In spite of our attempts to live “normal” lives, the CORONA-19 virus remains a challenge like nothing any of us have ever faced. It appears that the virus itself, while intimidating on its own, has created a fall-out that is much more damaging than we could have ever imagined. I am limiting my thoughts to the impact I observe in the United States, and while I have taken no polls, it is clear that the greatest problem we are currently facing is fear.
I am not implying that I have an answer to the COVID problem, or the economic problem, or the many other challenges resulting from these issues, but the Bible does specifically address the question of fear. While there are numerous references in Scripture that touch on this matter, I would like to share some advice that we would be wise to heed found in 1 Peter 3:13-17.
“ And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.”
In this passage we find three clear principles for confronting fear in the troubling times we are facing. First, we are instructed to BE CALM. Essentially, Peter is saying, we have God’s backing and His blessing so we don’t need to be afraid. Verse 13 asks the question, “Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?” In the next verse he continues, “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed.” Christian brothers and sisters, why should we fear? We know the One in charge. Chris Tomlin states it well in the song, Whom Shall I Fear— I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind, The one who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine.
Knowing that we have every reason to be calm because of our relationship with God, Peter gives us additional wisdom for overcoming fear. In verse 15 we see that a key to overcoming fear is preparedness. The Scripture says, “…sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts….… always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. In other words, STAY PREPARED. In other words, our readiness is accomplished by putting Christ first and proclaiming Christ faithfully. When Christ alone is honored above all others in our hearts then the spontaneous overflow is the joy of giving an account for the hope that is within us. Our lack of readiness as an indictment that Christ does not have His rightful place in our hearts.
I find it both interesting and significant that Peter concludes this admonition to “FEAR NOT” by instructing us to REMAIN ABOVE REPROACH. This is stated clearly as we are told to keep our conscience and our conduct pure. Verse 16 puts it this way, “and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. I don’t think we realize how important it is to avoid any appearance of evil that would discredit the name of our Lord. In 2 Corinthians 6:3-4, Paul warns us, “…give no cause for offense in anything, in order that the ministry be not discredited, 4 but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God.” When it comes to our testimony, I cannot overstate how important it is to honor the Name of Christ. While we have confidence in God’s forgiveness we can never assume on the grace of others. When there is hidden sin, or ungodly behavior in our lives, there is always a fear of exposure. This affects our confidence before our Lord and our boldness in witness before others.
This is not the time for fear—it is time to be calm—to stay prepared—to remain above reproach.