He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”
Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples,
“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
This is one of the favorite stories for children from the life of Jesus. The angry storm, the disciples hanging on to the sides of the boat for their lives, and Jesus below, asleep in the stern. When they awakened Jesus, He rebuked the wind, and calmed the waves. But the ‘teaching moment’ came when He asked them, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Make no mistake: The storm was real, the danger was great. That was not the issue. The question was, when you are in the middle of a storm, will you be afraid or will you have faith? Brothers and sisters, that isn’t easy. It was hard for the disciples, and it is hard today. But the question is the same for us as it was for them.
Today, and any day, as the ‘storm of life’ batters your life, remember who’s ‘in the boat with you’! He is the One who calms the storms of life. Faith conquers fear.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
The scene behind Psalm 34 is when David, fleeing from King Saul, finds himself in Gath, where he was ‘Public Enemy #1” for having killed their champion, Goliath. With his life on the line, God delivered David from those who wanted to kill him (see 1 Sam. 21.10-15). David penned this psalm in gratitude and praise to the Lord.
‘The angel of the Lord’ in the Old Testament is a reference to God Himself – He is “the captain of the host of the Lord” (Joshua 5.14). He has charge of all the angels of heaven, and all of nature. His protection is like that of a massive army that surrounds us. Elisha knew this: When the Syrian army came to take him prisoner, and his servant was at his wits’ end, Elisha said, “Don’t be afraid; those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6.16).
Oh, if we would only recognize the wonderful protection of the Lord in our lives! Remember: The angel of the Lord – God Himself, is your protector and deliverer. Trust in Him.
But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it.
So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.
1 Peter 3:14
Peter wrote to Christians facing persecution. While many Christians in the world are oppressed today, what we encounter may be more subtle. Peter wrote, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you (4.4). We are surrounded, it seems, by people who want us to be living in morbid fear – and they even get angry at us when we aren’t upset like them.
Don’t follow their lead. The media will seek to whip us into a frenzy. They will seek to make us angry at our leaders, to distrust our neighbors, to think only of ourselves. That’s the enemy’s plan. But faith in God dissolves all that, and in the midst of a world gone mad, we display a calm assurance.
Don’t worry. God will reward you for doing what is right – and His rewards are worth it! Let your faith in God guide your life, and let others see it.
I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.
Prayer…it’s easily the most powerful and effective thing a Christian can do, and ironically the thing we often forget to make time for. David wrote Psalm 34 at one of the most perilous times in his life; in that moment, he prayed to the Lord, and the Lord took away his fears.
Google ‘Bible verses on prayer,’ and you’ll find lists and lists – there are hundreds. But that’s not news to us – most Christians would agree that prayer is important. We don’t lack information; we lack intention. Prayer is an intentional act – you need to stop, get alone, make time. As Jesus said, But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matt. 6.6).
Today, make a cup of coffee, and get alone with God. You might want to kneel, share your heart, your fears, your hurts, with Him. Make time for Him, and He will free you from all your fears.
Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.
We don’t know the future, but sometimes the future is more ominous than usual. A pandemic can change our expectation to anxiety, and so can other life situations: You are diagnosed with a disease; you lose your job; your marriage falls apart; your plans for your life hit a dead end. Fear of the future is real.
Joshua knew it. He looked across the Jordan and saw the walled city of Jericho – and beyond it, godless foes ready to prevent the nation claiming their Promised Land. Forty years before, reports of fortified cities and giants had turned their hearts to water. Now he must lead the conquest – into the great unknown.
Moses’ words are succinct: Yes, the Amorites and the Canaanites are real foes, and the future is uncertain, but don’t be afraid of them, because the Lord your God himself will fight for you! Our foes are different today, but our God isn’t. As Scripture reminds us, If God is for us, who is against us? (Romans 8.31) Trust Him today.
Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last.”
