Saturday (July 14):  "Fear him who can destroy soul and body in hell"

Meditation: What does fear have to do with the kingdom of God? Fear is a powerful force. It can lead us to panic and flight or it can spur us to faith and action. The fear of God is the antidote to the fear of losing one's life. I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. O fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no want! Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord. (Psalm 34:4,9,11)

Godly fear - reverence for God
What is godly fear? It is reverence for the One who made us in love and who sustains us in mercy and kindness. The greatest injury or loss which we can experience is not physical but spiritual - the loss of one's soul to the power of hell (Matthew 10:28). A healthy fear (godly respect) and reverence for God leads to spiritual maturity, wisdom, and right judgment and it frees us from the tyranny of sinful pride, cowardice - especially in the face of evil, and spiritual deception. Do you trust in God's grace and mercy and do you obey his word?

When Jesus proclaimed the kingdom (reign) of God he met opposition and hostility. Many religious leaders opposed Jesus because they refused to believe that he was the Messiah (God's Anointed One) and that his authority and power came from God. They claimed his power came from Beelzebul - the prince of demons who is also called Satan or the devil. Jesus demonstrated the power of God's kingdom through his numerous signs and miracles and his power to set people free from Satan's harm and deception.

Choosing for God's kingdom
There are fundamentally only two kingdoms in opposition to one another - God's kingdom of light - his truth and righteousness (moral goodness) and Satan's kingdom of darkness - his power to deceive and tempt people to rebel and do what is wrong and evil. And there are no neutral parties - we are either for God's kingdom or against it. We either choose for Jesus and the kingdom he brings - God's rule of peace and righteousness, or we choose for the kingdom of this world which opposes God's truth and righteousness. That is why Jesus told his disciples that they must expect the same treatment of opposition and hostility if they accept him as their Lord (Messiah) and Master (Teacher).

There is both a warning and a privilege in Jesus' statement. Just as Jesus had to carry his cross to suffer and die for us, so every disciple of Christ must bear his or her own cross of suffering for Christ and not try to evade it. To suffer for the Christian faith is to share in the work of Jesus Christ. As one Christian hymn states: Lift high the Cross of Christ! Tread where his feet have trod. The Holy Spirit gives us supernatural power, freedom, and grace to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. Do you trust in God who gives us the strength and perseverance we need to follow his will and to embrace our cross each day for Jesus' sake?

"Lord Jesus, it is my joy and privilege to be your disciple. Give me strength and courage to bear any hardship and suffering which may come my way in serving you and obeying your will. May I witness to others the joy of the Gospel - the good news of your kingdom of peace, joy, and righteousness."


This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/