So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
To a nation reeling from the Great Depression and facing an uncertain future, President Franklin Roosevelt in his first inaugural address said, “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Those wise words are famous, and particularly for Christians, they convey truth that is applicable to our lives. When the world is grasping for something to hold on to, we can have a tangible trust in God. As you go through this day, and meet people who are anxious or afraid, share with them about your faith in God. He will strengthen and help us.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
About a century ago, Oswald Chambers’ daily devotionals entitled My Utmost for His Highest were published. He writes: “The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”
To ‘fear God’ does not mean ‘terror’ or ‘fright,’ but to revere, trust in, worship, obey, and serve. The key element here is to trust. Solomon wrote three thousand years ago, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1.7). In a world facing an epidemic of coronavirus – but more significantly, of uncertainty and fear, trust in the Lord. Draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you (James 4.8a).
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
What an incredible gift prayer is! The mystery of speaking to someone we cannot see, yet Who hears what we say, is a source of peace that ‘transcends all understanding.’ The old aphorism, ‘There are no atheists in foxholes,’ reflects a truth: In times of extreme stress or fear (as in war),people cry out to a higher power (therefore, there are no atheists). Psalm32.6 instructs us:
Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach Him.
The time to call out to God is now! Those who do so will not be overwhelmed by calamities, but will walk with their God. Keep in step with Him today.
Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does.
Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.
If ever there was a time to be worried and upset, it was the night Jesus uttered these words, in the Upper Room, hours before He was betrayed, arrested, beaten, and crucified. The disciples would be thrust into a state of panic and disarray. Everything they expected – deliverance from the Romans, inauguration of Jesus’ kingdom, was gone. What would happen now? What did the future hold?
Perhaps you are pondering those questions today, as the modern world reacts to a pandemic. Into this kind of time, the words of Jesus are timeless: My peace I give to you. That’s the peace of the One who knows the end from the beginning, and who holds the future. Unlike the world, we need not be worried or afraid. Today, hold to Jesus in your heart, and rest in the assurance that you are in His hands.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7
Second Timothy is likely the last letter Paul wrote. After Rome burned in 64 A.D., Nero blamed the Christians, and Paul was probably imprisoned at this time. According to the historian Eusebius, Paul was martyred during Nero’s rule. Even in prison (1.8), with his death imminent (4.6), Paul’s faith was strong! He exhorted Timothy not to ‘hunker down and weather the storm of persecution,’ but encouraged him to trust in God.
In life, we will all face troubled times. Each situation seems like the worst, until the next one comes. The world panics in the present, and fears the future. The Christian is not fearful (the Greek word means to be cowardly or timid), but knows God’s power, loves others, and has a sound mind (is sensible, self-disciplined). That’s what the Holy Spirit in us produces, and that’s what this world needs now. Let God’s Spirit control your heart, and be a shining testimony to Him.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.
Even when we are trusting in God, circumstances can overwhelm us. The psalmist knew this. He expresses his absolute trust in the Lord, and calls on Him to righteously judge the wicked. But in the crucible of difficultly, He knew his utter dependence on God. In v18 he wrote:
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
Your love, O Lord, supported me.
In our present distress, you may feel at time like ‘your foot is slipping’ – that your confidence in God is failing. That’s when the Lord comes to our rescue. His ‘consolation’ – comfort, assurance – brings joy. Joy results from an internal awareness of God’s intimate love and power in every circumstance of life. Trust in the omnipotent God of all creation, and let His joy replace the anxieties of life.
An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.
Anxiety is an internal killer; it strikes at the core of our being, and leaves us floundering like the waves of the sea. Psychologically, it weighs us down, crushing us under its burden. The more we focus on it, the lower we get. If the proverbial writer were alive today, he might add, ‘The more you listen to the depressing analysis of the news media, the worse you’re going to feel!’
But look at the simple rejoinder: But a kind word cheers him up. This does not mean to make up some fantasy pipe-dream like ‘Everything will be OK!’ It refers to a thoughtful word of encouragement and hope. In a world without hope, we have God’s eternal life and abundant life. The kindest thing to tell a person weighed down by anxiety is that there is real hope, and where it is found. Do it…and it will ‘cheer up’ your heart as well.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
“The Lord is my shepherd….” Those words bring comfort to millions. The image of a shepherd, guarding and guiding and feeding the sheep, provides us with a sense of security and safety as we journey through life. But it is particularly meaningful when we face the tough times. I remember well driving a child to the hospital in the middle of the night; Jen and I didn’t know what was wrong – what the prognosis would be. In that moment, I said to her, “It’s all in the Lord’s hands.” It was, and despite uncertainty, we had a calm assurance.
Sometimes the fear of what might happen can overwhelm us, Charles Spurgeon described ‘the valley of the shadow of death’ as “the valley beset with enemies, posted on the hills.” Perhaps you have felt like you are surrounded by evil on every side, and sensed mounting fear. The quiet whisper of faith says, ‘You are not alone; I am with you, to protect and comfort you.’ That’s the voice of the Lord, our ever-near Shepherd.
When the storms of life rage all around you, listen for His voice, and know His presence, right with you.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified;
do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
When life is out of our control, who you are with can make all the difference. Going into court, you want an excellent lawyer on your side. Going into surgery, a skillful physician is a great encouragement. But what if the ‘enemy’ is unknown, and fears begin to eclipse hope?
Joshua knew that feeling: Israel’s great leader, Moses, had just died; the last time the nation was on the doorstep of the land of Canaan, fears overwhelmed them and dissolved their faith in God. So God reminds Joshua of a timeless truth: I am with you wherever you go! The author of Hebrews reminds us, He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb. 13.5).
What are you facing today? OK…be strong; don’t be afraid; don’t get discouraged; the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Rest in that truth, today.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (Matt. 5-7) is a goldmine of truth for His followers. To Jews living under Roman domination, uncertainty and apprehension abounded. Into this void of worry, Jesus touched an exposed nerve. His calm words were a reminder: Don’t let tomorrow’s fears steal today’s possibilities.
Jesus wasn’t just giving them psychological advice: He had just pointed them to the cure for all the future fears: Your heavenly Father knows what you need…seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matt. 6.32-33). Our greatest needs are not anything money can buy – government can help with that, but God provides ultimate security and assurance. Trust Him today: The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut. 33.27).