About two weeks ago a friend of mine, who is aware of the struggles within the United Methodist Church, recommended that I read “Not In It To Win It” by Andy Stanley. In the book, Stanley presents an insightful and convicting perspective on how we can learn to disagree and still love unconditionally. It’s a great read and one that I would encourage you to pick up, especially as we head toward election season.

One of the quotes that struck me was about the source of our division and tension. Stanley writes,
So, what’s the problem?
What’s fueling the tension and division?
In a word: fear.
Fear is the fuel.
The sad truth is, the fear fueling our division has been created, cultivated, and stoked by those who benefit from it. Fear is profitable…Fear is motivating. It motivates us to shut our minds, hearts, and hands. It makes us smaller. More insecure. As Cherie Harder put it, “Dwelling on fear and outrage is spiritually deforming.” It’s spiritually deforming because fear entices us to place our faith in the person, party, or platform that promises to protect us from whatever they’ve convinced us we should fear.

In these days where conflict surrounds us—both without and within—I think it is wise for us to monitor the level and power of fear in our life. To not buy in to what any person, party, or platform offers us and to remember that fear is not a fruit of the Spirit, fear doesn’t grow us in love of God or neighbor, fear causes us to retreat and turn inward. Fear produces anxiety and our unmanaged anxiety causes us to act out in ways that do harm to our witness, ourselves, and others.

Rather than leaning into voices of fear, I would challenge you to listen to the voice of God through the scriptures:

Isaiah writes in Isaiah 41:10:
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 

Paul writes to the church in Philippi:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

John reminds his church in 1 John 4:18:
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

And a verse that often comes to my mind when I feel anxiety and fear creeping into my life is 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

In these anxious and fear filled days I would challenge you to remember that Jesus has called us, saved us, that he is with us, and even now sits on the throne of his Kingdom. The perfect love of God casts out our fear, and pushes toward mission and ministry.

So friends, do not be anxious, but instead cast your cares, your anxiety, even your fear at the feet of Jesus that you might experience true freedom and the abundant life that Jesus that Jesus offers us.

God bless,
Jonathan Smith
For Jesus. For People. For Community.