“Be afraid. Be very afraid.” Everywhere we turn, that’s the message we hear today, from news reporters, politicians, bankers, stock brokers, auto executives, retailers, employers, even our friends and family members. Fear seems to be overwhelming the world.
As believers in Jesus Christ, are we to submit to this spirit of fear? God’s holy Word teaches us otherwise. In fact, the Bible is full of examples of God and His messengers assuring us with words like, “Do not be afraid,” “Do not fear” and “Have no fear.” I love the way these passages are translated in the King James Version: “FEAR NOT!”
The subject of fear is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. In the 14th chapter of Genesis, Abraham is in the midst of a tense confrontation with the King of Sodom, yet God reassures Abraham: “‘Do not be afraid, Abraham. I am your shield, your very great reward.’” (Genesis 15:1b)
The story of the Exodus contains one of the greatest moments in all of history. The Israelites have been released from slavery and are making their long journey out of Egypt. The land through which they must journey is a wilderness with little food or water. The Israelites are complaining to Moses, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt just to die in the wilderness?” The situation becomes urgent when Pharaoh has a change of heart and decides it was a mistake to release the Israelites. He arms his chariots and sets out in pursuit to take them back into captivity. To make matters even worse, the Israelites are backed up against the Red Sea with nowhere to run. If ever a group of people had a right to be hopeless, this was it! Yet Moses says to the Israelites, “. . .Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today. . . . The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14:13-14) We all know the rest of the story. God divided the waters and made a path of dry land right through the middle of the Red Sea so the Israelites could escape between the walls of water on either side. Wow! At a moment when all seemed hopeless, God said, “Don’t be afraid! You don’t have to do anything except trust in Me!” Can we really believe that?
The Psalms contain many assurances about fear. “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (118:6 KJV) “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (27:1 KJV) And of course, the beloved 23rd Psalm, in which the Psalmist acknowledges that even when we walk through the darkest valley (the Valley of the Shadow of Death), we need fear no evil, for God is with us!
In the Old Testament, several passages are translated, “Do not fear or be dismayed.” Wouldn’t you agree that all of us are feeling a little dismayed these days? Don Moen wrote a wonderful song inspired by passages such as Joshua 1:9:
Be strong and take courage
Do not fear or be dismayed
For the Lord will go before you
And His light will show the way
Be strong and take courage
Do not fear or be dismayed
For the One Who lives within you
Will be strong in you today!
(Be Strong And Take Courage by Don Moen, Integrity Music)
Have we become so content with our earthly comforts that we have forgotten how dependent we are on the Lord? We must humble ourselves and acknowledge that we are not in control. God is in Control, and He hears our prayers! “Do not fear,” the Lord’s angel said to Daniel, “for from the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before God, your words have been heard. . .” (Daniel 10:12) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5,6) “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) What wonderful promises these are! And yet we must never forget our responsibility to humble ourselves, to acknowledge the Lord, and to seek to please Him with our lives.
If we are instructed to not be afraid, what does God offer to replace our fear? He offers the most wonderful thing of all, peace! In the words of our Savior Jesus Christ, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27) Two chapters later, He says it this way: “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you will have tribulation (serious trouble), but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) We’re supposed to be of good cheer even when we’re facing serious trouble?
The apostle Paul faced his share of serious trouble, but he also knew the peace of God. Acts chapter 16 tells of a time when Paul and his friend Silas were wrongly accused for preaching the gospel and casting out a demon. They were beaten with rods, then thrown into prison, where they were bound by foot stocks in the innermost cell (maximum security). Under those circumstances, I’m not sure I would be of good cheer, but Paul and Silas were! About midnight, they were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them (probably thinking they must be lunatics!). Suddenly there was a great earthquake so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken, and immediately all the doors of the prison were opened and all the prisoners’ chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he assumed the prisoners had escaped and drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself. We are all here!” The jailer rushed into the cells and fell on his knees in front of Paul and Silas, amazed that they had remained in the jail when they could have easily escaped. The jailer took them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” By trusting God in the middle of serious trouble, not only were Paul and Silas released from prison, but others were led to believe in Jesus as God’s Son, even the jailer and his family!
