Wisdom or Fear?

Wisdom or fear?  This has been a question flowing frequently through my mind, like the planes that regularly flow along our house as they coast into the nearby airport.  A package comes from Amazon…should I allow no one to touch it except me and then wash my hands really well after opening it?  Some grocery items are at Costco and others at Wal-Mart…do I only go to Costco and forgo the other items so as not to have double exposure by going to two stores?  Is that trip to Home Depot an essential trip or a trip for a project that could wait?  Should we continue with our vacation plans for May or should we post-pone?  I need to floss…when did I last wash my hands?  Be honest…I know I ‘m not the only one who has had these questions go through their mind!

Questions that seemed silly or unnecessary three weeks ago are now questions that regularly flow through our minds.  We find ourselves facing questions that can seem like an endless hole.  We exit a store and use the hand sanitizer when we get into our car…but we touched our keys, our phone, our pocket, our door handle, our ignition, and our console before we got to the hand sanitizer.  Now what?  Do we need to purchase a fumigator?  In fact, I saw an article today by a doctor who said keeping Covid-19 out of your house is easy.  Just walk in the door, go straight to the bedroom, undress, throw your dirty laundry in the hamper, take a shower, brush your teeth, put on clean clothes, and then go wipe down every surface you may have touched.  Right!  No problem!  But what about the car I got out of, the shoes I untied, the jacket I took off, and the car keys I put on the counter?  How are we as Christians to think rightly about these things?

First of all, we need to remember that our hope is in the Lord, not in remaining healthy.  Health, though a good thing, can quickly become an idol in our lives.  Many serve it far more than they realize.  Could you still have joy and hope in the Lord if you remained in a place of unhealth, such as diabetes, cancer, or severe arthritis?  God is the Lord who reigns and thus we must sovereignly entrust ourselves into His loving hands.

Second, we must understand biblical fear.  Paul Tripp helpfully describes the three forms of biblical fear.  First is “Fear of God” which is holy reverence for the Creator of all.  Second is the “Rapid Response Fear” which is our instinctual ability to react quickly in a dangerous situation.  The third is “Appropriate Concern”, which Tripp defines as that which, “Allows us to be sobered by what we are facing, and with our God-given ability to analyze, we make wise and planned choices to protect ourselves and those we love.”  These are the biblical fears God has built into us.

Third, we must understand unbiblical fear.  Unbiblical fear is dwelling upon that which concerns us or makes us afraid.  It is allowing ourselves to be controlled by fears and forgetting that God is sovereignly working in the midst of it all for His glory and our ultimate good.  The more your mind dwells upon a concern, the more fear will grow in your mind.  Specifically, in the Covid-19 situation, it is being consumed with everything going on, reading article after article, over analyzing every decision, checking the news 10 times a day, and making decisions more from fear than from wisdom.

Fourth, we must understand God has told us not to be filled with unbiblical fear.  Apparently, Timothy was a young man who struggled with fear.  He served as a pastor in a difficult environment at Ephesus and faced the hardship of ministry.  In the midst of it all, he struggled to not give way to fear and thus Paul wrote to him, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7).  Instead of fear, we are to flee to the truths given to us in the Gospel!  Consider what Paul said in light of the Gospel.  What is more powerful than having the chains of sin and death destroyed?  What is more loving than the love God has for us in sending Christ to die for us?  What is stronger for a sound mind than the truth of God’s Word?  Fear must not control us but rather the truth of the Gospel and God’s Word must control us.  You are loved and kept by the all-powerful God who is the eternal truth!  “For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5).

Fifth, we must not lose sight of love for others.  In times like these, it can be tempting to just look out for yourself and try to keep yourself and family safe.  But that isn’t all God has called us to!  Jesus said in John 15:12-13, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”  Let love for God and love for others fuel your decisions!

So, in putting this all together, as decisions are before you, ask yourself the question: “Am I making this choice out of fear or out of wisdom?”  Let’s go back to the example of getting in your car after being in the store.  You look at your hand sanitizer sitting there in the console.  What you do next may be wisdom or it may be fear.  It may be wisdom to squirt some on your hands and use it.  But it may be fear if squirting some on your hands, then your keys, then your phone, then your door handle, then your steering wheel, etc. is what gives you peace as you drive out of the parking lot.  Wisdom or fear?  Why am I doing what I am doing?

I have been thinking a lot about the Apostle Paul these days in regard to wisdom and fear.  Consider how he could have functioned.  He doesn’t go to Ananias after his conversion because he is afraid what a Christian Jew will think of him.  He doesn’t preach in the synagogue of Damascus because he is afraid the Jews who once loved him will now hate him.  He doesn’t go to the Jerusalem church because he is afraid of what the church there will think of him.  He doesn’t go Cyprus because the sea is scary and the boats so primitive.  He doesn’t go to Galatia because there is persecution there from both the Jews and the Gentiles.  He doesn’t go to Greece because it is a dangerous place full of idol worshipping people.  He doesn’t return to Jerusalem because people at Ephesus told him the Jews would kill him if he returned.  He doesn’t submit himself to go to Rome because it is the same government that killed Jesus.  He doesn’t write to the churches from Rome because he is afraid his imprisonment will bring shame to the Gospel.  And that is just a sampling!  Yet, where would the New Testament be if Paul made every decision based upon fear?

So Christian, make wise decisions to the best of your ability.  Make decisions out of love for God and love for others.  But flee the temptation to give way to fear and continually meditate upon the concerns of the day.  Instead, follow the example of Christ who faced constant fear through entrusting Himself to God (I Peter 2:23).  Use the hand sanitizer but do so knowing your hope is not in a solution of 60% alcohol!  Your hope is in the Creator God, who is 100% in control of all things we face!