BY JORDAN MAYER
“He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’”
Fear is a funny thing, isn’t it? Given a certain stimulus, the strongest, most confident individuals can quickly be overcome and immobilized. We call these kinds of fears, phobias, due to their extreme and often irrational nature. Case in point is the fact that public speaking often takes the top billing as peoples’ greatest fear, beating out clowns, strangers, and drowning. Even the fears that may not debilitate us can still control and influence our decisions. Where we go, who we talk to, or what we choose to do (or not do) can all be motivated by fear.
The Bible speaks about a great many fears. Fear of man. Fear of what tomorrow will bring. Fear of judgment. Fear of suffering. Fear of what we do not understand. Fear of death. The list goes on…
But we also know that again and again, throughout the Scriptures, we are encouraged to “fear not!”
So what is the key to living a life free from fear? Jesus provides the answer in His response to His disciples during their perils on the sea.
Jesus and His disciples were on their way across the Sea of Galilee when they encountered a sudden and severe storm. The winds were battering, the waves were crashing, and the boat was filling with water. By all accounts, the disciples were in fear for their very lives.
Meanwhile, their Master was fast asleep below, seemingly unaware and oblivious to the dire circumstances above deck. They rouse Him from His rest and, by the mere power of His word, the winds cease and the waters still.
Place yourself in the midst of this situation. The wind is howling in your ears, making it difficult to even communicate with those around you. The sea is spraying across your face and the waves are washing over your body. It seems certain you are about to die. It is a scene of chaos and utter despair. But then, in an instant, there is calm and peace. All is quiet.
Then Jesus speaks, and He asks them a question: “Why are you so afraid?”
Was the gravity of the situation just a few minutes prior lost on Jesus? I think not. Remember it was Jesus who rebuked the mighty wind and waves.
Jesus asks a second question of His disciples that gets at the root of the issue. “Have you still no faith?”, He asks.
These disciples had seen firsthand His power to heal. They had witnessed Him cast out demons and heard those same evil spirits declare Him to be the Son of the Most High God (Mark 3:11). They had the very secrets of the kingdom of God revealed to them (Mark 4:11). And yet, now they fear this storm before them.
Ultimately, the battle over fear is a battle over faith. The fight against fear is the fight for faith. This faith is not abstract. It is not a positive outlook or a general feeling that things will work out in the end. Faith is in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).
Look at what Jesus says to the ruler of the synagogue as His daughter lies dead in his house. Do not fear, only believe. (Luke 8:49-50). Or to the many other recipients of Jesus’ miracles, He reminds them that it was their faith that made them well.
A lack of fear is not found in the absence of that which makes us afraid, it is found in the fullness of faith in God.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Faith empowers us with the knowledge that death is actually gain (Philippians 1:21). It reminds us that all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28). It comforts us with the truth that nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:39).
You see, in light of the truth of the Gospel, there is no longer any need to fear. For our true and greatest fear, the fear of God's judgment, has been addressed at the Cross by Jesus himself. As Romans 8:1 declares, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” If we are freed from so great a fear as this, how can we possibly fear whatever else may come our way?
So fear not, Christian, only have faith.
BY JORDAN MAYER
"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits."
Do you ever have trouble remembering? Maybe it’s someone’s name, or that appointment you scheduled weeks ago, or what you ate for breakfast yesterday. How about the things you don't even realize you've forgotten or that nagging feeling that something has slipped your mind? I think we would all agree that we are prone to forget.
Think of all the consequences that result from our forgetfulness. Some may be rather trivial while others may be quite severe. How much greater than are the consequences of spiritual forgetfulness?
We see this play out again and again with the people of Israel. Look back at the time of judges. The people cried out to God for deliverance, God raised up a judge to save them from their enemies, and then the land had rest for a time. Then what? The people forgot about God! After Gideon's death, Israel's fifth judge, it says, "And the people of Israel did not remember [emphasis added] the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side." (Judges 8:34).
What happens when we forget about God?
When we forget to worship Him, we worship other things. When we forget the truth of God's Word, we define the truth for ourselves. When we forget what God has done, we begin to fear and doubt. When we forget to rely on God, we start to rely on ourselves.
So how do we make sure we don't forget God? We need reminders, soul reminders!
We need reminders in our spiritual life just like we need them in our daily life. I think we often shy away from this, thinking that we should just remember. But there is no shame in reminders, for they are a wonderful tool for remembering and one frequently employed by the writers of the Psalms.
Psalm 103 is one such soul reminder. “Listen up, soul, remember to bless the Lord!” Don’t forget His benefits, don’t lose sight of what He’s done. It is He who forgives you, the merciful and gracious God who casts away your sins as far as the east is from the west. The faithful One who lifts you up out of the pit, crowns you with His love and mercy, and satisfies you with His good. Your Heavenly Father who is slow to anger, but abounding in steadfast love. So with all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Brothers and sisters, it is good to remind ourselves of God and to remember to bless His name!
Though we are prone to forget, we must also remember that God, in His kindness and grace, did not leave us to our own forgetful devices. He gave us a Helper, One who works in us, to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
Jesus had these words of encouragement to his disciples, those who would have the momentous task of recording His words. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:26).
