"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32
A recently released movie that has sparked much conversation is "Saving Private Ryan." It depicts, in graphic detail, the Allied invasion of Normandy from a G. I.ís perspective. Private Ryan gives us mixed feelings, but I think everyone would agree it communicates the horrors of war and inspires us with deep gratitude for those who have fought to preserve freedom. The film inspires us to live lives that are worthy of the sacrifice made for us.
One theme in the movie is that of overcoming fear. The characters experience fear before the battle, fear of being killed in the invasion, and fear of losing their nerve under the tremendous strain of war. The heroes of the movie, common day men made into soldiers, overcome their fears and carry out their duty.
Fear is not limited to the battlefield. Our Lord speaks about fears that people have everyday. We donít talk so much about fear today, but of worry. We worry about many things. Where there is smoke, thereís fire, and where there is worry, there is fear. We may not think we are afraid of many things, but how many of us have high stress? Stress is caused by fear. Stress related illnesses are at an all time high, demonstrating that science, technology, and the worldís greatest military defense has not removed fear from us.
Our biggest problem is that we fear the wrong things. Jesus tells us not to worry about our lives. Money, health, family problems, these are easy for God to handle. Look at the birds, they donít have any property, and look how God cares for them. Even the grass is green in the summer heat. How much more important to him are you? So donít worry about these things. There is something far worse that poverty, sickness, or accident that can happen to you.
Earlier in his sermon Jesus said, "Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do to you. Fear him, who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell." (LK12:4) Most people today have never heard this passage, or if they have, they have forgotten it. That is because there is little fear of God shown anymore. The name of God has always been taken in vain, but today it is the rare conversation where the phrase, "O my God" is absent. People use Godís name to make a personal profit through television and mail. One sees little difference in the moral character of Christians and non Christians. We are taught not to fear God. He is depicted as a loving, all forgiving nice guy who has some good intentions for us to follow, but wonít press conformance on anyone.
This is not the Jesus who speaks in Luke Chapter 12. "Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do to you. Fear him, who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell." This is why the Catechism seems so odd to us when we are taught to say, "We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things." We have forgotten what the fear of God is all about. Fearing God means knowing that He is in your Master. He is the one who made you. He has been speaking to you, and you havenít been listening. He is coming again, and his fury is going to make D-Day look like a day at the ball park. So Jesus is saying, donít be afraid of what the world will do to you. Fear God, and seek his mercy on your soul.
Private Ryan was a fortunate man. Out of millions of men in harmís way during the war, he was singled out to go home because all his brothers were killed in combat. How much more fortunate are you and I, because God has shown mercy in giving His Son as our Savior. Therefore we savor the words of Jesus, "Do not Fear, little flock, for it is your Fatherís good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
Here we have the answer to the one thing we should be afraid of. Jesus has reached down to us and given the kingdom of heaven to us. It is not a deed or title on paper we can hold in our hand. It is not a credit card in our wallet. The kingdom of God is given to us by faith, that is, we believe that we are terrible, sinful people, but also that Jesus has removed our curse.
As Abraham believed Godís promise that he would have a son in his old age, we have faith that God is watching over us in this life. We need not worry and be afraid of anything we face in this life. War, poverty, sickness, death can hurt us none. We endure the hardship of this world because the kingdom of heaven has been opened to us where none of this evil world can enter.
This tells us that the only thing in life we should be afraid of is standing before the judgment seat of God without faith in Christ. Every other thing is minimal and has to stay in that perspective. The greatest battle has already been won for us.
This leads us to be ready at all times for Jesus to bring us home to heaven. If the allies had known what was brewing in Europe and Asia before World War II and acted upon it, there would never have been an Omaha beach. The world was not prepared for the evil that a fascist dictatorship would launch.
There is a far worse enemy plotting the demise of all people. He goes by the name of Satan, the devil, Lucifer, the Father of Lies. Jesus defeated this enemy for us by his death and resurrection.
Therefore, the words of Jesus ring clear to us. "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." We should not trust in our personal wealth, rather, we should care for the poor person who is Christ in our midst. We should not look to the ground and worry if we will have enough to keep us happy here, but we should look up to the skies and happily expect the return of Jesus.
God has given us great opportunity to work together preparing ourselves for his return. Conforming our lives to the Word of God, reading the Scriptures and praying, thanking him for our baptism into Christ, and receiving him in the Lordsí Supper often. And overall, passing this on by teaching these things to the next generation so that they can be ready with us. This strategy of Christian warfare is the way to fearless faith in Jesus.
Fear not, little flock, for the Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Amen.
Copyright © 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.
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