Faith vs. Fear
I’m grateful “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Neh. 8:10 NKJV) I’m thankful the peace of Jesus transcends the chaos of our world, “… in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NKJV) As Christians, our faith is built upon the truth of God’s love, care, peace, and joy given through Jesus, regardless of the trials and storms of life.
The global storm we are encountering is serious. If we were to liken it to a hurricane it would be a dangerous Category 5 storm. However, as the Church prays, the intensity and duration of this storm called coronavirus or COVID-19 can be reduced. The Church needs to pray fervently for government leaders, financial and business leaders, scientists and medical researchers, doctors, nurses and others in the medical community, and for those suffering from the virus and subsequent economic impacts. Jesus is greater—always!
Despite the severity of the COVID-19 virus pandemic, we can rest confidently in Christ. The truth of God’s Word and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit empower us to reject fear and panic. Faith is the confident result of knowing intimately our Savior and Friend. Jesus promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5 NKJV) Church, in this hour, stand on this!
Jesus is with you always, and nothing can separate you from His love and care. Consider what Paul wrote:
Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. (Rom. 8:35, 37-39 CEB)
In this moment, the world needs a confident Church amid uncertainty. Through yielded Christians, God’s authority and peace will prevail to bring hope and change to a stunned world. We need to be courageous and valiant in our faith and prayer. Prayer is not an addendum to our faith; prayer breathes from communion with God and moves mountains. In times of crisis, the Bible and history record the result of united prayer against common enemies.
A Common Enemy
I shared last week an account of miracle deliverance in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30. Let me recap. King Jehoshaphat and the children of Judah were surrounded by enemies, outnumbered 60 to 1. It appeared to be an impossible situation to overcome. But as they prayed and sought the Lord for strategy, God revealed to them what to do. Ultimately, God supernaturally defeated their enemies and gave them the victory—without going to war! Their warfare was spiritual. They prayed, worshipped and obeyed as God directed. The battle belonged to God.
We are living in an unprecedented moment. The enemy intends to inflict suffering and death on humanity globally and stop the advancement of God’s kingdom. But like Jehoshaphat and the children of Judah, as we pray, worship, and obey the Lord and His appointed leaders, we can be assured that God will fight the powers of darkness arrayed against us. These dark powers are the unseen force behind the virus and its natural effects of disease, suffering, and economic malaise.
Jehoshaphat and Judah face a daunting situation; look at what initially happened:
And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord. (2 Chr. 20:3-4 NKJV)
Notice Jehoshaphat’s initial reaction: he feared! When dire events emerge, humanity typically fears—the enemy knows this. He wants to replace faith with fear and cause people to doubt the love and goodness of God.
The coronavirus is a serious threat on multiple fronts. The science reveals it spreads twice as fast as the flu and has a higher mortality rate. As a faith community, we stand in faith and pray, but we also act as responsible citizens and abide by the current directives of our government leaders for the well-being of everyone.
The science and medical evidence prove that frequent washing of hands, avoidance of touching one’s face, reducing the size of public gatherings, and using social distancing works to slow the spread of a new virus. Keep in mind that faith doesn’t deny the facts but trusts God for deliverance—in this case from a pestilence called coronavirus or COVID-19.
My encouragement to you is to act responsibly and stand on what God’s Word has declared for us. Consider what the Psalmist wrote:
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday… Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling. (Psalm 91:5-6; 9-10 NKJV)
Because you have made the Lord your refuge (I’ll discuss this more next week), you do not have to fear the enemy’s assault. Rather, you can rest in God’s protection and care, trusting Him always.
Jehoshaphat allowed the fear to propel him to action. He and the people began to fast and pray, and God began to move. After Jehoshaphat prayed, one of the prophets proclaimed:
And he said, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chr. 20:15 NKJV)
Did you catch this: Do not be afraid! Why? The battle is God’s!
We believe in science and our medical community. We don’t disregard their models and pandemic practice. We support their efforts. We pray for leaders and the medical community to have divine wisdom and protection.
But, as a faith community, we also know God still answers prayer, stops pandemics, and changes dire situations. Its Who He is!
Jehoshaphat turned his fear into warfare: he sought the Lord with prayer and fasting in the land (2 Chr. 20:5-12). Out of this prayer, three prayer principles emerge (I developed this more in detail last week).
We Pray Because of Who God Is: Jehoshaphat begins his prayer not with the need, but with God Himself—God’s character. If you begin with your need, your focus is wrong.
We Pray Because of What God Has Done: Jehoshaphat is standing in the land that God has promised them. We are heirs of God, joint heirs with Jesus!
We Pray Because of What God Has Said: “God, you said, ‘by His stripes we are healed,’ God you said, ‘Seek Me first and all these things will be given to you.'” God loves when you and I stand on His Word.
