Faith vs Fear - Bob Sawvelle - Sea wave, and the sun's rays pass through the clouds

The most repeated command in scripture is, “Fear not!” Why? To refuse fear permits faith to flourish. Confident faith is free of fear and full of God’s peace during the storms of life.

We all have trials and hardships, but those who overcome are secure in Christ and rest in his finished work. They understand that their union with Jesus in his death, resurrection, and ascension glory imparts his authority over the chaos of this world. They realize that they are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, affording them the favor, resources, and power of God’s kingdom in this life presently.

Last week I had a strong impression that many in the body of Christ were struggling with fear. As I prayed more, I sensed that some may be struggling with a stronghold of fear—perhaps caused by trauma, past or present events. Have you notice that there is no shortage of “bad news” in our world?! Negative news breeds fear unless one’s heart is grounded in Jesus. So today, I want to look at a well-known passage of scripture from Mark’s gospel and discuss faith versus fear.

Jesus Calms the Stormy Sea (Mark 4:35-41)

This story begins as Jesus and the disciples are leaving the western shore of the Galilee immediately following the conclusion of the seed parables in Mark 4:1-34.

…Let us cross over to the other side…and a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.” Mark 4:35-37 NKJV

It’s God’s will and his initiative for Jesus and the disciples to get to the other side to free the oppressed and heal the sick. The storm is filling the boat with water—the situation looks dire and the disciples, many who were fishermen knew the danger of the sea of Galilee. The storm arises and the men seem powerless to do anything about it. The storm represents a hopeless situation.

In 1st-century Jewish culture, control of nature was attributed exclusively to God. Remember the story of Elijah and his confrontation with the prophets of Baal? Baal worshippers believed that Baal controlled the weather. Elijah’s prophetic proclamation that God was sending rain to end the three-year drought got the attention of the people—as the rain fell, they knew Jehovah was God! (see 1 Kings 17-18).

At one time, signs on the western shore of the sea of Galilee warned drivers of what happens in high winds. This large lake can become very rough, producing big waves that can swamp cars parked on what looks like a safe beach. Boats on the lake can get “suddenly tossed” around like toy boats—the lake can become ferocious like an ocean in a storm. The disciples were in a “great windstorm!”

The storm is filling the boat with water—this is fact. Faith doesn’t deny facts, but it declares the power of God in the face of problems. The storm is a reality, but there is a greater reality to live from—Christ in you! Circumstances, resistance, and spiritual warfare happen in this life. You must learn to live from his victory—your enthroning with Christ. Jesus gave himself for you, for his church that he loves.

Paul declared,

Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” (Eph. 5:25 CEB)

You are completely accepted, adopted, forgiven, valued and honored by God. You must receive God’s love, love yourself as he loves you, and then love others with his love. The Father sees you as you really are, a new creation in Christ. The blood of Christ removes the sin, cleanses you from unrighteousness, and the Spirit transforms you. Consider what the writer of Hebrews stated:

 I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” (Heb. 10:17 NLT, from Jer. 31:34b)

Our ability to rest in the finished work of Christ (rest in what he has accomplished) and remain in the Father’s love affects how victoriously we live our lives. Paul explains how steadfast God’s love is:

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor. 13:13 NLT

Love transforms us, faith and hope sustain us. It’s been said that “faith is the anchor to our souls.” True. So, what does the enemy attack? Primarily our faith, hope, and love.

He attempts to rob you of steadfast faith and trust in God, by doubting the goodness of God and the power of his promises. He attempts to rob you of a future filled with hope and joy, and he tries to rob you of true love through counterfeit affections and emotions.

Without fail, when you act on what God has directed you to do, the enemy will bring circumstances to try and stop you. Remember, Jesus has defeated all power and authority of the enemy—he is the ruling king now!

Satan only has power over us to the degree that we agree with his lies.

When we agree with poverty, sickness, or defeat we live there. But God’s faith says “No, you’re an heir of God and joint-heir with Christ! You have a heavenly inheritance available now—make a withdraw from heaven’s account!”

When you refuse fear, you cause the enemy to tremble!

Faith is a revelation to the heart of the revealed will of God. God’s revealed will creates faith and empowers us to risk. Evening on the water is risky, but faith is willing to risk as God leads. It’s often during the storms that his grace is the strongest in our lives!

Keep in mind, Jesus is with you always. This is not a cliché point—it’s an accomplished fact. You are completely united with Christ, even on your worst day!

