Keep Calm and Fear God

One of the first purchases my family made after moving into our home was something we thought essential considering our property is old.

I was once woken up as a child by a spider that had abseiled down from the ceiling like a ninja and was dancing on my face. I was petrified of them after that, even though I knew they couldn’t hurt me. As I grew up my fear paled into dislike, apart from the time I saw a giant huntsman in the bathroom in Japan! My heart skipped a beat!

So this is our spider catcher! No more having to get a glass in order to get rid of the 8-legged monsters, and no more having to deal with the guilt of killing them.

We all have fears. Some of them are trivial like the fear of spiders, hence the acronym:

False
Expectations
Appearing
Real

But other fears are legitimate. It’s right to be afraid of falling off a cliff, or of jumping into a fire! Fear is such a powerful force in our experience that has a way of controlling us. There isn’t a person on this planet who isn’t afraid of something.

Covid-19 has, and is exposing fears. The fear of lack, the fear of isolation, the fear of ill-health, the fear of death, and more.

And in our own lives apart from the pandemic – because let’s face it, there’s more going on than just the Coronavirus – we can probably all think of anxieties that weigh down on us.

At it’s root fear is to do with feeling powerless. Indeed, the person who is fearless considers themselves to be all-powerful. But more than this, worldly fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:8) – of not only feeling powerless, but of also feeling threatened.

In some ways when I see a huge spider and feel afraid I am attributing to it power over me as I see it as a threat! How silly! And that’s why God in His Word commands people to fear Him – to acknowledge His supreme reign in our lives – for His glory and for our good. Fear God and give him glory, Revelation tells us (14:7).

And this fear of our Maker is right, for it confesses that He is above anything and anyone else. And when we know that God is not only over us, but He is also for us in Christ, we need not feel threatened, for this liberates us from the debilitating slavery of misplaced fear that we may live rightly and gladly before our King.

We therefore need to view our fears in the light of God’s power and authority, and to keep reapplying the truth to our hearts (or rather, re-believing the truth) of who God is, of what He has done, of who we are in Him, and of His great promises for us in Christ.

I’m reminded of a story in the book of Mark.

One evening Jesus invited His disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee together by boat, but during their voyage a great storm arose. The disciples started to panic as the waves came crashing over the sides – Jesus, however, was sleeping.

Mark 4:38-41
And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

The disciples had good reason to be terrified. Fear of a danger stronger than us is appropriate. In Japan we had typhoons every year, and when they came we made sure to stay indoors!

But the disciples not only freaked out; they questioned Jesus’ care because they believed that the raging storm was more powerful than He, and Christ rebuked them for this. After Jesus stilled the storm though, something peculiar happened. Mark tells us that the disciples were filled with great fear. In other words, they experienced a fear transfer – from the storm to Jesus – when they saw that He was stronger than the wind and waves. And herein lies the path to our freedom from fear.

When Jesus rose from the grave He declared His ultimate power over all creation – even over sin and death. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, Christ said (Matthew 28:18).

So why are you so afraid? It’s a very profound question, one that Jesus not only asked of His disciples, but one that He asks of us today. It drives right to the heart of the matter, because who or what we believe is most powerful will master our thoughts and actions. Our fears – whether imagined or real – may be bigger than we are and therefore scary to us. But God in His Word instructs us to not fear anything that is frightening (1 Peter 3:6). Why? Because He rules over them. We need to stop fearing other things more than Jesus, for when we fear earthly powers more than Christ we not only dishonour Him, but we also enslave ourselves.

It’s a fallacy to think that being in God’s will means that life will always be plain sailing. Jesus took the disciples head on into the storm! He wants to teach us more of what it means to believe upon Him, and that may require challenges that reveal and refine the condition of our hearts.

In our lives today we may be facing problems that are causing us to worry. But let us not forget, in the words of Christ Tomlin, that Our God is greater; Our God is stronger.

Jesus has absolute power over the storms we face and so we should cry out to Him. But that does not mean that He will still them, though He can if He so chooses. Interestingly, in the eye of a storm is perfect calm, and evidently God sometimes prefers to calm our hearts in the midst of chaos rather than calming our situations, for that can be more formative in displaying to us and to the world of what it is to trust and hope in Him. It’s one thing to praise God in sunshine, but to praise Him in rain proves a great depth to our joy in Him.

The missionary Amy Carmichael, wrote this poem:

Thou art the Lord who slept upon the pillow,
Thou art the Lord who soothed the furious sea,
What matter beating wind and tossing billow,
If only we are in the boat with Thee?

The beauty of Jesus’ peace flows from His presence and from trusting in His love and sufficient grace for us. If we ever find ourselves questioning God’s care, may we be comforted by the knowledge that if Jesus is in our boat then nothing can eternally harm us, not even death nor judgment, for He has promised to bring those who are with Him safely to the other side of heaven’s shores, where there shall never again be stormy weather.

God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7), and there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:8).

Today and every day, let’s seek to live under God’s reign of love. We won’t be perfectly free from fear in this world, nor from life’s storms, but we can know increasing joy and freedom in Christ as we continue to journey with Him – the One who has said, Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ (Isaiah 41:10).