When I was growing up, I had a healthy respect for my father. Thankfully, our relationship was not a difficult one. But he was a man trying to parent for the first time and I was child — like many children — who didn't always obey.
When I got out of line, I was disciplined. Often, my dad would calmly explain things to me and help me understand what I had done wrong. But there were times when the discipline went beyond words. When I told a lie, I received corporal punishment. When I chose to play outside in my new satin jacket, against my dad's wishes, I had to live with the consequences of falling in dog excrement (which is another story for another time). In all cases, I learned to show fear toward my father, but not how you might think.
I don't mean I would cower whenever he spoke — though, he would occasionally raise his voice. My frequent obedience would demonstrate that I knew he meant business. Overall, I tried to show both of my parents I recognized they were in charge over our home and that the rules would be followed.
When I was away from home, however, things got murky. One day, when one of my friends and I were at a vacant school playground, he said a curse word. At 8 years old, I was shocked he would say such a thing. I reminded him that such language wasn't allowed in my home, but he responded, "Well, your mom and dad aren't here, are they?" A new thought entered my mind — when away from home, I could follow someone else's rules.
The devil placed an original thought in the minds of the first people when he asked, "Hath God said?" (Genesis 3:1) From then on, we've been living on a battlefield between warring forces — God, who only has good things for us, and the devil, who wants to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). The side we choose determines who rules over us and whose words we will obey.
This is where we should take moment and talk more about fear. Fear is not an emotional reaction, but rather a decision. "Fear" is related to the antiquated English word, "fealty." When someone pledges loyalty to a person in authority, it is considered an oath of allegiance or fealty. It's an idea taken from the days of lords and tenant servants. When a person joined a lord, he swore a fealty oath. By doing so, the person became a servant of a lord and tenant of the land.
Landowners sought people to work their property and produce agriculturally. Handling the day-to-day operations of a parcel of land was labor intensive. Sowing, cultivating, pest control, and harvesting acres of land required more help than one family could provide. Bringing on farmhands boosted production. Because the yield of a harvest had the potential for exponential profits, landowners had incentive to hire laborers. In exchange for their work, tenants were provided food, housing, clothing, tools, training, and seed – everything needed to be successful. The understanding was that tenants would be loyal to their lord only and make his success their primary objective.
The lord asked that the tenants do as they were shown, agree with what they were told, and give the best portion of the harvest – seeding seed – back to the lord. The lord would then sell some of the harvest at market and keep a reserve for distributing to his tenants the following season.
Often, the lord was a conquering king. After a battle, land was gained with tenants already on it. The king sent envoys to declare victory and liberate the people, giving them a choice to swear allegiance to him, accept a new list of rules, and receive a new slate of benefits. To accept a lord, act upon his commands, and expect a reward in return, was an expression of the fealty oath, also known as fear. It was a decision to confess, or agree, that one party was in charge over another, typically at the expense of a former ruling party.
An illustration of this idea in the Bible is in the story of Jairus, the ruler of a synagogue. All his life, Jairus was subject to the Law of Moses, which identified sin behavior, dispensed death as the consequence, and prescribed sacrifice (the death of something else) as the solution (Galatians 3:10). In the teachings of Jesus, he found the antidote to the curse — the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2). When his daughter fell deathly ill, Jairus found no hope in the law. Instead, the minister of the law in that community turned toward Jesus.
"My little daughter lies at the point of death," Jairus said to Jesus. "I pray, come and lay your hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.'" (Mark 5:23)
Jairus declared in the marketplace where Jesus was teaching, in front of everyone he knew, was that the old ways — the law of sin and death abused by the prince of this world (John 14:30) and spirit of the accuser (Revelation 12:10) — would no longer rule over his household. He was making an oath of fealty to his new lord, Jesus Christ.
As they were on their way, bad news came — an attack from Jairus' former master.
"There came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, 'Your daughter is dead: why trouble the Master any further?'" (Mark 5:35)
It was in that moment Jairus had some decisions to make. Which way would he turn? Who was going to be his lord? What would be his reward — the devil, sin, and death, or life abundant in Jesus Christ?
Jesus' response set the course for Jairus, and us.
"As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he said unto the ruler of the synagogue, 'Be not afraid, only believe.'" (Mark 5:36)
Jesus wasn't telling Jairus not to shake and his boots and start crying like a big baby. He was telling his newest subject not to go back on his oath of fealty to his new master by expressing fear toward an old, powerless one. Jairus stepped into a new kingdom that day and, by allowing Jesus in his home to minister healing, expressed fealty in the right way — by faith. He made a decision to make Jesus his Lord, believing with his heart and confessing with his mouth. Jairus chose to not agree with the declaration of the curse of the law ("your daughter is dead") and instead stood with his original statement of faith ("come and lay your hands on her, that she may be healed").
"And [Jesus] took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, 'Talitha cumi,' which is, being interpreted, 'Damsel, I say unto you, arise.' And straightway the damsel arose, and walked" (Mark 5:41-42).
When we are seeking the healing power God has already made available to us through Jesus Christ, are we going to continue saying that Jesus is our Lord, and maintain allegiance to Him, or are we going to get in fear of our old lord, the devil? Fear is not an emotion that should sway us like the waves of a stormy sea. We can stand on the solid ground of faith knowing that Jesus already defeated the one who held the power of death over us (Hebrews 2:14-15). Sickness is no big thing to Jesus, who holds the keys of death and hell (Revelation 1:18).
The devil is a liar. He no longer has any power over us. That loser has been stripped and put on parade for the whole world to see (Col. 2:15). When he comes crawling back with idle threats, snuff him out with your heel like an old cigarette butt.
There's a new sheriff in town, and His Name is Jesus. We don't have to cower when our Heavenly Father speaks, but we can be corrected and set right. Our faith is in Him and the victory is already won in Jesus. From that place, we can be confident that our needs are met and our healing provided. Then, it's just a matter of receiving the benefits we were promised.
If we just agree with our Lord's words and follow His direction, our health will improve and we will start seeing the abundance He promised. Fear of the devil no longer has any place in our lives. Perfected love — doing as our Lord commands (1 John 5:3) — casts out fear of death (1 John 4:18).