22 “And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. 26 However, we must run aground on a certain island (Acts 27:22–26, NKJV).”
A terrible storm had wreaked havoc on the grain ship and its 276 souls for almost two weeks. They were lost at sea. All seemed hopeless, but God’s revelation to Paul and his faith in the Lord formed the basis of his confidence amid chaos. Paul, the prisoner, became Paul the encourager. Twice he urged those on board to take heart, to “be of good cheer, of good courage” (Thayer, 258). We can take several points from this event to help us be encouraged and also encourage others. (1) Paul trusted God’s word (v. 25). We must trust God’s revelation as we face life’s storms. God’s word prevails. (2) Paul was confident in the purposes of God (v. 24). The Lord’s angel told him he “must be brought before Caesar.” When we rely on God’s purposes, we can take courage to face every trial (1 Pet. 1:5-7). (3) Paul was also a realist (v. 22, 26). He was honest about the trouble ahead. Encouragement does not sugar-coat the situation. It is compassionate yet straightforward with its analysis and recommendations. Whatever storm you face, take heart in the Lord, His purposes, and His truth. He will not fail or forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Then, encourage others.
34 “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. 35 For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord; 36 But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:34–36, NKJV).
Wisdom cries out, offering her blessings of prudence, knowledge, discretion, counsel, understanding, and strength to those who will listen to her (Prov. 8:1, 12-14). Consider some necessary traits that help us listen to wisdom’s instructions. (1) We must fear God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). Only when we fear God are we willing to listen to wisdom’s guidance. (2) We must receive the word of God. “For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:6). God’s word is the wellspring of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Yet too often, we turn from it to human teachings and counsel (Col. 2:8). By doing so, we sin against our souls, hate wisdom, and love death (Prov. 8:36). (3) We must live as God instructs us. “He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly” (Prov. 2:7). Divine instruction and its wisdom do us no good if we do not apply them. Wisdom calls on us to follow the truth of God. Wisdom says, “My mouth will speak truth,” and “all the worlds of my mouth are with righteousness” (Prov. 8:7). The blessings of wisdom come to those who fear God, receive His word, and obey what He says (James 3:13-18).
4 I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. 6 This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them (Psalm 34:4–7, NKJV).
Fear is an emotion that resides in many hearts and affects many lives. Jesus Christ calls on us, His disciples, to live by faith and rise above fear. Whether it be fear of physical danger, illness, death, or fearing others and compromising our faith, Jesus admonishes us not to fear. He said, “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” (Matt. 8:26). And, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28). The Lord delivered David from all his fears (v. 4). David feared displeasing the Lord God more than the imminent trouble he faced (v. 7). God encircled David (and all who fear Him) with protective care and deliverance. Should we not remember that deliverance from earthly dangers ultimately comes when death delivers us into the care and keeping of God (Phil. 1:19-23). Let us determine to seek the Lord like David. He will hear our prayers, calm our souls, and deliver us from all our fears (Phil. 4:6-7).
4 And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Luke 12:4–7, NKJV).
Friends tell us what we need to know because they care for us; they look out for us. Jesus is our truest friend who tells us not to be afraid of those who can kill us. They have no power over our immortal soul. God has the power to judge and punish our sins in hell. That is where we ought to place our fear. God is not a terrorist who threatens us. He cares for us and tells us of the wages of sin (Rom. 6:23). He loved us and sent His Son to save us from our sins (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; Rom. 6:23). Fearing God is an act of faith, not terror. God does not forget the sparrows, and He will not forget you. He knows you better than you know yourself. (Quick, how many hairs are on your head? God knows, even though you do not.) Your value is far greater than sparrows. So, do not fear people who threaten you because of your faith. Confident faith leads us to confess Jesus instead of being afraid (Lk. 12:8-9).
28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:28–30, NKJV)!
Scripture says Christ’s disciples were fearful when they saw Jesus walking on the sea toward them (Matt. 14:24-26). Jesus reassured them with, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” (Matt. 14:27). Peter’s decision to walk out to Jesus was rooted in his trust in Jesus; he believed His word (“come”) and his power to make it happen. Peter’s decision certainly was not due to his ability to walk on water! Fear reappeared when Peter looked around and lost focus on Jesus. Will we admit that sounds very much like us at times? Sin and the storms of life shake us. Jesus is near, coming to offer relief, but we are afraid. He says, “Come to Me…and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). And so, we begin to do just that, becoming a Christian and following Him. But our focus is easily diverted by the turmoil and trials of life; we become afraid, stop walking by faith, and begin to sink in the overwhelming flood of desperation, depression, and despair. Still, Jesus is ready and able to save us if we will call on Him, confessing our sins and repenting of them (Acts 8:22-24; 1 John 1:9). Living by faith means walking with Jesus through frightful moments, not just safe ones. He will not fail you. Jesus replaces fear with salvation’s abiding peace (Heb. 13:5-6).
3 Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), 4 In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? (Psalm 56:3–4, NKJV)?
