From the beginning the Evil One’s strategy has been insanely simple. It can be expressed in a single word – Separation. Separation from God and separation from each other. And, from the beginning the primary weapon he wields to create that separation is fear. It is his “go to” weapon.
Why? Because, as creative human beings, God granted us two magnificent capabilities. The first is, as Blaise Pascal put it, “The dignity of causality.” We, by our action or inaction, have the choice to make things happen or not. The second, is our imagination. However, as beautiful and majestic as our imagination can be (painting, music, architecture, gardens, roads, homes, etc.) it is also the faculty that allows us to speculate. Speculation is our imagination gone sideways. Our imagination without God. And so, with the knowledge of good and evil, gained in the Garden of Eden at “The Fall” of man, we acquired the ability to speculate. To anticipate the bad to come and plan our resulting protective response.
Adam and Eve were tempted by fear in The Garden to separate from God’s goodness and love.
The Israelites were tempted by fear at the foot of Mount Sinai to again separate from God by molding an idol of gold.
Elijiah was driven by fear to run from the power of God he had just demonstrated after miraculously killing 300 priests of Baal.
Multiple kings of Israel separated themselves from God and ultimately their people due to fear of their larger more “powerful” neighbors.
Peter nearly drowned after stepping out of the boat into a stormy sea due to fear of his surrounding circumstances after just experiencing the power of God in walking on the water with Jesus.
Ananias and Sapphira died after their fear of not having “enough” caused them to lie to the Holy Spirit, the ultimate separation from God.
And you … how often has fear motivated your shame, guilt, and isolation to separate you from both God’s love and the love of others?
Not too long ago, the Evil One used fear against us on a global scale, fueled by speculation, to separate us from God and from each other through the COVID pandemic.
I call out these examples, not to shame or condemn but to bring clarity and situational awareness to the living of our lives. We have an enemy who is actively using fear to stoke the fires of speculation within us with the simple goal of separating us from God and from each other. The circumstance doesn’t matter; racial, political, cultural, class, economic, religious, war … pick your poison. It is all driven by fear, stoking the fire of speculation within us.
If the Evil One can separate us from the true source strength and power; from our union with God and each other, he can take us out and make us ineffective. No longer “salt and light” and only to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. (Matthew 5:13)
If this is all true, and it is true. How can we fight it? If our enemy is using our imagination against us, how can we reclaim our imagination and find the strength, power, courage, and life promised by Jesus?
“Fear does not work as long as they have hope.” – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, President Snow
Hope is the antidote to fear and, ultimately, to speculation. Hope is the weapon we wield against the attack of the Evil One in fear and speculation.
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” – 1 Peter 3:15-16
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” – Hebrews 16:19a
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." - Romans 12:2
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” – Psalm 4:8
In union with God and with others we hope. In union with God and others we can resist fear and speculation and live in the expectancy of the goodness to come even when the circumstances around us are turbulent and chaotic.
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12
But we must fix our eyes on Jesus. Not just casually looking toward him or giving him a side glance. We must set our eyes firmly, unwaveringly, “like flint” upon him.
“Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.” – Isaiah 50:6-8
We must use our “dignity of causality” to choose. And, we must choose Jesus. We must choose others. We must choose hope.
Hope is our lifeline. Hope is our antidote. Hope is our strength. Hope is the foundation of our courage.
Like most of our Christian experience choosing hope is simple but many times not easy. Our circumstances scream with fear. The wind and the waves of our lives tempt us toward speculation. But we must choose. We must resist.
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” – James 4:7-8a
No resist, no flee.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” – 1 Peter 5:6-9
Beloved, choose hope and imagination over fear and speculation. No matter what. Your life and the lives of those you love depend on it.
“See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord. – Isaiah 54:16-17