27 Jun Do Not Fret, Do Not Be Afraid
by Andy Dunkerton
– Christians who submit to the authority of the Bible will and should respond in a number of different ways to yesterday’s United States Supreme Court decision regarding so-called homosexual marriage. Emotions will be mixed. Thoughts, fears and concerns will crowd the mind. A variety of God-honoring, Christ-exalting, neighbor-loving responses will be required of us in the short and long term.
This brief statement is not intended to address all the ways Christians might legitimately respond to this latest expression of moral decay in our society. Rather it aims to encourage strength of heart in these troubling times. Whatever else we might think, feel, say or do, how should we respond in our hearts to this earth-shaking shift in the moral landscape of our nation?
The “heart” gets a lot of attention in our Bibles. Generally speaking, the “heart” in Scripture refers to the inner person. The heart is who we are on the inside. It’s the place where God looks, because it’s the heart that reveals who we really are before Him. The heart refers to the inner workings of the mind, will and emotions. It’s the repository of our affections. It’s the source of our responses, reactions and decisions. According to Scripture, our words flow from what’s in our hearts, as do our sins. (Luke 6:45; Matthew 15:19)
The heart is central to who we are as spiritual beings before God. And we live in a fallen world surrounded by spiritual adversaries seeking to draw us away from steadfastness of heart in God and in His Word. The Christian’s spiritual warfare is carried out largely in the theater of the heart.
Therefore, priority number one for Christians in times like this is to keep our hearts!
Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
— Proverbs 4:23
It’s not so much what’s going on around us that makes us what we are. It’s what’s going on in our hearts.
I don’t deny the serious and tragic implications of the Court’s ruling on marriage. But the fallout for us personally and for our nation will be far more tragic if we who profess faith in God waver in unbelief and despair. What a tragedy if Christians act as if we are without God and without hope in the world. On the other hand, what great good might we do if by faith we display an unshakable confidence in God and commitment to proclaim His gospel? To do this, we must keep our hearts.
But how do we keep our hearts, especially when the very foundations seem to be crumbling beneath us?
Christians keep their hearts, even in troublesome times, by the intentional exercise of fresh faith in the truth and promises of God’s Word.
Paul puts it like this:
Stand therefore having girded your waist with truth.
— Ephesians 6:14
Gird up the loins of your mind.
— 1 Peter 1:13
The Psalmist says,
Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against Thee
— Psalm 119:11
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
— Isaiah 26:3
These texts and many others like them teach us that we keep our hearts by maintaining clear views of and strong assurances in the never-changing, never-failing truth of God and His Word.
If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.
— Proverbs 24:10
The secret strength of the Christian resides not in carnal means. The secret of our strength is total dependence upon and trust in our good, sovereign and mighty God.
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
— Psalm 20:7
Faith enables the believer in God to look on crushing disappointments with a sight that sees beyond the visible to the spiritual realm- and there he sees the God of salvation, the God of strength, the God of promise, the God of life beyond this life.
This was the faith expressed by the prophet Habakkuk in these much-loved words:
Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls — 18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.
— Habakkuk 3:17
When we keep our hearts fixed by faith on the greatness of our God and the invincibility of His purpose, including the ends He has ordained for the righteous in Christ and the wicked, we will have a firm foundation under our feet. We will not fret. We will not be afraid.
When I heard the news from Washington yesterday, those two biblical phrases came immediately to mind: Do not fret and do not be afraid.
This is the God-honoring response of hearts kept by grace and faith.
Three times in Psalm 37, David gives this directive to the people of God as a response to the apparent prosperity of the wicked: do not fret, do not fret, do not fret. (vs. 1, 7, 8 )
David remembered their end:
They will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb” (vs. 2). “Evildoers will be cut off” (vs. 9). “In just a little while, the wicked will be no more” (vs. 10).
And David remembered God and the good promised to those who trust in Him:
Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him” (vs. 7). “Those who wait for the LORD will inherit the land” (vs. 9). “The meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (vs. 11).
In other words, David kept his heart from fretting by faith in God and the promise of His Word.
And it was Jesus who so frequently told His disciples not to be afraid. Some of the most precious words ever uttered by our Savior are those recorded in Luke 12:32:
Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
— Luke 12:32
Like David in Psalm 37, Jesus calls His people to look with faith beyond temporal, earthly concerns to see the present and future blessing promised to those who trust in Him-
Life is more than food and clothing (Luke 12:23). God cares for ravens and lilies and will care for you (24, 28). All things will be added to those who seek first His kingdom (31). There’s a treasure in heaven that does not fail (33).
And He assures our hearts with words that would be too good to be true if not for the fact that He died to make them good:
Little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (32).
Gird up your minds with these truths. And so, do not be afraid.
Again, the intent here is not to be simplistic or to minimize the enormity of the Court’s decision for our nation or the varied responses that will be required of us.
But whatever we do as the people of God, it must flow from hearts kept by faith in God and a hope set not on this life but on the life to come. The opinion of nine finite mortals on a matter settled by God in eternity should not shake us. It hasn’t shaken Him!
So, do not fret. And do not be afraid.