Later, Paul would write, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication (asking with humility), with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear: “. . .Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air. They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? And can you, by worrying, add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the [ungodly people] who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25-33)
Beyond doubt, these are troubled times, but God never promised us that we would never have to face trouble. In fact, He promised us we could not escape it. But He has further promised that we can rely on Him completely to walk with us through every trial. He is the Creator of the Universe, and He is bigger than all the problems this world will ever face. No wonder He can say to us, “Fear not!”
We are worried and fearful and too often weak in our faith. Please forgive us. Please teach us to trust in You completely. Help us not to be caught up in the fears and anxieties of this world, but to lay all of our concerns before You in faith. May we know your peace that passes all understanding. May our faith in You be a shining light that turns the eyes of the nation upon You. As we humble ourselves and pray, as we seek Your face and turn from our wicked ways, please hear us from heaven and forgive our sin and heal our land. May we live each moment in the assurance that we need not fear; we can trust You in every way, for You are in control. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
*Unless otherwise noted all scripture references are from the New Revised Standard Version.
By | March 3, 2009 4:05 pm |
The book of Romans, written by the Apostle Paul, is full of profound instruction for the believer. Yet, for a new believer, the lessons in Romans can be some what difficult to understand. A Bible Study on the entire book is well worth the time and effort, and I highly recommend it. In this devotional, I will be using several scriptures from Romans, but this is in no way an exhaustive study. Hopefully it will enlighten you and inspire you to do further study in Romans.
In the Old Testament, God seems to enforce a strict standard on His people. Why was God so rigid about His commandments, and why did He become so upset when His people disobeyed Him? He even allowed His people to suffer in punishment and slavery.
One way to understand the Bible is as an ongoing story, beginning with God’s creation of the universe and humankind. As the story unfolds, we see humanity’s rebellion against God and God’s ongoing call for humankind to return to Him. Ultimately, the story leads to the arrival of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who came to show us the true character of God, and to die on our behalf as the atoning sacrifice for our sins that would once and for all provide a means for us to be restored to a right relationship with God.
Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” Why were we in need of Grace?
The first word I’ve underlined is peace. Genesis chapter 3 gives the account of the first sin by Adam and Eve. After they had disobeyed God, they realized they were naked. They became afraid and hid from God. So sin, the disobedience of God, entered the world through one man, Adam, and one woman, Eve. Through their sin, Adam and Eve lost their peace with God, and instead of peace, they experienced fear. Sin separates us from God. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)
The second word I underlined is faith. Adam and Eve turned their faith from God’s words to Satan’s words. Either God’s words are true or they are not. The Bible tells us this about God’s word: “God is not a man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19 ) As much as Adam and Eve walked with God, they still did not have a right understanding of God’s nature, and they allowed Satan to convince them that if they ate from the forbidden tree, they would become like God, “knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)
Adam and Eve were in need of grace. After Adam and Eve sinned, God required the blood sacrifice of animals as an atonement for the sins of mankind. Genesis 4:1-7 tells the story of Cain and Abel, in which Abel brought an animal sacrifice to the Lord. Clearly, by this time, God had given some instruction about blood sacrifices. Through the atoning sacrifice of blood, God, in His grace, forgave sins. (Leviticus 17:11)
Throughout the remainder of the Old Testament, mankind continued to choose pride and sin instead of God and his righteousness. By the time of Noah, mankind had become so corrupt that God decided He must destroy all of humanity except for Noah and his family, who were righteous. Later, the tower of Babel would symbolize the continued rebellion of humans against God in their attempt to ascend to heaven. God saw that He had to do something about the pride and corruption, so He confused their languages, making it impossible for them to complete the tower and resulting in the scattering of the people to other places.
