“What Jesus Said about Fear”
Welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. When unexpected events happen, or when uncertainties of life come your way, how do you respond? Oftentimes, fear overtakes us. We don't know how to handle what has just happened, and we are afraid to move ahead. Well, the Lord never promised any of us that life would be easy. He never said that if we follow Him we would be free from danger, problems or tragedies. Some may enjoy a life with few such problems, while others seem to have far too many. We can all be assured, however, such things will happen. And when they do, what is our response? Do we hide our head in the sand, hoping they will go away, or do we look to Jesus for reassurance and help? As we move throughout our daily lives, Jesus offers His continual peace and presence. He is never too far away to see our needs or to provide some answers, at just the right time. Jesus also extends to us an invitation to come to Him and to receive His love and salvation. For the next few minutes, here on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will consider some of the most important words Jesus spoke, which are recorded in Scripture. They are meant to encourage us in times of great need. They offer strength and inspiration when we face the uncertainties of life. They also help us to move ahead with great courage. I trust you will want to hear what Jesus has to say about living in fear. And I invite you now to open your heart and your Bible, as we study together.
In the various stages of life, we experience different types of fear. As a child, we are afraid of the dark, or perhaps when we cannot find our parents. As adults we fear the uncertainty of securing and keeping a good job. Toward the end of life, we might even fear death and the unknown of what lies ahead. Oh, at most every point in life we experience some kind of fear; and if we are not careful, that fear will control us to the point we have little strength to move ahead. Yes, fear tends to paralyze people. We may not know what to do. We might do things without thinking clearly, or even react in a negative way. Well, fear overcame some of Jesus’ closest followers. I want us to notice a story, today, from the gospel of Matthew, chapter 14. Many people were following Jesus in His ministry. They wanted Him to do a number of things for them. They wanted to be fed when they were hungry, healed when they were sick; and Jesus did those things. He also had compassion and mercy toward those who were overlooked and neglected by society. Jesus even healed people who could not see and could not walk; and He raised people from the dead. Well, as evening came one day, He realized the people who were following Him had nothing to eat. And once again, His compassion was extended to them. If He sent them into the villages, He knew that very soon the people in those villages would be overrun and completely out of food. The villages around the Sea of Galilee contained no more than 400 or 500 people, and if thousands of people ascended up on them then there certainly would not be enough food to go around. And so Jesus fed the crowd who was following Him, of some 5,000 people, with only five loaves of bread and two small fish. And truly that was an amazing miracle. It also set the stage for His next miracle, and that took place out on the Sea of Galilee that very night. It also leads us to notice another very important statement Jesus made on that occasion. Let's read the first part of the story, here in Matthew 14, as we begin with verse 22. <Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd. After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. Later that night, He was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.> Now the lake, or the Sea of Galilee, was surrounded on three sides by hills, or mountains. Only the south side was open; and the water flowed from the Sea of Galilee into the Jordan River and down to the Dead Sea. Well, it was not uncommon for a sudden burst of wind to sweep down over those hills and into that water, to stir up the water and to cause a great deal of damage. The hill somewhat contained the wind and provided the right scenario for there to be some dangerous conditions out on that lake. And it was in that kind of kind of setting the disciples found themselves. They had left the place where Jesus fed the multitudes and now they were in the boat, out on the sea. They were probably sailing from the Northeast side to the Southwest side of the sea when the storm hit. We notice verse 25, instead of reading “shortly before dawn,” some versions of the Bible read, “in the fourth watch of the night.” And those phrases basically say the same thing, it was some time between 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM. Perhaps you have heard the statement; the darkest part of the night is the time just before the rising of the sun, in the pre-dawn hours. Well, that was the situation here. These were the pre-dawn hours. It was dark and one could not see anything. And again, that was a situation in which the disciples found themselves, in a boat on a stormy sea, completely dark. But it was at that moment when Jesus appeared to these frightened disciples, as He walked to them out on the water. Now, I don't know for sure how He did that, and nobody else does, either; but just like providing food for those 5,000 people with only some loaves of bread and some small fish, this time, Jesus walked on the water. Both of those were amazing miracles! Now the questions might come: How did Jesus know they were in trouble when it was so dark? How could He see what was happening? He was up on a mountain side by Himself, praying. Well, obviously Jesus had been on that sea before. He knew well that area. He knew how long it would take the disciples to go from the Northeast side to the Southwest side. And, perhaps, He was there before it became dark and He was watching His disciples as they were making their way across the lake. Well, He had a good view of the sea. He was praying to His Father; and, no