Do Not Be Afraid

What causes you to be afraid? Is it the dark? Spiders? Illness, heights, confined spaces, money problems or the future? A myriad of things are understandable causes of fear, and often that fear is accompanied by anxiety. There is a recurring theme throughout Scripture where God tells us not to be afraid.

At Christmas we noted the words from the angel Gabriel to Mary as she was told she would be the mother of Jesus: “Do not be afraid” (Luke 1:30). Remember that according to the Bible, angels are not quite the same as the helpless, beatific, tinsel-adorned young girls and boys who portray them in nativity plays – Psalm 103:20 describes them as “mighty.” The shepherds were comforted by the same phrase with the appearance of an angelic host (Luke 2:10). In Matthew’s account of the Resurrection morning, the first words of the angel at the tomb are: “Do not be afraid” (28:5). Just a few verses later, the women meet Jesus and His first words are: “Do not be afraid” (v 10).

The Old Testament addresses the same issue as Joshua is about to succeed Moses. We read Moses’ encouraging words in Deuteronomy 31:8: “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” There is also the promise from God in Isaiah 43:1: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine.” And at the end of the New Testament, as John sees Jesus in his vision and falls at His feet, Jesus again says: “Do not be afraid” (Revelation 1:17).

So we see that throughout Scripture God says to us: “Do not be afraid.” In the life of Christ, even from the foretelling of His birth, to the announcement of the same, to that first Easter morning, we hear those same words: “Do not be afraid.” It seems clear to me that God is inviting us to move from a place of fear to a position where we implicitly trust this “immeasurably more” God who never fails.

These words from God are not just trite advice. For those who know God and share life with Him, there is no need to be afraid because God has overcome the world (John 16:33), defeated sin on the Cross and conquered death – as revealed by the empty tomb! We need to remember this when fear takes hold of us.

God is not a distant, powerful deity; He is an ever-present God who seeks to live with and in His people. We need to couple the instruction of “Do not be afraid” with the recurring promise we read before: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” When fear takes hold, we should remember not only the omnipotence – all-powerfulness – of God; we should remember that He is right with us, beside us and in us. God’s perfect love “drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).

What is happening in your world and in your life this Easter?

Anyone who is struggling with sin and recurring cycles of behavior that they feel unable to break can choose not to be afraid, but to trust in the God who broke the power of sin on the Cross. Anyone who is facing significant challenges in life within the family, at work or with health, for example, can choose not to be afraid, but to trust in the God for whom nothing is impossible. Anyone who is experiencing grief and loss can choose not to be afraid, but to trust in the God who conquered death and promises eternal life.

So, this Eastertide, do not be afraid. Remember—God is with you. Do not be afraid. Remember—God is bigger than the situation you are facing. Do not be afraid. Our God is victorious, and He invites us to share in His victory!

“DO NOT BE AFRAID.”
It seems clear to me
that God is inviting us
to move from a place of fear
to a position where we
implicitly trust this
“immeasurably more”
“GOD WHO NEVER FAILS.

General Brian Peddle became the Army’s 21st General in August 2018. He oversees the Army’s work in 133 countries, with offices at International Headquarters in London.

Is that All You’ve Got?

Memorable words have been spoken throughout history. Among those standout quotes are words from General Douglas MacArthur who, upon landing on the Philippines during World War II, fulfilled his pledge, saying “I have returned.” During the bleak days of that war Winston Churchill inspired the people by urging “Never, never, never give up.” Likewise, John F. Kennedy inspired citizens by proclaiming in his inaugural address “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

However, no words spoken in history match the words of an angel on the third day after the brutal crucifixion of Jesus: “He is risen!”

The words “He is risen” bring hope to the despairing; comfort to the afflicted, healing to the sick and, light to those in darkness. The Cross demonstrates God’s love for mankind. “He is risen” demonstrates His power over sin and death.

Scriptures tell us that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that we could have life. However, when I think about Mary, the mother of Jesus, I cannot fathom her grief. She was not given a choice.

The crucifixion would have made no sense to her heart. She may have heard Jesus’ words predicting His death. Still, how could she have felt anything other than grief when seeing Him on the Cross. I wonder, amid her sorrow, would she have thought about His growing up years—Jesus learning to walk, losing His first tooth, telling Him bedtime stories or working alongside His father?

This was an awful time for Mary, and for Jesus’ followers. The effect that Jesus’ death had on His followers was devastating. Hope was ripped from them as the cruel realities of life stole their dreams.

On that Sunday, according to Matthew’s gospel, we see two women walking toward the tomb. Among them was Mary Magdalene, a woman that Jesus delivered of seven demons. These women were showing true love and care toward Jesus—even after His death.

How they planned to get to His body, we don’t know. There were significant obstacles; the massive rock sealing the entrance to the tomb and the Roman guards standing in their way. Although they had few answers and no plan, they kept going.

This is where the story gets very interesting.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.’ Now I have told you” (Matthew 28:1-7).