A glorious, advancing church takes her directives from heaven. She isn’t focused on circumstances or world events; she listens to the master’s voice. Our destiny is to progressively enter the glory of God prepared for us before the foundation of the world. You are a vessel of mercy and power—it’s your high calling.

Too many people are hindered by their past. Your past is not a prophecy of your future. God has good things for you if you dare to believe his word. The path of the righteous is like the dawn—your path is brighter each day!

Jesus is at Rest

Mark records the “rest of Jesus” during this fearful situation:

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?” 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.” Mark 4:38-39 NKJV

In the presence of chaos, Jesus is at rest, confident in the Father’s presence and power. The story contrasts the panic of the disciples, he is at rest—they are in distress. The disciples saw the situation and fear seized them. In their minds, God was distant, and it appeared he didn’t care. Have you ever had a moment like this, where the fear of a situation caused you to panic and fear the worst? Most of us have at some point in our lives.

But Jesus arose and “rebuked the wind.” Rebuked is from the same word used to describe casting out unclean spirits in Mark 1:25; 3:12, suggesting demonic powers caused the storm.

RememberJonah in Jonah 1:5-6, who slept while the pagan sailors fought for survival on board the ship? The 1st-century reader would have remembered the story of Jonah. But Jesus isn’t fleeing—he is at rest!

The sea for the Jews came to symbolize the dark power of evil. Daniel 7 records the sea is where monsters came from! But Jesus destroys evil (1 John 3:8)!

At the end of Mark 5, we read of the dead raising of Jarius’ daughter. Jesus states about the little girl, “The child is not dead but asleep,” and proceeds to raise her back to life! Therefore, in the presence of Jesus, things may not be as they appear naturally.

You see, with Jesus, hopelessness is an opportunity for a miracle!

Jesus is asleep, secure in the Father. It doesn’t mean he is unconcerned about their situation—he is operating in peace. But the disciples awaken Jesus, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” They assume God doesn’t care about their storm! They forget, or are blind to, the times when Jesus stopped the evil that came against them or others. We often do the same!

Jesus Equates Fear with little Faith

But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” Mark 4:40-41 NKJV

The disciples fear for two reasons. First, their knowledge of the sea and the terror of the moment grips them with fear. Natural knowledge clouds their faith perspective. Secondly, they fear the raw power of God at work through Jesus— “Who can this be, that even the wind and sea obey him!” They fear the very presence of God.

By asking them, “Why are you so fearful (afraid)? Do you still have no faith?” Jesus reverses their question (teacher, don’t you care?), putting them on the spot in a way Mark is using to build us up toward Mark 8, “Don’t you yet have faith?”

Fear of God’s Presence

The Greek reads in the present tense, as in, “Why are you afraid NOW?” In this story, and in Mark 5:15 with the deliverance of the demonized man of the Gadarenes, the disciples are afraid of being in the presence of Jesus, the one who has control over nature, the storms, and demons.

Jesus equated the disciples’ fear with faithlessness. They lacked confidence in the power of God working through Jesus. Why? Their hearts weren’t transformed by his presence and truth he had revealed. Hearts can only be changed in his presence as you gaze upon his face and abide in his word. God’s word is truth, it is active and alive, but it must actively be received!

Growth involves the cultivation of the heart with the seed of God’s truth. It is watered by the presence of the Holy Spirit as you allow him to lead you. The seed (God’s truth) has power, but the farmer must cooperate with the life in the seed. You and I must cultivate God’s promises in our hearts to see a fruitful harvest of faith!

By the way, the fear of God’s presence is nothing new. Do you remember the story of the children of Israel in the wilderness? They were fearful of God’s presence at Mount Sinai and told Moses to speak to them and not God for they feared death in his presence (see Exodus 20:18-19). However, the Father wanted a nation of priests, those who would love him, listen to him, and serve him out of obedient delight—not fear.

Through Jesus, we can continually abide in God’s presence and hear his voice. We are not to fear God, rather confidently abide in his presence (see John 15). We need to renew our minds and focus by abiding in God’s presence and meditating upon God’s Word.

David gives us a couple of key principles for resting confidently in God during the storms of life in Psalm 16First, he declares, Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust” (Psalm 16:1 NKJV). Security is discovered in trust of God.

