have been sheltering in place for almost an entire month. She and I venture out only to do those things that are allowed or are necessary. Shopping for food, picking up medications or fueling our vehicles are about the only things we do outside of our community. Most of the time we find ourselves walking our two little dogs and enjoying the warmth of the sun and the gentle caress of a cool breeze. In just a short period of time, life has changed for all of us. Things like eating in a restaurant, shopping, going to the movies, meeting with friends and a host of other things that we have taken for granted and accept as usual and common have become almost a distant memory.

As I walk through grocery stores or stand in line while observing appropriate social distancing rules, I hear people talk about the “good ol’ days” when we could just enjoy a root beer float or an ice cream cone while chatting with neighbors and friends. Today, we can’t even shake hands for fear of contracting COVID-19 and possibly passing it on to our loved ones and friends. I find it so interesting listening to the words used by those in line talking about those wonderful days when we could do whatever we wanted or desired. The people speaking make it sound like going to a restaurant was something done generations ago. It has only been a month or so, but, for some, it seems like a far distant memory of the ways things once were.

The word, “fear”, creeps slowly into the conversations. People say that they are afraid of this or something else. They talk about how they have to wear masks and are afraid of those who don’t. I see them wearing latex gloves and spraying everything with disinfectant and then opening a bottle of hand sanitizer to wipe down their gloves. When they see a person without a mask, I can see their faces react in horror as they quickly duck and move away. Our whole world has changed and many are scared and don’t know what to do next.

I read in news article after news article that prescriptions for antidepressants and anxiety medications have grown more than thirty-three percent. Liquor and alcohol sales have increased by fifty-five percent. Divorces and incidents of domestic violence have also significantly increased. Cases of animal abuse have even increased. Many have proclaimed that Judgement Day has arrived and that we are living in the end times. Some televangelists are using this situation and the fear that many are feeling to their advantage and asking for more donations.

As a chaplain and cybervangelist, I am not here to scare you or tell you that the end is near. Many will claim that everything is pointing to the end times. Some have even said that this year is the year. But, remember what Jesus said about the end times.

In chapter thirteen of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus says, “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert! The coming of the Son of Man can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. When he left home, he gave each of his slaves instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return. You, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know when the master of the household will return—in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak. Don’t let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. I say to you what I say to everyone: Watch for him!”

God is the only one who knows the day and time when the second coming of the Messiah will occur. Until that moment, we are to be watchful and vigilant in our faith. We aren’t supposed to be afraid and hide in cellars or shelters with our stockpile of beans and toilet paper. We are to enjoy life and to minister to one another in love. We are to feed the hungry and give drink to those who are thirsty. 

While in the depths of the Great Depression, many were afraid. The lifestyle that many knew became a far distant memory. Unemployment was at an all-time high. Many families went without. My own father lived through that time and told me stories of those who were without and how fear became the master over all.

In his First Presidential Inaugural Address in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

When we allow fear to grip our lives and take control, we are truly paralyzed. We retreat into ourselves and accept defeat as the “new normal”. I have heard so many people accept this and call it the “new normal”. We must endure as those who came before us. They didn’t allow sickness, war or financial difficulties to become the “new normal”. They had faith that there would be a revival and that there would be prosperity.

It is only through and by faith that we are able to overcome even the most devastating of tragedies or hardships. We must endure and live for more than beans and toilet paper. We are far, far better than that. We must not live our lives in daily fear and dread. We must shake off this moment and look to God. He is truly our strength and our refuge.

In chapter forty-six of the Book of Psalms, the psalmist writes, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!”

No matter what happens in our lives, we know, without a single moment of doubt, that God the Father is our refuge and strength and is there to help in all times of trouble. By knowing that and having a faith that is rooted in His word, we have nothing to fear.
Think about all of the times that so many have endured so much. We have had World Wars, financial collapse and calamities, epidemics and pandemics and countless numbers of weather disasters. We have seen wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and pestilence wreak havoc to towns, counties, states and whole countries. But, there is one thing that those things cannot take away. They cannot and should not take away our faith and our love for our Heavenly Father.

Paul, in chapter one of his second letter to his brother in Christ Jesus, Timothy, writes, “This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

When you feel afraid or uncertain about something, fan the flames of your faith and remind yourself that God didn’t give you a spirit of fear or timidity. You have a spirit filled with power, love, self-discipline and life. We truly have nothing to fear. Fear is just a word and has no place in your life. God is your strength and refuge. By knowing that and having an unshakable faith, you can easily stand firmly in His grace.       

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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