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Seeking God's Kingdom Over Safety

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What fears do you encounter in your daily life? In what specific ways might Jesus be inviting you to love God and love your neighbor?

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32, NIV)

My children climbed on my lap to snuggle and asked for a story. I reached for our children’s Bible and began to read about a messenger from God who appeared to God’s people.

“What do you think he’s going to say first?” I asked my kids, with a knowing grin.

Beaming at me, they shouted, “Don’t be afraid!”

“God’s always saying that,” I mused (and not for the first time).

“Yes,” my littles replied, “He is!”

They’re right. Throughout the Bible, God or God’s messengers remind us between 70 and several hundred times (depending on which phrases you count) not to be afraid.

It’s a good thing, too. We humans are really, really afraid. My children worry about spiders and bad dreams — but while we may grow out of our childhood fears, we never grow out of fear. We worry about cancer, losing people we love, paying the bills and caring for our families in a chaotic world.

When these fears and others crowd my mind, I like to imagine myself with my children in the crowd described in Luke 12, listening to Jesus speak. I would love to have heard His voice and seen the look on His face when He said these tender words: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

The thing is, Jesus’ listeners weren’t safe or well-to-do. They were hardworking peasants in an occupied land, ruled by an oppressive empire that wielded power through fear. Public crucifixions and persecution were the norm, a way to exert ultimate control and demand extreme compliance. Nothing was fine. They were going to suffer, struggle and go without. Jesus was going to be killed. Many of His friends and followers would be, too.

But Jesus wasn’t preaching safety. Jesus was preaching the Kingdom.

Right before He told His flock not to be afraid, He told them not to spend their lives worrying about food and clothes but to seek God and His Kingdom. Right after these words, He told them to sell what they had and give to the poor, to place their treasure in God’s Kingdom rather than in their own. He taught them to love and care for their neighbors and even for strangers in need. To pray for their enemies. Not because it was safe or because they had enough but because this is what the Kingdom looks like.

I wonder if we overlook Jesus’ teaching to live out of love rather than fear … because we’re so afraid. We’re scared of losing what we have, scared that the world is not a safe enough place to care sacrificially for our neighbors — much less strangers and certainly not enemies.

But as I snuggle with my children and read to them God’s repeated reminders not to be afraid, I soak in these words: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). When we bravely and wholeheartedly seek God’s Kingdom through loving and caring for those around us, we receive the Kingdom. And God delights to give it to us.

There is no room for fear when we audaciously love our neighbors, strangers and enemies with God’s perfect love. (1 John 4:18) And when we fully understand God’s love for us, we can’t help but love those around us. (1 John 4:19-21)

Following Jesus may not be safe, but God is with us, and He has promised us His presence wherever we go. And where God’s presence is, there is fullness of joy.

Dear God, we are often so afraid! Help us to keep our eyes on You, our good Father, knowing that You will always be with us, no matter what happens in this precious life. Help us to follow You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

OUR FAVORITE THINGS

In Fearing Bravely: Risking Love for our Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies, Catherine McNiel offers biblical teaching and practical ideas on how we might face our fears, step forward in love and follow Jesus in our real lives.

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Enter to WIN your very own copy of Fearing Bravely by Catherine McNiel. To celebrate this book, Catherine’s publisher will give away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and then notify each one in the comments section by Monday, February 7, 2022.}

FOR DEEPER STUDY

Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV)

Luke 10:27, “He answered, ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”’” (NIV)

What fears do you encounter in your daily life? In what specific ways might Jesus be inviting you to love God and love your neighbor? Let us know in the comments!

© 2022 by Catherine McNiel. All rights reserved.

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