The Two Things Jesus Says Over and Over
I love reading through the gospels, which tell the story of Christ. I want to memorize every word Jesus spoke, every miracle he performed. If I am to be like him then I must know him. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, they are all accounts of the ministry of Jesus and all from a different perspective. Reading these books over and over allows me to catch different glimpses. I think God is good in that he reveals what we need to see in every moment that we read his word. When I need joy, he illuminates the joy in his word. When I need peace, he draws me eye to the parts that speak of peace. When I need courage, he illuminates the stories of courage, the promise of his strength.
I am finding that Jesus says two things over and over in all four gospels. No matter the story he is telling, no matter the miracle he is performing, he says these two things over and over. The first is,
Don't be afraid...
Fear was very real and tangible to the people of Israel. Rome ruled with an iron grip and no one had any freedom except what Caesar decreed. Israel knew the vise like grip of fear and they knew it well. Their entire lives were devoted to fear. They feared Rome and so they lived according to Rome's law. They feared God, but not in the reverent way God wants. The temple was full of corruption and the religious leaders imparted unhealthy fear to God's people by their demands and decrees. Rome killed any who revolted and the Pharisees killed any who broke God's law. Indeed, fear was the center of life for these people, and yet Jesus is saying over and over, "Do not be afraid."
I understand fear. Oh, I really do. Fear is the "thing" I always feel to weak to conquer. Fear held my neck in a tight grip for so many years that I still wonder sometimes if I have the courage to do the things I hear God whispering I should do. Yes, I have faced many fears, mostly in these past few years. I have slayed many demons, conquered many giants..but still...I wonder if I will have the courage to conquer that giant or that demon when I need it.
"Do not be afraid..."
Oh, Jesus, that I would truly be courageous and trust in you. That I would rip the hand of fear of my neck and command it to go. I look at others who have given so much more than me for you, Jesus, and I wonder if called on to do it...would I?
My heart screams yes, because I finally get it. I get that fear has to do with things I cannot overcome. Fear has to do with things I cannot control. When Jesus says, again and again, "Do not be afraid," he is always reaching his hand out to others. When Jesus says, "Do not be afraid," he is telling us that he will conquer our enemy, that he will overcome what we cannot. I will always fear if my hope is in myself. It makes sense to fear what I cannot see or hear or touch. Jesus has seen and heard and touched what we cannot. I don't have to fear what I don't know for he knows. He has seen it all and he says there is nothing to fear. This leads us to the second thing that I see Jesus saying again and again...
Again, we have to understand the people of the day and how they would have responded to Jesus saying, "Just believe." The promise of Christ had come many many generations ago. Their had not been a prophet in hundreds of years. Grandmothers, great grandmothers even great great Grandmothers, had not seen or heard from God in all these years. It was as if he had disappeared, forgotten his promise and his people.
But he had not forgotten.
Jesus says, "Just believe" over and over because he knows these people have forgotten. He knows they have doubted and lost their faith. He is reminding them of the truth, he is shredding their doubt with these two small words.
I have always believed in my God. I don't even remember a day in my life when I didn't carry Jesus in my heart. I may have been confused for many years, may have seen a lot of hypocrisy, but I still believed. Something inside of me just wouldn't let me walk away. Even in the darkness, even when I cried out in anger to a God I thought was ignoring me...I still couldn't stop believing. I know that because I believed, even when nothing made sense, that is what led me to where I am today.
Jesus is saying all we have to do is believe. He knows the state of our humanity. He knows our complete weakness. He knows how helpless we are. He tells us that all we have to do is believe. Just believe in him, believe his promise...just believe. Belief sparks hope. And hope...
Hope is bigger than fear.
Do you see the connection between those two statements Jesus made? We don't have to be afraid, because all that is needed is belief. Just believe, and he will do the rest. Just believe, and courage will find you. Just believe...and do not be afraid.
Sometimes, the only courage I have is the courage to believe. Sometimes, the fear wants to steal me away, but if I can hold on to what I believe, even when nothing else makes sense...he will chase the fear away.
Oh friend, do you believe? You don't have to figure it out. You don't have to present yourself as perfect and clean. You just have to believe. Believe and then you will not have anything to fear. How could you? What is left to fear if Jesus has seen it all and conquered it all. He holds death by the throat
and he never lets go.
As you all know, I published my first book a year ago next month. The night before I it released, I found myself alone, with my Bible, weeping before God. I wept because I was afraid. I was afraid of what he had called me to share, what people might say, of the vulnerability he was asking of me. I was also overwhelmed that He would even call me to any of it. "Why me?" was all that played over and over in my head. He led me to a scripture in Isaiah that is my anthem now, that I speak over myself when my heart fears, or when belief seems far away..
"You are my servant; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand."
Do not fear, friends. Just believe. Jesus is mighty to save. He is the water for those who thirst. He is the strength to those who are weak. He is the courage to those who fear. You need only to look up, and he will be there, holding out his righteous hand, his strong arm. Don't be afraid...