As I am writing this, my entire city has come to a standstill, watching 150,000 protesters parade in. A familiar feeling has creeped into the city along with the protesters.
Let me give you a little background on what I am talking about. The nation that I live in is not a Muslim country. It is, however, the fourth most populated country in the world. Since the majority religion is Islam, Indonesia is regarded as the country with the largest Muslim population. Most of the Muslims in the country are moderate, and Indonesia prides herself in inter-faith tolerance. There are people who are trying to change that and try to bring the ideologies of ISIS and use domestic terrorism to bring about change. A lot of people are fearful.
My city, Jakarta, is not unacquainted with fear. We have survived atrocious riots, complete with burning and pillaging. May 1998 was probably the worst of the worst. People of Chinese descent and Christians were hunted down. When found, they were violated and murdered. It was the modern version of The Lord of the Flies, where rules and decency were thrown out the window. A lot of people in this city went through the tragedy of 1998, and currently suffer from something akin to PTSD. When they heard that 150,000 protesters were marching in, fear gripped them. Hard.
Fear is real.
It’s real today in protester-filled Jakarta and in post-election United States.
It’s real today in the dark alleyways of Mumbai and in the red light district of Amsterdam. Fear can be debilitating. Fear can control. Fear is the weapon of today’s war. Fear can render us totally helpless.
We understand fear.
We fear for what is to come.
We fear for our survival.
We fear for our loved ones.
We fear for that which we cannot control.
We fear the consequences of our actions.
We fear a lot of things.
While fear is real, and it’s something that we have to struggle with at times, there are truths from God’s Word that help us in our struggle with fear.
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…” Philippians 3:20, NIV
We often times get too caught up in the fears of our physical situation and lose perspective of who we are. While we are citizens of the world, citizens of different nations of the world, our first and most important home is in heaven. We are in this world, but not of it. So, while fear is a very real struggle, we need to remember who we are and who we belong to. As citizens of heaven, we belong to the Mighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth. That is the kind of perspective that gave the Apostle Paul the gumption to write that for him, life was all about Christ and death was something to be celebrated because it means being in the presence of God. When we are aware of where our ultimate home is, we are able to dispel fear. Because to lose this current life means to gain an eternity with our God.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21, NIV
Still on the subject of perspective, we need to make sure we do things in light of eternity. The physical treasures - money, fame, possessions - are easily lost. And when we put our focus on gaining these, no wonder fear envelops us so easily. But when we put our focus on things of God, on salvation and relationships and love for others, no force can take that away from us.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3, NIV
I heard a preacher explain this concept by saying that when we store for ourselves those heavenly blessings, those spiritual blessings, it’s like we have the “goods” safe and secure in a place where tragedy, death, disappointments, cares of the world can’t touch. It’s safely tucked into a place where the world has no access to. We can live without fear knowing that when we store these spiritual treasures, the world can’t touch them.
Psalm 23 is one of the most famous psalms of all time. Even people who are not followers of Jesus sometimes know this small part of God’s Word. Its fame, however, does not diminish the power of its words.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
hey comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Psalm 23, NIV
There are some downright fearful scenarios in this psalm. David talks about walking through the valley of the shadow of death. If that doesn’t scare us, I don’t know what will. But to that fear, David said that he would not fear evil for God’s presence was with him. God is Emmanuel, God with us. He walks with us through all of the fearful times in our lives.
David talks about having enemies. For a warrior such as himself, he was very familiar with the concept of having enemies. The heartbreaking fact was that he even had enemies in his own household! But in this psalm, David writes of how God provided for him and let him feast and celebrate and enjoy life even when he was facing his enemies. God provides us with sustenance and joy in the face of fearful times.
God is the Good Shepherd, and when we follow him and follow His guidance, we can overcome fear. Because we’re with Him.
Let the Good Shepherd lead you today. Ask Him to hold your hand and walk with you through every fearful circumstances in your life. Trust that the Good Shepherd knows where He’s leading you, and that He will never lead you into destruction. Enjoy the presence and wonder-filled life that is the journey of following the Good Shepherd.