Summary: We are living in fearful times. Think about what a gift the Holy Spirit is for us now.
3.29.20 Romans 8:15
15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery so that you are afraid again, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we call out, “Abba, Father!”
What Kind of Spirit Do You Have? Fear or Adoption?
It seems that every time I get a cough or a sniffle I’m sure I have the virus. Yet then within a few minutes or hours I feel perfectly normal. Have you had similar reactions? Are you nervous about it? Should you be?
We’ve had two confirmed cases in Bay County, and both of them are alive and well as far as I can see. So from a personal perspective one might be tempted to say this is a lot of hype. But then you see people sick and dying at young ages and you realize that it’s not hype, especially in populated areas. It’s just a matter of time we’re told, and the numbers seem to support that. It is probably safe to say that some are worried more than they should be, while some are worried less than they should be. It depends on your perspective.
Paul gives us a heavenly perspective. He speaks of a spirit of slavery that leads to fear. This fear is in the context of death: living in mortal and dying bodies. It also has to do with sinful thinking and desires. Think about things that we are afraid of now, getting sick, dying, losing our jobs, losing our homes, losing our family, losing our church. There is the fear of the unknown. Some people are more naturally prone to fear than others. The widow fears how she is going to survive on her own. The one diagnosed with cancer fears the treatments and whether the cancer will be able to be conquered. These are legitimate threats to our health and our welfare. Is this fear wrong?
Fear can be a good thing. You want your child to fear talking to strangers online. There’s a lot of creepy and dangerous people in the world. Fearless people also tend to be reckless people and do foolish things. Fear keeps you alive, keeps you from walking into danger that could have been avoided. God even tells us to fear His wrath so that we don’t do things that could lead to losing our faith and being damned. Fear can also be a good thing when that fear takes us to Jesus for forgiveness.
But shouldn’t we just trust God and not be afraid of anything? We trust God to take care of us and we know He loves us, but that doesn’t mean we should go around licking doorknobs and testing fate. Faith is not the same as bravado and foolishness. It doesn’t mean taking a general principle and running into danger with it in order to test it or try to prove how much faith we have. Joseph and Mary were not faithless when they ran to Egypt to escape from Herod who wanted to kill Jesus. They were following the warning of the LORD and they were saved through fearful flight.
Yet faith also sometimes calls for bravado too. Paul had a clear commission from the LORD to spread the Gospel throughout Asia Minor. He knew the dangers that it entailed. He knew he would die for it. Yet he went on, even as the people were pleading with him not to go. Luke wrote,
10 After we had stayed there for a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 When he came to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own feet and hands with it, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘This is the way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and will deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ” 12 When we heard this, both we and the local residents urged Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 Since he could not be persuaded, we said nothing more except, “May the Lord’s will be done.” (Acts 21)
That may have been easier for the Apostle Paul since he was receiving direct revelation from God on where to go and what to do. But how do WE know the difference between true faith and false faith which is nothing but proud bravado? How do we distinguish between good fear and bad fear?
If we want wisdom and proper inspection of ourselves, we need to be careful in what we are listening to and who we are listening to. If you only listen to the news, you will probably be terrified to walk outside. God has been known to defy statistics. Just ask Hezekiah about the odds when he was surrounded by 185,000 Arameans who all ended up dead in their sleep the night that he prayed. But if we only listen to the naysayers we might be emboldened to put ourselves in harm’s way when we don’t need to. Again, it comes down to perspective.