I received a letter the other day from a lady who has been having some serious health issues. Her health issues have caused her a lot of anxiety; and she even expressed that she was afraid of dying. As a woman of great faith, her fear concerned her even more than the thought of her death.
Christians should not fear death. Right?
I would like to point out that there are several aspects of what we call fear. First of all there is the physical aspect – where your heart rate jumps up, your hands sweat, you have an uneasy feeling. I believe this is a God-given physical response that you often will have no control over. This can be a good thing for many reasons.
However, there is also the psychological aspect of fear – where you are excessively thinking about something you have no control over, and worrying about it. You can control what you think about.
I believe this is what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life…” (Matthew 6:25)
There is another aspect of fear that I believe is best described as an attitude. It’s in this sense that we are told to fear the Lord. The word “awe” is closely connected to fear. Have you ever seen something immensely powerful, like a tornado, and felt that overwhelming sense of awe at its power? That is a type of fear. That fear keeps you from daring to walk in the path of the storm; because you know, without any shadow of a doubt, you would not survive.
I imagine this is exactly how the Jews felt, out in the desert, when God’s Presence descended on the mountain. The way you would respond to that situation would depend on your relationship to the immensely powerful God. They responded like anyone who knew they could not continue to live in His Presence. They knew they would die, so they asked Him to leave. We, who are made right with God through the shed blood of Jesus, can come to God’s Presence with the type of fear I describe as “awe” – but not the kind that makes us run away. (See Hebrews 12:18-24.)
Now think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they stood before the fiery furnace. They are a great example. They would have been fools if they had not felt fear at the prospect of being burned alive. However, they feared God more.
Let me ask you, what kind of a testimony would it have been to their faith, if what they were threatened with was something that held no fear at all? If the king had threatened to pour a cup of water on their head, what kind of a testimony would that have been? No one would fear that. What was so great was the fact the fire was indeed something to be feared, yet these boys feared God even more (Daniel 3:8-30).
Jesus said something similar about loving your enemies in Matthew 5:46, “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?”
So on the issue of death, what kind of a testimony would it be to say you trusted God in the face of death, if death was something that truly held no fear? Would not it be like someone boasting that they trusted God, even in the bubble bath?
No, I tell you it is a great testimony to trust God in the face of death precisely because it is something that is fearful. Death only exists as the result of sin. It is evil by nature. It is right to fear it. But it is right to fear God even more.
So the way I see it – if you are in Christ, and you are faced with the possibility of your death, and you feel a physical anxiety over that – then you should praise God. He is giving you the opportunity to be a testimony for Him by fearing death, but by trusting Him far more than you fear death.
Do you trust God enough to be tossed into the fiery furnace, even though that sounds really scary to you? You have the privilege of letting your faith raise you up above your fear. It is no credit to you if you just don’t feel any fear. That may be a Gift of God to some people. But it is a credit to you when you trust God in the midst of overwhelming fear.
Would you cry out like Jesus – Lord, if there is any other way, please don’t make me go through this; yet not my will, but Yours be done.
There is no greater example of Faith. Praise God, and thank Him when He gives you an opportunity to prove your Faith.