Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. - Isaiah 41:10.
Jack is not afraid. He is not even afraid of bears. To prove it, he chased a black bear up a tree that wandered into his yard. Actually, Jack chased the bear up a tree, twice! Amazing! Who is this Jack? Jack is a fifteen-pound white and orange cat who resides in West Milford, New Jersey. Jack had often chased small animals out of the back yard and his owner, Donna Dickey had joked about Jackís being on duty as a guard of the house. But, she had never thought Jack would actually be able to chase a bear up a tree!
Over the past few weeks, I have been dealing with something that I never thought I would be facing as a preacher. For the past year and a half, I have had increasing difficulty with my voice. It would often fail and I would drink some water or place a cough drop in my mouth and it would come back. However, beginning with Easter Sunday, my voice failed and did not immediately come back at least, not soon enough to finish the sermon. I limited the frequency of my preaching but eventually had a specialist take a look and he found a couple of polyps on my vocal cords. The polyps were removed and after two weeks of rest, I cautiously began to speak and preach again but, I still encountered problems. I am resting my voice again, for a few weeks, hoping and praying that it will be well soon. My fear, that I have been contemplating, is that I will be unable to continue preaching which would then require some major changes in our lives if it were to occur.
At the Pastorís Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention tonight, I believe that God had a message for me and possibly for many of you as well. That message was delivered by Chuck Kelley, President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He described some of the unexpected challenges that he and others at the seminary faced as a result of the hurricane. Also, he described how God was sufficient to empower them to face and overcome those challenges and crises. My mind had kind of wandered away as Dr. Kelley was speaking but then his words caught my attention as it seemed God was speaking directly to me through him as he said, "Do not be afraid of what ever path or crisis God has ahead for you."
We can learn from the example of a fifteen-pound cat named Jack. We need to do the same thing with our fears that the enemy places in our minds. We need to chase them away and replace them with the truth of Godís Word. The truth of Godís Word is that if we know Jesus as our Savior then He is with us through the Holy Spiritís indwelling presence. The Spirit is speaking and He is saying, "Do not be afraid." "Fear not." Not only is He saying, "Fear Not" - He is saying not to be depressed, or dismayed. Why not? Because He promises to "strengthen us," "help us," and "uphold us" with His "righteous right hand."