Grace For The Journey
I heard the testimony of a person who recalled from his youth a bully who demanded his lunch money every day. Since Jack was smaller than the bully, he said he just gave in to the bully’s demands and handed him the money. But one day this individual had decided he’d had enough and was determined to fight back. So he started taking karate lessons to prepare himself for future encounters with the bully. After some time, however, the karate teacher told Jack he would have to start paying five dollars a lesson. So rather than paying for karate lessons, he went back to paying the bully!
Many people feel it’s easier just to “pay the bully” of fear than to learn how to deal with him. So they go through life giving in to their fears.
I once had a friend whose dad owned a small airplane. My friend was with me in church one day and tried to talk my pastor into going on a plane ride. My pastor was quick to say that he didn’t believe in flying. Truth is, he had a fear of heights. So he reminded my friend that Jesus had said, “Low, I am with you always!” Others have a fear of strangers, or a fear of large crowds. I read where there is even a fear known as phobophobia, a fear of fear!
A few posts ago we discussed dealing with worry. What is the difference between worry and fear? It seems to me that worry is predominantly a settled, sustained concern about one thing or another. We worry because we said something we shouldn’t have or we worry whether there will be enough money to pay the bills. Fear, on the other hand, is more instantaneous. Fear is that sudden, paralyzing emotion that causes us to freeze in fright, or to run and hide. Fear carries the idea of “being afraid.”
Fear Originated From Sin
What is the root cause of all of this fear? It goes all the way back to our first family, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden. The Bible says in Genesis chapter 3 that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Shortly thereafter God comes to them and addresses Adam: “Where are you Adam?” Well, where was Adam? He had hidden. And why had he hidden? Because he was afraid.
Think of it: before that first sin, the word “fear” was not in Adam and Eve’s vocabulary. But as soon as they sinned against God, fear was born and we’ve been dealing with it ever since.
Fortunately, the Bible helps us overcome our fear. Check out what God says to His people in Isaiah 41:10, “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.”
Isn’t that a great verse?! Contextually, God is contrasting the unbelievers of Isaiah’s day with the people of God, the very people from whom would come the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
From this one verse, we learn a few actions to take when we are overwhelmed by fear.
1) Be Encouraged by the Presence of God
Read again that first phrase in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you.” Isn’t that a wonderful statement? It becomes even more presious when we remember that what God says cannot be changed!
This is the doctrine of omnipresence,
The teaching that God is with us wherever we go.
There is no place you can go, where God isn’t already there.
He’s always with you. Therefore, you need not fear.
If you’ve ever taken your child to the doctor’s office, or to the dentist, then you understand how encouraging this verse is. Your child is sitting there in the doctor’s room and what does your child say to you? “Don’t leave me, daddy! Stay right here with me, mommy! You’re not going to leave, are you?” Why is that encouraging to the small child? After all, you’re not the one who will do the physical examination. You’re not the one who will check their mouth for cavities. Why is it encouraging?
There’s just something about knowing
The parent is there that calms the child.
If things go awry, the child knows
The parent will step in and
Take charge of the situation.
The parent is there to
Oversee what happens.
This is what is so encouraging about God’s presence in our lives. God says, “Fear not, for I am with you.” The suggestion is that if things go awry, God will step in there and take charge of the situation. The perfect, always present Heavenly Father He says to His children, “I am in control. Don’t worry. I’m right here by your side.”
So . . .
- When you go to the doctor’s office for that procedure, be encouraged by the presence of God. \
- When you’re driving in your car and it’s dark and the rain is crashing down violently upon your windshield, be encouraged by the presence of God.
- When you go outside and enter into a society paralyzed by fears of COVID-19, be encouraged by the presence of God.
Let’s be clear: this verse is written to believers. If you are not a believer in the One True and Living God, if you have not received Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, you have every reason in the world to be afraid.
The Bible teaches that every person is born separated from God, separated from Him because of sin. And God is separated from us because of His holiness. This is why Jesus Christ came – He came as the way between God and man (John 14:6).