doubt, part of that prayer would include praying for His disciples. And so, He was watching and He was praying. He knew the route. He knew what was happening and He realized His disciples were in danger. With those things in mind, let's continue on with the story here in Matthew 14, as we pick up with verse 36. <When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” He said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”> Even in the midst of the darkest part of the night, the disciples saw the image of Jesus; and yet, they thought it was a ghost. They thought, perhaps, some ghost or some unknown being had come up out of the depths of the sea. Who else could it be? What else could it be? Well, these disciples had never experienced anything like this before, and their natural response was fear. They were terrified. They were afraid of the ghost and the storm, and, no doubt, they were afraid that perhaps they would even lose their lives. Oh, in every sense of the word, the disciples were afraid. And Jesus, at that moment, offered this response to them: “Take courage. It is I! Do not be afraid.” Those are three very powerful statements. And those are some of the most important words Jesus spoke, which are found in Scripture. Well, that's not the first time they were found in Scripture. We think, for example, about the words found in Joshua chapter 1. God prepared Joshua to lead His people into the Promised Land. And He tells His new leader at least three times, in that first chapter, be strong and very courageous. And then He told them this, in verse 9: “Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you, wherever you go.” God told Joshua to not be afraid. Jesus told the disciples not to be afraid. In fact, some research has been done and it indicates that those words, “Do not be afraid,” or something very similar to them, are found about 365 times in the Bible. Now think about that for a moment. One time, for every day of the year, 365 times, we are reminded from Scripture to not be afraid. And that's what Jesus told these disciples: “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.” And as they were to not be afraid, they were to keep their eyes on Jesus, also. And perhaps these disciples had the leftovers from that evening’s meal right there in their boat with them, at their feet. We remember well how Jesus, after feeding all of that multitude of people, 5,000 plus, perhaps, they picked up some 12 baskets of leftovers. After everyone had plenty to eat, there were plenty of leftovers. And maybe Jesus instructed the disciples to take some of those with them, as He told them to get in the boat and to go across the sea. Oh, how soon the disciples had quickly forgotten what Jesus was able to do. If He was able to feed the multitudes with just a small amount of food, then, no doubt, He could save them in the midst of a stormy night. Think about the times when in the past you have been afraid. What caused that fear; the unknown, the unexpected, an overreaction by other people, problems you had never experienced before or situations you found yourself in when you were totally out of control? Well, in those situations, what did you do? How did you respond? Well, we know that overcoming, or being overcome with fear is not the solution; for oftentimes fear can cause stress or anxiety, and a host of other health problems. Yes, there is very little to gain by living a life of fear. On the other hand, however, there is something very positive that can happen in those times. Uncertain and unpredicted times can make us aware of our need to depend upon the Lord. And that is what Peter did. He cried out to the One whom he knew could save him. In fact, Jesus had just shown up to do that very thing. And so Peter got out of the boat and he went to Jesus for help. He looked for some reassurance that he and his friends would be okay in the midst of that storm. And yet, as he walked out on the water, for just a moment he took his eyes off of Jesus. He saw the effects of the wind. He heard the roaring sound of the water splashing into the boat, and his courage was not as strong as he thought it to be. Fear overcame him, once again, and he began to sink; but at just the right moment, Jesus reached out His hand and saved him. Let's finish the story here in Matthew 14, as we pick up with verse 31. <Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” He said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”> As Jesus lifted Peter to safety, He pointed out the fact that indeed his faith was weak. It was not strong. Where is your faith, Jesus might have asked. Then He did ask him a very piercing question: “Why did you doubt?” You know, Peter, along with these other disciples, obviously had some serious doubts about surviving that situation. And perhaps if we were there, we too might have some of those very same doubts. They perhaps had never been in a situation like this before. Oh, they were fishermen. They had been out on the sea. That's the way they made their living. And they had experienced some storms, but perhaps nothing like this in the pre-dawn hours, when their lives were in danger. And yet, those doubts quickly went away when Peter joined the others in the boat. In fact, those doubts turned into worship. Their statements of fear and anxiety changed into songs of worship and praise. And they recognized that Jesus, indeed, was the Son of God. Oh, in a time of great uncertainty, their eyes were opened up to the One who was in control of the wind and the waves. They recognized Jesus was someone special. This story, in the life of Jesus, reminds us, today, to live without any fear or doubt whenever life becomes so uncertain. That, whatever problem or situation comes our way, we are to know that Jesus knows what is happening and He will provide. With that in mind, I want to offer four things for our consideration. First of all, when we encounter stormy days, do not lose sight of Jesus. And no doubt, those days will come. Oh, we might not be experiencing them right now, but we will at some point. And we may