I hope we are all in good spirits and coping well with the current situation. I’ve got to say being at home has been great for family life in my house. My wife and children are actually pretty cool and fun to hang around with - who would have known?! I’m slowly getting used to not meeting face-to-face with friends from church. I have realised just how much easier it is to attend church meetings from the comfort of my own home. I even attended an elders meeting in my dressing gown this week! I’m not sure the guys appreciated that one!
It was great to gather together with our Community Group this week. After the initial strangeness of seeing each other through a screen, we actually had a really good discussion about how we are all feeling. One of the best parts of being part of a community is the ability to be open and honest with each other, sometimes even vulnerable. As we discussed how we were all feeling about the current situation, one feeling seemed to dominate; fear.
A quick bit of research into what fear is alerts me to the fact that it is a natural human response to the presence of danger. It can be broken down into biochemical reactions and emotional responses. For some people, fear can be a positive thing. People would be described as ‘adrenaline junkies’ if they thrive off being scared and pushing their bodies to a point of fear. Fear can also be an extremely negative thing though, leading to things like phobias and anxieties. Fear can cripple people completely and leave them feeling unable to function.
During the current crisis we are facing, fear can seem like a natural response as there is a period of unknown, uncertainty and change. Unsurprisingly, the Bible has a lot to say about the area of fear - a lot of encouraging things. The Psalms and Proverbs are full of declarations about our response to fear. (Emphasis all mine)
- Psalm 46:1-3 - ‘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’
- Psalm 118:6 - ‘The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’
- Psalm 34:4 - ‘I prayed to the Lord and he answered me. He freed me from all of my fears’
- Proverbs 1:33 - ‘But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm’
I could go on but you get the picture? Trusting in God is the opposite of fear, it’s the ultimate antidote, it is the answer. A knowledge and recognition of who he is, His sovereignty, what he can do and what he has done is the ultimate way to overcome fear. Fear doesn’t have to have a hold over us - there is a solution.
Jesus also talked about fear in John 141 when he tells us not to let our hearts be troubled but instead to trust in God and remember there is a room for us in our Father’s house. Similarly, in Matthew 62, Jesus teaches about worry (a very common response to fear) and he lists different things that we worry about through fear before telling us not to be concerned about tomorrow as God provides for our needs.
If we continue on into the rest of the New Testament we also see some advice on responding to fear. Romans 83 reminds us that even our biggest fears cannot separate us from God’s love - he is with us in the midst of our fears. 1 John 44 says that perfect love drives out fear – God, being in His very nature love, drives out fear. – Are you feeling encouraged yet?
The top and bottom of the issue of fear is that it is actually a completely normal thing - it is ok to be worried, especially at a time like this. The great news though is that our fear doesn’t have to define us, it doesn’t have to trap us and it doesn’t have to take away from our joy. We have the ultimate antidote to fear - a relationship with the living God. He is our strength, he is the one we cling to during the unknown, he is our guiding light through the periods of darkness.
There is a fascinating story in the book of Exodus, chapter 145, where the Israelite people have escaped from Egypt but are then getting pursued by Pharaoh and his army. The people are gripped by fear and cry out asking God why he has taken them out of Egypt only to die out in the wilderness. What I find fascinating about this story is the fact that the Israelite people had forgotten about all of the miraculous things God had done in order to get them out of Egypt in the first place. They had forgotten about the signs he sent in order to convince Pharaoh to set them free and the fact that they had been completely protected from the danger.
Looking at this story, it’s easy to point fingers at the Israelites, ‘You ungrateful lot! How can you just stop trusting in God at the first sign of trouble, such weak faith.’ If we take a step back however, we realise that we have a lot more in common with the attitudes of the Israelites than we would like to think. During our own troubled times, when fear grips us, it’s easy to forget about all of the wonders God has worked in our lives. It’s easy to forget about the answered prayers, resolved situations, even the miracle of our salvation. It’s easy to forget that God is sovereign and has plans for our lives that sit outside our own understanding. Suddenly, fear grips us and we lose focus on God and his ability to overcome a situation. We lose sight of the bigger picture replacing our heavenly perspective by being submersed in fear.
This is, of course, me speaking to myself as much as anyone. I have been feeling fearful these past few weeks. I still do feel fearful but actually my attitude can easily be and should be one of turning to God. Not that turning to God means that I don’t focus on the situation and take it seriously - God wants us to be realistic, to have wisdom and understanding about what is happening in the world. I should actually be turning to God though so that the fear doesn’t grip me; so that the fear isn’t the defining thing for me.
Remember, as Christians, we don’t need to live in fear because we have something even greater - hope. The book of Hebrews has a wonderful description of hope in Chapter 6, when it describes hope as being the anchor for our souls.
This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary - Hebrews 6:19
Our hope comes from God - he is immovable, unshakeable, secure. If our hope is in him, not in current situations, then we can also be immovable, unshakable and secure. Remembering where our hope comes from is a great way of overcoming fear. Yes, we might be facing uncertainties. Yes, we might be in the midst of a storm but we can be unmoved and unshaken if we put our hope in God.
The other amazing thing about hope is the fact that it is attractive. If we respond to situations not in fear but with hope, people want to know more. Our reaction is so important in a world which could easily be without hope. At a time like this, we can be modelling what it means to be hope bringers! When people are gripped with fear, we can be examples of what it means to trust in God and overcome fear. Don’t understate the value of that. We have something attractive that the world wants and needs to know more about. We are living in times of great opportunity.
Jubilee, let’s not be defined by fear, let’s be people who choose to look to God. Let’s remember where our hope comes from. I want to leave you with an encouraging song about fear - why not take a listen. ‘My fear doesn’t stand a chance, when I stand in your love’
- John 14:1-14
- Matthew 6:25-34
- Romans 8:31-39
- 1 John 4:18
- Exodus 14:10-14
As we come out of our Covid restrictions and look into the next season for us as Jubilee, I wanted to take this time to share some news with you regarding our next steps as a church.
This month, we're privileged to have Michael Akotia write a blog for us. Michael along with his wife Mabel and three children (John, Keziah and Grace) are dear friends to us. Michael leads City of Grace Church in Ho, Ghana and serves on the Christ Central Churches International Team.
Have you ever thought that there might actually be a number of similarities between our Christian walk and baking a cake? Gavin explores some of these similarities in this month's Elders letter!
So Sunday saw the finale of series 6 of the BBC drama Line of Duty. If you haven't been watching it or have watched the latest series then you can read on. If you still plan to watch the final installment of series 6, you may want to stop here (although it's not a huge spoiler)!