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April 18, 2022

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Zig Ziglar, the late motivational speaker said, “F-E-A-R has two meanings: ‘Forget Everything And Run’ or ‘Face Everything And Rise.’ The choice is yours.”  A committed Christian, Ziglar knew that the power to overcome fear comes from the resurrected Christ:  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).  Ziglar taught ordinary people like you and me to face down their fears to become productive and creative members of society by relying on Christ Jesus. 

Last week’s blog summarized some of the compelling arguments for the truth of the resurrection.  The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is proof that he is God. And that means that every word he spoke and every lesson he taught is a treasure beyond measure.  He promised that those who believe in him and seek forgiveness will be with him for eternity. This assurance, along with the Spirit of Jesus, gives us the strength that we need to face anything.  Bill and Gloria Gaither captured it in the refrain of their song, Because He Lives: “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.  Because He lives, every fear is gone.”  

The horn is an ancient symbol of victory.  The psalmist’s words foreshadow Christ’s victory over death: “And he has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his faithful servant of Israel, the people close to his heart” (Psalm 148: 14). Because Christ was victorious over death, we also are assured of life with him when the curtain closes on our life on earth. No matter what happens to us in this life, we are assured of an eternal home with him. 

 The Scripture verses this week demonstrate the power that the Holy Spirit gives us to overcome the fears we face.[1]  After Jesus died on the cross, the disciples gathered in the upper room behind a locked door. They were quaking in their sandals, afraid that the religious leaders would find them and that they would meet the same fate as Jesus. They were frightened, confused, and unsure of the future.  But everything changed in a flash, when the resurrected Christ appeared to them on Easter night in that locked room, and gave them the power of the Holy Spirit. 

The resurrected Christ Jesus gave his disciples a special foretaste of Pentecost to empower them to preach in the temple and to perform miracles. Luke tells us that the apostles went back to Solomon’s Colonnade, on the temple grounds to preach where Jesus taught.  They were fearless.  By preaching and performing miracles in the same place where Jesus had preached and performed miracles, they showed that the power of the crucified and risen Christ was with them. The power of the disciples to heal was so amazing that “people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits and all of them were healed” (Acts 5:12-16). 

Imagine that–Peter’s shadow carried enough power to heal the sick!  And in case you have doubts as Thomas did, John records that “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of this disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).  The disciples were now healing in Jesus’ name and by his authority.

Luke warns us that receiving power from God did not insulate the disciples from hatred and prosecution. The temple priests were “filled with jealousy” of the apostles’ power, and from the attention they were receiving: “They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out” (Acts: 5:17-19).  The apostles defied the religious leaders and went back to the temple courts to preach the gospel. Again, they were ordered to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest, who asked them why they continued to preach against their “strict orders not to teach in this name [Jesus’ name] . . . Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!’” (Acts 5: 28,29). 

The authorities also tried to put an end to John’s ministry.  Because of his bold teaching and his refusal to stop teaching, he was exiled to the island of Patmos about 35 miles off the coast of Turkey.  But the plan to end his ministry backfired.  John spent his time on Patmos in prayer and meditation, and it was during his time there that he received a powerful and explosive message from God in the form of a vision.  We know that vision as the book of Revelation.  John was sent to Patmos as a punishment, but it turned into one of the great blessings of first century Christianity. It was another example of the God working to fulfill his plan under adverse circumstances. 

The power of the Holy Spirit enabled the apostles to continue to preach for many years after Jesus’ death.  They were transformed by the Holy Spirit and never deviated from the message.  All of the apostles, except John, were martyred for their beliefs.  They were so convinced of the truth of the gospel message that they boldly preached it for many years without regard to the consequences– powerful proof of the truth of the message.

The disciples were not the only ones who received the Holy Spirit.  Fifty days after Easter, on Pentecost, God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in all believers.  When we are fearful, we freeze—we are paralyzed and helpless.   But the Holy Spirit empowers us to break away from those fears so that we can move forward fearlessly in confidence.  When you invoke the name of Jesus, his Spirit leads you to a sure path.  Remember Paul’s words: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).  The Spirit is with you to see you through the fears that the Evil One throws in your path. 

When you invoke Jesus’ name you are calling on the one who took your mistakes, your fears, and your anxieties with him to the cross.  Your sins and the sins of all were nailed to the cross with Christ Jesus, so that you can live with him in paradise after your time on earth.  Jesus paid your debt so that you don’t have to.  Ask God for forgiveness and leave your mistakes, your fears, and worries at the foot of the cross.  He will relieve you of your burdens; they were bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus.   Give him your fear of failure, of job loss, of illness, of death, of relationships– along with your worries about past, current, and future challenges and disappointments. 

There is power in the name of Jesus.  Tap into the power of the Holy Spirit and become the fearless person that Jesus wants you to be and has enabled you to be.  

Prayer:  Father, be with us and send your Spirit to rescue us when we are paralyzed by fear and anxiety.  Send the Evil One packing when he sows weeds of doubt, insecurity, and anxiety in our hearts.  Replace our fears with the sweet blossoms of your everlasting peace and love, which casts out all fear.  In your name we pray. Amen. 

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Second Sunday of Easter are Acts 5:12-32; Psalm 148; Revelation 1: 4-18; John 20: 19-31. 

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