As humanity continued to rebel against God, He gave the Law, to show His standard of living and to illustrate how far short mankind had fallen. Yet, even then, in pride and rebellion, people continued to live according to their own fleshly desires instead of by God’s standards.
Yet, if God is perfect, why is there sin? God created mankind in love, in His own image. (Genesis 1:26) As part of His design, he gave us the ability to choose to love Him or to not love Him. Why would He do that? Think about it. If we had no choice but to love God, of what value would our love be to Him? We would be no different than a computer programmed to say “I love you.” God wants us to truly love Him and serve Him because it is our choice, not because we are robots that must automatically do His will.
Yet, throughout time, humans have abused their freedom to choose, following their own selfish and prideful path, at risk of destroying themselves through sin, and incurring God’s righteous anger.
But though the Old Testament years passed, God’s story was not over. The birth of Jesus Christ, prophesied in the Old Testament, ushered in a new era, the new era of grace covered in the New Testament. Mankind had forgotten the true nature of God and had earned God’s judgment. They had forgotten that God is love. The New Testament reveals that God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to show mankind the true loving nature of God the Father, to point out the many ways humanity had fallen short of God’s righteousness. God did not choose to turn His back on mankind, but instead made a way for them to come back to Him.
To satisfy God’s requirement of a blood sacrifice for sin, Jesus offered up Himself to die on a cross, not just as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, but as the LAST blood sacrifice God would ever require for our sins, once and for all. God accepted the blood of Jesus for all the sins of mankind for all time. And by God’s grace, He offers forgiveness of our sins if we will simply confess our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. By faith in the covering atonement of the blood of Jesus, we are justified in God’s sight. That is, even though we have fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), God declares us righteous in His sight! (Romans 4:1-8)
Jesus changed everything! When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we accept what Jesus has done for us and we have a “new nature” in Him. We are given His authority over Satan and demons, we are given His robe of righteousness and we are given power over sickness. God sees us through the interceding person of JESUS, His Son! In the Old Testament covenant, God required the shed blood of animals for the forgiveness of sin. But now we have the PERFECT sacrifice through our Lord Jesus. His sacrifice was enough. God showed His incredible love for us “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For in while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:9-10) Jesus has given us a means for a new relationship with God. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, He has accepted God’s righteous wrath that we deserved. The debt has been paid. This is GOOD NEWS.
The Apostle Paul explains it so well in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. . . .” Verse 17 sums it up: “Because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”
When we come to God and accept His Son, we are brought to a newness of life. Our old self has been crucified with Him so we can no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:6-7) This doesn’t mean that we never sin, but we have an awareness of sin and the evil fruit of it, and we have Christ’s power in us to overcome sin. Our desires change from wanting to sin to wanting to be righteous like Christ. And the glorious truth of all of this is that God’s gift of eternal life is His FREE gift to us. It is up to us to receive it. Romans 6:23 explains it so well: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” HALLELUJAH!
I have found that many Christians think God is angry with them, that all He sees are their faults and failures. They see God as an angry Judge who is terrifying to approach. They can’t feel “good enough” to approach Him. That was how they felt in the Old Testament, and rightly so. None of us are good enough to approach God. But Jesus has changed everything! God loves you and He wants to extend His blessings toward you. If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and repented of your sins, God has promised to forgive you! Accept His free gift right now today. Accept Him as the loving Father that He is and know that your sins are forgiven because of Jesus.
Dear Heavenly Father,
I know I’ve done wrong. I am a sinner needing your grace. Thank you that you made a way for me through your Son dying on the cross, shedding His precious blood and defeating death so that I can have life and be free from the slavery of sin. I accept your forgiveness now and I thank you for your love for me and I receive your blessings now. In the holy name of Jesus I pray, Amen.
The Salvation Poem
Jesus, you died upon a cross
And rose again to save the lost
Forgive me now of all my sin
Come be my Savior, Lord and Friend
Change my life and make it new
And help me, Lord, to live for you
Devotional by Sherry & Matt McPherson and Don Boyer
By Sherry McPherson | May 19, 2008 12:23 pm |