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)
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.
The world seems to be worshiping at the altar of the god of the unknown right now…trying to appease something they don’t understand…filled with panic rather than peace. But here Paul recognized this and instead pointed the people of Athens to the one true God. In talking to the Samaritan woman at the well Jesus spoke of this, “You Samaritans worship what you don’t know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (John 4:22-23) Bottom line, the world needs Jesus right now. They need to turn away from the god of the unknown with all its distress and fear and instead face their Savior, Jesus Christ, and receive peace and comfort. So ponder this… now might become one of the most important times in modern Church history for souls coming to Jesus out of fear and desperation. The question is – Are you ready to make the unknown known to them?
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.
Jeremiah was not popular among the people of Judah! His message from the Lord was primarily one of judgment, which lead to his life often being threatened. During his over 40 years of ministry Jeremiah often implored God to protect him…”Remember me, O Lord; remember me and care for me.” (Jeremiah 15:15) and “Let my persecutors be put to shame, but keep me from shame; let them be terrified, but keep me from terror.” (Jeremiah 17:18) Jeremiah had learned to put his absolute trust in God regardless of what the circumstances looked like around him…for he had discovered there’s no safer place to be than in the very center of God’s Will.
God has promised a crown of life to those who endure trials. But when we find ourselves in the middle of a life altering trial, it’s too easy to walk in unbelief. But unfortunately, the maturing of our faith comes most times in the valleys not the mountain-tops. For it’s in the dark, scary valleys that we come to the end of ourselves and finally look to God.
Psalm 13 is short…just 6 verses, but within it are emotions we’ve all felt. For Satan would like us to believe that when we’re going through desperate times…it’s because God has abandoned us. David laments to the Lord in the first few verses, using words like, “Have You forgotten me? And why are You hiding Your face?” Those raw feelings of doubt and questioning where God is only compound the sorrow, anxiety, and distress we already feel. To the point we’re asking, “Do You even care about me anymore, God?” But as David lifts this lament to God, his focus changes from himself and his situation, to who God really is and His promises. For at the end of Psalm 13 David declares, ” But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.” (Psalm 13: 5-6) The grief and heartbreak may not have changed in David’s life…but what did change was his perspective and the assurance that God was still there.
Throughout the Book of James we see him arguing the difference between faith and active faith. Just believing in God, he says, isn’t enough…for even the demons believe in God. (James 2:19) What the Lord demands from us is to demonstrate our inward trust in Him by outward actions. In other words, to not only hear His Word, but put it into practice. For faith without works is considered dead and accomplishes nothing for the Kingdom of God.
Satan wants us to believe that we are who we are based only on the internal and external events of our life. That our life has been shaped and molded solely by our environment, culture, and all the trauma we’ve endured. For when we believe this, we’ll blame our parents, or our cultural upbringing for where we’ve ended up…rather than realizing that it is God who can shape our future…not the bad things that have happen to us in the past. Satan wants us to believe that our past dictates our future, and that generational chains cannot ever be broken off us. He wants to keep us in fear and doubt, accepting that we can never change. But if we’ll receive God’s grace and proclaim, “Yes, I once was…But God is willing and able to work in my life now!”… the Master Potter will form something beautiful out of that lump of clay we call our life.