Be Strong, Do Not Fear

Isaiah 35:3 “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear;’”

Real life was beating up on many of God’s people around 700 B.C. Things weren’t right in their daily life. This little nation of Judah wasn’t a superpower anymore, the way it had been when David and Solomon ruled. It was a little doormat of a nation that kept getting run over by its neighbors. It could be demoralizing. It was leading to “feeble hands,” “buckling knees,” and “fearful hearts,” according to the prophet Isaiah.

For a smaller little group in Judah, the spiritual condition of the nation had a similar effect. People who took the word of God seriously were a dying breed. Some stopped going to the temple to worship. Those who did go were often just hypocrites going through the motions. The little remnant, the little minority of true believers felt weak and fearful as they watched their nation slip farther and farther away from their God.

Feeble hands, knees that give way, fearful hearts–sound like anyone you have ever known? I hear otherwise faithful Christians comment on the political situation in our country. Sometimes you would think God had resigned or retired from ruling the universe. The corruption of our politicians, or their incompetence, leaves ordinary citizens, even Christian ones, thinking that there will be no future for themselves or their children. Some give up on their responsibilities as citizens. Others are eaten up with worry.

I hear otherwise faithful Christians talk about the economy as though God had taken back his promise to give us our daily bread. I don’t want to deny the real hardship many families experience, but doesn’t God still promise to take care of me, even if my financial fortunes change?

I hear otherwise faithful Christians voice their disappointment over the way things have gone in their personal lives: a difficult marriage, goof-off children who make nothing of their opportunities, unreasonable parents, the difficulty of finding someone who is marriage material. They speak as though we had no loving Father in heaven who adopted us as his own children, no Savior who came and claimed us as his dear bride, no spiritual family to which God has attached us. It robs us of all our strength to keep working with the family and friends God has given us when we despair about a future we believe is doomed to misery.

I hear otherwise Bible-believing and faithful Christians comment on the cold and callous condition of contemporary Christianity. It is true that churches in many places are shrinking. False religions like radical Islam are spreading and growing. Our own church struggles on so many different levels. But withdrawing, giving up in disgust, and doing nothing solves nothing and serves no one. It just makes us weak and fearful.

I don’t want to deny that the situations I have described call for our urgent attention. They can be painful, even scary. But does God exist, or doesn’t he? Are we just going to let life turn us all into cowards? If the United States of America is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, shouldn’t the people who make up the church of God be doubly so–the home of the brave?

Isaiah says, “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear;’” These words don’t merely confront us, or mostly confront us. They are meant as an encouragement. But they do confront us too, don’t they? “You believe in an almighty God who loved you all the way to cross and death? Good. That is right. But then act like it!” Practice what you preach, so to speak.

The Apostle Paul once criticized the Christians in Corinth for acting like mere men. If that is all we were, just human beings and nothing more, then there would be a good excuse for weakness and fear. But we serve and worship the only God who really exists. All power in heaven and on earth belongs to him. He loves us unconditionally and sought us out to make us his children. He actually takes up residence inside our hearts where he now lives full time by faith. So what are we doing giving up, rolling up in a ball, surrendering the fight, going down in defeat like weak and fearful people who have no hope? God hasn’t changed. He still invites our trust. He still promises to act on behalf of his people.

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