1 John 4:18
According to a Greek legend, there was a courtier named Damocles (dam-o-clees) who served a tyrant. King Dionysius II (di-o-nee-see-us) was lavishly self-indulgent, incompetent and immoral. Dionysius had obtained the throne through subterfuge and mutiny, and his subjects despised him for it.
The king employed Damocles primarily because he was witty and flattered the king. One day, Damocles noticed the king was very worried. Damocles told the king he should not fret over those who wanted to kill him, but instead, focus on his many blessings. When Damocles noticed that the king was actually listening to him, he became enthusiastic.
He told the king to consider all the many blessings the gods had given him such as his good fortune, great power and authority, and the greatest luxuries the world could offer. So, there was no reason to be despondent. The king listened, but said nothing. After pondering Damocles’ pep talk for a few minutes, the king commanded they trade places.
He wanted Damocles to feel what he felt! So, the king adorned Damocles with his crown and the finest garments from his closet. He put Damocles in the lap of luxury, with a hundred beautiful maidens fulfilling every request. He gave Damocles authority over his generals.
Finally, Dionysius placed a great sword above the throne, hung by a single hair from a horse’s tail. After just a few hours of sitting on the throne, Damocles begged the king to switch places because he did not want to be so highly blessed anymore. You may smile, but the moral of the story is quite simple: A “fear monster” will ruin your happiness, even if you have everything the world offers!
The world is full of “fear monsters” and new swords hanging by a single hair from a horse’s tail keep appearing every day! For example, I have friends who have obtained permits to carry concealed weapons because they are afraid of people who carry concealed weapons without permits.
I have friends who will not go out after dark because they are afraid of the people who like to go out after dark. I have friends who go through their mail and rip off their names and addresses from each envelope because they are afraid that someone will go through their garbage and steal their identity.
I have friends who are afraid to stand up for what they believe is right in the workplace because they fear they will lose their job. I have unemployed friends who are afraid they will never find a job. I have friends who cannot afford health insurance and they are afraid they will get sick and medical expenses will push them into medical bankruptcy. I have friends who realize the unfunded liabilities of our government will never be met (approximately $114 trillion dollars) and they are afraid their social security checks will be reduced or eliminated.
I have farmer and rancher friends who are afraid that extremes in weather will cause their crops to fail, pushing them into bankruptcy. Some friends are afraid the Great Tribulation will begin soon and this will ruin their dreams and goals. And yes, I also have friends who are afraid they will not be saved when Jesus comes. I could go on and on with this list of fear monsters, but you get the point. Fear monsters are everywhere. It is ironic that even though fear monsters are lurking everywhere, there is very little fear of the living God now.
People from all walks of life are edgy because they sense the whole world is spiraling out of control. We live in an environment where fear and uncertainty are easily justified (this means fear monsters are real and rational). During July 2011, the Congress of the United States put on a worldwide show as it wrangled back and forth over a new debt ceiling.
Everyone in the world has been put on notice that the USA cannot afford to borrow forty-two cents for each dollar it currently spends. Simple logic says that sweeping and painful changes are forthcoming in this country and when fear becomes rational, paralysis of the analysis tends to set in. People become frozen in their tracks. People do not know what to do. People are reluctant to make long range decisions when tomorrow becomes highly uncertain because a single misstep could prove to be financially fatal.
Rich people, middle class people, poor people, and rabbits all do the same thing when they are frightened; they become paralyzed with fear. Rich people (and companies managed by them) will not create more jobs when they are worried about economic uncertainty. Middle class people will not freely spend their hard earned dollars when they are frightened by economic uncertainty and the lower half of the United States’ population is barely making ends meet.
So, the economy languishes, unemployment goes up, prices go up, and the unemployed, the poor, and the elderly find themselves in a dire situation. A giant fear monster has been released from its cage and politicians are smart enough to know that suffering brings anger and anger produces anarchy.
At this very moment, Greece is a perfect example of this sequence. When anarchy rises, uncertainty only gets worse and a nation ceases to thrive. Instead, it becomes a slave to its debtors. Unfortunately, an economy is like an airplane. An airplane has to reach and maintain a certain speed (cash flow) in order to fly and it also has to accomplish this speed while observing the laws of gravity (expenditures) and aerodynamics (revenue created by taxes).
