God saves his people today just as he saved the Jews from destruction 2500 years ago. This is recorded in the book of Esther (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purim). Jewish people still celebrate God’s providential actions. God’s name is never mentioned in that Old Testament book, but his control of people and events cannot be denied. The story is set in ancient Persia in about 480 B.C. during the reign of Xerxes. The king replaced his wife when she refused to parade her beauty in front of Xerxes’ gluttonous and drunken party guests. He chose a young Jewish woman named Esther after she won a nationwide beauty contest. Through Esther, God saved his people who were living in the Persian Empire at the time.
God’s Behind-the-Scenes Providence
Soon after Esther was crowned queen, Esther’s uncle Mordecai publicly insulted Haman, Xerxes second in command. So, he tricked the king into making a decree that all the Jews in the kingdom were to be killed on a certain day. But genocide wasn’t enough for Haman. He also decided to build a gallows in his front yard so he could humiliate and murder Mordecai.
But God was in control. He made it possible for Mordecai to overhear a conversation in which some members of king’s court were planning to kill Xerxes. He reported the plot to the palace officials. They promptly executed the would-be assassins. And the incident became part of the official court records.
Xerxes decided to read those records in an attempt to ease his insomnia. In God’s providence, he just happened to read how Mordecai’s intervention had saved his life. The next day, Xerxes commanded Haman to dress Mordecai in the king’s clothes and lead him through the streets on the king’s horse. He was to proclaim, “This is a man the king desires to honor.” You can imagine how Haman’s anger and hatred boiled after that. He was more determined than ever to get rid of Mordecai and all his people.
Esther was aware of the honor paid her uncle, and she knew that Haman had gotten Xerxes to decree the death of all the Jews. She planned to remedy both situations by schmoozing the king and baiting Haman into a trap. She invited her husband and Haman to dinner and served as the perfect hostess for two nights. Haman basked in the attention and felt sure it was a sign that things were finally going his way.
God Saves His People
On the third night of dining with the queen, Xerxes asked Esther how he could honor her. She requested that he stop the planned slaughter of her and her people. And, she revealed that Haman was the one who had plotted their destruction. The king left the room in a rage at how Haman had used him. While he was gone, Haman groveled at Esther’s feet pleading for mercy.
Xerxes saw Haman in the compromising position and assumed he was making advances on the queen. In an ironic twist of fate, the king sentenced Haman to be hanged on the gallows he had built to get rid or Mordecai. Xerxes allowed Esther and her uncle to warn all the Jews in the kingdom about the coming attack. As a result, the Israelites armed themselves and defeated the king’s men who attacked them. Then, in one final stroke of irony, Xerxes named Mordecai to replace Haman as his closest advisor.
I can see how God saved his people through the actions of a beautiful queen and a pagan king in this incident. Haman had planned to have all the Jewish people living in the Persian empire killed. But God worked through the actions of Esther, Mordecai, and King Xerxes to save his people. This is so important to the Jews today that they celebrate it in the annual Feast of Purim. Furthermore, the story illustrates the truth of Proverbs 21:1. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.”
Anyone who places their faith in Jesus for salvation becomes a child of God. From that point on, God takes responsibility for our welfare. He protects and provides for us just as he did for the Jews living in Persia.
I wonder if even one person in all of history has arrived at adulthood without feeling guilt and shame. As humans, we seem to have a continual sense of shame hovering just below the surface of our consciousness. We might even remember the guilty feelings that descended on us when a parent or teacher said, “Shame on you!” Shame is so pervasive that whole societies are built on the concepts of honor and shame. One receives honor if he adheres to the norms; but is shamed if he does not. Feelings of guilt and shame are everywhere. Why is that so? Can I escape from those feelings?
To answer that question, we have to go back to the very beginning of human existence. Sin, guilt, and shame are the results of Adam and Eve eating fruit from the one tree in the Garden of Eden God told them to leave alone. As soon as they took the first bite, our first parents felt guilty and ashamed. They reacted by diving into the bushes to hide from God (Genesis 3).
