‘Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 4v6-7)
This promise leads purposefully on from last week. If we are trusting that the Lord will never leave us nor forsake us, why do we fear? The present situation of the world can easily make any of us fearful, rightly so. What is happening is something we have never known or lived through before. I am not going to focus on this situation through my blog, what I hope to do is draw us nearer to God as we look deeper into his word. I ask the question; Can we purposefully live a life where fear does not overwhelm us, where we can live a life of greater trust as we learn to surrender our fears to the Lord? Similar to last week, we will journey through both the Old and the New testament. We will look at lives that allowed their fear to be overcome by trust in the Lord. In contrast, those who allowed fear to rule their lives, how that led to great loss. Remember that as we learn more about this promise. To be like David, who trusted in the promises of God and faithfully prayed them over his life. May we be people who choose to believe and pray over our lives, that it will be freed from fear.
My first account I would like us to look at is found in 1 Kings 17v2-24, specifically looking at the character of ‘the widow’. I have just recently read this account and I found it one of great restoration, that which led from death to life. The widow had a lot to fear, at this time there was a great drought which would last for three years. The prophet Elijah has been sent by the Lord to this widow as she will provide the food he needs, (v9). Elijah faithfully goes and asks this widow for the provisions he needs. This results in her saying
‘”As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread- only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it- and die”’, (17v12).
The widow was at her final point, her fear was leading her to absolute despair. Elijah askes her, even though she knows the little that she has to still make him the bread he needs and there will be a beautiful blessing that follows.
‘Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘This jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.”’ (17v13-14)
The widow had a choice, she could allow her fear to lead her and then just take what was left and go through with what she had planned. On the other hand, she could choose to trust and faithfully act on what she had been told to do. She chooses to trust, which results in the word of the Lord being fulfilled regarding the plentiful supply.
There is a second miracle that takes place, in which her son is brought back from death. I will not go into that one. What I wanted to highlight through the first miracle is how much our fear can lead us into the depths of despair. That widow could see the scarce amount in front of her and knew there was very little that could be done to restore the amount. As her despair led her to death, the Lord was sending someone to bring restoration, life and hope again. She was asked to trust and through her trust she was mightily blessed.
It is hard when we can only focus on the lack, we have, when fear overrules us and we begin to despair about how we will be able to make it through the day. May we people who begin to put our trust in the Lord. In Matthew, Jesus reminds us not to worry about food and provisions because the Lord knows that it is something we need.
‘Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? , (Matthew 6v26). We are reminded by Jesus, ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’, (v33).
There may always be something we are lacking; a bill that we feel can never be paid, a fridge that is constantly empty or a car that tends to always need fixed. They can easily make us fearful and become a burden on our backs. How much of that do we surrender to the Lord? How much do we allow our trust to be placed in him? For some of us life will be harder, money may never seem to stretch. The Lord, who will never leave us or forsake us also tells us not to fear. Our lack does not mean that God is powerless to provide. There are constant reminders throughout scripture to not be afraid, there are said to be 365/366 fear nots found through scripture. That is one for every single day. If that is such a prominent reminder, it is vital that we are praying over our lives that fear is not our dominator. Let us be people who trust and see the blessings of God through our own lives and how we can bless those around us.
Next, let us look at King Saul who was the first King of Israel. King Saul was a man who allowed his fear to control his life and it stripped him of many beautiful and good things. Let us focus on one event where his fear led to a rushed decision and a mighty consequence. This account can be found in 1 Samuel 13v1-15. For context there is a battle going on between Israel and the Philistines, the battle was not going in favour for Israel. Saul had been asked to wait seven days for Samuel to come and to offer up the sacrifices to the Lord. This is how the event unfolds,
‘Saul remained at Gilgal, and all his troops were with him quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.’ ( 1 Samuel 13v7-10)
Fear leads to rash actions on Saul’s part, he can see his men beginning to scatter and believes that he should be the one to seek the Lord’s favour. He makes these offerings to try and save himself and his men, but it leads him to losing who he was called to be. For Samuel tells him,
“You have done a foolish thing.” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’ command.”, (1 Samuel 13v13-14).
It is sad to see that Saul loses so much, when he had been blessed to become King. As you follow his life through the book of 1 Samuel you see his fear taking control of his actions and emotions, which leads to jealousy and anger. He does not abide by the Lord’s commands which leads to the Lord rejecting Saul as King. ‘I regret that I have made Saul King, because he has turned away from me and not carried out my commands.’, (1 Samuel 15v11). The spirit of the Lord departs from Saul and he ends up being tormented by an evil spirit from the Lord. He lost everything by losing sight of trusting in the Lord.
