Fear Itself

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25th Sunday after Pentecost

Fear Itself

        Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

     In the sixteenth century, French writer Michel de Montaigne wrote: ‘the thing of which I have most fear is fear’

At his 1933 Presidential Inauguration, Franklin D. Roosevelt said:

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is … fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”[1]

        When I was a young man, everybody worried about the cold war. The number of nuclear warheads controlled by the super powers was a common topic. We were under constant threat of world annihilation. The talk of one side or the other pressing the button to launch the ICBMs was like a continuous murmur in the background or our lives.

        Then we were worried about Y2K. On the day of the new millennium, all computers were destined to stop working causing a meltdown of our world’s ability to manage our economies. Entire nations feared the loss of their stock markets.

        After that, people were all worked up about the Mayan calendar ending on December 21 of 2012, and this somehow meant that the world was going to end on that date. Now we fear nuclear war from the Middle East, climate change, COVID-19 and the disappearance of honeybees.

        So far, the end of the world has not come. We have had wars and rumors of wars. Nation has risen against nation. There have been earthquakes and famines many times over, yet we still stand.

        Is this world going to end in our lifetime… in 100 years… in a thousand? I don’t know the answer but I won’t be surprised if we all see God before the end of this world. As a young adult under the constant fear of the possibility of a nuclear war with the U.S.S.R. I still woke up every morning worrying about my everyday worries, working and living and hoping for a better future. In fact, most people will act the same way, day in and day out no matter what the perceivable threat.

        As Christians, we have been given the Word of God through His son, Jesus Christ, that the day of the Lord will come. In the Gospel of Mark Jesus tells his disciples about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. The disciples ask for a time of this destruction and for signs they would recognize so that they would be prepared.

        Jesus tells them in verses 24-27 about the last days. Do you think this helped them? After Jesus was crucified on the cross for the sins of the world, do you think they suddenly began to prepare for that day? When Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and later ascended into heaven, did they take heed and redouble their efforts in spreading the good news of Christ’s salvation?

        If you have ever taken a rubber band and stretched it, you understand that under little stress, there is not much fear of the band breaking; but the greater distance you stretch it the greater the anxiety that it will soon give out and it will be destroyed. I am no prophet. I cannot predict the future, but I will tell you that I am becoming anxious for the day of our Lord because 2000 years is a great stretch of time.

        What are we to do? Are we to be in constant fear of this day of reckoning? Is it like a giant sword hanging over our necks by a thread?

        We are not to worry or be anxious, yet we are not to remain idle either. If I told you that the world is going to end in the next few years, would your outlook on life change? In my personal fears of total world destruction 30 years ago, I did not immediately run out and spread the Gospel of our Lord. I did not strive every day to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I did not even love my neighbor as myself.

        I did the opposite of how Jesus instructed his disciples. I worried and was anxious about life and my heart was weighed down. I continually sought comfort and consolation from this world instead of from our Lord and Savior. Oh sure, I read the Bible and went to church on Sundays but I did not take God with me during the week. I did not live my life as Jesus has commanded us.

        Are you like I was? What kind of a Christian are you? Do you do nothing and let others do all the work? Do you act like you’re a true Christian but instead you meddle in other people’s business and cause problems? Do you set an example in Christ only when someone you know is watching? Do you worry and are anxious about life only to seek comfort in the things of this world? In these times of trouble and the lack of faith in God, we may feel that God has forgotten us, but it is we, who have forgotten Him.

        Like Jerusalem, we Christians are under siege by the armies of our greatest adversary, the Devil. These armies are surrounding us and the circle is almost complete. Do not be fooled by the walls of this nation, thinking that we are a Christian nation and a stronghold of good in a world of evil and hate. These walls will not stand and not one stone shall be left upon another.

“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows.

“But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. [Mark 13:8-10]

“Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. [Mark 13:12-13]

        Are we not already betrayed by our sons and daughters, by our friends and relatives? Day by day, it seems we have less and less freedom to speak our faith. We cannot put up a cross because it might offend someone. We cannot have a nativity scene in a public place. We cannot have the Ten Commandments displayed in our courthouses.

        This shift in public consciousness comes from people thinking they are in control of this world. As a nation, we have decided to follow the wisdom of man instead of the wisdom of God.

        Now is the time for the wisdom of God. Many believe it is the leaders of this world or our governments who reign when it is Christ who is truly king and ruler of all. The time has come for us to fulfill Christ’s commands to love one another. Now is the time to stand before your friends, family and enemies with the Word of our Lord. They too, have the same amount of time before the Last Day.

At times, it may seem like you are not getting through, but the Holy Spirit is with you always. As Jesus tells us, “I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” [Lk 21:15]

            As some of you may know, we may see the fruits of our labor. It is in these times we are to be sure and give thanks to God for the redemption of another soul. At other times, we may not know and we may become discouraged.

            Do not be disheartened in your efforts to reach out to those who do not know the Gospel. There are people who run away from the Good News because they think they will be free on their own. Sooner or later, they come to the realization that they have no final home when they are away from their savior, Jesus Christ.

I pray that you will be conscious of your words and actions at all times, because you are representatives of Christ and if by your actions or words you do not teach others in the truth, you may find that they will refuse to return to Christ Jesus and will only run further away.

        Lastly, do not fear. God has not forgotten us. God has not stopped loving us. Jesus Christ is proof of God’s love for us. Jesus Christ became human and lived in this corrupt and evil world. He did not live only as a good man, but as a perfect man. He was the unblemished Lamb of God sacrificed on a cross so that our sins and the sins of the entire world would be forgiven.

        Even though we will be hated for Jesus’ namesake, not a hair of our head will perish. By His mercy and grace, we are saved to live forever in the kingdom of heaven. By our faith in Christ, we gain our lives.