If I asked you what you were afraid of today, what would you say? I’m not talking about things like spiders, snakes, or mice, but things that have your stomach tied up in a knot. For me it’s COVID 19 and everything related to it. It’s being fearful about my kids and grand-kids coming down with it, or my elderly Dad, or my health-compromised family-members succumbing to the virus. But II Timothy 1:7 tells me, “God didn’t give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” Fear tells me that I can’t, while faith tells me it’s already been done. For Romans 8:15 says, “You didn’t receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of son-ship.” And this son-ship tells me that through Jesus Christ, God has adopted me and you as His son or daughter thus making us a heir to His promised salvation. Thus we have nothing to fear, for the fear of death is gone…and if you really think about it, fear of death is the origin of all other fears.
Right now as America is in the middle of protests, riots, looting, and vandalism across our land, a new fear has reared its ugly head. With COVID 19, it was fear of the unknown, but with the onslaught of these violent public disturbances the fear has become much more personal in nature. That’s why these verses in Isaiah are so important for us today. We don’t need to dread, or be fearful of harm or danger because our God is not only our kinsman redeemer but also our avenger. He is always with us even when we go through fire and water, bringing us to a place of abundance. (Psalm 66:12) That’s because we are His treasured possession, (Deuteronomy 7:6) and He will fight for us; we need only to be still.(Exodus 14:14)
King Hezekiah’s message to his people was simple…your source of strength comes from God and not from mortal man…and you need to rely on Him, for He is always with you. In II Kings 6:16-17, Elisha echoed these same words of encouragement when his servant could only see enemy horses and chariots surrounding the city…”Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed that the Lord might open his servant’s eyes, and suddenly the servant saw that the hills were full of horses and chariots of fire. Today, if you’re afraid or discouraged, I pray that God would open your eyes to His promises…that He would show you His perspective, plan and purpose in your situation…and that you would experience revelation knowledge of where your strength truly lies.
The city of Jerusalem was becoming over-run with throngs of people as the Feast drew near…all of them looking forward to the yearly celebration of Passover. But the Pharisees and Sadducees had much more sinister plans in the works…”they were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus.” (Luke 22:2) But how could they penetrate and mislead one of the inner circle around Jesus and thus gain access? The answer came in one of the most unlikely but saddest verses in the Bible, “Then Satan entered Judas…” (Luke 22:3) Now no one knows for certain why Judas betrayed Jesus…he was a loyal and highly respected one of the Twelve who even had the responsibility of the community purse. But despite all he had experienced, heard, and seen traveling with Jesus…Judas willingly became a traitor and informer.
The apostle Paul who wrote this is probably one of the best examples of someone who looked beyond discouragement and refused to give in to despair. For here Paul calls the overwhelming mental, physical, and spiritual distress he has endured as “light and momentary troubles.” But how could he do this? The answer is simple…he was allowing the Lord to renew and restore his mind daily…or as Colossians 3:10 tells us, “Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” When we become discouraged, fearful, or overcome with the current troubles in the world today, we need to be reminded that as we go through all these hardships, they are achieving for us righteousness and eternal glory for His namesake. Therefore, we do not lose heart.
As I studied this verse I discovered that the Hebrew word for afraid, Yare, has two separate meanings. The first is the negative emotion of fearful…while the second is the positive emotion of reverence and awe for God. So what David is explaining here is that in the time of fear he consciously shifted his mind from one meaning to the other… from dwelling on a negative emotion to focusing on a positive one. So instead of standing on the shifting sands of fear and anxiety David planted his feet firmly and confidently on the solid rock of Christ.
These verses can give us great insight into what it takes to combat doubt and fear in our lives. The first part gives us clear directions as to what our responsibilities are. We are to be steadfast trusting in the Lord at all times…calling on Him first, and not as an afterthought. We are to turn our back on our old sinful ways, but even more importantly, it says we are to not tolerate or enable sin to remain in our house. This is called compromise, and unfortunately many a Christian household has crumbled when questionable moral concessions have been made. As we work on our responsibilities, we can as Job 22:26 says, ” Find delight in the Almighty and lift up our face to God.” For when there is no longer the guilt and shame of sin weighting us down, we can lift up our head and look straight into the eyes of Jesus with a clear conscience…free of self-doubt and fear.
Even Paul had times when he thought he was the only person in the world working for the Lord. And when people verbally assaulted or berated him for the Gospel Message he likely wished he could just run away rather than stand up to them. But God showed him in that vision that he wasn’t the only Believer in Corinth…that he needed to keep preaching the Good News despite the attacks…and that God was with him through it all. For one of the biggest tools in the arsenal of Satan is to make us believe we’re alone and separated from God and others…out there by ourselves without any support. But we’re not!
For many, the bondage of fear stops us from being able to move forward with life. We long to be liberated from the paralyzing emotions, but feel there’s little we can do to change. But if we’ll take the time to study a few Scriptures, we’ll discover that God has already made the way for us. It starts with this verse in Psalms. When I cry out to the Lord, He answers by liberating me from the terror I’m going through…in other words, setting me free from its control. And this freedom from fear can only be found in the truth of the Gospel. For Jesus declares to us in John 8:32, ” If you hold to My teachings, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” There can be freedom from doubt and fear, and it starts with the saving revelation of the Gospel Message.
These verses come from a Song of Praise David sang to the Lord after God had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies. Out of David’s heart came thanksgiving for God’s steadfastness…even in the face of calamity. And the deep-seated trust David had in God is not only evident here, but elsewhere when he declared, “I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” (Psalm 23:4) David was able to turn fear into faith by keeping his eyes on God and not his situation.