I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:11
By Yodit Kifle Smith
One commonality among many one of us reading this is that we have dealt with and will deal with fear in our lifetime. Our fears range from spiders and snakes to rejection and loss. We live in a world that pushes the message that fear is an enemy so we should avoid it at all cost . However, we know that it’s not the easiest thing to avoid fear or overcome fear. Nonetheless, we have a God who uses fear as an instrument of grace and mercy to push us to firmer faith in Jesus.
No better place to see how than in His Word. In John 6, Jesus had just finished feeding a crowd of over 5,000 people with 5 fish and 2 loaves of bread—a miracle that would yet again prove that Jesus wasn’t any old teacher or prophet. And with the intensity of the people’s desire to have Him do more miracles for their own agenda, He wanted to get away. He told his disciples to get on a boat and go across the sea to Capernaum and He would meet them there after spending time praying. So, the disciples obeyed and went before Him. However, a huge storm emerged and they got caught up in it. But here is what is fascinating. In the account that Mark (6:47-51) writes of this story, he mentions that Jesus saw them struggling out on the sea. And the reality that He is sovereign, He most likely knew the storm was coming yet still told the disciples to go ahead of Him.
Here we see an example of Jesus testing His disciples. Up to this point, the disciples were still learning who Jesus was as they followed Him. They were seeing what He was doing and the things He was saying, but you also see that their faith in who He was wasn’t firm just yet. And Jesus, in His plan and sovereignty allowed this storm to see how they would respond to their fear. He wanted to use their fear to push them to deeper and firmer faith--a faith that rested on Him.
As the disciples encountered this brutal storm, we read that Jesus was walking on water in the middle of the storm and the disciples noticed someone but immediately thought it was a ghost. They became more afraid and rightfully so. Can you imagine seeing a figure walking on water in the night while a threatening storm was happening? But we read that Jesus walked over to them and simply said, “It is I, do not be afraid.” (John 6: 20)
What is intriguing about His response is that He didn’t calm the storm. Rather, He commanded their fear to cease because He was there. What does this show us? It shows us that His presence makes all the difference regardless if the storms in our lives are present. And we see the response of the disciples because they willingly bring Him into the boat and the account in Matthew 14:33 tells us that they worshiped Him saying, “Truly, You are the Son of God.” They began to see that this was no ordinary person. His presence provoked a different kind of fear—the fear of God that responds in worship, even in the middle of the storm.
In this encounter we see the reality of fear. But what is more real than fear is the reality that Jesus is always after our faith. He’s after whether or not we believe and trust that who He says He is proves truer and greater than what’s happening around us. You see, it’s easy to live this life saying that we trust God and have our faith in Him when things are going well. But when the storms arise, it brings out deep seated fears that cause us to question and doubt if things will work out. If God will really provide. If relationships will be restored--all of which reveal who we are trusting. What we are trusting. Or IF we are trusting.
Fear isn’t the enemy. Satan is the enemy. Satan wants to weaken our faith. He wants to convince us that trusting ourselves is better than trusting God. He wants to deceive us into thinking that an illusion of control is better than the freedom of surrender. But God wants to use our fears. How we respond to fear is what matters. Will we worship the ONE who commands the storms to cease or give into our finite ability to understand the things that happen to us?
So as Jesus told His disciples, He tells us, “It is I. Do not fear.” But the question is, do you know WHO He is? Do you know what He’s done? Do you trust that even in the middle of the storms of life His presence makes all the difference?
As we grow in our walk, these are questions that we must ask. We don’t want our faith to be built on the mental ascent of our knowledge of God or on the illusion that trusting Jesus means we won’t experience storms, but on the reality that no matter the circumstances of our lives, Who He is and what He has done has become the foundation of our life and it makes all the difference.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The weekly devotionals seek to encourage you to dig deeper into Scripture as you take the time to daily read, meditate, and internalize the verses in the devotional, along with the passages provided below to give greater context. Take the time to read them throughout the week (repetition is important) and ask the Holy Spirit to help you grasp what God is showing you about Himself, about you, and how to live in light of these truths.
Passages to read/memorize/meditate:
Questions to Reflect on: