There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)
Remember, God is love. Since he is eternal, his love is not subject to change or circumstance. Human love is not this way. Human love is fickle and circumstantial. Think of all the divorces explained by this statement, I don’t love her anymore. Our loves are fickle. Our loves are also circumstantial. Circumstances beyond our control can dictate our experience of love. Soldiers are gone to war and cannot be home with their family. That’s why we cry when we see the surprise reveal that Daddy or Mommy’s home. You’ve seen these, right? The little girl throws out the first pitch to the catcher, the catcher takes off his mask, and it’s Daddy! Even the newscasters tear up. Why? Circumstances take loved ones away. Death separates us from the experience of loving someone.
But God’s love is not fickle. He IS Love. God’s love is not circumstantial; he is sovereign over all circumstances. He is sovereign over time and transcends time. We look into the future and everything is dark. God looks into the future and everything is bright, known, controlled, purposed, and determined toward an ultimate end of our eternal salvation and his glory. When God says he loves you, it is a kind of love so different from our love. It is perfect love. It is completed love. It is love in its fullness and divine perfection.
Perfect love casts out fear. God’s love toward us is perfect and therefore throws our fear out of the saloon. Even death cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:39)
God’s Reassurances: The Cross (Past Love) and His promises (Future Love)
This is the logic of Romans 5:8 and 8:32,
- But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
- He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
Both of these look back to the cross as assurance of God’s love. If he loved us enough to die for us when we were his enemies, how must he love us now? If he didn’t spare Jesus but gave him up for us, how will he not continue to love us and meet our needs? If we realize that these actions of God flow from his absolute commitment to love us forever, not only do we not fear eternal punishment, because all fear is of the future, we will not dread anything else either.
Therefore, in our battle with fear, we must look back to the cross as God’s eternal statement of commitment to loving us, saving us, forgiving us, and giving to us eternal life.
Try that. What are you afraid of? Think about that fear and bring to mind a mental picture of Jesus. Jesus the Son of God. Jesus the fellow man. Jesus hanging there. Jesus bleeding. Jesus struggling. Jesus dying. Jesus crying out, “It is finished!” God bleeding and dying to save me. Now think again of your boss, final exam, upcoming surgery, whatever. Perfect love casts out fear. The cross is love’s perfection; it is Jesus’ “I love you.” He gave himself for my good, joy, and eternal salvation.
God’s love produces fearless confidence for the future
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. (Psalm 56:3)
John wants us to live fearlessly. Scripture calls us to a holy boldness. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5) The words Jesus said in Scripture more than any other are, Fear not. (Matthew 10:31 and many others) This is not psychological mumbo jumbo. This confidence in the future is a confidence in the one who died for us and promised to save us to the uttermost.
We read verses like Psalm 56:3, When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. That’s comforting, but what am I actually doing? I am trusting God. But what do I trust? I trust his promises to love me beyond any and every circumstance of my life. The more I rest in God’s perfect love for me, the less afraid I will be. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. No matter what, he will always love me. Fear doubts God’s intent to love. Fear doubts God’s promise to love. Fear acts as if God isn’t love or isn’t there or isn’t able to sustain me.
Over the next 20 years of my life, I don’t know how many illustrations I am going to use that somehow relate to my daughter. This is what I do know; here is the first one.
I have been a dad for three weeks. I remember our first night at home. No nurses. No doctors. Kiralee is in the cradle in the room with us. We put her down to sleep for the night. We went to bed. It wasn’t long before she made a sound like “Eh!” Up out of bed we jump right to her side wondering if she is okay. She was fine. We did that, it would seem, a hundred times that night.
But now we have come to identify a pattern in this little girl. She starts with little snorts and noises. These are a sign of things to come. The snorts start coming faster. Then she starts to wail her arms. We call her our little thrasher. She thrashes. Then she contorts her face and lets out a blood curdling scream. Then the screams and convulsing roll.
I have seen this now for three weeks. As she goes into her little routine even in my arms, I have thought to myself, does Kiralee realize how much we love her? Does she begin to realize how committed we are to meeting her every need? This crying is absolutely illogical IF she knew our love for her. If there was some way to drop into her fear, one drop of the ocean of our love for her, what would happen to the screams and the thrashing and the convulsing?
What a picture of us, God’s children. Life comes at us and overwhelms us. It looks like we are losing and the trial is winning. We begin to waver (snort). If the trial continues, we start to spiritually thrash. The arms and legs of our faith are gyrating in displeasure. From somewhere deep down comes a primal fear and a terror and a cry.
How God must look down on us, like I do my daughter, and wish that we could realize how much he loves us; how strong and powerful he is to protect us; how infinite his resources are to meet our needs; how eternally committed he is to our joy and our salvation. If we could for but a moment feel in our hearts a drop of the ocean of his love for us, his perfect love would drive away all of our fears.
What are you afraid of? What could you be facing or fearing that confidence in God’s total and perfect love for you could not take away? Perfect love casts out fear.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
©2013 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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