Monday, July 17, 2017

Is Fear A Part Of The Christian Life?

Fr. Dale Matson

“And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling.” (1 Corinthians 2:3, ESV)
One of the things that happen for me with Scripture is finding new meaning in a familiar verse or in this case a word in a verse that I had never noticed. I think God is selective in what we see and understand as we read Scripture, gradually revealing Truth to us. This is consistent with Jesus statement in St. John’s Gospel, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now). When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come ((John 16:12-12). In this case, I had never noticed the word “fear” St. Paul used in the verse from 1 Corinthians.
St. Paul is a hero of the faith for me. He suffered so much for the sake of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 11:24-28, ESV). In this passage he also refers to his anxiety for the churches. “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”
Because of serious and chronic health problems, I have been more fearful and anxious this year. It is so easy to be preoccupied with the nature of my own problems that they become an idol of sorts.
How often do we think of St. Paul’s phrase, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7). How is this peace possible with such physical and emotional suffering?
Although Christians are comforted by faith with the hope that like their Lord Jesus, they too will be resurrected following their death, they generally are not comfortable with the prospect of their eventual death. Entertaining thoughts about death make us anxious and fearful no matter how familiar we are with Scriptures like, “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8, ESV) and “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed (1 Corinthians 15:2). We also have the Old Testament story of Job as a witness. “And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” (Job 19:26).
 But in the meantime, what are we to do? St. Paul states, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Over the last year this has been the case for me. God the Holy Spirit has been the comforting voice in my day-to-day living. When we are strong, we depend on ourselves. When we are weak, we depend on the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ passages of assurance from Scripture and the calming voice of the Holy Spirit. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7). My weaknesses have become my spiritual ‘hearing aids”. God has always been there, I am just a better listener. I hope this offers some comfort to those who also suffer from anxiety and fear. Even St. Paul admitted to these problems.

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