January 01, 2014 | fear | Steve Vistaunet

Deep in the recesses of my memories I can recall serious conversations about “The End.” Bits and pieces of adult talk would float out to me as I and other children played in an adjacent room — comments about persecution and trouble, hunger and death. What I heard made me afraid. At a very young age, I knew fear. Fear of the future. Fear of the unknown, that no promise of an eventual heaven could erase.

Some of us still carry that fear. It blights the challenging and apocalyptic future in our spiritual DNA, branded in the very essence of our name as Adventists.

Our God-created human spirit values life and recoils from death. We do everything we can to avoid the possibility of pain, suffering and a dark demise. If I spot a deer about to cross the road ahead, I slow down, sparing both the animal and the hood of my car. When Bible prophecy predicts trouble around the bend, we’re tempted to skip the excitement, die in our sleep and snore blissfully through the carnage until Gabriel’s trumpet sounds the “all clear.” Yet the future is not something we can conveniently avoid by tapping the brakes.

Indeed the very nature of our God-given life proves otherwise. Even the recalcitrant humorist Mark Twain once remarked, “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” The Bible amplifies this, reminding us that “perfect love casts out fear.” It’s not a call to become foolhardy risk-takers, without regard for life or limb. But a life focused on the perfect Lover is no longer focused on fear, no longer dominated by fear, no longer limited by fear. It is energized by the unpredictable opportunities of the Spirit.

Fear can not only hamper your hope of the future, it can narrow your view of the present. It can shrivel your soul into a compulsion with preservation — not only for yourself, but for your church or country. It seeks to prevent any essence of change, any promise of growth, any possibility of risk. This is not a new dilemma. It let Peter down when he looked away from Jesus. It blinded Jewish leaders to the promise of their Messiah. Caught between the apparent safety of what was and the fear of what could be, they nailed their future to a cross.

A life-changing choice comes to us daily — stay put, or step forward. Those who loosen their grip on self reap the rich rewards of grace, the awesome assurances of a fearless future. The irony is painted clearly in Scripture: “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:24).

The amazing thing is — when you step forward, you leave fear behind. That’s why I'll try to watch my words when children are near. I want them to learn the joyful expectancy of a journey with God, leaving fear where it belongs, in the dust.