One aspect I want to take away from Saul’s life, is how our fear can and has led us to make rash decisions. I can admit that I have allowed fear to pour out rash words to people, that has led to trust and friendship being broken. I have picked the wrong people, over those who have only wanted to help and support me. There are many other mistakes that I have made when I allowed fear to be my guide. I pray that we would not make poor decisions due to our fear. Truthfully, situations can feel incredibly overwhelming and it can lead us to grasp on to anything that would offer stability at that time. However, we should be looking for Jesus in each and every situation. That may sound very cliched to you but honestly, we can lose sight of Jesus quickly. It is through Jesus that we will find our strength, our refuge, our hope and our help. We need to trust him in all circumstances. Trust may be in praising him, even when you feel like you cannot lift your head above water. It may be in learning to serve others, who are in similar situations where you can lift one another up. Trusting Jesus may be reaching out to those who are wise in the word of the God and who will help to support you and walk with you through it all. Jesus is absolutely by our side; may we be people who open our eyes to see his goodness all around. May we not be like Saul, where our fear will strip us of every good and beautiful blessing we have received.
Let’s move into the New Testament and look at an interaction between Peter and Jesus. Most of us will be familiar with Peter’s denial, which follows after the arrest of Jesus. Peter’s heart was in the right place and he truly wanted to stand by and be with Jesus. However, he was also human, and fear surrounded all the events that led to the crucifixion of Jesus. In Luke 22v 31-34, we read of this conversation between Peter and Jesus.
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brother.” (Luke 22v31-32)
Jesus says this to Peter (Simon), before he tells Peter that he will deny Jesus. Jesus used this to speak purpose and truth into Peter, that even though this denial would come it would not be the end for Peter. That instead he would end up being the one to strengthen his brothers. Certainly, this denial does happen, you can understand that fear that was entangling Peter. He had no idea was actually happening to Jesus, let alone himself. In Luke we read, that after the rooster crows, ‘And [Peter] he went outside and wept bitterly.’ (Luke 22v62). There was this turmoil that encountered Peter. However, he did not let his fear and his failure define him. We later read in Acts, how Peter was the one who addressed the crowds at Pentecost and that led to about 3000 people being saved that day. “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” Peter became a man who was bold and courageous in his faith. He led many people to know the gospel and to redemption. He would ultimately end up being persecuted and dying for his faith. In reflection fear had led him to denial, but Jesus knew the heart of Peter. Jesus knew there would be events that would knock his faith, but his faith would not fail. A lot was accomplished through Peter because his fear did not overcome him.
May we learn from Peter that when our fear may lead us to make some poor decisions. May we not give up on Jesus but have determination to run straight back to him. May we be people who know that fear does not own us, that there is grace in our mistakes. There is always redemption and there is hope. Jesus took all the pain and suffering of our sin on the cross, may we not allow our sin to be the barrier between us and Jesus anymore.
Many of us struggle with fear because we do not know where to firmly place our trust. I am sure that we do want to surrender it all to Jesus but there is part of us that clings to some it, due to wanting to have some sort of control. There are a few verses in James, that highlight this issue. For these verses I am going to use the MSG (Message) translation, due to the wording.
‘If you don’t know what you are doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help and will not be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you are going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.’ , (James 1v5-8).
Fear has this destructive way of continuously building up and up in us. In the end all of us will end up crying out for help, whether it be to someone, something or hopefully to Jesus. When we surrender our fears and our worries to Jesus, we do need to fully trust him. If we are praying for help and then trying to work it out on our own, it will only lead to confusion and further uncertainty. Trust in Jesus because he is the way, the truth and the life. “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”, (Luke 18v27). May we not doubt the power of our God, for he will never leave us of forsake us.
There are many things that lead us to be fear in this life. Whether that be short term or for a longer term. I admit I was fearful, when I began to write this blog. For me to write on fear was worrying because I wanted to deal with it truthfully and sensitively. In the end, I knew the best way forward was to surrender it to the Lord. To continue to be faithful to the task but allow the Lord to lead me forward. There have been things that I have been very fearful about and lacking in trust; mistakes have been made along the way but there has always been the Lord’s grace that has met me there too.
Let’s return to the verse, I began this blog with.
‘Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 4v6-7).
May we pray that we will have more opportunities to encounter the peace that transcends all understanding. Where are minds have been frantic and our hearts have been heavy with fear. May our hearts and minds be restored with peace and thanksgiving. I refer now to all the uncertainty that the world is facing due to the coronavirus. Where there is death and despair in each day. It is something that will make us fearful and we know that there is great fear among those at the frontline. May we be people who pray for them and who pray for our government to make wise and fruitful decisions, in which to protect those right at the heart of all that is going on. May we be a people who pray over fear with hope and peace. May we lift one another up, by continuously coming together in all we do. The Lord does and will provide, we do not need to doubt his faithfulness. As I was reminded through the church this week, we need to be the hands and feet that carry the hope and provision for others. We have this life to live, are we going to live in constant fear or learn to surrender and trust? Having faith, that the Lord will be with us through it all, regardless of how big the situation may be.
‘Oh you of little faith, you are seen and cared for. You do not need to fear anything for God has you.’ Jennie Allen.
May you have a blessed week. I pray that as you continue to seek and find the Lord that you will be set free from the burden of fear. You are known and you are loved. Trust in the Lord, who is always by your side.
Love Victoria. xx