Have you ever been afraid to speak up for Christ? Or to be known as a Christian? Is that because you’re afraid of what people will think of you?
The Bible says it is possible to overcome fear. I recently found David’s testimony in Psalm 34 of great help on this issue. David says there ‘I sought the LORD, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears’ (verse 4). And that’s got to be good news because we get scared of all sorts of things: we’re afraid of illness, of the boss, of loss, of rejection and redundancy, of failure and the future, of death and of dying. And we’re afraid of speaking up for Jesus.
According to its title, David wrote Psalm 34 ‘when he pretended to be insane before Abimelech…’ Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? The back story to Psalm 34 comes in 1 Samuel 21. It’s classic Davidic derring-do. On the run for his life from King Saul, David seeks refuge with Abimelech, king of Gath. And the thing about Gath is that it was the hometown of Goliath, the giant warrior whom David decapitated – with Goliath’s own sword. And that sword is the one David now carries. In other words, David the slayer of Goliath heads off to the town of Goliath carrying the sword of Goliath with which he cut off the head of Goliath. It’s not hard to work out what the friends of Goliath will feel about this! Of all the places to choose, why Gath? Perhaps because it was the last place on earth Saul would think to look for him. The plan was to lie low and go unnoticed. But the plan didn’t work and David was discovered. Abimelech, king of Gath had a score to settle with David, who was now in a tight and terrifying spot. And David was very, very afraid. In the end, he feigned madness as a way of escaping.
These are the circumstances in which David learned to cope with fear. And this is what he says: ‘Fear the Lord’ (Psalm 34:9). He’s saying, ‘Are you afraid of something, like I was in Gath? Here’s what you need – you need something better to be afraid of. Something really worth fearing…someone really worth fearing. And He is called the Lord.” In other words, when we’re afraid of something, David is telling us to do a ‘fear swap’. Let your fear of whatever-it-is, be eclipsed by a fear of the Lord. To fear the Lord doesn’t just mean we should revere Him. It means we should recognise that He is properly scary; you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side God! You wouldn’t even want to be on the wrong side of Jesus; think of the power He wields. But what if you weren’t on the wrong side of Him? What if He had actually, graciously, included you on His side? David says, ‘The angel of the Lord (or Jesus as we might say) encamps around those who fear Him’ (Psalm 34:7). What a thought! The only person in the universe really worth fearing is ‘encamped around’ me.
I find this kind of ‘fear swap’ helps. If you are a natural people pleaser, like me, then you will be afraid of people thinking the less of you. It helps to put that fear next to the terrifying majesty of God. And then to remember that this Almighty God has – amazingly – committed Himself to me. It doesn’t matter what other people might think of me because I’m conscious that the only person whose opinion really matters is ‘encamped around’ me. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8).
With love in Christ,