Do Not Fear; Only Believe

While he yet spake, they come from the ruler of the synagogue’s house saying, “Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Teacher any further?”
But Jesus, not heeding the word spoken, saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, “Fear not, only believe” (Mark 5:35-36).

The dreaded news had arrived.

Jairus knew that the time was short; he hastened to Jesus and implored Him to heal his daughter, sick near death (cf. Mark 5:22-23). Jairus knew that if Jesus got to her before she died she could be delivered from the illness. But the crowd pressed firmly upon Jesus, and He took time out to hear the confession of faith of the woman healed from the issue of blood (cf. Mark 5:24-34).

Too much time had been taken. The girl was dead.

This news is brought to Jairus; according to those who came from his house, there was no more need to bother Jesus the Teacher. And yet, in the midst of this despair and distress, Jesus provides a compelling message for Jairus: do not fear– only believe.

What would Jairus do?

It would be entirely understandable if he went with conventional wisdom and no longer bothered the Teacher. His daughter was dead. One of the few guarantees in life is that once you are dead, you are dead and finished. Sure, Jesus had healed all kinds of sick people and cast out many demons– but He had not yet raised anyone from the dead. It was a great hope while it lasted– but now all hope was gone. The girl was no more.

Yet, on the other hand, why is Jesus so nonchalant about the matter? Did Jesus not know how close she was to death? Why did Jesus delay? Why does He not pay any attention to the terrible news? Jesus is being hailed as the Prophet, the Son of God, with great authority. And now He says to not fear but only believe.

How many times do we find ourselves in a position similar to that of Jairus? There are many times in our lives when our situation seems bleak and hopeless. According to all appearances and conventional wisdom, there is nothing left to do but lose hope and be afraid. Distress encompasses us. Trials beset us. We have all kinds of reasons to no longer trouble the Teacher and to go on our own way.

And yet the voice of Jesus may still call to us to not fear and only believe.

This message should not be distorted or improperly expanded to indicate that all we ever need to do is just believe. Trust and confidence in God and Christ demand that we do what they say to do– if we do not do the Lord’s commandments, we prove that we are not trusting in Him (cf. Romans 6:16-23, James 2:14-26, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 John 2:3-6).

But there are many times in life when, if we were walking by sight/appearance, we would lose hope. It is in those times that we must walk by faith– trusting that the Lord is there, that the Lord is good, and that God is willing to do far more than even what we desire (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7, Ephesians 3:20-21). God can do the mighty actions; it is our place to trust in Him.

But there have always been and always will be reason to laugh at that trust. There are always reasons to lose all hope and to be afraid. There is never a lack of political uncertainty, economic uncertainty, medical uncertainty, and even environmental uncertainty. There are always various reasons to doubt God, to be afraid of what is happening to us or what we fear is about to happen to us, and to decide to no longer bother the Teacher.

We can read about Jairus’ choice: he believed and Jesus raised his daughter from the dead and restored her to full health (Mark 5:37-43). God was able to do more for him than he could have imagined. And so it is with us. Whenever we are assailed by doubt, fear, uncertainty, and hopelessness, let us remember the words of our Lord.

Do not fear. Only believe.

Ethan R. Longhenry

Do Not Fear; Only Believe

Presence vs. Participation

And one said unto him, “Lord, are they few that are saved?”
And he said unto them, “Strive to enter in by the narrow door: for many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying,
‘Lord, open to us;’
and he shall answer and say to you, ‘I know you not whence ye are;’
then shall ye begin to say, ‘We did eat and drink in thy presence, and thou didst teach in our streets;’
and he shall say, ‘I tell you, I know not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity'” (Luke 13:23-27).

Every generation seems to have its great events and personalities, and people cling tightly to the memory of being present for them and with them. People today still talk about where they were and what they were doing when they heard that John F. Kennedy was shot, or the Challenger space shuttle went down, or when they heard about the 9/11 attacks. Many people remember fondly how they directly participated in great events of their day: a presidential inauguration, or a music celebration, or some other iconic event. Others remember fondly when they had the opportunity to hear a given speaker of some reputation.

Imagine, then, what it must have been like to live in first century Israel and to see and hear Jesus of Nazareth! Consider what it must have been like if Jesus came into your village. You saw the sick healed, demons cast out, and the blind given the ability to see (Matthew 9:35). You heard His wonderful teachings and felt a sense of pride and great expectation. You have been able to see the Son of God Himself!

Then, as with all men, your earthly life ends and you stand before the same Jesus on the day of judgment. You feel hopeful– after all, you were there! You saw Him work His power! Maybe He even recognizes you!

But then the message you hear is quite distressing– “Sorry. I never knew you, for you did that which was evil.” After it is too late, you have learned the lesson: it was not enough just to be present. In order to obtain the blessings of Jesus and His Kingdom, you had to be an active participant!

Granted, none of us have seen Jesus in the flesh or were present when He spoke as He did in Luke 13:23-27. Yet we can still hear about Jesus and the things which He accomplished. We can decide to spend our time with people who seek God and His righteousness first (cf. Matthew 6:33). We may also hear various messages about Jesus from various parts of our society and get the impression that as long as we mentally recognize that Jesus is Lord, everything will be just fine. We may feel that as Americans we are God’s new chosen people and that we will certainly enter Heaven– after all, we are Americans, there are a lot of great people in America, and surely God loves Americans enough to save them.

Holiness and righteousness are not like the cold or the flu– they cannot be “caught” by mere presence or exposure. One cannot become holy or righteous simply by being around holy and righteous people, or by just hearing the message of holiness and righteousness (cf. James 1:22-25). We cannot simply be present– we must decide to participate!

The Kingdom is not for “professors,” those who profess belief in Jesus and little more, but it is for those who do the will of the Father (cf. Matthew 7:21-23). We may feel a special attachment to Jesus or to Christianity because we have been present for its message or have experienced it in some way, but that, on its own, does not mean that we get closer to God. Instead, we must seek to enter by the narrow door– the path laid out by Jesus (cf. Matthew 7:13-14, 1 John 2:1-6). We must participate by becoming God’s humble obedient servants, seeking His will and not our own (Romans 6, Galatians 2:20). Let us strive to not just be present but also to participate in God’s Kingdom!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Presence vs. Participation