Whatever is going on in your life, whatever may be on your mind, pause a moment. Remind yourself of who God is, recall what God has done, and with all that is within you, bless His holy name!
"BY JORDAN MAYER
"Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!"
Recently, I have been praying through some challenges and frustrations at work, seeking God's wisdom and His intervention in these circumstances. As difficult as it has been, I've been so grateful and encouraged by God's faithfulness through this time. It has grown my faith in new ways as I've had to rely and seek Him daily in these things. There is something marvelous that happens when we surrender control and simply watch God work. Already I have seen God's hand in amazing ways, masterfully weaving His good plans and purposes through my life's circumstances.
A few days ago I read through Psalm 96 which begins with this exhortation to "sing to the Lord a new song"!
Why a new song I asked myself?
The Bible is filled with many new things: new morning mercies (Lamentations 3:23), new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), new hearts (Ezekiel 36:26), new selves (Ephesians 4:24), new ways (Hebrews 10:20).
When God does a new thing, we need a new song! New songs befit new mercies, new blessings, and new deliverances. The old, faithful hymns are precious reminders of God's goodness and faithfulness of old. But in light of the present day graces, the mid morning mercies, and the end of day blessings, a new song must rise.
The song is all our own, but the Psalmist provides a pattern.
We bless His name! We tell of His salvation! We declare His glory and proclaim His marvelous works! We lift up our offering of worship and praise!
As I was looking up this idea of "singing a new song", I came across a few instances in Revelation. In chapter 5, John sees God enthroned in glory with a mysterious scroll in His hand. The scroll is sealed and, though there were many present, no one was found worthy to open the scroll. At this news John begins to weep. But in a dramatic turn of events, the Lamb steps forward to receive the scroll and the scene is instantly changed. There is another "new song" that arises from the heavenly throngs.
"And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth'" (Revelation 5:9-10).
And a moment later, the chorus breaks out in full and John captures what he sees and hears.
"Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!' And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!' And the four living creatures said, 'Amen!' and the elders fell down and worshipped" (Revelations 5:11-14).
What song will you sing to the Lord today, for all that He is and all that He has done?
BY JOYCE PELLETIER
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
The Sermon on the Mount is one of my favorite places to visit in God’s Word.
I know when I need to knock. The question is to ask the Lord where to turn. On that lofty mountain where Jesus chose to
teach His followers, it becomes the classroom on the Mountain. It is a place where there aren’t any microphones present, just the voice of Jesus. The one who listens, hears His voice clearly and pays attention.
It’s a place where God speaks to my heart in simplistic, easy, understandable language. When our school teachers used to take us outside for class, we were suddenly more alert.
I recently started a new devotional. I’ve been looking for one for some time. I decided to give this one a try. It’s a devotional for women with prompts and prayers to reflect on finding our way to connect with God.
The first part prompted me to write about where I talk to God. Where do I envision His presence? The first thing that came to mind was a park bench. I happen to have one in my back yard. I sit on it often and find a certain comfort there. It’s in a place where I can visit with my almost three-year old neighbor. Her and I have become good friends. Her gentle presence reminds me to take time to listen. She has a soft voice and I’ve recently became somewhat hard of hearing, so I make a better effort to hear her.
Whether I walk alone, sit on the bench or on my bed, I envision God next to me. Somehow a park bench reminds me that friends meet there. I have a good friend that meets me at Bayside Park once a year and we talk for a couple of hours. We never run out of words to share with one another. It’s more the same with Jesus. When I talk, He listens. Then I do my best to be a good listener, too.
When I first started my journey with Jesus, I remember reading in bed one night. The kids were asleep, Maurice was reading next to me. In the quiet, I heard, “Joyce, I love you!” It caught my attention as I sat there on the bed, looked at Maurice and he was deep-seated in his book and had not said a word.
I wasn’t seeking God at that moment, but He was seeking me. Deep in my heart, it was my first time I had heard a new voice in the quietness of our home. It reminded me of First Samuel 3:1-21 where Samuel was serving under Eli. He was weary and went to bed. The Lord called out to him. Samuel thought it was Eli, so Samuel ran to Eli saying, “Here I am. You called me.” Samuel had not called him, so Samuel went back to bed. A short while later it happened again. Eli’s response was the same.
A third time it happened, Samuel went to Eli again. It was then that Eli realized that God was calling Samuel. Eli told him to return to bed and told Samuel, “Go and lie down and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening.’
Soon it happened again, so Samuel heeded the words of Eli and followed his directions and God spoke to Samuel and told him what he was going to do.
When I think of this story, and remember that night and hearing the words, “I love you.”, I know that God is with me wherever I go. He wants to use me and you for his purpose.
I do not often hear these words audibly, but the impression on my heart is very noticeable as I am lead to do this or that for the Lord. When I’m on the right path, things flow, therefore He affirms my direction, so I continue to listen more intently. It continues to flow. I know when I make a wrong turn, that clarifies my attention.
Whenever you might hear that voice, whether on a park bench, your living room chair or in the car; remember to listen to that still, quiet voice saying, ‘Speak Lord, I’m listening.’ He’s always ready to talk with you.