Are you afraid of someone or something today? Over the past year, the Covid-19 virus has injected anxiety, doubts, and fear into many hearts and lives worldwide. Daily crime reports lead many to be afraid of their neighbors. The list goes on. David’s life was under constant threat from enemies when he penned Psalm 56. King Saul saw David as a threat and was looking for opportunities to kill him. The Philistines were a constant menace (Ps. 56:1-2; 1 Sam. 21-24). But David trusted God, so he resolved not to be afraid (v. 3). You and I can follow his example. God had given David His word that he would be king of Israel (1 Sam. 16:12-13). So, David praised God’s word. Faith in God removes fear, while doubt stirs it up. Come what may, David was confident his enemies would not prevail against the will and word of God. May we follow David’s model of trust and confidence in the Lord when faced with the fears and doubt of trials and troubles (Heb. 13:5-6). Do not be afraid. Put your trust in the Lord God.
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord (John 20:19–20, NKJV).
The “same day” He was resurrected, Jesus appeared to His apostles and assured them He had overcome sin and death. Their fear of the Jews put them behind closed doors. But Jesus had not given up on them. Soon, Jesus would send them into the world to preach the good news of His death, resurrection, and our salvation from sins (John 20:21; Mark 16:15-16; 1 Cor. 15:1-11). Jesus did two things that evening that assures us God has not given up on us, either. (1) Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” Fear is replaced with the gladness of faith when we believe Jesus is alive (John 16:22). Do not live your life in fear, fellow Christian. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). (2) Jesus showed them His wounds. It was really Jesus. He died for the whole world (Heb. 2:9; 1 John 2:2). He bore our sins in His body on the tree as a sacrifice for sins (1 Pet. 2:24; Heb. 10:10; Isa. 53:4-6). His resurrection assures us of God’s amazing grace and love (Rom. 5:8). Man’s sinful hatred killed the Son of God. But Jesus arose with forgiving love for all who will believe in His name (John 1:11-13; 3:16). We are saved because Jesus lives (Rom. 5:10).
6 A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find it, but knowledge is easy to him who understands. 7 Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge. 8 The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit. 9 Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is favor (Proverbs 14:6–9, NKJV).
The path to hell is paved with the foolishness and self-deception of human wisdom (1 Cor. 1:18-25; 3:18-20). This age’s rhetoric promotes the superiority of human knowledge and insight while demoting faith to a blind leap into the unknown (which is entirely wrong, Heb. 11:1). The truth is, many things people once considered to be true have been proven false. The earth is not flat. The earth is not the center of the universe. Bleeding a patient does not increase health. But the scoffer refuses to be humble. He keeps looking for wisdom, and it keeps eluding him (v. 6). Wise Solomon counsels us to avoid the foolish who mock at sin and deal in lies. Knowledge and wisdom begin with the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7; 9:10). When we stop fearing God, we expose ourselves to the world’s foolishness and the sin that deceives and destroys us. God’s word stands the test of things “falsely called knowledge” – do not be deceived (1 Tim. 6:20-21). May we all “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Prov. 23:23).
19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:19–21, NKJV)
Christians are to be “filled with the Spirit” of God instead of the intoxicating spirits created by men (Eph. 5:18). Several actions necessarily follow when we are filled with the Spirit through the word of Christ dwelling in us (Col. 3:16). 1) Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (v. 19). Speaking to one another takes the form of singing, of “making melody in your heart to the Lord.” It is singing words that communicate the heart’s message. This singing to the Lord encourages each Christian who sings from the heart. It is not entertainment. Neither is it a performance of a few for the many. This speaking is not playing, strumming, and humming songs. Nothing of the kind is in this verse. It does not say to play songs, but to speak to one another in songs. Let us not put words into God’s mouth (like “play”) that He did not say. 2) Give thanks always for all things (v. 20). Gratitude and praise exude from the life filled with the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Our songs and lives express hearts that respect God in Christ as the Giver of every blessing (Eph. 1:3). 3) Submit to one another in the fear of God (v. 21). The Spirit-filled life lives for others, not oneself. We serve Christ by serving one another (Mk. 10:42-45; Matt. 25:40). Subordinating ourselves to each other is a token of reverential respect for God. Be filled with the Spirit. Worship. Give thanks. Serve one another.
14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14–15, NKJV)
Christ lived in the flesh to die for humanity. He was “made a litter lower than the angels” when He partook of “flesh and blood.” Through God’s grace, His “suffering of death” “for everyone” equipped and glorified Him as the captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:9-10). He blazed the trail for our redemption from the bondage of sin and the fear of death. By doing so, Christ destroyed the devil, rendering useless his power to use the fear of death against us. Christ has overcome sin and death by His death and resurrection. We view death with hope, release, and joy because of Christ (2 Cor. 4:16-18; Phil. 1:21-23; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). In Christ, life has its proper context – a temporary blessing on the road to eternity (2 Cor. 5:1). In turn, understanding death instills in us the faith to make the Lord’s will our own (Jas. 4:13-17). Death is coming for us all, but that is not the end of the story. Christ “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). His gospel calls on us to die to sin and live with and for Him, now and forever (Gal. 2:20). Keep the faith, praise God, and have no fear; Christ has overcome the world (Jno. 16:33).