We know that the Bible tells us not to be afraid - or, as we saw yesterday, to be not afraid - but do you understand how seriously God takes this issue of our fear?
In Revelation, there is a verse about who is going to experience the harshest penalties when the judgment comes, and the very first group of persons listed by John...is cowards. Those who are afraid. Cowards are listed before unbelievers. They are listed before the sexually impure. They are listed before liars. When we talk about who is the biggest threat to the glory of God in our world, the answer is...cowards.
It's really not that surprising, once you stop to think about it. At least unbelievers have the audacity to say outright that they don't believe in God. Cowards, on the other hand, claim to believe in God, but they really don't. They believe in the idea of Him, but apparently not in the power or goodness of Him. They claim to know God and maybe even to love Him, but they don't trust Him.
That is, at the very least, a broken witness.
What it says to the world is that God is God, but...not really. God is trustworthy, almost. But not quite. You can put your life in God's hands...except you can't. Cowards, those who are too afraid to actually live the kind of life they profess, seem to make liars out of God. At least, that's what their lives are claiming. And that's why fear is such a tremendous problem for the Christian.
Fear betrays us. It reveals the places in our hearts that still live with questions, the places that live unsurrendered even to the story that we claim so boldly to believe. Fear is that nagging in our soul that maybe God won't be good. Maybe God won't take care of us. Maybe God is setting us up for failure. All of the things that we fear are really doubts that we have about God, and so our fear can actually tell us a lot about where our faith is.
That's also why God keeps telling us to be not afraid - because He wants us to know that He is who He says He is. He is who He promises to be. He is doing what He says He is doing. And He's got this. He's got us.
Be not afraid. I really am the Lord.
Unbelievers outright deny God, but at least they're honest about it. Liars distort the truth, but at least you know you can't trust them. The sexually impure or immoral claim that God has no authority over certain facets of our lives or that He's not important in every fiber of our being, but they at least acknowledge His absoluteness over the things that are His. Cowards...boldly proclaim and then just as boldly deny the very same claim about God. They are a mixed message, and fear leads only to confusion.
But that actually helps us because it shows us exactly what our fear boils down to and it gives us a point of contact between fear and faith. The question becomes not whether we're nervous or anxious or even fearful - all of which are normal, natural experiences for the fallen human; the question becomes whether or not we take God at His word. Whether or not we believe what He says about Himself, what He claims about His own heart.
Fear always gives us a chance to choose faith. We just have to...do it.
It starts with being "not afraid" and then moving Godward from there.