to fear or not to fear, that is the question

I was updating my bible blog when I got side tracked by a couple of messages from John Piper where he looks at fear and anxiety.

There are two great commands in the Bible. The first is: “Fear the Lord.” And the second is “Fear not!” I tried to explain last Sunday from Exodus 20:20 that what we should not fear is to draw close to God and what we should fear is to run away from him. God is a joy and a refuge to those who cling to his neck, but he is a terror to those who flee. Piper

We are not to fear anything or anyone but God himself. Fear of God is a healthy fear leading to wisdom and life. Fear of anything else is a destructive fear leading to foolishness and death.

He also points out that in another blog there is good anxiety and bad anxiety:

And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. (ESV) 2 Cor 11:28

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (ESV) Mat 6:25

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (ESV) Phil 4:6

Piper points out that it’s the same Greek word translated “anxious” in each case but language is like that; words have a range of meaning and context is king. Obviously there are things to be rightly anxious about like if a child didn’t return home at the expected time it would be appropriate to get a little anxious. The key is doing the right thing when anxiety comes to us which is to take our concerns to God. The promise is then that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds (Phil 4:7) but that does not mean that all anxiety will immediately melt away never to return. It is a dynamic process. Anxiety that leads us away from God is bad but anxiety that is taken to God is good and helpful. Well that’s my thoughts on it at 11pm at night anyway.

Piper then talks about the way grief and rejoicing can be fitted together. Paul commands us to rejoice in all things as God works everything out according to his will and for our good etc but Paul himself experienced great sorrow. Also, think about God. He is sovereign over all things but is grieved by certain events. Again both truths have to be somehow be held together. (Coincidently I am studying the trinity at the moment were the truth s of God’s unity and plurality in three persons needs to be held together.)

(BTW some great sovereignty verses:

He “accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will” Ephesians 1:11

I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose.’ Isaiah 46:9,10)

Piper’s solution to the issue of God’s sorrow and sovereignty is that God grieves over sin because within a limited focus he hates everything about it. However, widen the focus and he uses it to achieve his ends. In the same way we can grieve over tragedy and sin but rejoice that God works all things out to a good end. We have the capacity to experience and think and feel several things at once, although admittedly one usually dominates. Knowing God’s word is really helpful in navigating through fearful tempests. As we go through terrible storms of fear, anxiety, and grief we can hold our course through the knowledge of God’s love and sovereignty.

God’s word never contradicts itself, rather its richness is revealed as one truth is held together with another. Two verses that seem at first to contradict one another will, upon closer examination and prayerful thought, be seen to shed light upon each. Textures, hues, nuances and subtleties of truth and application that were previously hidden are illuminated and stand out in bold relief.

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