Two things in this passage strike me as humorous. First, the One who is supposed to be dead is alive and those who are alive (the guards) are “as dead men.” Second, we find the angel sitting upon the stone that had been removed. It is as if he is saying to the evil one and those who crucified Jesus, “Is that all you can do? You beat Him, mock Him, crucify Him, place Him in a tomb, roll a large stone in front of the entrance, place the seal of Rome on it and have two armed guards at the front. Is that all you’ve got?”

When I think of the events surrounding the Resurrection, I ask myself if there is any wonder that Paul said, “For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:4).

THE ONE
SUPPOSED DEAD
IS ALIVE &
THOSE ALIVE ARE
“AS DEAD MEN.”

There are so many lessons to be learned from this wonderful account. I highlight three.

FIRST, God’s capacity to love is beyond comprehension. I will never fully understand John 3:16: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” There are some for whom I would sacrifice my own life, but sacrifice one of my children? Never. I do not understand it; but I eagerly accept the gift God gave.

Romans 8:38-39 offers powerful Resurrection words:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

SECOND, for whom was the stone rolled away? It certainly was not for Jesus. Do you think that a stone could have kept Him in the grave? I believe God understood the grief of the women, and wanted to lift them out of it by removing the obstacle and giving them a clear path of hope.

THIRD, how many miracles do we miss because we are afraid and give up? How often do we take the next step not knowing the plan, only that we are supposed to go? What plans of God go unrevealed because we do not do what we should?

There has been and always will be stones in our way, including financial burdens, failing marriages, wayward children, addictions, fears, insecurities and our own sins. The list is endless. In the center of such times we need to remember verses like Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.”

God desires to do a miracle in all our lives. Often, He is simply waiting for us to, like the women, step forward in faith. Perhaps we too will see the angel sitting upon our obstacles and hear him say to the evil one, “Is that all you’ve got?”

HE HAS RISEN!!!!

Commissioner David Hudson is National Commander for The Salvation Army in the USA.

Death, Where is Your Sting?

A SICK WORLD seemed only to grow sicker.

Even a cursory reading of the Old Testament reveals that all the advantages that God had heaped on the children of Israel were soon voided by the actions of His people. 

It ended right then.
Jesus could not
be contained by a
grave, could not be
chained by death,
His feet could
not be halted by
some puny stone.

The beautiful Garden of Eden was abandoned because of our first parents’ sin. The verdant earth was washed away in a massive flood, because it had become so wretched. Even in Noah’s family, betrayal and deception were hallmarks of the ones who were the ancestors of Christ. The miraculous deliverance of the Jewish nation from the clutches of their Egyptian captors was too soon negated by the idolatry of a people bent on seeking a way around the one true God.

King Saul was brought down by hatred and paranoia. David’s sweet songs were augmented by songs of lament, as he cheated with another man’s wife, and his own son sought to kill him. Solomon’s wisdom and wealth did not prevent him from being a spiritual pauper at the end of his life. On and on it goes.

The prophets warned that God would walk away from the people who professed to worship Him. He told them to keep their meaningless sacrifices (Malachi 1:6-14); that because of their sinfulness, He would divorce them (Jeremiah 3:8). At least there were still a few faithful in Israel. The witness of all the prophets is that the nations in Israel’s world were even more worthy of condemnation.

God was not taken by surprise. He knew what sin would do and where it led. His plan before the world was even formed (1 Peter 1:18-21) was that Jesus would come and live among us as one of us. His unique nature of being fully God and fully man meant that He was something more than sin could tolerate. The sad story leading up to Easter is that in the end, He was abandoned by those who professed to follow Him, largely forgotten by those He had healed, railroaded in a ridiculously rigged court and sentenced to die with the apathetic acquiescence of the Roman government.

Why did God allow it?

There was no way to without going through. The salvation of the human race was dependent upon entering in the worst of it, bearing its venom and loathing and wretchedness and filth and desolation. The world was worse than a lake of sewage or a stadium full of rotting corpses. Here He had to come. Here He had to stand. Here He had to walk. Here He had to die. Here He had to triumph.

Where did that triumph come? Locked away in a lifeless body and encased in a stone-cold tomb, it seemed that any light that He might have had was forever extinguished. Darkness smothered light. Death snuffed out life.

So it seemed.

But the day of Resurrection arrived. The annihilation of hope was reversed, as life stabbed death to death. The realms of Heaven and soon the footsteps of men carried the news that this long, cold, horrid night of despair ended. It ended right then. Jesus could not be contained by a grave, could not be chained by death, His feet could not be halted by some puny stone.

What was it like for Jesus—to know that what the divine Trinity had intended, had worked toward, had sacrificed for was in that moment of human history the eternal truth of the ages? Did Jesus run out of the grave? Did He leap and shout the moment His lungs filled with air again, His abused body surging with holy life? When He was ready to share this good news, He didn’t even bother to use the door when He showed Himself to the disciples (John 20:19,20). “‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

That scene is recreated each time a heart opens itself to receive Christ as Savior. The joy of the lost coming home causes all Heaven to erupt in celebration (Luke 15:7). If you have received Him as your Lord, your decision brought the party on. If you have not, receive the One who longs to receive you. The moment of your rebirth will not only set you on a new life, but you will be able to join the song of Heaven’s rejoicing.

Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee is Editor in Chief and National Literary Secretary