“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’”
It is difficult to imagine the reaction of those shepherds. They were out in the field, tending their sheep, minding their own business when suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to them. The Scripture says that they were terrified. I guess so! An unearthly creature suddenly appears out of nowhere, shining with the glory of the Lord. The angel said, "Fear not." Easy for him to say! Those words of comfort, "fear not," are common ones, though. To Abram (Abraham) God said, "Fear not, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward." To Hagar, Abraham's servant, God said, "What is the matter, Hagar? Fear not; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there." To Ishmael God said, "I am the God of your father Abraham. Fear not, for I am with you. . ." To Jehoshaphat and his army God said, "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's. . . You will not have to fight this battle. . . Fear not; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you." We should also remember that the shepherds were not the only ones in the Christmas story to hear those words. The angel of the Lord also spoke to Joseph saying, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." To Mary the angel said, "Fear not, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus."
Fear is a common part of human life. While some fear has its basis in reality--the shepherd's fear of the angel or Jehoshaphat's fear of the opposing army for example--most things that we fear are the product of our own imaginations. We don't fear what is, we fear what might be! If we analyze that kind of fear, we find that much of it is nothing more than a lack of faith in God; in His willingness or His ability to keep His promises. Jesus addressed this kind of fear when he taught his disciples, "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes . . . do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it . . . But seek [God's] kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Fear not, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." Fear, then, is the antithesis of faith. We can't think, "But what if . . ." and worry about the possible calamity and, at the same time, say that we are trusting God. Either God has a plan under way in our lives or He doesn't. If He does, then what do we have to worry about!
There is a place for authentic fear, of course. A fear of falling, for example, is natural and sensible. Such fear springs from the soil of self-preservation. The person who feels no fear when his life is in peril would be considered a fool by most people! So, the Bible says, is a person who struts through life oblivious to the presence of God (Ps. 14:1). A healthy fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7). Therefore, the man who arrogantly stands in opposition to God, whether he knows it or not, has much to fear! Jesus taught, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." The wrath of God is real for those who cling to unbelief. On the other hand, the believer can take comfort in these words, "What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?"
Our problem as believers is not with reasonable fear, but with unreasonable. What is the answer to anxiety in the believer's life? The obvious answer is to trust God. That is, after all, the simple message that the angels brought . . . "fear not, don't be afraid." God is on our side and His desire is for our good! God has gone far beyond simply sending a "just don't do it" message about fear! He has placed His own Spirit within us to comfort us and to remind us of our relationship to our Father God. 2 Tim. 1:7 says, "God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." Paul reminds us as he reminded the Roman believers, "You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." The answer to fear is faith. Trust God for He is faithful!