Mankind has been hiding from God ever since. Even while we’re hoping he doesn’t notice that we are sinful and full of shame, we yearn for a way to get back into his good graces. We try to please him by keeping rules and thinking good thoughts. We attempt to conform our actions to the norms of society, thinking that might do the trick. But it seems like we fail more often than we succeed. Rather than getting close to God, we find ourselves in an endless cycle of disobedience, guilt and shame, confession, and resolutions to do better. But we just keep messing up. And after every offense, we suffer guilt and shame again. We are helpless and hopeless when it comes to pleasing God.
God’s Plan to Take Away our Guilt and Shame
Realizing our dilemma, God made a plan to remove our guilt and shame. And he worked out his plan throughout history. He established commandments so people would know right from wrong. But when they broke a commandment, they felt guilt and shame. So, God instituted animal sacrifices as a tangible way for them to experience his forgiveness. During the Old Testament period, God instructed his people to offer animal sacrifices to remove their guilt. But the blood of bulls and goats didn’t really cover their sin. We humans need a perfect and effective sacrifice to remove our sinfulness and free us from guilt.
God provided just such a sacrifice by sending his Son to earth in human flesh. As a man, Jesus suffered the same temptations we do. But because he was also God, he was able to resist them (Matthew 4:1-11). That’s why he could be the sacrifice that paid the death penalty we deserve because of our sin. God graciously placed our guilt and shame on Jesus as he died on the cross. He accepted the blood of his Son as the perfect and effective covering we need for our sin, guilt, and shame.
How we Benefit from God’s Plan
God made the plan and gave his Son to die as the perfect and effective sacrifice. So how do we take advantage of his plan? First, we have to agree with God that we have broken his holy standards of behavior. We have all lied, cheated, lusted, and hated, if not in overt actions at least in our minds. Then we must believe that Jesus is the sacrifice God accepts to cover our sins. His death on the cross paid our penalty. So, God can forgive all our past, present, and future sins and failures. He places them on Christ and gives us his perfection. Since Jesus paid our sin debt, we are able to come out from behind the bushes where we have been hiding in guilt and shame. In fact, he allows us into his presence so we can enjoy an intimate relationship with him.
Once God has removed our sins in response to our faith, he sees only the perfection of his Son when he looks at us. He takes away our sin, guilt, and shame and covers us with the goodness of Jesus. He promises to care for us, guide us, and transform us into godly obedient servants in his kingdom. Without Jesus, we are helpless and hopeless to take care of our guilt and shame. But God is ready to remove them and make us new. This is our hope for this life and for eternity.
Every now and then, it is good to check to see if we need a course correction in our walk with God. If we aren’t careful, we can start to veer away from the straight and narrow way (Matthew 7:13-14). We might take a short excursion into the world to fulfill a longing, or to “have a little excitement in our lives.” Unfortunately, we enter into enemy territory whenever we compromise our convictions or become spiritual lazy. Our apathy and moral lapses can lead us farther and farther away from a walk of faith that pleases God. When that happens, we need to adjust our focus and correct our course.
A Lesson in Steering a Straight Course
I learned the value of keeping on course from my dad when I was still in elementary school. One day, I rode on the tractor with him in the field where he was planting potatoes. As proceed through the field, Daddy told me to look at how straight his rows were. Then he asked if I could guess how he kept going in such a straight line. Of course, I couldn’t guess, so he told me. Daddy pointed to a cluster of trees about half a mile away. He explained that he made the first row straight by keeping his eyes on those trees. After that, he just lined up the wheels of the tractor next to the previous row to make each furrow parallel with the last one.
His straight rows insured that irrigation water would get to all the potato plants. My dad expected to reap a good harvest because he kept his eyes on the trees in the distance while he planted the first row. (See more on the lessons I learned in potato fields in my blog “My Life as a Farmer’s Daughter”)
It’s Easy to Stray off Course
Life is a lot like planting potatoes. Every day, we make decisions that result in either staying on course or planting crooked rows. Will we compromise our standards in order to fit in with friends? Are we tempted to stretch the truth to impress someone? Or, does living a “good Christian life” seem too demanding? It is hard to do all the right things all the time—in fact, it’s impossible.
The writers of the psalms understood the difficulty of staying on course. They often cried out for help because they were in trouble. In some cases, the psalmist’s family was giving him fits. Or, he may have veered off the path by sinning. An enemy attack may have distracted him. King David describes a dangerous distraction in Psalm 124. He writes, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us, they would have swallowed us up alive” (verses 2-3). In the next two verses, he describes his troubles as raging flood waters that threaten to overwhelm him. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there right next to David.
