There is a married couple that received Christ as Lord and Savior last May. We have been doing Bible study with them on a weekly basis since then, but in all these months, they have only made it to church a couple times. Why? They are afraid of what people will say about them if they start going to a Christian church on a regular basis. See, they are the very first Christians in their town...and in an area that is largely Catholic and controlled and intimidated by the local priest, Christians (or anyone that is not Catholic) are discriminated against. They are made fun of, often denied work or housing, and their property is often vandalized. I sympathize with their doubts and hesitation on attending church, but because I know how wonderful it is to be in fellowship with other believers, I also feel very sorry for all they are missing in not becoming part of the local body.
We have a neighbor that we have been witnessing to pretty much ever since we moved here 5 years ago. For a long time he was working at the Catholic church, basically as the priest's right-hand man. He often made announcements over the town's loudspeaker, advising people not to attend our events or have anything to do with. Then, one night several months ago, during a blackout, he came over to our house asking about Jesus. We dubbed him our "Nicodemus", and over the next several months he came over often, always at night, to hear the Good News. About a month ago he came over and said, "What must I do to be saved?" My husband led him to the cross, and he became a child of God. Since then, he has been meeting with my husband for Bible study on a regular basis...but he confessed to us tonight that he is still afraid of making his conversion public. He admits that he feels different, that he feels the work of the Holy Spirit in his life, but he is afraid of how his family will react when he tells them he is now a Christian. He is so distressed over the fact, and I wish with all my heart I could make him understand that Christ is worth much more than anything we could ever face.
The other day at church, we were having a prayer meeting, and several of the women admitted that they were afraid. For those of you who are unaware of the situation, there has been a lot of violence recently in Mexico related to drug trafficking. In the last week, our towns have advised everyone to not walk on the outskirts of town and not to be out late at night because of certain drug cartel related activities in our area. The women are naturally worried about safety for themselves and their families. I tried to encourage them to trust in the Lord above all else. I reminded them that our lives are in God's hands...and what better place to be?
Fear is all over the place. We see it in others...and we deal with it ourselves. Fear keeps us from doing the things we are supposed to do...and it keeps us from experiencing the grace, mercy, and provision of a sovereign God that we were meant to. I deal with fear, just like everyone else. But I have learned to give my fears to God. I take seriously the fact that the Lord tells us over and over again in the Word not to be afraid. Why don't we have to fear? Because He is with us. I am reminded of one of my favorite verses in the book of Joshua: "DO NOT FEAR, do not be dismayed, because the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." God is WITH me! And God is with you! We don't have to fear what people think or what they will say, we don't have to fear danger or even dangerous people. Come what may, He is with us. So...fear not!