"Beyond" by Colin Campbell
"The wise man in the storm prays God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear.” [Emerson, Journals, 1833]
Can there be any doubt we are living in a dangerous world?
Terrorists have apparently posted videos stating their intention to attack Washington, D.C. Many Americans are beginning to feel uneasy boarding an aircraft, attending a major sporting event, or even gathering with any large group of people. Terror lurks in the shadows.
On October 31st, a Russian passenger jet traveling from an Egyptian Red Sea resort city to St. Petersburg crashed in a remote area of the Sinai peninsula, killing all 224 aboard. Russia’s Federal Security Service has determined the plane was blown up by a homemade explosive device. This act may have been in retaliation for Russia’s airstrikes in Syria against Islamic State militants.
The news media has almost exclusively focused on last Friday’s Islamic State’s ferocious attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 people and wounded hundreds more. Yesterday President Obama said this act will be met with “intensification” of the U.S.-led fight against the terror group.
Twenty-four governors, expressing fears about terrorism, in the name of public safety have vowed to do all they can to prevent Syrian refugees from settling in their states.
Many Americans may counter ominous threats of terrorists with “just let them try to hurt us” bravado. Others may try to suppress latent fear through entertainment. But neither pretentious bravery or “head in the sand” diversion will cancel the very real possibility that our enemies may try to kill us and destroy our way of life.
How can we "keep calm and carry on" in such a dangerous world?
By making God our refuge. Protected from the pope and emperor in Wartburg Castle, Martin Luther read Psalm 46 and was inspired to compose “A Mighty Fortress.” Rereading this psalm in light of current events can rekindle our faith—“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear. The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble! The Lord of Heaven's Armies is here among us, the God of Israel is our fortress. Be still, and know that I am God! I wil be honored by every nation."
Reflecting on Luther’s hymn can also reinforce our faith—“A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing; Our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. And tho’ this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, We will not fear for God hath willed His truth to triumph thro’ us. Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also—The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still: His kingdom is forever.”
By remembering the promise of our Savior. “Don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul.” (Matthew 10:28 NLT) Believing in the resurrection of the body enables us to look death in the face and anticipate a life beyond what we experience now.
By resting in Christ’s love. The initial listing in the first-century catalog of fears was death, a feeling repeated in our own time. But in the twenty-first century, as in the first, “nothing—not even death—can separate us from God’s love revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Romans 8:38-39].
By relying on Christ’s victory. “Thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” [1 Corinthians 15:57].
By looking forward to Christ’s Kingdom. Radical Jihadists kill all who oppose their view of the ideal society. Dreaming of the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, they’re willing to die in their holy war. Christ’s subjects pray for all who oppose their belief in God’s promise of heaven on earth. Looking forward by faith to the establishment of his Kingdom, they’re willing to faithfully persevere as soldiers in a holy war in which God fights on their behalf. The night of terror will not last forever—the dawn of peace will come when “the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” [Revelation 11:15 KJV].
“The spirit God has bestowed on us is not one that shrinks from danger. But He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of calm.” [2 Timothy 1:7, Knox, Amp]
Johnny R. Almond
Interim Pastor, Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church; Fredericksburg, Virginia