I sought the LORD, and he answered and delivered me from all my fears (Ps. 34:4, ESV).
It certainly seems as though fear is on the rise across our nation today. COVID-19 has continued into 2021. People who have been told that the vaccine would protect them are still getting COVID and suffering from its effects. And, although a moderate sense of fear is considered normal, in far too many cases, fear has become the "pandemic."
A survey in 2018 revealed that fear had increased by five percent over levels in 2017 and that was before the worldwide pandemic hit. Four out of every ten people said they were more anxious than they were last year (National Institute of Mental Health, 2018). We are afraid of losing our health. We are afraid of losing a family member or friends. And, I believe that living in this kind of fear has gotten out of control.
Billy Graham wrote, “Jesus said we are not to fear; we are not to be anxious; we are not to fret; we are not to worry. The Bible teaches that this type of fear is sin. ‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you … Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let it be afraid'" (Jn. 14:27). Jesus knew that the fear of God is the one fear that removes all other fears. As we live and trust God with a focus on God’s Word, we can be released from "fear" in order to live as God has so desired for us.
We have been studying the prophet Elijah this summer in our sermon series. He bursts on the scene in 1 Kings 17 pronouncing judgement against Israel, the northern kingdom, as they have turned from the LORD God to pagan worship. In the next chapter, Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a contest at Mt. Carmel where the LORD rains down fire from the heavens to consume the offering of Elijah (1 Kgs. 18:38). After soundly defeating, and then killing the prophets of Baal (450) with the sword, Elijah is met by a messenger from Queen Jezebel. She has promised to kill Elijah within a day’s time.
He runs away to Beersheba in fear of this woman. He finally stops to hold up under the shade of a broom tree in the wilderness. Then, he makes his request known to the LORD God by asking that he might die. Elijah, the prophet of God has run away in order to hide and to die. He is in the grip of depression (and being vulnerable) after the victory at Mt. Carmel.
Yet, the LORD God is not finished with his prophet. There is still more work to do. God hears our requests, but that does not obligate him to act according to our desires. The LORD God sees beyond our present circumstances.
He understands our fear and comes to our aid. Elijah was taken to the mountain of God, to Mt. Horeb. This is the same place that the LORD God declared as holy ground to his prophet Moses. It was here that Elijah was sent back to continue in ministry for God. The LORD did not accept Elijah’s resignation instead he reclaimed him for the work of the kingdom.
You know, I am thankful that we don’t just see Elijah’s “mountain top experiences” with the LORD, but God allows us to see this prophet as a man with flaws and weaknesses (i.e., depression) like us. God can still get a hold of us, too. So we don’t have to be afraid.
O LORD God Almighty, we need you here where our lives meet up with the world. Give us Perfect fear of you; that this fear might arrest all other fear in our lives in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rev. James Conley
Pastor, First Baptist Church of Delta,
Western Slope Mission and Ministry Facilitator
American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains