DO NOT BE AFRAID, FOR SURELY GOD IS WITH US
What is an “essential” worker?
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an interesting moment in which who is deemed an “essential worker” has been flipped on its head.
Essential workers of the future
For years, many have been predicting that factory workers, Grocery shoppers, and Amazon delivery drivers will soon be replaced by robots, delivery drones, and self-driving cars. According to these futurists, the workers who are “essential” in our economy are the entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and programmers who will bring these technologies to life.
Don’t get me wrong, of course these jobs are important and eternally significant. And no, I’m not interested in debating if and when the above future will occur. What I am interested in is the fact that in the course of just a few months, society has done a 180° in defining who and who is not an “essential worker.” And I believe this turn gives us a beautiful preview of what’s to come in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Work in God’s Kingdom
Scripture makes clear that work will be a part of our lives in God’s eternal Kingdom. Revelation 22:3 gives us the following prophecy: “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.” As we have seen time and time again, work was created by God pre-sin, thus making it a form of worship. Post-sin, work was cursed and made difficult. But there is coming a day in which the curse will be removed and work (or “service”) will remain.
Heavenly rewards and authority
God’s Word also makes clear that in the Kingdom we will have varying degrees of position and authority granted as rewards based on how we steward this present life. Nobody will be “nonessential” in the most literal sense of that term, but like today, we will all have varying degrees of responsibility and, to quote Jesus, “greatness.” Jesus made this crystal clear in today’s passage, saying that some “will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” and others “will be called great.”
Equal adoption in Heaven
In the Kingdom of Heaven, we will all have equal status as adopted children of God. But we will not all have equal positions as we work. Some will be greatest. Others will be least. There will be leaders. And follower. Unlike today, positions of greater authority will be all blessing and no curse.
Be obedient servants
So the question then becomes, what does Jesus have to say about how we access those blessings? What can we do today to ensure we are deemed “greatest,” or, to borrow our present vernacular, deemed the most “essential” workers in the Kingdom? In short, Jesus calls us to be obedient servants. Over the next two days, we’ll unpack each of these terms together.
The fear of Covid-19 has gripped the world
It’s fair to say that many people have responded to COVID-19 with fear: fear for one’s own health and fear over what might happen. Perhaps you have fears about travel and closings and shortages and work and school. Maybe you’re fearful about someone who is close to you, or maybe you feel overwhelmed because you don’t know what’s going to happen and it’s all outside of your control.
Fear comes to us naturally and easily. Fear is powerful; it’s one of the most potent human emotions. Fear can be an important sign that something is wrong, and we shouldn’t ignore it when it is. But fear is easily manipulated, fear can lead us to unreasonable thoughts, unreasonable actions and depression, and fear can cause us to do things that will hurt others and ourselves.
So, what is the Christian response to fear?
The Bible says “Fear not!” It is very important that Scripture repeatedly tells us not to be afraid. God commands and encourages us by saying, “Fear not!” or “Do not be afraid”. And he says this for good reason.
God doesn’t say it because there’s nothing scary or dangerous out there. Obviously, there is. Life is scary. Threats are real. Harm befall us. Bad things happen.
God says this not because there’s nothing scary, but because of what He does. Many times, in the Bible when God says, “Do not be afraid” He then explains what He is or will be doing as the reason why not to be afraid. Here are some examples:
Do not be afraid
Exodus 14:13 Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.
Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Judges 6:23-24 But the LORD said to him, ‘Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.’ So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace.
God is with us
But it’s not just about what God is doing. It’s also about how He himself is with us through Covid-19. For example:
Psalm 46:1-2 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.
Mark 6:47-50 When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and He was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’
Jesus is God-with-us.
And Jesus says things like:
John 14:1 Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
When fear strikes
When we feel our fears swamping over our hearts or elbowing other thoughts out of our minds or leading us to anxiety and worry, that’s when we must remind ourselves what we know to be true about God. There are two key aspects of fear. First, we fear the unknown—Are people around me ill? When will church resume? Will I get stranded? What will this mean for work and school? —but God knows and plans our future. He has no question marks about any of it. Second, we fear what we cannot control, but God is the Lord of All. Nothing, even this, is outside of his sovereign power.
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