In the western world, we have become complacent due to societal-wide affluence and prosperity. Until recent times, this has caused us to become largely insulated from many of the uncertainties of life.

However, in recent times, we now live in a world increasingly given over to fear, with the media constantly bombarding us with the fear narrative. To name but a few, there is fear of the Covid pandemic; of illness and death; of climate catastrophe; of wars and rumours of wars, and of financial uncertainty.  On top of this, we all have our own personal fears—which can take many different shapes and sizes.

The amplification of fear narratives can nudge us to trust in the wisdom of men, or in science or governments, who claim to have the solutions to these problems. Moreover, fear can paralyse us and make us vulnerable to manipulation—even causing us to make unwise choices. More importantly, fear can weaken our faith—a faith which should be based upon a confident trust in God.

Fear not

It is noteworthy that the Bible often speaks about fear. In fact, we find the exhortation to “fear not” found all throughout the Bible, with about 63 references that use this exact phrase (fear not), and well over 100 references that include these words and ideas.

In response to fear and uncertainty, the Psalmist warns us not to trust in men, but, rather, hope in Yahweh. His rationale is based on the idea that the same God who made heaven, earth, and sea is more than able to help us.

“Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help… Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God: Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:” (Psa 146:3,5-6)

In a similar way, below are some “fear not” statements with which we should all be familiar:

“… the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” (Gen 15:1) [This is the chapter where Abraham’s faith was counted as righteousness]

“And the Lord appeared unto him (Isaac) the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake.” (Gen 26:24)

“Behold, the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged.” (Deut 1:21; also 20:3; 31:6,8) [By the might of your enemies]

“And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: …” (Josh 8:1) [By your enemies]

Clearly, the exhortation here and elsewhere is to “fear not” (anything), but rather to trust in God.

But why should we have confidence and fear not? The answer is NOT because we trust in ourselves, in our wisdom or might; in great men, in science; or in political or business leaders. Rather, like the ancients, we are to “fear not” because we believe and trust in God and in the promises that He has made. These include assurances about life that now is, and about that which is to come (1 Tim 4:8).

Moreover, we should hope and not fear, and rather see the things that people fear as signs that the end of the age is coming, and soon Christ will come, raise the dead, and then complete God’s revealed purpose.

More importantly, we hope because we have faith and trust in God, a faith which has been confirmed and made sure by what God has done for us in Christ. This is the power of the atonement that God outworked in and through Christ. In other words, the power of the cross of Christ is NOT just seen in how it technically works, but also in HOW and WHY it works to transform us to give us strength to hope, to continue, and to overcome.

Jesus said, fear not – be of good cheer, I have overcome the world

Let’s take comfort in Jesus’ words that we should fear not—because nothing escapes God’s knowledge; because God values us, and because it is God’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom (Luke 12:4-7,31-32).

This confidence does not come from us or from the wisdom of this world—but from God. It is based upon God’s work in Christ, who has condemned sin and rendered the devil powerless (Rom 8:3; Heb 2:14) so, as Jesus said, “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This word “overcome” speaks of Christ’s victory, with the Greek word nikao meaning ‘to carry off the victory, come off victorious’.

We share in his victory by being in him; abiding (remaining) in him. We are to follow him, walking in his steps by faith. If we are truly in him, then we too, by faith, can overcome the wicked one and the world (1 John 2:14; 5:4).

This exhortation to “overcome” is also found in each of Jesus’ letters to the seven ecclesias (Rev 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21). Again, in his words to Laodicea we should find comfort and assurance if we are prepared to hear his voice and open the door to invite him.

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Rev 3:20-22)

These words seem particularly applicable to us, who live in these last days. So let us not fear, but rather, be of good cheer, for Christ has overcome the world.

The love of God and of Christ

It is a vital part of our understanding of the atonement to appreciate what motivated God and Christ to act for us. We find this mentioned in many places, for example: “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son” to give eternal life to those who believe in him (John 3:16), and again, God demonstrated his love to us, “in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

In the love of God and of Christ we find the power of the atonement, for it gives us amazing knowledge about God and Christ—that is, what motivated God and Christ to take action to deliver us from the law of sin and death. These insights into God’s loving character are designed to play a vital part in our everyday lives, for then we find comfort and assurance that God is for us, and not against us.

Paul often expressed his innermost thoughts about his own personal experiences of coming to know God and Christ. He described the mercy and love that he received, even though he was unworthy. Importantly, Paul wrote that his own experiences were to be a pattern for other sinners, who likewise come to believe (1 Tim 1:15-16).

Furthermore, Paul was so moved by gratitude, thankfulness and love that he wrote “the most moving piece of spiritual biography ever penned” according to Brother John Carter, in his book on Galatians:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)

In writing this way it is clear that Paul took the concepts of the atonement and made them personal. They touched his soul and moved him to live differently. He now lived by the faith of the Son of God, who loved him and gave himself for him. If we are truly followers of Paul and of Christ, then we too should feel this way.

In Romans 8, we again find Paul writing passionately some of the most inspiring words about the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. In his summary, he wrote that there is NOTHING that can separate from the love of God and Christ—nothing in life, or death, or any other creature (Rom 8:38-39).

There is real power in these words. One of the reasons they are invaluable is because they give us comfort and reassurance about God’s love and intentions towards us. We constantly need to remember this, because every honest disciple knows the sin that so easily besets us. We know that sin is too powerful for us, and that it corrupts us in thought, word, and deed. Yet, as Paul exhorts us in the Word of God, we are constantly reminded to fear not, but trust in God—“If God is for us, who can be against us” (Rom 8:31). He knows our frame and pities us accordingly (Psa 103:13-14).

It is apparent that fear and doubt is a large part of the apparatus of sin, yet we have been called to overcome fear and doubt, so that we “fear not”—because we believe that sin’s power has been overcome by God in Christ.

No doubt, most of us can recall Hebrews 2:14 as a proof text, but what about the following verse (15) where we learn that in Christ we find deliverance from the “fear of death” and from bondage to sin [cp John 8:31-36].

Have confidence in God

There are many scriptural references that tell us that God wants us to trust Him, and live confidently with Him, without fear. For example, Paul wrote: “For God hath not given US the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7).

He then took these ideas further in verses 8-10 to include the full implications and power of the gospel message—that with the appearing of Christ, death has been abolished and life and immortality have been brought to light through the gospel. In other words, God is in control and His will was, is, and will prevail.

In a similar vein, Peter wrote that this spirit in us is not to be static, but active. We are to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and saviour (2 Pet 3:17-18).

This type of saving faith ONLY works by our understanding, believing, and walking/living in the light of Christ’s teachings and his example (that is, by hearing and doing – Matt 7:21-24). These ideas are central to the Bible’s teaching; that our relationship with the Father is based upon that which He has provided for us in Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

Conclusion: Have confidence towards God and fear not

Therefore, given what we have considered in the Word of God, let us not fear the things that the world fears but rather, trust in the living God. Let’s not trust in men, nor be paralysed by fear. Let us instead, have confidence in the living God who has demonstrated the extent of his love toward us in the sacrifice of His Son.

We have been called to follow Christ. As John wrote, that as our Master laid down his life for us, so we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. Every one of us is able to do this. In doing this our faith will be shown to be the same as Christ’s and we can share in his victory. Remember Jesus’ words, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”.