Faith vs. Fear
Let’s discuss faith versus fear in greater detail today. By the way, this blog is part of chapter one of my soon to be published book Our Eyes are On You.
One of the most repeated commands 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. Everyone has trials and hardships. Your union with Jesus in His death, resurrection, and ascension glory imparts His authority over the chaos of this world and the circumstances you face.
Resting in Christ’s finished work positions you to live as an overcomer. As a follower of Jesus, you are an heir of God and joint heir with Christ, which affords you His favor, resource, and the power of God’s kingdom in this present life.
Many in the body of Christ struggle with fear. For some, it may be a stronghold of fear—perhaps caused by the trauma of past or present events.
Presently, there is no shortage of “bad news.” Negative news breeds fear unless one’s heart is grounded in Jesus. By the way, there is plenty of positive news with the coronavirus crisis: a vaccine is in trial in the US, new treatments are emerging, thousands have recovered, and the peak appears to be past in China, S. Korea, and Japan.
Jesus Calms a Stormy Sea
Our story begins as Jesus and the disciples are leaving the western shore of the Galilee immediately following the conclusion of the seed parables. Throughout the gospel accounts, Jesus teaches and demonstrates the superiority of faith versus fear.
On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 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. 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 4:35–41 NKJV)
It’s God’s will and initiative for Jesus and the disciples to get to the other side to free the oppressed and heal the sick, “…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)
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 suddenly and the men seem powerless to do anything about it.
The storm represents a hopeless situation. The disciples were in a “great windstorm,” and confidence in what God spoke gave way to fear.
The storm was 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 COVID-19 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. We must live from His victory—our enthroning with Christ. Jesus gave Himself for you, for His Church that He loves.
Consider what the prophet Isaiah wrote for Israel, but it is a rhema word for individual believers and the Church:
But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior… (Isa. 43:1-3 NKJV)
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” In other words, when the storm rages and floodwaters rise, you don’t have to fear for God is with you and will help you through the storm! Truly, He will never leave us nor forsake us!
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 love others with His love. The Father sees you as you really are, a new creation in Christ, a beloved daughter or son of God who He cares for.
Your ability to rest in the finished work of Christ (rest in what He has accomplished) and remain in the Father’s love affects how victorious you live your life.
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, he attacks our faith, hope, and love. He attempts to rob us of steadfast faith and trust in God, by doubting the goodness of God and the power of His promises, especially in the storms of life. He attempts to rob us of a future filled with hope and joy, and he tries to rob us of true love through counterfeit affections and emotions.
Without fail, when we act on what God has directed us to do, the enemy will bring circumstances to try and stop us. 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 within says, “No, you’re an heir of God and joint-heir with Christ. You have a heavenly inheritance available now—believe and make a withdrawal 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.
Last May, I had a heart attack. During this “storm,” I never doubted God’s love and care for me. Rather, Jesus comforted me. As my chest was exploding with pain in the ambulance, Jesus revealed Himself to me. He said to me, “You have a blockage in your heart, but you are going to be okay and live for many more years!”
Jesus was with me through the challenging night and days of recovery following. You can trust Him, even when you don’t understand the “whys?” or circumstances of life.
Jesus is with You Always—Period!
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! I can testify to this reality.
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—even during the storms of life!
Jesus is at Rest
Mark records the “rest of Jesus” during the storm, “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)
During 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 a situation caused you to panic and fear the worst? Most of us have at some point in our lives. Perhaps the current global coronavirus pandemic has caused you to fear. Keep in mind, Jesus is Lord over the storms!
But Jesus rose and “rebuked the wind.” The English word rebuked in Mark 4:39 is from the Greek word epitimaō, and it is also used to describe casting out unclean spirits in Mark 1:25; 3:12, perhaps suggesting demonic powers caused the storm. Epitimaō means “to command, with the implication of a threat.” [i]
Jesus was not just threatening the wind, but the powers of darkness attempting to thwart their mission!
By the way, for the Jews, the sea came to symbolize the dark power of evil. For example, in Daniel 7 monsters come forth from the sea. Keep in mind Jesus has defeated the enemy and destroys evil (1 John 3:8).
Church, recognize that the COVID-19 storm is something we can take spiritual authority over. The powers of darkness will not prevail against humanity. The Church has been given the authority of Jesus and His name—use it! Rebuke the demonic powers in His name. That said, understand the impact of this storm will be felt for a while, but through concerted, fervent prayer, the intensity and duration of this storm can be reduced—pray!
Always remember Paul’s admonition to his disciple, Timothy, “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) Timothy was the overseer of the church at Ephesus, during a time of intense persecution. Paul was encouraging his spiritual son in the faith to be courageous and not give in to fear!
I’ll continue next week, part two of Faith vs. Fear. Stand strong, be encouraged, and fight the good fight of faith this week!
[i] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 425.
For a more in-depth look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message, “Faith vs. Fear”