“Be Not Afraid”

Luke 5:8-11

A popular quote being passed around the internet says that no phrase appears in the Bible more times than “Be not afraid.” One version of the quote claims this phrase occurs 365 times, one for each day of the year. That’s a beautiful idea. Unfortunately, it’s not accurate. As far as I can tell, some form of “Be not afraid” is uttered closer to 100 times, so one for about every three days. That’s still plenty to get the point across: God’s people are called, over and over again, not to be afraid.

Given how fear saturates our lives, that phrase alone is a good, powerful message. But there’s another part that accompanies these words of divine comfort that doesn’t get enough attention. We find it here in Luke when Jesus calls Simon to discipleship.

Jesus has just instructed Simon where to throw their nets, which results in a haul of biblical proportions, literally. Simon is overwhelmed. He falls to his knees, saying, Leave me Lord, for I’m a sinner (v. 8). Jesus responds, Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be fishing for people (v. 10). It’s never just, “Don’t be afraid.” It’s, “Don’t be afraid: I have something for you to do.” In Scripture, comfort is always followed by call.

Don’t be afraid, Moses: I want you to lead my people.
Don’t be afraid, Israel: I want you to be my light to the nations.
Don’t be afraid, Mary: I want you to bear my Son.
Don’t be afraid, Peter: I want you to build my church.

Be comforted, but don’t get too comfortable. Don’t be afraid, but don’t be ashamed either. You have nothing to fear, but you have much to give. The good news is not only that both are true, but that you can’t truly have one without the other.

Life Questions

Of what is God telling you, “Be not afraid”? What is God calling you to do?


God of comfort and call, help me accept both gifts from you. Amen.

This post originally appeared in Volume 25.2 of Reflections.

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