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A Letter from the Senior Associate Minister to Presbytery

Saying “NO” to Our Fears!
June 18, 2015

Dear Brothers & Sisters in Faith,

It is a constant drum beat.  Sometimes it is soft and hardly audible, other times it is so loud one cannot ignore it.  It is the sound of fear.  I hear it as an undertone in conversations about the future of the church, the direction of society, the overreach of government, the fight against deadly disease, fear of having enough in retirement, fear for our kids and the next generation who will inherit the earth, etc.  Some days when I read the newspaper I find stories that are written in ways to make us more afraid and scared of what “might” happen, or what “could” happen if nothing is done. Recently the rhetoric from all of the presidential candidates seems laced with hidden threats and consequences if their opponents get elected.  Let me say that getting elected on fear is not a winning strategy in the end.

Fear can be paralyzing.  It limits creative thought and draws us back into ourselves.  Fear takes away vital options for the future and focuses us on our present survival.  It can be destructive to the fiber of civilized society and cause people to act in ways that tear down or push away neighbors rather than having a confident, generous heart to love abundantly.

As Christians, we are people who have been claimed in faith by the one who can overcome all fear.  The Scriptures tell us “perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:18) The Psalmist writes often about believers overcoming their fear and the strangle hold it can have on believers.  The Psalmist writes that we are to “fear no evil” (Ps 23:4), and with God as our light and salvation the Psalmist asks “whom shall I fear.” (Ps. 27:1)   When the boat in which the disciples were sailing almost went down in a storm and Jesus quieted the thunder and waves, he said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

As a people claimed by our Lord Jesus Christ, we have been given the challenge to let go of our fear of whatever it is that diminishes us and causes us to live in ways less than intended by our creator.  The faith community is to be filled with voices letting the world know that, with God, we have nothing to fear.  When storms come, they can be calmed.  When change takes us in directions that are unknown and unpredictable, we have a God who is the good shepherd, the one who will protect us from evil. If we are to be bold witnesses for Jesus Christ, we need to let go of our fear and trust God.  We would do well to remind weekly worshippers that, because God’s perfect love is ever present, our fears can be cast from our lives.

Imagine what your life would be like if all of your fears disappeared.  Imagine what would happen if each church in the presbytery cast off its fears (e.g. fear of survival, fear of worry, fear of what the world might think, etc.) and began to act in a confident faith.  I for one do not like the thought of living in fear.  Life is too short to have this constant drum beat take a toll on my life.  With God’s help, I choose to say “NO” to fear and “YES” to the perfect love of our Lord.  What about you?

In Christ’s service,

The Rev. Dr. Douglas E. Portz, Senior Associate Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery

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