Second, in Psalm 16:8I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” NKJV David is declaring, “I have set the Lord before my face or gaze… therefore I am secure!” By the way, Peter references this verse in his Pentecost sermon that resulted in the salvation of 3,000 (see Acts 2:14-41). Jesus promised we would see him,

A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.” John 16:16 NKJV

We should expect to “see” the Lord! The way we see (or perceive) the Lord is by following David’s example, “I have set the Lord always before me.” The Holy Spirit makes us aware of God’s presence, his glory, to those who believe and seek him.

Unfortunately, many today focus on themselves, rather than upon pleasing the Lord. As a result, they fear God’s presence and lack confidence in the storms of life.

When we “set him before us always” making the pursuit of Jesus and his presence our priority, we won’t fear the storms or his presence. Rather, we run to him and are confident in him when the trials of life come.

There is a “reverential fear of the Lord,” that brings faith. God is both our friend and Father, we need to draw near to him confidently, but in sincerity of heart and reverential honor and love (see Prov. 1:7; Ps. 111:10).

Don’t set the Lord aside for access just in emergencies! No, set the Lord before your face always—enjoy his presence, his Word, worship, and prayer. Live out of his being, out of a love relationship with the King of Kings!

Fear Due to Natural Knowledge and Circumstances

The disciples feared because they had more confidence in their knowledge of the sea than trust in Jesus. Fear results when sense knowledge overrides Spirit-inspired revelation of Jesus and his promises. Jesus contrasts fear with faith—he equates fear with no faith, or no confidence in him.

Fear will try and convince you there is no hope—that you are perishing—that it’s over! Perhaps it’s the doctor’s report, your bank account, a layoff notice, your marriage, the wayward child, your past, etc. Others fear loss, loneliness, and lack. Some fear the future, and many fear death. But, for the Christian, Jesus is our hope, he is our confidence through every season and circumstance we face.

Fear will prevent you from acting in faith upon the revealed will of God. Do you remember the story of the twelve spies in Numbers 13? Twelve spies, one man from each of the tribes, were sent by Moses into the promised land to prepare the people of Israel to go in and possess what God had promised.

The twelve return, and only Joshua and Caleb were confident to take the land of promise (Num. 13:27-33).  They saw how good the land was, “A land that truly flows with milk and honey.” Caleb declared, “Let’s go now and take procession of the land; we can do this!” The other ten spies who came out of Canaan said, “We are not able to go up against the people there…” and their negative report created fear in a nation that day. That generation, except for Joshua and Caleb 40 years later, missed their opportunity due to fear.

FEAR robbed the ten spies and eventually all of Israel, “We were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” God had already promised them the land of Canaan, but fear masqueraded as human reasoning and faith was denied from producing the promise.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Tim. 1:7 NKJV

The Antidote to Fear is Confident Trust in God

Proverbs addresses the fear syndrome:

The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be secure.” Prov. 29:25 NKJV

The Hebrew word for trust is chasah, primarily meaning to make someone a refuge. We could read Prov. 29:25 like this, “Whoever makes the Lord their refuge shall be secure.”

David in Psalm 57 writes of this type of trust, where God is a refuge:

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.” Psalm 57:1 NKJV

David wrote this psalm when he fled from Saul to hide in a wilderness cave. David was in a difficult place in his life—wrongly accused, persecuted, and fearing for his very life. He learned how to trust God in a storm. The psalm pictures David as nestling under God’s care for refuge, in the same manner that a defenseless, but trusting, baby bird hides itself under its parent’s feathers.

We weather the storms of life secure in God as our refuge, our hope, and very life. This type of faith and confidence develop through daily abiding in God’s presence.

Jesus was at rest in his union with the Father and the Spirit, and he spoke directly to the wind—cease—and to the sea—be still. Our union with Christ, resting in his finished work affords us the same authority and confidence. Confident faith develops when God is truly our refuge, not just an addendum to our lives!

Final Thoughts

Trials, suffering, and storms in life come to all of us. Jesus’ authority is without limit, and though God allows trials, in the end, nothing can truly harm those who trust in him (Luke 10:19).

When you don’t sense God’s presence, press into him even more! Set Jesus before your face continually. Praise him in the tough times like you would in the good times—you can do that when you have learned to set the Lord before your face always.

You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11 NKJV

Jesus is our greatest joy and our peace, his “perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18 NKJV

Your ability to rest in God and his promises will keep you free from fear and worry during the most difficult circumstances and storms in life. Allow him to be your refuge!


For a more in depth look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “Faith vs Fear“:


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Bob Sawvelle

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