I have not shared information about our present situation to increase your fears. Instead, I have identified a few fear monsters to remind you that there is no need to be tormented or paralyzed by them. Of course, a certain amount of fear is healthy and normal, but we cannot allow fear monsters to steal our peace and joy. If you are having trouble with fear monsters, there is a way to defeat them. The apostle John wrote, “But perfect love drives out fear.” (1 John 4:18)
Jesus further explained this by saying, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:10) Remaining in Christ’s love requires strong determination and effort. It is an experience that matures over time. In a nutshell, it works like this: God knows each person by name. He even knows the number of hairs on our heads. God loves each person and He eagerly seeks to have a deep relationship with each of us that will eliminate all fear, but He allows us to determine the depth of the relationship.
The relationship we have with God is determined by our willingness to surrender to His wisdom and purposes. The problem with sinners is that we exalt our wisdom above God’s wisdom and we put our goals above His purposes. This conflict explains why many Christians maintain a shallow relationship with God.
Fear monsters cannot be defeated in a shallow relationship with God. Fear monsters are only neutralized when a person is fully surrendered to God’s will. The peace which Jesus gives only arrives when perfect (as in complete) love is present. This peace takes the dentures out of the fear monsters. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give [peace] to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled [abide in me] and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27, insertions mine)
Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money [or any other god]. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? . . . . So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:24–25, 31–34)
Jesus said, “with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) This truth is priceless. It means that God can and will take care of us if we are willing to allow Him. Our job is to surrender to the Lord each day (this means that we must go as He directs, do as He commands, and be all that He wants us to be) and He will take care of everything else. Living by faith is not complicated, but it is difficult. Living by faith means doing all that you know to be right and honorable in God’s sight and leaving the consequences with Him.
Corporately speaking, the sword of Damocles is hanging above each of our heads by a single hair from a horse’s tail. The world is spiraling out of control. The Great Tribulation will soon begin, but no matter what happens, Jesus will see His children through to the very end (whatever our end will be). “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39)
Peter wrote, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” (1 Peter 4:7) Prayer is to fear what light is to darkness. Prayer brings God in and His loving presence pushes fear monsters out the back door! Prayer is communion with God. Prayer includes conversation with God.
Prayer includes expressions of gratitude and petitions. Prayer also includes listening – not for God’s audible voice, but for a voice. For example, there have been many situations in my life that I did not know what to do. So, I prayed about the matter. I asked the Lord for wisdom. I meditated on the problem (weighed the pros and cons).
Then, I waited to see what He might say. I have had some prayers unanswered for days, weeks, months, and years, but I have learned that God always sends an answer! In some cases, the Lord may speak through a person who has no idea that he/she just gave me the solution that I was seeking.
Sometimes, the timing involved in a particular situation will produce an amazing answer to prayer, and sometimes, to be honest, I have been so befuddled and distracted that I missed God’s response—for awhile. Being clear minded so that we can receive and accept God’s direction is very important.
Finally, there is one aspect of prayer that cannot be overlooked. When we present our petitions and concerns to the Lord, He hears and takes notice. Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7–8)
Therefore, instead of repeating the same prayers over and over like a broken record, prayer life should focus on our higher needs, such as our need for patience, peace, joy, strength, and grace to accept the things that we cannot change and wisdom to make the best of our situation each day.
Three times Paul prayed for the Lord to remove a thorn in his flesh, but the Lord said, “No.” Instead, God used the thorn in Paul’s flesh as an indicator. As long as Paul was in Christ, the thorn was no problem at all (2 Corinthians 12:7–9), but Paul knew the moment he walked away from Christ, the thorn would suddenly begin to hurt.
The Lord kept the thorn in Paul as a reminder of Paul’s connection with his Master. Has the Lord left a thorn in your flesh? It is a reminder. Moses pestered the Lord to let him enter the promised land. But the Lord said “No” and He instructed Moses, “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.” (Deuteronomy 3:26)
God did not want to discuss the promised land because God had a better plan for Moses. Little did Moses know that after his death, he would be taken to Heaven. The lesson is that Moses humbly accepted God’s authority and I am sure that after the Lord resurrected Moses, he was thrilled with the result.