Happy Friday! I'm getting started on the pod late tonight, so I must cut out a lot of the normal banter, and funny jokes you normally hear in this space. That was actually my funny joke for the day, as I know my other jokes aren't actually that funny. Our Bible readings today are Leviticus 21, Psalms 26 and 27, Ecclesiastes 4 and 1 Timothy 6. Our focus question comes from Psalms 27, and in this passage David discusses how he will not give into fear, because God is his stronghold. As we have talked about before, I suspect fear around the world is at its highest level in my lifetime, so our Big Bible question is all about how to NOT be afraid. Let me caution you upfront, so that I am not the spiritual equivalent of a used car salesman. I do believe that the Bible gives us multiple way to overcome fear, but because we are human, there is no permanent cure for fear in the sense that you take it once and poof! you are cured forever. In the same way that people need daily food to live on, Christians need daily bread from God to live on. Part of that provision is the Word of God to help us overcome sin, to resist temptation, and to walk in faith, rather than fear.
Here is my experience and testimony: I have not had a life that has been characterized by fearfulness, but I have had many extended times in my life where fear and anxiety have taken hold, and enveloped me in some sort of spiritual wrestling match where I was pinned to the mat far more often than I overcame. In those times of trial, fear, and anxiety, I have been humbled, and my courage has often trickled away like water out of a leaky bucket. My only hope in those times - the only antidote to fear and anxiety that I could find, was a constant and persistent clinging to the Word of God and prayer. Seeking God and immersing myself in His Word has always overcome fear in my life, but - to be very frank - it usually comes back, and one serving of God's Word and abiding in Him is not adequate medicine to eradicate the virus of fear from my soul. The reason for this is not a fault in the medicine of God's Word and Abiding through prayer, but the reason is a fault and weakness in my own soul + the Divine purpose and wisdom of our Creator. God did NOT create man and give him the ability to overcome every obstacle by his own power. God created man to be incapable of overcoming apart from ABIDING in His Creator, and the greater the battle that comes against us, the greater the abiding in God and His Word needs to be. So - I say this to you who are battling anxiety, depression, weariness, fear, sorrow, and hopelessness right now: In Christ, you face a winnable battle, and here is your promise to rest on:
9 Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.
Cling to the Cross. Believe the gospel and read it in the Word every day. Remind yourself frequently that Jesus died to pay the price for your sins, and that 'because He lives, you will live too.' Consume the Word. Pray constantly. Trust God. When your eyes stray from Him and fall on something that makes you fear, tear your eyes away from that and fix your eyes on Jesus. Looking to Him will enable you to overcome, even when you are weary and fainthearted, so says Hebrews 12:1-3.
So - in a spiritual war with fear, whether it is constant in your life, or only occasional, how do we overcome? Step one is making sure the 'anchor' of your life - your faith and trust - is in Jesus. I'm not merely being spiritual here. Ask yourself when you are afraid what you are hoping in. Maybe you're afraid of the coronavirus...what is your deepest hope? Is it that science will discover a cure? That politicians will make the right decisions? That you will be protected by your excessive prudence and hygiene practices? All of those things are good, but none of them are our anchor. Our anchor is Jesus. Step one in overcoming fear is looking to Jesus. Some have already been doing that, but even if you haven't already been doing that, then there is still time to hold fast to the anchor of Jesus.
I love Tim Keller's message on Psalms 27, so I want to briefly tag him in here to talk about how the Lord is our stronghold, and we overcome fear by looking to Him:
Somebody may ask, “What part of David’s life would this have been part of? When was this? When did this happen?” The answer is it could have been anytime because David is continually in trouble. If you read his life, he is always struggling. He is always wrestling. When he is a young man before he becomes king, what is he doing? He is out in the wilderness running for his life. He is on the lam.
As soon as he becomes king, when he is a young king, where do we see him? When he becomes king, his enemies come in, and they decide they’re going to attack him before he gets established. The next thing you know, he has to flee the capital. He is out in the wilderness running for his life. Then he is an old man. It’s different now. He is an old king. What do we see? We see his son Absalom doing a coup d’état. There is David, out in the wilderness running for his life.
I mean, he is just like us. He is always in trouble. He is always struggling. It’s so amazingly realistic...
It doesn’t say, “He will keep me safe from the day of trouble.” It doesn’t say that. It says, “He will keep me safe in the day of trouble.” It assumes there’s trouble...
Here it says, “God will keep me safe so when my enemies are all around me, when the trouble is all around me, in the day of trouble … not from the day of trouble … in the midst of my enemies …” Even Psalm 23 says that. “He prepares a table before me …” Where? Not after he has made those stupid enemies run off. He has whacked them. They’re on the run. No, it’s in the presence of my enemies.
