Wednesday, 1 October 2014

HOW MANY "FEAR NOTS"?

      
    "There are 365 "fear nots" in the Bible- that's one for every day of the year."


I'm sure that we' ve all heard it said a hundred times before, but I have to admit that right from the first time I heard the statement I have been more than a tad sceptical about it.

The Bible is a big book but that 365 figure always seemed to me to be a bit on the high side.

 After all it works out at an average of 5.53 occurences per book and, having checked, I know for a fact that some books (like Obadiah) don't contain any "fear nots" at all!


 This being the internet age, once I finally got around to checking the claim out for myself, the answer was not difficult to find. Sure enough there are not 365 "fear nots" in your Bible nor anything like.

 Even allowing for legitimate variations like "Do not let your heart be troubled" or "Why are you fearful," this listing is only able to get the figure to 116.

Which is still a lot of "fear nots" but it is not anywhere near to 365.

Does it really matter? Well, it depends on how you look at it.

On the face of it the precise number of times that this particular phrase turns up does not matter in the slightest.

Certainly God ought not to have to say something 365 times before we finally believe Him. Hopefully we would all agree that just the once ought to be sufficient!

And even more important than hearing the simple statement is having an understanding of the many reasons that God's people are not to be fearful.

Consider a few at random.

Those who belong to the Lord are hidden in the safest place in the Universe: with Christ in God.

We stand not only forgiven of our sins, but with the absolute righteousness of a perfect Saviour imputed to our account.

 We have been adopted into the very family of God, and are sealed unto the day of redemption by the indwelling Spirit, our earnest of future inheritance.

 We have an enemy that has been soundly and irrevocably defeated at Calvary which means that all of the schemes of Hell can never pluck us from the loving grip of our Heavenly Father.

Plenty of reasons there not to fear!

So ought we not to let this little "365 fear nots" myth alone? Does this little "white lie" do any real harm if it serves to encourage God's people?

Well, I think it does.

Firstly, if an assertion is not true then, no matter how comforting it may sound, we ought to be able to see that God can not possibly be honoured by its repetition.

 We serve the One who is the Truth and so falsehoods (however seemingly pious) surely ought never to be found on our lips.

That would seem to me to be reason enough but we need to go further and say that actually this issue is really symptomatic of a wider problem.

For we live in an age where such cliches and vapid platitudes as this have almost completely replaced the rehearsing of sound biblical truths within what passes for evangelicalism.    

The "fear nots" myth is out there alongside a host of other hackneyed sayings that seriously plague the Christian landscape in our day.

 From the now-thoroughly moth-eaten "footprints in the sand" illustration to such biblically-doubtful assertions as "God hates the sin, but loves the sinner," these one-liners have all but completely replaced both the reciting of scripture verse and the expounding of doctrinal truth as the mainstays of Christian conversation.

Prevous generations of believers, in the Pentecostal tradition especially, may not always have been the greatest of scholars but they knew their bibles and they were always eager to dicuss the great doctrines. Not any more.  

Now we just want to ask WWJD?

Why should this be?  The answer to that seems to me to be depressingly simple: laziness.

It is far easier to endlessly repeat these vaguely biblical mantras to one another than it is to enter into the serious business of genuinely learning God's Word and of scaling the lofty heights of Christian theology & Church history. 

After all, why wrestle with Augustine & Anselm when repeating a half-dozen or so Christian shibboleths will get us through Sunday with far less effort? 


A few of us still long for a day when the Church remembers that we are commanded to worship God with all of our minds as well as all of our hearts.

There is meant to be a cerebral aspect to our worship which is being woefully neglected in our day.

A generation of thinking, studying believers would certainly spot the flaws in these trite sayings a lot sooner than we tend to.  They would also cease to be such easy prey for the many false teachers and deceivers out there .

Ought we not to fear those?