even experience or believe that we are having more problems than our fair share. But problems will arise, and many of them will be out of our control. And when that happens, we, like these disciples, will wonder if we can overcome. But also like these disciples, our focus will need to be on the Lord. Perhaps you have heard the statement, whatever is over our heads is already under His feet. And literally that was the case here in the story with the disciples out on the Sea of Galilee. Well, there is a second consideration; no matter what uncertainties arise, do not doubt the power of God. Oh, God's power is everywhere, if we just take a moment to look for it. From the stars in the sky to the depths of the sea, God is everywhere, and He is in control. God is aware of everything going on in your life today, and also in mine. He knows what is happening, and He cares for us. And in the midst of those uncertainties, He will never leave us and He will never forsake us. Yes, the One who made the wind and the waves is also to control them and to help us in the midst of them. Here is a third thought to consider: Our doubts will decrease when our faith in Jesus increases. If the uncertainties of life consume our thoughts then we have no time left to think about Jesus. There is no time left to consider what He has done for us in the past if we are focused on the problems of today. There is no time left to consider and to remember and reflect upon how He has delivered us from problems and difficulties in days gone by if we are focused on what is happening right now. Yes, if our attention is focused on the waves overcoming us, and being completely swept away and overtaken by the problems, then we have taken our eyes off of Jesus. We are to have faith in the Lord, even in the midst of that uncertainty. After Jesus cast the evil spirit out of a young boy, in Mark chapter 4, the father rejoiced and he thanked Jesus. And then he said, “Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief.” And maybe that is where we are today. We believe in Jesus Christ, but yet still there is that part of us that doubts. We still have a little bit of unbelief tucked away somewhere, and we need to have that removed. And perhaps that is something that we can pray about on a daily basis. Here is one more thing: In the midst of the storms of life, worship God. When we take time to see what the Lord is doing in our life, we will worship Him. When we consider all of the situations in which we have overcome by the help of God, we too, like these disciples, will offer hymns of praise and worship and Thanksgiving in response. We will get out of those uncertainties that we find ourselves in, in the midst of a boat out on the stormy sea, and we will begin to move to our Savior, as He invites us to come to Him where we will receive His peace and His salvation. Yes, we will find that, indeed, the Lord is with us wherever we go. And so when there is fear in our hearts there is no room for faith in our lives. Maybe it's time that we get rid of that fear, and we live with faith. I would encourage us, today, to not be intimidated, afraid of, or anxious about what is happening in the world around us, but let us put our hope and our trust in Jesus, who saves us. And let us also remember those most important words from Jesus, “Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid.”
I am standing near a busy intersection with lots of traffic passing by. And the drivers, and others who perhaps are with them in those automobiles, are going somewhere and they're seeking to accomplish some thing. They may even have a list of things to do today, places to go and people to see and things to accomplish. And that's just the way life is, isn't it? In fact, we may operate by such ‘to do’ lists. But we need to be careful, as we pursue all of those things, we don't forget what is really important in life. We may think that if I get all of this done today then everything will be okay. And yet there is something which Jesus offers which cannot be found in our daily life. He offers something much more than what this world has to offer, much more than what we can put down on a list. In His ministry, Jesus came to offer a life that was full and abundant, and He wants you and me to receive that. Yes, Jesus wants to be the first priority in our life. And when we embrace that full and abundant life, which He offers, everything else begins to fall into place. I would encourage you to think about the abundant life Jesus offers to you, today. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you know what I'm talking about. But if not, consider what might be missing and consider the importance of receiving what Jesus has to offer and allowing it to make a difference in your daily walk with Him.
Thank you for spending some time with us today on “Key to the Kingdom.” Jesus encouraged us to not live in fear, but to trust Him during the uncertainties of life. That may be hard to do, but Jesus will never leave us nor will He forsake us. Because that is true, there is no reason to be afraid. This lesson, entitled “What Jesus Said About Fear” is available on our website. You can find it at keytothekingdom.com. It, along with many others, is free to download in several different formats. There is no cost or obligation to do so, and I hope you will find some messages that will bless you spiritually. A number of other study lessons and information are there as well. Opportunities to follow us can also be found on Roku® television and by downloading a free app onto your smart phone. Every week, new devotional thoughts are uploaded onto Facebook®, which I hope you will like. I also hope you will share them with others. The two minute inspirational thoughts might also provide a spiritual blessing. They offer practical applications from the Bible. I trust you will find these resources to be helpful as you grow in your daily walk with the Lord. Thank you again for joining us for today's lesson. Please consider joining us again next time, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”