"Rulers persecute me without cause, but my heart trembles at your word" (Psalm 119:161-168, NIV).
What are you afraid of today? Is it a proper fear?
I find within the ranks of Christendom today an increasing fear of the wrong things. I was listening to an interview with one of the current candidates for president of the United States, and the individual was talking about his belief in God, in Christ and in the Bible.
So far, so good.
Then the interviewer asked the candidate, "Do you believe Christ is the only way to Heaven." Immediately the person responded, "I don't go that far."
What happened? The answers to that point were what we would call "spot on." But then, his response to the tough question revealed a fear of the wrong things.
This candidate feared what people might think.
It might cost him votes to declare that he believes that his professed leader was right when he claimed to be the one and only way to Heaven (See John 14:6).
The Bible warns, "Being afraid of people can get you into trouble, but if you trust the Lord, you will be safe" (Proverbs 29:25, NCV).
Look again at the verse that heads this article, "Rulers persecute me without cause, but my heart trembles at your word." That is a proper fear.
The psalmist wasn't afraid of even the most powerful of men, men who could and would take his life given the chance.
He knew the truth that Solomon expressed when he penned, "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his Commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, NIV).
There are many flesh and blood examples of such bravery. Perhaps the one who amazes me most at this point is the great reformer Martin Luther.
It's one thing to take a stand against ungodly rulers or people who make no profession of faith in Christ. We see that as noble.
But Martin Luther stood against the whole of Christendom in his day. He stood opposed to the rulers who used God's name to justify their own actions.
Hear his words as he concludes his defense against rulers he knows will take his life should he not recant what he has preached and written.
"Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise" (Martin Luther, Council of Worms, Bainton, Roland, "Here I Stand," Abingdon Books, Nashville, TN 1950 p. 144).
Movies of course show Luther standing in absolute defiance of his inquisitors and shouting these words. Historians tell us that he stood in humble fear and uttered that last phrase in a barely audible voice.
He knew what it meant.
He knew he was signing his death warrant. Yet his fear of being unfaithful to the revealed will of God strengthened him to stand against popes and councils (and authority doesn't get any higher than that) and stand true to God's word.
Oh, that the church today would recapture such a Godly fear...
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church. Write him in care of the church at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Covington, GA 30016. Or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org For more information visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org