Monday, July 31, 2017

Fear Not, Do Not Fear - 365 times in the scriptures

Education Week, BYU-Idaho
Godfidence: Facing Fear and Finding Freedom
Eric Richards

Some would argue that what made the works of Edgar Allan Poe so well known and albeit, spooky, was the fact that he played on the common fears of society at the time. It is interesting that a lot of these fears that were common in his time, are still common today.

The talk started by outlining the top common fears of society including: fear of spiders, snakes, small spaces, clowns, and heights. In this discussion, it was easy for me to see the role of "fear" and how it can prevent growth, overwhelm our faculties, and potentially take us captive.

Brother Richards shared some interesting stats about fear in the scriptures, including that the words "fear not" are mentioned 365 times in the scriptures; one for each day of the year. (I loved this insight!)

There are three insights from the talk that resonated with me including:
  • God is good: a light-hearted tale
  • Anchoring the boat: minimal drift
  • But if not: I will still have faith
God is Good: a light-hearted tale
Painting by Robert Barrett
Brother Richards tells the tale of a young man sitting on a bench reading the scriptures. After every verse, he would declare, "Amen! Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! God is Good!" He was so vocal many would stop and look over to see what all the commotion was. 

Amidst his declarations, a well-known, scholarly gentleman stopped by to understand his enthusiasm and demonstrate his scholarly know-how.

Scholar: What scripture are you reading young man, and why the declaration?

Young Man: I just got to the part where Moses is leading his people out of captivity, and parts the Red Sea. Amen. Hallelujah. Praise Jesus! God is Good!

Scholar: I hate to tell you this, but perhaps I should. Historians, archaeologists, geologists, and other theologians have recently discovered that about that time there was a huge drought, which means that the Red Sea was only about 6 inches.

The Young Man was down trodden, thanked the scholar for his insight. The scholar left the young man, and quite proud of himself for fixing the presumed error of a 'miraculous' event, as proved by science. 

All of a sudden, he hears the young man proclaim "Amen! Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! Good is Good."

Rushing back over, the scholarly gentleman inquires why, when after he corrected the young man the first time, was he now proclaiming praise.

Young Man: I just got to the verse where the Pharoah's soldiers reached the river. If what you said was correct, the Pharoah's soldiers all drowned in 6 inches of water! What a miracle! Praise Jesus.

I loved how this story demonstrates that even amidst the know-hows or naysayers of the world, that we can still be fearless because we know that God is Good. When we have a knowledge of this, even a slight knowledge, it will work in our favor.

One thing Brother Erickson said was that fearlessness is NOT the absence of fear - it is living a life of faith, in spite of fear. Choosing to cling to the promises we have made to God (our covenants) despite the situation at hand, has the potential to influence how we choose to walk. And when we walk in faith, we will have more courage than we thought.

Anchoring the Boat: Minimal Drift

Brother Richards has a lineage of what he calls the Island people. He said that the new Disney movie, Moana, had a profound impact on him, because he comes from that lineage. The next story was about this idea of 'anchoring the boats.' I pictured Moana the whole time he spoke.

In the past, when the island people worked at sea for a living, the chiefs and other experienced sailors would teach the youth about the importance of anchoring their boats. They explained that a sailor must anchor their boats to avoid losing their boats. The anchor allowed for minimum drift and was still able to function because it hadn't been tossed to and fro with the natural elements of the sea. Anchoring in a swift amount of time was crucial when sailors would see storms coming in.

To practice this feet, the young sailors would throw out their anchors, and when the anchor didn't hit the bedrock, the would pull it up, sail a distance, and scout for the perfect place to anchor.

The experienced sailors would shake their heads against this practice. What the young men couldn't see from the shore was 1. How far off they traveled to find the perfect place to anchor 2. Exposure to other dangers in the water in areas that are not as well known, and 3. How time got away from them, the storms approaching faster, as they scouted for the perfect place to anchor.

They missed the importance of the exercise.

What they were taught is that when they need to anchor 'now', they need to anchor in the spot indicated. If they run out of rope, the pull the anchor up, add more line, and try to anchor once more.

The point I loved was when we are anchored to Christ, yes, there could be drift - that is part of being mortal, but we will not drift too far. In addition, we cannot look for other places to anchor. We must anchor where we stand now....not hoping for a proverbial perfect location. The location is set and it is perfect.

But If Not: I Will Still Have Faith 

Brother Richards spoke of many stories in the scriptures and in church history that speak of courage, and strength to do the right thing. My favorite story of the event was the answer that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego gave when King Nebuchadnezzar commanded them to worship the golden idol and deny their God. As the story continues, they refuse to worship a false idol, and the King threatens that he will throw them into a fiery furnace.

Daniel 3:17-18 states:

17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up

My favorite thing: our God is a God of all power. He CAN certainly deliver us. But, if he doesn't, we will still believe in God. I love it. What conviction. What courage. 


From Ruth Fazal's album cover: Deeper by Oliver Pengilley
When I am ready to take up my anchor and start to doubt His word or His promises, or start to doubt myself, I also need to remember that Heavenly Father has asked me, and all of us to take Him to the place where I started to doubt, or lost trust - take Him to the place where I/you were bullied, abused, mistreated - let Him in on the process of those feelings, memories, emotions. ...and trust that He has the ability to heal.

Psalms 118 was not placed in the DEAD CENTER of the Bible for now reason. There are 594 chapters before and 594 chapters after. It is the 1188 Psalm (118 verse 8) that states: "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man." When I put my confidence in him, my fears become a little more manageable.
Even when I am feeling tossed by the wind, or struggling to help a teething 1 year old, or making it through a 'relapse' of a loved one, or feeling undervalued, all I need to do is remember: God is a God of ALL power. He has the ability to deliver me. BUT IF NOT - I still believe in God.

That, my friends is the ability to defeat fear. That is courage!

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