It is absolutely amazing how often we read in the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John of Jesus commanding the disciples to not be afraid and convicting them of having small faith because of the fears that haunted them day after day. Jesus point to the disciples was that they should put their trust in Jesus and know that He has promised to be with us and help us in all circumstances. Think of a few of the things tied to his commands not to be afraid but to put their faith in Him.
In Matthew 8: 23-27 Jesus was in the boat with the disciples sailing across the Sea of Galilee when a great storm arose on the sea. Their boat was being swamped by the waves, but Jesus was asleep. They woke him shouting, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith? Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” They were amazed asking, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” Imagine being in a similar situation. Perhaps you are in the middle of a storm, the sound of a tornado in the background is tormenting. How do you think you would react? It’s pretty easy to say, “Well, I’m not afraid of storms.” But if we find ourselves in the middle of such a storm all our brave words tend to leave us and fear overwhelms us. But, as we get our equilibrium back, if we are people of faith in the Lord, we should remember who we belong to and who has promised to be with us and take care of us in the worst of situations. Our faith should conquer our fears!
In chapter ten of Matthew Jesus sent out the disciples on the limited commission. They were to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel preach to them that the kingdom of God has come near. Jesus warned them he was sending them out like sheep in the midst of wolves. He told them to “beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious about how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Can you imagine being in such a situation? What would it be like to be called before authorities and beaten for our faith in Jesus? Can you imagine the anxiety or fear that would overwhelm you in such a time? But Jesus tells us that we shouldn’t fear in such moments but trust him to give us the very words we need to say and the courage to say them.
Just a few verses later in Matthew 10 Jesus picks up that same theme again. Beginning in verse 26 he said, “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell! Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Verses 26-31). What is so amazing to me in this section of verses is that he just keeps challenging them not to fear the things of this life or the problems we may face. He even challenged us not to be afraid of dying.
Why do you suppose Jesus was so intent on getting these disciples, to the stage where they weren’t ruled by their fears? He was certainly calling on them to do some dangerous things that would ultimately lead to many of them being put to death. Yet he longed for their faith in him to be strong enough that it conquered the fears of life.
It seems to me that we live in a time when fears of all kinds overwhelm us. Those who are devoted to Christ aren’t much different from the people of the world in this whole matter of fears. We are haunted by fears of the Covid-19 virus. We are fearful for our country and what may happen next, no matter which side of the political arena we live in. Fear of China, Russia or some other country taking over the world concerns us. We fear depression, and not having the money to take care of ourselves. We fear the future and what lies ahead. We fear for our children and our grandchildren and what they will face in their future.
It seems to me that we too often find ourselves in the same situation that the army of Israel faced when Saul led them out against the Philistines and Goliath the giant came out each day tormenting Saul and his soldiers. He challenged them and their god to send one man out to face him. Whoever won the battle their country would rule over the country represented by the one who lost the battle. Finally, God arranged for David, a shepherd boy, the son of Jesse to visit his brothers who were in the army and take them some food. He arrived just in time to hear Goliath come out and shout his challenge to the Israelite army. He saw their trembling fear and asked what brought them such fear. David went to Saul and volunteered to face the giant. Saul was glad to have a volunteer since his fears were far too great to face him in the battle. He tried to give David his armor to wear. David chose to take the familiar slingshot he had used to protect the sheep. On the way to meet Goliath, he picked up five smooth stones and faced the giant. Did he trust the stones or sling? No! He trusted God and God delivered the giant into his hands.
The great question we all must raise is will we live by faith or by fear? We can’t do both.