Faith in Jesus--the Perfect Antidote for Fear!
Dear heavenly Father, as I consider the accounts of my Savior’s power to still storms, to cast out demons, to heal the sick, and to raise the dead–Lord, I am convicted by the weakness of my faith. I should never worry, but I do. I should never be afraid, but I am. Help me, heavenly Father, to trust in Your Son. Forgive my weakness of faith and grant unto me Your strength, so that I might walk with confidence knowing that my Savior, Jesus, is at my side! Amen.
The LORD miraculously delivered the children of Israel from Pharaoh and his chariot by parting the Red Sea and leading them directly through it, both to the dismay and ultimate destruction of Pharaoh. The same LORD watches over us. Let us only turn to Him and believe in Him during our times of trouble!
Our daily lives and the interaction we have with one another are to be characterized by one thing–love! The apostle Paul reminds us that “love is the fulfillment of the law!” Therefore, as we consider what we should say, or how we should act–let us always speak words and perform actions that reflect love!
Text: Matthew 8:23-27
Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
In Christ Jesus, who is both our Savior and Lord, dear fellow redeemed:
This past Tuesday evening our President gave his “State of the Union” address. Earlier that same day radio newsman Paul Harvey read an essay by a sixteen year old young lady from the Chicago area addressing the “state of the union” from her perspective. She stated that the dominant emotion in her heart and the hearts of many of her contemporaries as they looked to the future was that of fear. She suggested that she and her contemporaries would become known as the “9/11 generation”—young people who worried about terrorists and for whom the threat of terrorism disrupted the possibility of an otherwise normal and happy life.
My dear friends, the fact of the matter is that fear has been a reality for every generation of human beings since the fall into sin. Fear is the direct result of sin, and it is a tool that Satan uses mercilessly to drive us away from God, to hide from us the solutions provided by God, and thereby to hold us captive to his tyranny. Today I would like to talk to you about God’s solution for fear—faith! As we discuss faith, however, we must always consider the proper object of faith. To speak of faith without considering its proper object serves no purpose. Faith without its proper object is powerless and therefore meaningless. Some people call it “blind” faith, or just hoping against hope. It never proves satisfactory, but will always disappoint. The faith of which I want to speak today is faith in Jesus! Jesus is the only proper object of faith in our battles against fear! ThereforeFAITH IN JESUS IS THE PERFECT ANTIDOTE FOR FEAR! Our faith in Jesus is a faith which, first of all, draws us confidently to Jesus—the Lord of Creation! Our faith in Jesus is a faith which, secondly, trusts explicitly in Jesus—the Savior of our souls!
Fear is a form of anxiety. We become fearful when the challenges facing us overcome the confidence within us! When we feel confident that we can handle the situations in which we find ourselves—when we believe ourselves to be in control of a situation, we are not troubled by fear. When we seem to lose control of a situation—when we perceive that the challenges facing us are greater than our capabilities and our confidence wanes, fear arises. Confidence is a form of faith. The question we must ask ourselves is: “In whom or in what do we place our confidence or faith?” The key to overcoming fear is placing our confidence—our faith in the right place. That place is Jesus. The world does not talk about that, does it? The world and so do we generally speak about the importance of “self-confidence.” Now “self-confidence” is important and necessary, if we understand it as that sense of capability, which arises when we have developed the talents God has given us so that we can with His help achieve everything He wants us to achieve. The apostle Paul exhibited such “self-confidence” when he stated to the Philippians: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Problems arise, however, when Jesus is taken out of the picture and our confidence rests solely upon ourselves—our own strength, our own abilities, our own wealth, even our own good luck. We, after all, are so very limited!
Consider the situation found in our text. Jesus and His disciples had entered a boat—no doubt one of the fishing vessels commonly used on the Sea of Galilee, perhaps one of Zebedee’s vessels—to cross over to the other side. Jesus was tired and fell asleep. The disciples were left in charge, which was no problem for nearly half of them were professional fishermen. They were familiar with the waters and fully capable of reaching any destination on the lake. But suddenly a violent storm arose. The Sea of Galilee is not like the small lakes we have here in southern Minnesota, where it is relatively easy to reach shore should a storm arise. The Sea of Galilee is about thirteen miles long and eight miles across. The disciples found themselves, in spite of their expert sailing skills, being tossed about by the wind and the boat nearly swamped by the waves. Their situation was soon life-threatening. Having exhausted their skills and in fear of death, they woke Jesus up and cried out to Him, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” Jesus, awaking from sleep, admonished them: “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” He then arose and verbally rebuked the wind and waves. Immediately everything was calm, and the disciples were left wondering, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
The answer, of course, to their question was that Jesus is the Son of God—the Lord of Creation, but they had forgotten that! When Jesus asked the disciples, “Why are you fearful,” He was in effect encouraging them to remember who He was and what that meant for them. He was the Lord of Creation. The Bible tells us: “For by Him (that is, by Jesus) all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (1:16-17). They did not have to fear--Jesus was with them and He possesses “all authority in heaven and on earth” (cf. Matthew 28:18). He was in control—even of the wind and the sea! Because the basis of their confidence had been their own skills and turning to Jesus was only a last resort, Jesus properly chastised them for such so little faith!
