Do not Be afraid, unless …


Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD (Jer. 1:8).  

Rumor has it that God says some flavor of “Fear not” or “Do not be afraid” 365 times in the Bible – once for each day of the year.  Sorry to disappoint, but that’s just not true. , It sounds good – saying that God told us once for each day of the year, “Do not be afraid“.  But, He didn’t.

Regardless, “fear not” is still an important message from God to us.  Anything said more than once in the Bible is important. so is it even necessary for it to be said 365 times?  No – it isn’t.

This becomes even more obvious when we look at the various instances where God says “Do not be afraid“.  To try to keep this relatively short, but still make the point, let’s look at just one of these times – something said by Jesus, when he sent out the twelve disciples

Mt 10:26 “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny ? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Mt 10:32 “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”

In this short passage, we read “do not be afraid” three times – and “be afraid” once.  Interesting.  Let’s look deeper here to see what’s going on.

acknowledge or disown?

We see in the last two verses that Jesus’ words are about two different groups of people – those who acknowledge Him, and those who disown Him – with both cases being their words before other people.  Jesus then says that whatever each person says about Him before other people – that’s exactly what He will say to His Father about each person.  That sounds like some people (those who acknowledge Jesus) do not need to be afraid, but other people (those who disown Jesus) should be afraid.  

It’s interesting to note here – my experience is that many people who acknowledge Jesus are afraid – and many who disown Him are not afraid!  Perhaps they have not read / don’t understand / don’t believe what Jesus said in the previous six verses?

do not be afraid of them

Earlier, I pointed out that this passage is from a section of the Bible where Jesus is sending out the twelve disciples.  At this time, they were instructed by Jesus to only go among the lost sheep of Israel – the Jewish people. Therefore, “them“, in this passage, refers to the Jewish people the disciples were about to minister to.

do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. 

This is likely also referring to the Jewish people.

Having said that, for us today, as well as for the disciples in the time following Jesus’ arrest – this would apply to any person.  For the disciples – that would have included both the Jews who were very much against their teaching, and the Romans who were trying to keep control over things.  For us today, it would be all sorts of different people.  The point is – someone killing us – causing the death of our bodies – cannot do anything to our souls.  

Interestingly enough – some of the things we may do to try to keep our bodies alive may very well lead to us “sell our soul” to the devil.

So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Jesus just mentioned how even a sparrow is watched over by the Father.  Then He asks if we (people) aren’t worth more than a sparrow.  The obvious conclusion is that we are worth much more than any sparrow – and so the Father watches over us even more closely.  

Worth noting is that the sparrow still dies.  The conclusion here is that we will also die.  True – both us and the sparrow only die according to the will of the Father – but the death of the body, for any living thing, is a part of life in this fallen world.

Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell

Finally, let’s look at the one instance in this passage where Jesus tells us to be afraid.

Jesus tells us to be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  

In other words – we shouldn’t be afraid of people – we should be afraid of God.

Did Jesus really say we should be afraid of God?

Seriously?  Did Jesus really just say we should be afraid of God?

Well – sort of.

Remember, earlier I wrote –

It’s interesting to note here – my experience is that many people who acknowledge Jesus are afraid – and many who disown Him are not afraid!  Perhaps they have not read / don’t understand / don’t believe what Jesus said in the previous six verses?

Also remember what came just before that – related to whether each of us acknowledges or disowns Jesus in front of other people –

We see in the last two verses that Jesus’ words are about two different groups of people – those who acknowledge Him, and those who disown Him – with both cases being their words before other people.  Jesus then says that whatever each person says about Him before other people – that’s exactly what He will say to His Father about each person.  That sounds like some people (those who acknowledge Jesus) do not need to be afraid, but other people (those who disown Jesus) should be afraid.  

So yes – 

while some people do not need to be afraid of God,
others definitely should be afraid of God.

It feels like too many people “sugar coat” this message.  
We hear that God loves us – and He does.
We hear that God wants to save us – and He does.
We hear that God wants us to live with Him for all eternity – and He does.

God isn’t the problem.
We are the the problem!

If we don’t want to acknowledge Jesus / accept God’s love / accept God’s means of being saved / be with God in the next life –
God will give us what we want.  
God will not force us to be with Him if we don’t want to.  If we want to be apart from Him for all eternity – that’s what will happen.
In another interesting twist, what we end up here is that we should be afraid of ourselves – our choice about whether we want to acknowledge Jesus or disown Jesus.

Unfortunately, there are only two choices – Life with God and life without God.
One is in His Kingdom.  The other is in Hell.

One means no fear.  The other is nothing but fear.

Conclusion

The message “do not be afraid” is for those who are saved.  And we really should try to live that way.

The message “be afraid“, while not mentioned much these days, is also in the Bible.  Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to try to show those who aren’t afraid – but should be – how they can realistically and truthfully live without fear.  Not because they choose to ignore the reason(s) they should be afraid, but to acknowledge their situation, and then do something about it.

People don’t life to hear it, even if they need to, but once they began their ministries, the first recorded word from both John the Baptist and Jesus is “Repent”.  In fact – they both used the same sentence –

Mt 3:1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Mt 4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Yes – it’s a difficult message – both to hear and to say.
And yet – does difficult mean that it shouldn’t be given?

I think not.

Essentially – the message comes down to –

Do not be afraid, unless there’s a real reason for you to be afraid.

 

 

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