November 15, 2015
Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
Letter #409: Terror vs. Truth
Just this week, yet another violent attack on innocent civilians was carried out by radical Muslim extremists, this time in the beautiful city of love, Paris. With precise planning and coordination, the gunmen intended to wreak havoc and death upon unsuspecting citizens who were enjoying life and each other’s company.
Choosing defenseless soft targets, the perpetrators found little initial resistance, their bullets spewing hate and evil as they wantonly took life and health from the innocents. By the end of their crazed rampage, well over one hundred lives lay shattered, and the world is once again caught up in the sheer horror of that night, wondering if the violence will ever stop and if the evil will ever end.
The stated goal of such militants the world over is to strike fear in the hearts of their declared enemies, to terrorize the citizens of other lands, lands where men and women are free to worship God as they see fit. This fear-objective as a primary means of waging war is unique to these misguided religious zealots seeking global religious domination, but it is not new to human history, of course.
The world has oft seen the slaughter innocent peoples throughout time as dictators, chiefs, and monarchs vied for supreme power. This new brand of so-called terrorists wish to expand their quasi-religious form of government that oppresses any who disagree and systematically degrades and abuses women and girls.
Because they are not ethically upright, the men who run such groups do not abide by the commonly-accepted world rules of engagement, choosing instead the coward’s route to victory by picking fights with those who are unarmed, unaware, and unprepared to fight back. Like a schoolyard bully who strikes from behind at random, these thugs wish to simultaneously strike fear in the heart of the onlookers as they spread their message of hate around the world.
So how am I to respond? Sitting here in the middle of nowhere in my concrete bunker, I highly doubt that my home will be a propriety target for any group hoping to strike terror in the heart of the American people. However, most of the people I love live in or near large cities that are prime targets for these terror groups and their sympathizers, and I cannot actively help protect or defend them. But am I helpless? Far from it.
For one thing, I am nearly fearless. That is, I choose to not fear those events beyond my control. Psalm 46 says, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble, so we will not fear.”
Martin Luther wrote in his iconic hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” “And though this world with devils filled may threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.” Luther knew that the truth of God is that He saves and protects His children. To not fear, we must let that truth permeate our consciousness and triumph through us.
Fear is a choice. It is choosing to dwell in the realm of the unknown—what evil may transpire, what calamity may befall us—rather than choosing to dwell in the in realm of what is known—God’s watch-care over us throughout our lives, His constant protection and provision for our every need, and His abiding presence. Psalm 34 states my daily need, “I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears … He surrounds and defends all who fear Him.” This guarantee is what makes me nearly fearless. I choose to fear God alone. That is, I choose to place reverential awe upon the only One Who deserves such attention.
God alone has the power to give life, and He chooses to grant your every breath until His perfect timing to bring you home. And though evil may for a time rear its ugly head upon this earth, it is but temporary.
My favorite line from another great hymn, “This is My Fathers World,” says it well: “And though the wrong be oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.” We know the end of the story. We gain strength from knowing God is in ultimate control. These times of calamity should not shake our faith but instead renew our trust in God.
Psalm 91 is a great place to turn when troubles seem to mount on every side. Here are a few excerpts from this comforting passage of Scripture: “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I trust Him, For He will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. Do not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strides at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. For He will order His angels to protect you wherever you go.”
We are not guaranteed a world that is free from evil influences, madmen, or tragedy. We live in a fallen world that is slowly succumbing to the chaos that is everywhere. However, we can choose to live above the evil and live to be God’s examples of love and life to this dying world.
The so-called terrorists only accomplish their evil goals if they strike terror in our hearts. True, we must combat them with intelligence and military might, never letting up on our vigilance to see them brought to justice and their future plans thwarted before they are accomplished. But our truest victory is when we do not let their ultimate goals of fear and terror be realized when we each, individually, choose to believe the truth that our God is greater. This truth assures our safety and our freedom.