How to Make a Course Correction
We can wander off course because of our own actions or when we’re under attack by enemies. From experience we know how easy we can start wandering away from the straight and narrow. We fail in our self-improvement plans and break our resolutions almost as quickly as we make them. At that point, we have to change our focus. We have to steer toward God, the only reliable point of reference.
David Shows us How
In Scripture, King David provides a good example of course correction. Whenever he found himself veering away from his faith, he would cry out to God. Then, he began to focus on God. That brought him back into alignment and made it possible for him return to his walk of obedience to God. We see one of his course corrections in Psalm 124. In this passage, David vividly described his fear during an attack by angry enemies. He felt they would drown him and swallow him.
But David didn’t give up. We can see his course correction beginning in verse 6. He takes his focus off the enemies and puts them on God. He begins to praise God for enabling him to escape from the trap his enemies had laid for him. And in verse eight, he declares, “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. “
We can Sow Straight Rows
When we feel like our life is off course, we need to focus on God like David did. If we keep our eyes focused on the him, we will walk right down the middle of the straight and narrow way. God promises to guide us when we cry out to him. He guards us against temptations that could draw us away from our faith. And, he empowers us to obey him when we are tempted to stray. He even rescues us when we fail and then gives us the opportunity to repent and get back on course again.
Because of our sin nature, it’s easy to get off course. Any moment can bring about a dangerous distraction. But we can always make a course correction. By putting our focus back on God. As we continue to practice getting back on track, we will begin to sow straight rows that will result in a bountiful harvest of spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23).
In February of 2020, national news broadcasters began to warn Americans of a possible pandemic. By April, the Corona virus had spread from one city in China to nearly every country in the world. After only a few weeks, the deaths in New York City surpassed the number killed in the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Schools, businesses, and even churches closed their doors. So, we had to stay at home, venturing out only when our food supply required it. As followers of Christ, we needed to learn how to fight fear biblically.
Even without a pandemic fear, anxiety, and panic can overwhelm a person’s mind and heart at any time. A policeman rings the doorbell and says there has been an accident. The doctor calls with the diagnosis of cancer. A spouse announces he/she wants a divorce. The boss tells an employee he has to let her go. When we face crises like these, our hearts skip a beat, and a sense of desperation invades our minds. We find it hard just to process what is going on, let alone deal with it.
Fear and Anxiety Robs Us
When we face a crisis, fear and anxiety robs us of peace and security. It leaves us feeling empty, vulnerable, and weak. But we do not have to remain fearful because God is our Father. When we prayed to ask Jesus to save us, God adopted us into his family. He made himself responsible to love and care for us. So, when a life situation terrorizes us, we should ask for his help. And, God will act in response to our prayers, just as any good father would. We can fight fear Biblically by trusting God to care for us because he has promised to and he never fails to keep his word (Numbers 23:19).
Fight Fear by Knowing God
God Cares for His Children
Crises can trigger fear and panic because they prove how little control we have over our lives. They make us realize we need help from someone much stronger and wiser than we are. In fact, we yearn for someone like God. In order to gain any comfort from him, though, we have to know why God would concern himself with our problems. We find the answer to that question in 1 Peter 5:7. “Give all your cares to God, for he cares about you” (NLT). He cares so much he gave his Son to die for us (John 3:16). As our Father, God will give us the comfort and peace we need because he loves us more than we can possibly imagine.
God is Powerful
So, God loves us, but is he strong enough to take on pandemics, financial disasters, and broken relationships? Scripture says “yes.” For instance, in Isaiah 40,the prophet describes how God created and sustains the universe. For example, in verse 20, he says, “Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He [God] brings them out like an army, one after another. . . Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing” (NLT). Just consider how much power our sun has. Then, multiply that billions of times over. God created all the fuel burning in all stars in the universe, and he controls all of it. Taking care of our current crisis will not tax his abilities a bit.
God is Loving
However, God isn’t just powerful. He also loves his children infinitely. His compassion motivates him to use his power to meet our deepest needs. Paul stated that “Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:39). God loved us enough to sacrifice his son Jesus for our sins, even though we were sinners in open rebellion against him (Romans 5:6-10). Nothing can touch a child of God without his permission. And, he will answer our distress calls because he loves us. To us, our trials seem overwhelming. But God turns them into tools to shape us into the image of Jesus. So, the insurmountable obstacles that make us afraid become eternal blessings from the hands of our loving Father.
