Letter from Dr. Joseph Tkach - Oct. 2017


September 29, 2017

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October 2017  

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It’s October again, and if your neighborhood looks anything like mine, Halloween decorations have sprouted up on every corner. Some are more frightening than others, but there’s plenty of skeletons and cobwebs to go around. Halloween is a holiday that, for most people, focuses on fear. People buy tickets for haunted houses and amusement parks that promise thrills and chills. Many watch movies that make them jump, or dress up in scary costumes. But of course, feelings of fear are not restricted to October 31.

Fear-focused news reports, political rhetoric, and marketing campaigns all shape our daily lives, and make it easier to feel afraid. The things we really fear are often very different from the ghouls and goblins of Halloween. We can fear the things we don’t hold control over, such as the destruction of homes from fires or hurricanes. Many of our fears are much more day-to-day: concern for the well-being of our loved ones, nerves before a big meeting, or anxiety about an uncertain future. Although it can feel like the culture around us encourages us to feel afraid, God has something very different to say.

Believe it or not, the most frequent commandment in Scripture is “Fear not.” Versions of this command from God occur 366 times in the Bible. Our creator knows us perfectly, and he knows our tendency toward fear. But the danger of giving in to fear is that we then forget God’s all-knowing, all-powerful love. In fact, 1 John establishes that his love leaves no room for fear: “There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear” (4:18, NIV). Only God’s love is perfect, but his love is always available to us. God’s love offers us a way past what’s making us afraid.

This doesn’t mean that we’ll never have setbacks or face challenging circumstance, like the loss of a job or a frightening diagnosis. But it does mean that, instead of living in fear, God invites us to a life of hope. Peter reminds us that “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:3-4). Although fears surround us, we as Christians can trust in God for our future – because of our eternal hope in Christ. God’s love is more powerful than anything we might fear, and our security in him cannot be shaken.

Of course, there’s a difference between knowing a truth and living by it. Just because we know we can trust in God doesn’t mean that we won’t sometimes feel afraid. One of the great gifts of Scripture is that it offers us examples of the many imperfect people who God still used for his glory. Even the patriarch known for his faith, Abraham, who was called to be the father of God’s chosen people, faltered in the face of fear. Abraham and his wife Sarah were afraid that they would have no heir, despite God’s promises to them. They reacted in fear, and Abraham had a child with Hagar, Sarah’s handmaiden. They weren’t willing to wait on God, and trust in his plan. And yet, God didn’t drop his end of the bargain. Abraham and Sarah conceived a son in their old age, and Isaac was next in the long family line of God’s chosen people that led all the way down to Jesus.

God used Abraham despite the ways he gave in to fear. And we see Abraham change and grow. In Genesis 22, when God tested him by asking him to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham obeyed God’s word, though it looked like it would be an end to God’s promises. Instead, God provided a ram as a substitutionary sacrifice, a beautiful symbol for the way Christ died on our behalf, assuring a lasting future for those who call on him. 

It can be easy to let fear cloud our minds, and to forget God’s promises in fearful circumstances. But the Bible reminds us repeatedly that God’s love triumphs over fear, that our eternal future is secure in Christ, and that we have a new hope in him. God has promised us: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). The next verse continues: “So we say with confidence ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid’” (13:6a). God’s promise never to leave us is unchanging, and this can transform our perspective.

At times, it is difficult to respond the way this verse assures us we can, to say in confidence that the Lord is our helper, and we will not fear. That’s something we can truthfully say. Even when we don’t always remember them, God’s promises are unshakable. And he is gracious to help us learn to rely more and more on him, and to grow in his perfect love that casts out all fear.

If there’s anything you’re afraid of right now, my prayer is that you will recall God’s promises to you. You are not alone. God will never leave you. When you support organizations like GCI, you are giving to an organization that chooses love over fear, committed to spreading the good news of God’s love to those who may feel trapped in frightening circumstances. We here at GCI believe God’s promises, and know that he calls us to live in hope rather than fear. And we want to welcome more believers to join us in celebrating the eternal hope that we have in Jesus.

In hope instead of fear,

Joseph Tkach
President – Grace Communion International

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