Apparently there is an element of truth in this story. A plane landed after a long flight. The flight attendant explained that there was enough time for everyone to get off the aircraft and then reboard in 50 minutes.
Everybody got off the plane except one gentleman. The pilot had noticed him as he walked by. He could tell that the man was blind because his guide dog lay quietly underneath the seat next to him. “Sir”, the pilot said to the blind man, “we will be here for almost an hour. Would you like to get off and stretch your legs?”
The blind man replied, “No thanks, but maybe my dog would like to stretch his legs.”
Picture this: All the people in the gate area came to a complete stand still when they looked up and saw the pilot walk off the plane with a guide dog! The pilot was even wearing sunglasses.
Fear took control. People scattered and queued at the airline desk trying to change planes!
Fear is a normal human response. It is a part of every person’s life – perhaps more so in some people than others – but still everyone has to deal with fear at some time. There are many things that can cause unexpected fear to grip our hearts.
The fear of the SARS epidemic caused us to cancel our stay in Singapore in April last year.
The fear of terrorist bombings has caused a massive security alert for the Olympic Games in Athens. The nuclear build up in NorthKorea has caused nations to fear the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons.
Mothers, fathers and children in Israel and Palestine live in constant fear of another bomb blast or being caught in crossfire.
Parents fear for the safety of their children with so many reports in the news of people who would want to harm them.
We are afraid to leave our homes unlocked, or to walk in the dark at night.
We fear failure so we scramble to meet our tight schedules, duties and obligations.
And where there is fear, there is no peace. Fear brings with it anxiety, worry, apprehension, dread, restlessness, panic and tension – none of which lead us to feel calm, peaceful, relaxed and stress-free.
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One of the best newspaper cartoons is Calvin and Hobbes. One day Calvin comes marching into the living room early one morning. His mother is seated there in her favourite chair. She is sipping her morning coffee. She looks up at young Calvin. She is amused and amazed at how he is dressed. Calvin’s head is encased in a large space helmet. A cape is draped around his neck, across his shoulders, down his back and is dragging on the floor. One hand is holding a flashlight and the other a baseball bat.
“What’s up today?” asks his mum.
“Nothing, so far,” answers Calvin.
“So far?” she questions.
“Well, you never know,” Calvin says, “Something could happen today.” Then Calvin marches off, “And if anything does, by golly, I’m going to be ready for it!”
Calvin’s mum looks out at the reading audience and she says, “I need a suit like that!”
That’s the way many of us feel as we see the news and deal with life. Sometimes this world seems too violent and people seem to be at each other’s throats. A suit like that would help, so we can say along with Calvin, “Whatever may come my way, I’m going to be ready for it! Bring it on!”
Well, I don’t have a suit like Calvin’s to give you this morning, but I do have some important words from Jesus this morning to enable us to say, “Whatever may come my way, I’m going to be ready for it! Bring it on!”
It is the night of the Last Supper. Jesus has just spoken of his impending death. He tells the disciples that one of them will betray him and urges Judas to go and do quickly what he has planned to do.
Peter boldly claims that he would rather die than deny his Lord, but Jesus knows that before the rooster crows he will say three times that he does not know the man they are talking about.
Jesus talks about going where they cannot follow and they are confused about this. Haven’t they followed Jesus for the past 3 years? They have watched him heal the sick, they have seen him bring comfort to the afflicted and laughter to the faces of children. Not a day has past where Jesus has not been with them. Their sole thought and attention has been him since the day they were called. And now they are faced with the thought of life without him. Where is he going that they can’t continue to follow him in the future?
Jesus knows that what will happen – his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, his trial and tortuous death the next day – will upset them.
Like a child lost in a department store, these disciples are afraid, uncertain, confused and nervous. And so he continues saying, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me…. Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, give I to you. Don’t let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful” (John 14:1, 27).
In the New Testament, the peace Jesus gives is an unconditional, eternal gift to his followers in every time and place. That’s why he does not give peace to us as the world does – for the world, peace is often very conditional, fragile, temporary, and, is frequently reduced to mean only the absence of war and strife.
Worldly peace always has some kind of strings attached, some kind of conditions, and worldly peace lasts only as long as the conditions are kept. Two feuding neighbours can’t agree over the type of fence to be constructed between their properties. They come to an agreement about the cost, type of fence, what kind of materials are to be used and how high it should be but immediately one reneges on what was agreed, the feud starts again.
However, with Christ’s peace there are no strings attached; there is the wonderful promise that it will last forever. Peace, in the New Testament sense means: salvation, forgiveness and reconciliation between God and humanity. The sin that stands between God and us has been done away by the death of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection. We no longer fear God’s anger because of our rebelliousness. Jesus reconciles us with God – he restores the friendship between God and us.
Peace is also the Holy Spirit in our lives as friend, comforter, counsellor, teacher and healer.
Peace is knowing that no matter what troubles may come our way, God, our heavenly Father, has promised to never forget us and to always be our helper and strength. He sent his Son to go all the way and die for us in order to reclaim us as his own. He won’t give up on us now. We are his special and most loved children.
Peace is the flow on of God’s peace into the rest of our lives as we live and work with the people in our day to day relationships and activities.
This peace has a positive effect on our health and well-being. It is well documented that stress, tension, and fear have negative effects on our body.
What can we do when fear grips our hearts?
Firstly, get to know what kind of God we have. He is gracious, loving and faithful. We don’t deserve it but he loves us and will always stand by us. We see just how powerful his love for us is when we look at the cross and see what Jesus has done for us.
Get to know God as the king and ruler of the universe. There is nothing so great or too difficult for him to handle. Parting the sea to save the Israelites, saving Daniel from the lions or Jonah from the belly of the big fish, springing Peter from jail, or saving Paul from a shipwreck were all a piece of cake for him. Helping us when we are afraid is just as easy.
Secondly, get to know God’s promises and trust that he will stick by what he says. Memorise and trust words like these:
“(God) is my light and my salvation.
Whom shall I fear?
(God) is the strength of my life.
Of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1,2)
“God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1,2).
Or Jesus words of authority and power, “Don’t be afraid. I am the first and the last, 1:18 and the Living one. I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. I have the keys of Death and of Hades” (Revelation 1:17).
Be assured that God keeps his promises; that he is with us, even in the worst possible situation imaginable on this earth.
Thirdly, realise that there are too many times when our human attempts to be bold are not sufficient.There will be times when even the texts of promise that we have learnt off by heart will do little to ease our anxiety. We may even feel that God has deserted us. It’s then we need the Holy Spirit to help us – to forgive us for our weakness of faith, to enable us to trust that God has not forsaken us, to support us while we tremble in fear and to help us get through. He even takes our cries of fear to God and pleads to him on our behalf (Rom 8:26-27).
Our strength, our mind, our skills are of no particular use. We just have to relax and wait patiently, trusting in the God who knows all of our needs and is willing to use his power to help us. The Holy Spirit reminds us – when fear is near, God is even nearer.
Fourthly, pray.Ask God to intervene in our troubles and the fear they bring. Pray for faith, for boldness and courage when we are afraid. Pray that we are able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit who points us to the love and compassion of God, and pray that in the end God would take us from the troubles of this world into the eternal world where there will be no more fear.
When fears and worries create tension and upset your life, Jesus promises, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, give I to you. Don’t let your heart be troubled, neither let it be (afraid).”
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.
Copyright 2004, Vince Gerhardy. Used by permission.