Fight Fear Biblically by Knowing God’s Promises
God’s Promises Provide Hope
Knowing God cares for us and has infinite power gives us hope in a crisis. We can also fight fear by using his promises. Scripture contains hundreds of God’s promises. They are like treasures in a chest that we can draw from any time we are in a crisis. Jesus’ disciples learned this fact by experience. On the night he was betrayed, Jesus told them, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Just a few hours later, Jesus was arrested, tried, and sentenced to die on the cross. At that point, the disciples’ found themselves fighting fear, big time. In fact, they all ran and hid so the Jewish authorities couldn’t arrest them as well (John 20:19).
Only when Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection did their peace of mind return. Once they saw him alive, they realized that he had kept his promise. He had overcome both the powers of Rome and the Jewish religious leaders. Even more importantly, he had conquered death. Their firsthand experience of Jesus’ overcoming power made the disciples bold and fearless witnesses for the rest of their lives.
God’s Promises Sustain and Comfort Us
As followers of Christ, we should be encouraged by the example of Jesus’ first disciples. When we encounter fearsome situations and threats, we can cling to the promise of Romans 8:28. “For those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God may choose to sustain and comfort us in the midst of a fearful situation. Or, he may remove it altogether. In any case, we can trust that he is always in control and is acting for our best interests. God’s promises give us hope that our pain is not in vain.
God Keeps his Promises
From Scripture, we learn that God loves us and has the power and wisdom to protect us from harm. Whether God removes the source of our fear or not, our faith grows. And, we become more like Jesus. This is what the apostle James says: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). God promises that the crises we encounter in life mature our faith to the point that we lack nothing. Promises like this can give us confidence and hope in difficult situations.
Another passage outlines our plan of attack when we need to fight fear. in Philippians 4:6-7, Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This passage instructs us to pray and thank God, even when our situation remains difficult. Then, it promises that God will give us victory and peace at the end of our battle against anxiety and worry. Since God always keeps his promises, knowing them becomes vital to our spiritual wellbeing.
Fight Fear Biblically by Using God’s Promises
Collect God’s Promises
We know that Scripture provides us with facts about God and records his many promises. But how do we put what we know into action? One thing you can do when anxiety strikes is to find Scripture that relates to the issue causing your fear. You can fight fear Biblically by writing verses and stories that relate to that issue on notecards. Whenever you become fearful, read the verses over and over again, until you feel God’s peace. Increase your stack of notecards every time you become anxious. Always Keep them on hand to use as spiritual ammunition to help you fight fear. This is what Paul had in mind when he called Scripture “The Sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17).
Personalize God’s Promises and Attributes
You can also personalize promises as prayers to God. For example, whenever you find yourself worrying or in a panic, pray something like this: “God, your Word says I should seek you and your kingdom instead of worrying about food and clothing (Matthew 6:25-33). I love and honor you as my perfect Father. Will you meet my need. Because I believe you love me and want the best for me, I submit to your wisdom in how you choose to provide for me. And I thank you in advance for what you are going to do (Philippians 4:6-7).
In addition to changing God’s promises into prayers, you will benefit by thinking about his attributes. The psalms have lots of vivid descriptions of God’s character as well as practical promises. For instance, Psalm 23 affirms God’s goodness and his concern for your welfare. It promises that he will give you what you need in this life and keep you safe. It even addresses death, the greatest fear of all. God promises each of his children a place in the “house of God forever.” When you get the truths of this one short psalm into your heart, you can weather anything. Even if the Corona virus takes your life, you will be with God for eternity because you have believed in Jesus his Son.
Any Believer Can Fight Fear Biblically
The Corona virus pandemic has made many people fearful and anxious. And, who knows what new crisis will appear next month or next year? Whatever happens, knowing the greatness of God’s love and power will help us fight fear. We can also use the promises of Scripture as weapons in the battle. And both a little child and an elderly grandparent can learn about God and recite his promises when they are afraid. Any child of God can find comfort and peace in the midst of trials and testing circumstances, because God loves us and has the power to help us. Whatever the cause of our anxiety or worry, we can fight fear biblically by trusting in our all-powerful God who loves us infinitely.