This past Friday, the world was rocked with the news that the people of Paris, France had been attacked by an organized group of terrorists. Most of us hugged our families a little tighter. Prayers were lifted. Songs were sung. People were eulogized. But, the underlying question that lingered in everyone’s mind was, “Could it happen here?” Fear has a way of motivating people to do certain things. Fear could motivate one negatively by attacking individuals who had nothing to do with the events that caused the fear. However, faith can motivate one to do positive things. Fear should not be the motivating factor behind one’s life. There is a greater motivator for believers–faith.
A great example of how faith could drive a person is found in the three Hebrew men known as Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, but more popularly known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. To give a background on the situation, the Hebrew people had been taken as exiles into Babylon. Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar had ordered that all people bow down before an idol that was set up to propagate fear into the heart of the exilic people. However, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to cave in to their fears.
Were they scared? Of course they were!
Did they cave in due to their fears? Absolutely not! Because, they had faith.
Their fear would not define them. Rather, their faith would define them! When the king ordered them to cave in and bow down to his idol or else be thrown into a fiery furnace, the Hebrew three said, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this manner. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). These three men refused to give in to fear. Rather, they gave in to the power that comes by faith in a Sovereign, loving God.
In the end, the three Hebrew men were thrown into the fire. However, something powerful happened. Instead of seeing three men, the king noticed that there were four! The king said, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire? …But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:24, 25). The king then ordered the men out and ordered that everyone pay homage to the God of all creation.
We face uncertain days. We may face the fires of trials and tribulations. But the principle of this story is that we have one walking in the fire with us. For those who have a personal relationship with God, we know that we have a friend walking with us in good times and in the bad. God is with us in the depths of death every bit as much as he is with us in the peaks of life. With Jesus, we have the power to find courage even in the pits of fear and despair.
Don’t let fear define you. Let the love and grace that comes through faith define you. A good modern example is found in Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. During a time of silence for the victims of Paris, a fan shouted a disparaging remark. Rodgers said during a press conference that “It is that kind of prejudicial ideology that I think puts us in the position that we’re in today as a world” (Wilde 2015). Rodgers refused to be defined by fear, he would be defined by his faith.
Every generation has had to face some form of evil whether it was Moses facing the Egyptian slavery of his people, the Hebrew three mentioned earlier, the Allies facing the Nazis and the Axis coalition of World War II, desegregation of the 1960s, and terrorism of the current age. Ultimately, the greatest example of faith under fire is found in Jesus of Nazareth, our Lord and Savior. He faced his fears head on and won…and will ultimately win. Miles Custis reminds us that the phrase “‘do not fear’ (אַל־תִּֽירְאוּ; ʾal-tîrāʾ) occurs often as an encouragement or a call for courage” (Custis 2014). Jesus gives us great comfort in saying, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
So each of us faces a crossroads.–a fork in the road if you will. Are we going to be defined by fear or by faith? Fear moves us in a certain direction. Faith moves us in an opposite direction. Which will be the defining motivator in your life?
May we all find the courage that comes by a compassionate faith in our Lord.
Praying for the people of Paris and all of those who face the horrors of terror.
Custis, Miles. “Fear.” Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series. Douglas Mangum et al., eds. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014.
Wilde, Jason. “Aaron Rodgers Upset by ‘Prejudicial’ Shout During Lambeau Moment of Silence.” ESPN.com (11/16/2015). http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/14140862/aaron-rodgers-green-bay-packers-upset-prejudicial-shout-moment-silence-lambeau-field.
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