If we do not receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then we die separated from God and we will spend eternity separated from Him. The only way to be reconciled to God is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, believe that He died on the cross and paid our sin debt in full.
2) Be Encouraged by the Power of God.
Note again what God says in the second part of Isaiah 41:10, “Be not dismayed, for I am your God.” That word “dismayed” in this verse means “to look around anxiously, to wander about as though fretting about; to not know which way to turn to get out of the situation.” Have you ever felt that way? Do you ever wander about, looking around anxiously in fear, and can’t see a way out?
God says, “Don’t do that.” Then He tells us why: “for I am your God.” This is a simple, yet powerful statement. God uses the name “Elohim” to describe Himself. Elohim is the word for God that . . .
Speaks of God’s greatness,
Of His divine power as
The Creator, the Sovereign Ruler,
The One and only Supreme Being.
In essence God says,
“Here is precisely why
You should not be dismayed –
Because I am your God.
Be encouraged by My presence and power.”
You come to really understand and appreciate God’s saying this when you imagine someone else saying it to you. Imagine, for example, your spouse trying to calm your anxieties by approaching you and saying, “Be not dismayed, for I am wife/husband and I can handle this.” You’d be like, “Yeah, right! You’re just a woman/man; you’re not God. What do you know?!” And you would be right. They aren’t God. They don’t know what God knows and they don’t have power over your fears – but God does! That’s the point.
3) Be Encouraged by the Promises of God.
God promises three things in the last part of this verse, three “I will” statements. When you are fearful, you can be encouraged knowing that God promises these three wonderful things.
- God Promises to Strengthen You
He says, “I will strengthen you.” Anything can cause this fear. When you and I are overcome by fear, we become weak. We stop breathing changes and emotional strength is affected. God has already promised His strength for our every occasion in Isaiah 40: where He says, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” The amazing thing about this statement is that the word “renew” literally means “exchange.” God is saying that when we pursue God and surrender to Him He will exchange our weakness for His strength. That is a promise we all need to claim.
- God Promises to Help You
God continues by saying, “Yes, I will help you.” We must depend upon God to help us in our time of need. We must ask Him for help. And if we ask for Him to help, He will help us. In her book, Kids of the Kingdom, Carolyn Lehman, writes about a time when she was asked to give a report about her “Good News Club” at a teacher’s rally. She was with some children sometime beforehand and she asked the children to pray for her not to be frightened when she spoke before the large group. A little six-year-old volunteered to lead in prayer. They all bowed their heads and the little girl prayed softly, “Dear Jesus, please help Mrs. Lehman not to be scared when she gives her talk in front of millions and millions of people!”
Thoughts of millions and millions of people probably didn’t help Mrs. Lehman, but the little girl was going to the right source. She was talking to God and God promises to help us in our time of need.
There’s a great account in the Bible that speaks to this. In 2 Chronicles 20:12, we learn that the city of Jerusalem was surrounded by her enemies and King Jehoshaphat was afraid. He is fearful. So he turns to God for help. His prayer is supremely honest: “We are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us, and we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on Thee.” God answers by helping Jehoshaphat and by giving Jerusalem a great victory.
So when you are fearful, admit your fears to God and say, “I am powerless. I don’t know what to do, but we are looking to You for our hope and help.”
What else does God promise to do? God promises to strengthen you, to help you, and finally:
- God Promises to Uphold You.
He states in the later part of verse 10, “I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
God promises to hold us up. He promises to keep us steady, to never lose His grip on us. And He holds us up with His “righteous right hand.” That is, with his strong and victorious hand. He never relaxes His grip. He keeps us steady.
So be encouraged by the truths in this powerful verse. Use this verse this week to conquer your fears. Whatever situation you find yourself in – sharing Jesus Christ with a neighbor, hearing the pessimistic news anchor, going to the doctor, preparing for that job interview – remember this verse and defeat the bully of fear.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”