9 I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. 10 For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds. 11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let Your glory be above all the earth (Psalm 57:9–11, NKJV).
Doubt over what may happen in the future debilitates us. Dread over potential crises hinders clear thinking and decisive decision-making. Anxiety and fear harm one’s faith in God (Phil. 4:4-7). David’s life was being threatened by King Saul when he wrote Psalm 57 and hid in a cave from his would-be assassin (1 Sam. 22:1). Yet, David did not trust in himself or doubt the Lord. “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by” (Ps. 57:1). God’s mercy is higher than the heavens, and His truth touches the clouds, even as His glory fills the earth (Ps. 57:11-12). Instead of doubt, dread, anxiety, and fear, David trusted God’s mercy, justice, and power in times of trouble. For instance, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise” (Ps. 57:7). Even so, evil lurks nearby and pursues our souls (1 Pet. 5:8). God is merciful to forgive our transgressions as His truth guides our path and executes justice (1 John 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 4:17-19). Let us repent of doubt, dread, anxiety, and fear and replace them with faith in God’s mercy, praise for His steadfastness, and reliance on His truth to vindicate the righteous (2 Thess. 1:3-8).
37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” 39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:37–40, NKJV)
After a full day of teaching many parables to “a great multitude,” Jesus and His apostles crossed the Sea of Galilee at night (Mark 4:1-2, 35-36). While Jesus slept, a sudden and violent storm arose, endangering them as their boat took on water. In fear, the apostles woke up Jesus asking, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” Fear can grip us when facing unexpected dangers, traumas, and uncertain outcomes. Jesus calmed the storm, then challenged His apostles to see their fearful doubts as a lack of faith (v. 40). The cares of this world (physical ailments, financial pressures, etc.), if allowed, can press us to the edge of fear and faithlessness. Our Adversary tempts us to think God does not care “that we are perishing.” But Christ’s power over nature secures our faith in Him to face life’s storms (Mark 4:41). God Himself has said, “‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me (Heb. 13:5-6)?’” Let us strengthen our faith in the Lord in uncertain times. None of these things separate the faithful from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:31-39).
42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42–43, NKJV).
Were the many rulers who believed in Jesus saved? If so, they were saved without confessing Jesus. Yet, Jesus said, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33). Although the rulers believed in Him, they were lost (Rom. 10:9-10). Again we ask, were the many rulers who believed in Jesus saved? If so, they were saved by loving the praise of men more than the praise of God. Yet, Jesus said we must love God “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Those who love others more than Jesus are not worthy of Him (Matt. 10:37-39; Luke 14:26-27). Like the parents of the blind man Jesus healed, they feared being put “out of the synagogue” (banished from the congregation of Israel, John 9:22). Although the rulers believed in Him, they were lost. Faith only does not save sinners. Faith only did not save the Jewish rulers who failed to confess Jesus. It did not save demons (Luke 8:27-33; James 2:19). It will not save you and me. Believers in Jesus Christ have “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). What we do with our faith is the difference between being lost and being saved. Faith prompts submissive and enduring obedience to do the will of God (Heb. 5:9; Phil. 2:12-13). That is the faith that saves the soul (Heb. 10:36-39).
But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say (Luke 6:46, NKJV)?
Why do you say yet not obey? That is the penetrating question Jesus asked those who followed Him from place to place during His ministry. Disciples (followers) learn and live the training received from their Master (Luke 6:40; John 8:31). Jesus is not our ‘Lord’ unless we obey Him. Like them, the Master challenges us to investigate our motives for saying He is Lord while disobeying His word. The Scriptures help us examine ourselves to discover and remove obstacles preventing salvation and hindering discipleship. (1) A hard heart (John 12:37-40). An open, receptive, and responsive heart accepts the word of God and is fruitful by doing the Lord’s will (Luke 8:15; Acts 17:11-12). (2) Fear and favor of men (John 12:42-43). Fearing rejection from others, many still prefer men’s favor over God’s approval. (3) Love of the world (1 John 2:15). Genuine love for Jesus obeys His commands (John 14:15). When we misplace our love and disobey Jesus, we deceive ourselves to think we love Jesus. (4) Deceived by false teaching (Luke 8:15). A popular doctrine convinces many souls that Christians cannot fall from grace (be lost). Yet, the gospel warns disciples against falling away (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 3:12-13). This false doctrine opens the door to complacent, neglectful faith (Heb. 6:11-12; 10:39). Jesus said it is foolish to hear His words and do nothing (Luke 6:49; Matt. 7:26-27). But it is wise to hear and do His words (Luke 6:47-48; Matt. 7:24-25). Yes, we must do more than say, “Lord, Lord,” to be a disciple and enter the kingdom of heaven. We must hear and do the words of Christ (Matt. 7:21-23).
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.