What will it be like to see Jesus? I don’t know – I imagine a combination of awe, fear, joy, terror, and a half dozen other emotions! John saw the risen Christ and wrote about it in Revelation 1. He describes what he saw, then writes, When I saw Him, I fell like a dead man. Think about that: John, one of the ‘inner circle’ of Jesus’ disciples, who spent three years day and night with Jesus, and refers to himself in his Gospel as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved,’ sees the ascended Savior, and falls down like he’s dead!
If Jesus were like superheroes in movies, He’d announce His power and greatness. Instead, His heart of love is evident: Don’t be afraid. Then He asserts His eternality: He is the first and the last. He is eternal. He is the uncaused cause. He is God.
In C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are telling Lucy about Aslan the Lion – the ‘Christ character’ in the story. Lucy fears Aslan, and asks if He is safe. Mr. Beaver’s reply is classic: “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Our Savior-King isn’t ‘safe,’ but He’s ‘good’ – and He tells us, “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last.”
Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
The moment Jesus uttered these words was perhaps the most gut-wrenching moment anyone can experience. A man named Jairus had an only daughter who was lying at death’s door. Having seen Jesus lay hands on people and heal them, he implored Jesus to come to his home and lay hands on his little girl. Jesus went with him, but crowds delayed Him along the way; He stopped to talk with a woman who had touched the hem of His garment and been healed. You can imagine the anxiety of the father, knowing that every minute counted. Then his worst fears were realized; servants came from his home with news that his daughter had died. It was too late, so why trouble Jesus anymore?
Our view of events is limited by time and space. The view of faith is not. Jesus’ quiet, empathetic words would have jarred Jairus in this moment of terrible pain: Don’t be afraid; just believe. Those words of the Savior are just as jarring for us today – invading our fears and hopelessness, and reigniting the flickering flame of faith.
Jesus – your Savior and Lord, is not distant or uninterested. He Himself said, “I will never desert you, nor will I forsake you” (Heb. 13.5). Have you stopped to talk with Him today? Don’t be afraid; just believe.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.
Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.
This is the climax of Paul’s ‘crescendo of confidence in God’ in Romans 8! He has declared that through faith in Christ, we are secure as children of God, free from condemnation, and objects of His love and care. For the Christians facing persecution in the first century, this chapter gave assurance and comfort.
God’s love is not conditional. There is nothing bad you can do that would make Him love you less, and nothing good you can do that would make Him love you more. Think about that. God’s love for you is absolute. You can count on it, when all else fails. Nothing – not even death, can separate you from His love.
And when we have “fears for today,” and “worries about tomorrow,” the God who is sovereign over the powers of hell is with us. He is with you, right now.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
Zephaniah prophesied God’s judgment coming on Judah – a time of terrible that portended a far-greater time of God’s wrath coming on the whole world. God’s holiness demands judgment on sin, but even then, His amazing grace shines through.
The end of Zephaniah’s prophecy announces God’s restoration of His people, and in this, His faithfulness and love is clear. Though sin is punished, God’s mercy is always close. As the psalmist put it, His anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
When we encounter difficult times, when trials come, it is always good to pause, examine our lives, repent of sin, and draw near to God. But let us never forget His heart of love and mercy. He is not capricious or arbitrary. He cares for us. Walk closely with Him through the valleys of life, and look forward to days of rejoicing.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.
Elisabeth Elliot borrowed the title for the story of her husband, martyred missionary Jim Elliot, from this psalm. Those who have read his story will see the connection: He lived his life in constant pursuit of closeness with the Lord, and his testimony has inspired many Christians to give their lives in service for Christ.
The imagery of these verses declare that those who trust in the Lord will experience His security and protection. In the heat of trials, His ‘shelter’ enables us to ‘rest in the shadow’ it provides. When we are under attack from forces that would destroy us, He is our ‘refuge and fortress,’ the One in whom we can trust.
Rest, and trust. In a world of busyness and anxiety, God gives rest. Jesus said so: Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matt. 11.28-30). Come to His shelter, take refuge, trust in Him…and rest.