21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”
As Daniel was protected in the lion’s den, you have God helping you each day.
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. – Mark Twain
Brian is an incredibly smart, strong, and confident individual. With a decade of tenure at his company, a robust staff, and the experience and knowledge to substantiate his value to the organization, Brian seemingly had nothing to fear. He was next in line for the executive suite. On the outside looking in, you would assume that Brian was completely confident.
He knew how to create a polished exterior that projected self-assurance. Brian and I worked down the hall from each other. It never occurred to me to ask him if he ever wrestled with fear until the day he was handed the pink slip and ushered out the door. In a struggling economy, the company he was loyal to couldn’t be loyal to him.
Over lunch a few weeks later, I probed a bit: “Did you see this coming?” His response was casual but measured: “I always feared it could happen. Not because I wasn’t performing but because I’ve always lived with a fear that I’m not enough. I’ve always had an underlying fear that someday I wouldn’t be enough. I would make one too many mistakes. I’d miss an important detail. But I didn’t expect to be dismissed this way. It makes me question, why wasn’t I valuable enough to keep?”
Brian’s fears and questions are significant. They represent an underlying tension that challenges our clout every day. Am I enough?
The question is overwhelming because of the numerous fears that underlie it. Our fears are so diverse and so extreme that we’re more apt to avoid and ignore them rather than acknowledge that they’re there.
Fear is the front-runner of the clout killers. As we begin to unpack these inhibitors to our confidence and influence, we’ll see a consistent theme of fear. Fear tends to coerce its tentacles into all our issues. We fear that who we are is not enough, so we deal with jealousy. We fear not having enough, so we live out of scarcity. We fear not being good enough, so we live with insecurity.
We fear not being strong enough, so we cover it up with pride. We fear not measuring up to others, so we wrestle with comparison. We fear chaos, so we grapple for control. This fear that we can’t handle it, that we’re not enough, rings true in each of these enemies that impact our influence. What we’ll discover is that our greatest fear is true, but there is an even greater truth to replace it.
Do Not Be Afraid
You don’t have to be afraid. Easier said than done, right? Again and again in the Bible God told His children not to be afraid.
Through a vision, God said,
Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward. – Genesis 15:1
When Hagar and her son Ishmael were banished from Abraham’s land, an angel told Hagar,
Do not be afraid; God has heard. – Genesis 21:17
When Isaac was expelled from his land by the Philistines and forced to move from place to place, God appeared to him and reminded him,
Do not be afraid, for I am with you. – Genesis 26:24
When Jacob was fearful of traveling in his old age, God told him,
Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation. – Genesis 46:3
Numerous times Moses reminded the Israelites not to be afraid because God was with them and would fight for them. And after Moses’ death, God made the same commitment to Joshua as he encouraged him to be strong and courageous:
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9
From David to Elijah, from Isaiah to Jeremiah, God continuously reminded his people not to fear. When Joseph considered canceling his engagement to Mary, an angel appeared to him, telling him not to be afraid (Matthew 1:19-20). When Jesus charged the twelve disciples with their responsibility, He told them not to be afraid of those who would seek to harm them for proclaiming the truth (Matthew 10:26-28). From the women gathering at the empty tomb to the disciples seeing the resurrected Jesus, the message was the same: do not be afraid (Matthew 28:5, Matthew 28:10).
In every instance, people faced legitimate fears. But each time God’s message remained consistent. It seems God understood that we would wrestle with fear.
God is With Us
DECEMBER 24, 2014
“‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).'” Matthew 1:23 (NIV)
I woke to the cooing of my 8-month-old son in need of a dry diaper and a bottle. By the time I got to his room, I was fully awake to my reality. It was Christmas morning. Sigh. I had dreaded the arrival of this day.
It was the first Christmas after my husband’s death.
Most of my days consisted of loneliness and grief. I knew facing the holidays would be worse. I felt so alone.
My heart was joyless. There was no one to wish a Merry Christmas. No gifts to open. No celebration. For me, it was just another ordinary day of going through the motions. I’d care for my son and try to survive the grief and loneliness.
Have you ever been this lonely? Your situation may not be like mine, but I do know during difficult times God often feels distant. Uncaring. Unresponsive. Unaware. And yet, Psalm 139:7 challenged my feelings that Christmas Day.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (NIV)
The Psalmist was clear. God is everywhere. There is nowhere I can go that God is not already there.
As I pondered this truth, hope began to rise in my heart. I am never alone because God is with me in every situation, good or bad.
Isn’t this the message of Christmas — God is with us? Isn’t this the essence of our faith — God is with us?
Perhaps this is what inspired Matthew to write our key verse: “‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means, ‘God with us.’)” (Matthew 1:23).
That name, Immanuel, holds great significance for you and me.
This Name tells us Christ didn’t come that holy night to say “well done.” He didn’t come to pat us on the back or encourage us for just a time. He came to stay. God came to dwell among us and to reside within us forever.
Sure, God has always been with us, but this truth took on a whole new meaning when Jesus was born. The astounding truth of Christmas is that God put on human flesh and became one of us. A babe, lying in a manger, was proof He had come and His name was the message. God is with us in human form. Immanuel became one of us and suffered as we suffer so that He might understand our pain. So that He might know how to comfort and help us.
That’s not all. This baby Jesus didn’t come only to walk among us. He came to deliver us and set us right with God. The coming of Jesus meant God the Father had now sent His Son to deliver the world from sin.
What does this mean for you and me? It means no matter the challenge, you are not alone. Whatever your need — deliverance, strength, hope — Immanuel is present. He is not some far-off God. He is right there beside you this very moment.
My days grew brighter as I looked for God’s company amidst my pain. Eventually, I no longer trudged through ordinary days because my extraordinary God met me at my point of need. The secret is this. The more I learned to acknowledge His presence, the more of His presence I experienced. You can, too.
No matter where you are this Christmas Eve, you are not alone.
You may feel alone. It may appear that you are alone. But Christ is there with you. He sees you. He understands. And He can help you.
Tomorrow can be different. You can celebrate Christmas morn with new joy because He — God Himself — has come to be with you. In His magnificent company, though you may be down and out, you are not without. You are not without His love or His all-sufficient strength. You are not without His safety. You are not without His care or provision. And you are not without His presence.
This is the best news of all. Immanuel, God is with us!
I was that young man. As I matured in my faith and studied Scripture, God confirmed what Mr. Stowe had taught me. I saw that Jesus stressed His abiding presence to His disciples. He knew how quickly a sense of rejection would settle in after the crucifixion. Moreover, potentially discouraging hardship awaited them as they carried the gospel to the rest of the world. So the Lord promised a Helper who would remain with Christians forever—the Holy Spirit.
Every day of a believer’s life is lived in the presence of Christ through His Holy Spirit. He comforts during hardship, encourages amidst difficulty, and strengthens in times of weakness. The benefits of a relationship with God are not postponed until heaven; we walk with Him now and always.