When I was a young girl, I used to be scared there was a monster under my bed. I didn’t want my hand or foot hanging over the side where it could grab me, and if I had to get up in the middle of the night for any reason, I would try to leap far enough away that the monster couldn’t reach out from the dark crevice and take hold of my ankle.
Seems so silly now, but when you’re a kid, your imagination can get the best of you. As adults, we don’t typically fear monsters under our bed, but we can still struggle with fear. All fear, at its core, is a fear of death. We can fear physical death, of course, but we can also struggle with a fear of the other types of death experienced in this life: the death of relationships, of comfort, of health, of freedom, of material possessions, of our reputations, of power, of control, etc.
This fear can rule us and be the greatest motivation behind our choices.
Death is our great enemy, a curse brought on us by sin (Romans 6:23). God’s Word tells us that we are held in slavery by the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). What a powerful image! How much of our lives are spent trying to resist the death and dying that is part of the human experience in a broken, fallen world?
For the Christian, though, death is a defeated enemy. Jesus died in our place and then rose from the grave destroying death forever for those who place their faith in Him. Yes, we will each physically die at some point, but death has lost its victory and its sting (1Corinthians 15:54-55).
Death isn’t the end of our lives or the end of our hope and joy; the death of a Christian is a passing from this life into the fullness of joy that is Christ Himself and the inheritance He has won for us (1 Peter 1:3-4; Psalm 16:11).
Being free from the fear of death is so much more than just being free from the fear of physical death; we are also free from the fear of all the dying this life holds. It is in this freedom we can live the lives we are meant to…lives of love (Matthew 22:36-40).
Fear lies to us that we have something to lose. It tells us we need to live a life of self-protection holding tight to our money, belongings, security, opportunities, reputations, status, and power, laying up treasures in the here and now because the here and now is all there is. A life lived from fearful selfishness cannot be a life lived in love.
God’s Word tells us something very different. In Christ, we have nothing to lose. He has won it all for us. We serve a risen Savior, and it is from His victory, and in His power, that we live. It might seem that victory in Christ would look like fame, fortune, and glory, but Christ says following Him will look quite different.
And he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Matthew 16:24
As those who follow Christ, we don’t take up our best life now; we take up a cross. We don’t demand our way; we deny ourselves. And we do so in light of the empty tomb. We follow Jesus in laying our lives down because we know they will be raised up again.
The treasures we lay up for ourselves here will eventually be destroyed by moths and rust and are vulnerable to thieves. If moths, rust, and thieves can destroy our treasure, they can destroy our joy and peace. This world and the things of this world do not last. Instead, we are told to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not corrupt and where thieves cannot break in and steal (Matthew 6:19-21).
If we make this world our treasure, there is much to fear for there are innumerable threats that could cost us everything in which we’ve placed our hope and joy, and death will one day rob us of all we’ve strived to acquire.
But, if we are laying up treasure in heaven, then no earthly threat can touch it. This life becomes an investment in the next. Whatever trouble comes, whatever cost we pay, whatever sacrifice is embraced, all are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17).
It can seem that holding onto this life is the way to save it, but actually, the opposite is true.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Luke 9:24
We lay down our lives for Christ’s sake. We lose our lives for the one who gave His life for us. Is this a sacrifice? No, this is our gain. We exchange hell for heaven, death for life, sin for righteousness, defeat for victory, shame for glory, and we become children of God.
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.
There are Christians around the world right now who are under immense pressure and persecution, even facing physical death, for Jesus’ sake. It’s not that these Christians do not fear, it’s that they are not slaves to fear. Fear is not what controls them, the love of God is. Their faith is greater than their fear, because the object of their faith, Jesus Christ, has overcome this world.
I want to live a life of love. I want to live in the reality that I’m no longer a slave to the fear of death. I want to be willing to pick up my cross and deny myself that I may invest this life in the next, but I feel the pull to anchor my heart here and make this world my treasure, so I pray the words of Corrie ten Boom who, for Christ’s sake, laid down her life, comfort, and most precious earthly relationships to save the lives of strangers during the Holocaust:
God, make me willing to be made willing.
Yes, God, make me willing.