There were times when I knowingly and willingly disobeyed my parents, hoping they would not find out. Teachers give tests; and for major exams they usually set a date, give a review, and then tell their students to study. But I did not always heed their instructions and so I would go to those exams unprepared, praying for a “miracle”. I am driving too fast as a police officer passes on the opposite side of the road, he turns around, and on comes his lights and siren. I hope he is going after someone else. (Note: I make a conscience effort to obey the speed limit, as I believe all Christians should.)
Nearly all people have a sense of right and wrong and I believe most of us usually want to do right. This is especially true when we know about and fear the penalty for wrongdoing. I never wanted to get in trouble with my parents, fail a test, or get a ticket. So after messing up, most of us just want to get away with it.
In the examples above, one may feel any number of emotions, with anxiety and regret likely being two of them. It begins with the worry that someone might catch and punish us for our wrongs. And even if we think we have gotten away with something, there is still the fear that it will come back on us later. Then there is the penalty itself, when we must face the discomfort and suffering of reaping what we have sown.
So how do we avoid the fear brought on by doing wrong? The answer is simple, do what is right. Not that doing right guarantees we will avoid all trouble, because sometimes evil people will do us harm anyway. (2 Tim. 4:14) However, we reduce this chance by living good and obedient lives.
Consider what Peter said, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.” (1 Peter 4:15) As Christians we must rise above this world, with its petty vices and lusts. Paul says “if you do evil, be afraid” of government and its power to judge. (Rom. 13:4) So as long as I drive the speed limit there is no reason to fear getting a speeding ticket.
On the other hand, God receives glory when I suffer as a Christian. (1 Peter 4:16) It means I am paying a price for my faith and sharing in the sacrifices Christ made for me. (1 Peter 4:12-13) In this case confidence and hope should replace any fear we may have of men. Never be afraid of what others might do to you over what God can and will do if you reject Him. (Matt. 10:28)
The Hebrew writer warns anyone who would willingly turn their back on God. He said “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” (Heb. 10:26-27) You should notice that anyone who knowingly and willingly lives in sin has nothing good to look forward to. They should go through life afraid, very afraid because they will face God’s fierce and punitive zeal at judgment. So anxiety should be the by-product of their actions because they will come to regret their choices when this life is over.
Another important point to remember is that we can hide nothing from God. (Heb. 4:13) We may get away with something before men, but He knows everything we think and do. He can even see into our heart and judges our motives. If I lust or covet, if I wish evil on another, or if I hold a grudge they are all open before His eyes. David posed a question, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (Psalms 139:7) His answer clearly implied God is everywhere and knows everything about each person.
Too many of us allow the cares of this world to override what is important. When we do, worldly matters can become the driving force behind our decisions and actions. Jesus said “do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” (Matt. 6:31) Instead, we should “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”, knowing that He will take care of us. (Matt. 6:33)
So how should we deal with the same anxieties that others allow to get them down? Peter says to “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7) The troubles of life affect everyone, but Christians have Divine help in dealing with these matters. Not that we will suffer less or have fewer problems, but God gives us the understanding and strength to overcome them. As a result, we do not fear what man can do to us nor do we fear what this world brings on us. (Heb. 13:6) More importantly, we do not fear God’s judgment; instead we look forward to our reward. (2 Tim. 1:7-11)