My dear friends—does not this same thing happen in our lives all too often? We approach matters in our lives on the basis of our own ability to handle them, without giving much or any thought to Jesus until matters seem completely out of control. Fear fills our hearts and then we run to Jesus as a last resort crying out for help, only to be a bit surprised when everything works out. This is not how our heavenly Father wants us to live—bouncing between a misplaced faith and fear. No, let us recognize that Jesus is the Lord of Creation and place our faith firmly in Him. He has all power and authority and desires to use it on our behalf. There is a beautiful but little known quotation found in 2 Chronicles 16:9 which assures us: “The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” FAITH IN JESUS IS THE PERFECT ANTIDOTE FOR FEAR, for it, first of all, draws us to the One who is the Lord of Creation!
It, secondly, trusts explicitly in Jesus as the Savior of our souls! Why is it that we can trust that Jesus will hear and answer our prayers? One reason is that He has certainly promised to hear and answer our prayers. He also desires that we praise our heavenly Father in view of His mighty deliverances. On Maundy Thursday evening Jesus told His disciples: “Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). The primary reason that we can trust in Jesus to deliver us from evil in this world and so remove any need for fear is because He has already delivered us from Satan, sin, and death—our greatest enemy and most profound problems. Paul wrote the Romans: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (8:32) We can apply the same logic to our Savior. If Jesus came from heaven to earth to live and die for us, so that we might spend eternity in heaven with Him and with His Father, will He not also preserve us during this brief life on earth? Of course He will! That is why after He identified Himself as the Good Shepherd, who would give up His life for the sheep, He went on to say: “Neither shall anyone snatch them (that is, us) out of My hand” (John 10:28). Jesus has overcome our greatest enemy, Satan, therefore we can trust explicitly that He will help us overcome any and all lesser enemies! Jesus has overcome our greatest problems, sin and death, therefore we can trust explicitly that He will help us overcome all other problems which confront us!
“But pastor,” you might well ask, “What about the soldier who dies in combat? What about the terminal cancer that is afflicting my body? What about the problems my own foolishness and unfaithfulness have caused my marriage or my family? It does not always seem as if Jesus is responding to my prayers, and I am so very afraid!” Let us address the issue of such fear. There is a wonderful passage that reads: “Perfect love casts out fear!” (1 John 4:18) My dear friends, the only perfect love that we will ever experience this side of heaven is the love that our God and our Savior Jesus have for us—the love that brought Jesus into this world on our behalf, so that we who are by nature estranged from God might be brought into God’s family. As members of His family, God wants us to know that He has a plan for our lives—a plan so specific that every day is accounted for. That is what our Savior tells us in Psalm 139 when He says: “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Verse 16). As God’s own children, He assures us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” and we can conclude with the writer to the Hebrews, “We may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear: What can man do to me?’” (13:5-6).
Therefore, given what Jesus has done for us and what Jesus has promised to us—we can explicitly trust in Him that as the Savior of our souls, He will also meet any need we have in this life. That does not mean that every bullet will miss its target, that all cancer will miraculously be cured, or that every consequence of our sinful actions will be avoided. It does mean that our Savior will often rescue us from overwhelming and even life-threatening situations, as He did the disciples on the Sea of Galilee, and that we can have confidence that He will use every challenge in our lives to work towards the fulfillment of His ultimate goal for us, which is the salvation of our souls and the souls of others.
Take any Bible character and you will be able to see how our Savior has worked in his life for his ultimate good and the good of others. Consider the apostle Paul—he was beaten and imprisoned in Philippi, where the jailor and his family were brought to faith; he was ship-wrecked on Malta and bitten by a poisonous snake, where Publius, the leading citizen of the island, and his family were likewise brought to faith; he was imprisoned in Rome, but then freed; he was imprisoned in Rome a second time, but then executed. Yet, in summary he was able to say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Let us apply these truths to our lives! We do not have to fear anything—when we place our faith explicitly in Jesus. He has won our eternal future. He will never leave or forsake us. He will only allow that which is in accordance with His will into our lives with the end that it will contribute to our eternal salvation or that of someone else. Therefore, while many in our world are filled with fear and held captive by Satan with fear, let us recognize with joy that FAITH IN JESUS IS THE PERFECT ANTIDOTE TO FEAR! He, after all, is the Lord of Creation and the Savior of our souls!Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting