In Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address he included the now-famous line, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” And you know what? That is kind of hard to argue with. I mean, fear is an intangible. You can’t see it, hear it, smell it, touch it, or taste it. You can’t put it in a bottle, and you can’t put a price on it. One could almost ask if something so elusive was even real. But of course that is not going to happen, because we all know that it is. We have all felt it, and we all know its power. But while we may not be able to argue with FDR, we would also have to argue that fear is worth fearing.
What are you afraid of?
Think of how your fears may have changed over your lifetime. Was there ever a time you were afraid of the dark? Of being alone? Of being laughed at? Of being the last one picked for dodge ball? These are all common fears, but generally they aren’t the lasting ones. Most folks get over being afraid of the dark–or they at least learn to manage their fears. And as time goes on, the fears we have mature along with us. Old fears get left behind, and new fears will take their place.
When you look at the apostle Peter you might think he was fearless. He stood up on Pentecost and indicted his fellow Jews for having killed Jesus (Acts 2:22-23). A few short days later he essentially told the highest religious court of the Jews that he did not care what they thought, said, or did, he was going to keep preaching about Jesus (Acts 4:19-20). In the next chapter, he was arrested and beaten, but kept on preaching (Acts 5:40). The man was unstoppable, unafraid of anything or anyone! But if you had seen him a few days before Pentecost, you would have seen him hiding behind a closed and locked door, afraid to be seen and afraid to have made a sound about Jesus (John 21:19). Fear had its ugly grip on him, and the man who would later be fearless and unstoppable had at this point been stopped cold in his tracks. But Peter wasn’t the first to be afraid because of Jesus. Many believe that was the reason Nicodemus came to Jesus by night (John 3:2). This certainly seems to be the case, as there were many of the rulers who believed in Jesus but would not confess Him for fear (John 12:42). Another one on that list was Joseph of Arimathea, the man who with Nicodemus would take the body of Jesus and bury it (John 19:38).
Are you fearless? You shouldn’t be, for fear can be a healthy thing. Fear can help keep you safe. Fear keeps you from purposefully putting your hand on a hot stove. Fear makes sure you “click it or ticket.” Fear steers you away from ingesting, injecting, or inflicting harm upon your body. Fear, hopefully, will keep you from enduring the fires of hell for all eternity. Yes, we all experience fears on a daily basis, even though most of them are manageable or even healthy. But there are also fears that may not be quite so manageable, and those are the fears that we should really fear.
You know the ones I am talking about. The ones that stop you cold in your tracks.
For some, it may be heights, or snakes, or water, or cancer, or clowns. But for way, way, way too many, Peter’s fear is your fear. Fear to unlock the door, to step out, and to talk about Jesus. Fear to let others see you as a servant. Fear of being laughed at, or having someone label you as…godly? If your life is not right with God, is it fear that has you stopped?
President Roosevelt hit it right on the nose. In an effort to shake our nation free from the Great Depression, he pointed right at the problem that was keeping the economy at a standstill. And fear–any fear–that stops us from doing what needs to be done, well, that is definitely something worth fearing.