Have you ever thought about that? There is no promise in Psalm 23 that he will take those enemies and run them away. The promise is he will prepare a table for you in the presence of the enemies. He doesn’t promise the absence of enemies. Even if you go to Romans 8, in Romans 8:28, it says, “… all things work together for good to them that love God …” You say, “Well, that means nothing really bad can happen to me.”
You see, Romans 8:29 , immediately after Romans 8:28, says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son …” What that means is here’s the promise. Nothing will come into your life but that which realizes the greatness and the nearness and the likeness of Jesus Christ in your life.
It doesn’t say nothing will come into your life that’s really bad. It says nothing will come into your life but that which will realize the greatness, the likeness, and the nearness of Jesus Christ. The reason why we shouldn’t be surprised, we shouldn’t say, “What?” is because there was a Person who lived on earth who was very, very great and who loved God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind, and who was very used by God, and God brought things that were really, really, really, really bad.
He never had any friends who understood him. He never got married and had children. He was beaten. He was tortured. He was destroyed. He was killed. He was rejected. Those are really, really bad things. That was the end of his life. Jesus says a servant is not above his master. Safety does not mean safety from trouble; it means safety in trouble. It means that this is the promise. In the midst of your trouble, all the important parts of you will be utterly safe.
All the greatest joys, all the important things, all the things you really care about, all of your highest interests, all of the things that are the most valuable to you will be absolutely safe. Nothing can be touched in any of the vicissitudes of life but those things which are secondary, those things which are not of the essence of your joy or who you are. That’s the promise.
If that’s the promise, what that means is it still comes back to the same thing. It means there is a condition you can be in so you can move out into the world, trusting God and being absolutely fearless. Absolutely fearless! Total courage. Not afraid of what happens. Not afraid of what’s about to happen. Not afraid … “If an army comes and besieges me, I will not fear.” See, that’s the promise. The promise is you can live in that condition.
See, most of us think when you read that, “Ah! The promise, therefore, is if I trust God, I really won’t have to suffer.” That’s not it. If I trust God, I will become a great heart. My heart will be strong. I will be afraid of nothing. My head will be exalted above my enemies who are surrounding me. That’s what it promises.
Why does this work? I’ll tell you why. God does not promise that you will not suffer, but he does promise one thing. There is only one thing he will never take from you. He will never take himself from you. He will never turn his back on you. He will never say, “Oops! You finally sinned one time too many. How many times have you done that? That’s it! How many times have you promised me? That’s that.” No, he will never ever do it.
Do you know why he’ll never do it? Do you know why you can be confident that whether you feel him today or you don’t feel him, even though you’re seeking him, that he will never cast you off, that he will receive you, that he will not turn his face from you? Because Jesus lost the one thing. Do you realize that? Jesus lost the one thing. Jesus wanted only one thing in his life, because he was a perfect Man of God. He only wanted one thing.
On the cross, even in the garden of Gethsemane, he turned, and he said, “I seek your face.” What did he get? He got the back of God’s hand. He is the only person who this has ever happened to, and it never will happen again. Somebody said, “I seek your face,” and God gave him the back of his hand. Why? So when we seek his face, we’ll never get the back of his hand, even though we fall down, even though we fail.
That’s the reason why you can say, “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear.” Because I know I have the one thing. I’ll have the one thing. I’m getting the one thing that will never be taken from me. Because Jesus lost it, you got it. Let’s pray.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
Let me assure you: Because of the mercy of our God, we will get through this coronavirus storm. I don't know when, and I don't know how, but the people of God will not all be sunk in this storm. When we do - let me encourage you to turn to the anchor of your soul and hold fast to Him BEFORE the next storm comes. There will be another storm, and another after that. Those who overcome those storms best will be those who already have the ship of their lives secured by the anchor of Jesus.
19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. 20 Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner,
See! There are two vessels yonder, and a storm is coming on. I see a great hurrying and scurrying on the deck of one. What are they at? They have a great anchor, and they are throwing it out. The storm is coming, and they want to get a good hold, for fear lest they should be driven on the shore.
But on the deck of the other vessel, I see no bustle at all. There is the watch pacing up and down as leisurely as possible. Why are they not in a panic? “Ahoy there! Ahoy! What makes you so calm and assured? Have you got out your anchor? See you! Your comrades in the other vessel, how busy they are!” “Oh!” says the watch, “but we had our anchor out a long while ago, before the storm came on, and therefore we have no need to trouble now, and hurry to throw it out.
Now, you who are full of doubts, and fears, and troubles, you know the way to be safe is to throw out the anchor of faith, but it would be better still if you had the anchor of faith out already, so that you could trust in God, and not be afraid at all.
C. H. Spurgeon, “Fearing and Trusting—Trusting and Not Fearing,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 59 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1913), 333.
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