“They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” (Isaiah 61:4)
Do you know what the most often stated command in Scripture is? I asked several people this question over the past few weeks and the answers I received included, “Love God,” “Love your neighbor,” “Don’t sin,” and a few other various responses. However, none of these is actually correct. The most often stated command is one that, although apparently not our first response when asked, most surely is one we need to hear… and often. It is “Do not be afraid.” I learned this fact recently while participating in an in-depth Bible study written by Beth Moore on the book of Esther. Most of what I will share with you comes from Beth’s video teaching on the fourth chapter of this most intriguing historical account.
There is much to learn on the topic of fear from Esther, a beautiful Jewish maiden who became Queen of Persia in approximately 483 B.C. If ever a person had a right to be afraid, it was she. To help you understand the impact of the fear she faced, allow me to share a bit of background with you. After learning that an edict had been written and sent throughout Persia ordering that all Jews be killed and their properties plundered, Queen Esther faced the greatest fear of her life: to seek an audience with the king and plead for the safety of her people. Though this may not seem like such a scary thing to us, in the royal culture of Persia there was but one single fate for any man or woman—the queen included—who approached the king without an invitation: death. The only exception was for the king to extend the gold scepter to whomever approached and spare his or her life. As Esther realized what was at stake, she courageously confronted her greatest fear: “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (4:16b).
As suggested, an important lesson in facing fear can be found in this noble queen’s words. Think about the thing that you fear most in your life. (Goodness knows there is plenty to fear in our present day and age!) Then think about how you would fill in the second blank of this statement: If (the thing I fear most happens), then ___________. Then what? The way we complete the second blank will make all the difference in the world! It will determine whether we live in fear or in faith, in the fullness of victory or paralyzed by panic.
Beth suggested in her teaching that we have got to have a fresh fill-in-the-blank! The end of that statement has to say, “If _______, then GOD…then my God will take care of me!” Anything less will leave us in the grip of fear and we will live in it for the rest of our lives. What would it be like to live free from fear? What if we, like Esther, could confidently proclaim, “If I perish, I perish!” This doesn’t mean we live foolishly; it means we don’t live fearfully. What I found interesting is that the command to not fear is almost always coupled with the exhortation to take courage. Frequently in the Gospels we witness Jesus saying, “Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid.” He never said we wouldn’t face fearful situations. Many of you reading this may be facing the most fearful times in your lives! But what Jesus has said is, “I am with you! You are not alone.” We will never find ourselves in a fearful place that God will not offer us the courage of His presence; the question is will we take it? There is so much we don’t get to choose in life, but one thing we can choose. Like Esther, we can choose to take the courage offered and face our fears victoriously. The women I work with have many fears to face, but as their counselor, I am overjoyed to be able to offer them the comfort of their faithful Creator God and Savior Jesus Christ.