Faith in Fearful Times

2 Timoth 1-7

Pandemic, virus, quarantine, shortages, sickness, and death, all of these words have created great fear in the lives of many people today. In the last month, our lives have changed dramatically with the coming of the Coronavirus. Our response has been fear, panic, and confusion. We feel helpless, and our leaders seem to be as confused as we are.

Will our faith overcome our fears? Or will our fears overcome our faith? Faith and fear can not abide in our lives at the same time. It is not by accident that the Word of God exhorts us continually with the words: “Fear not.” God knows that when fear controls our lives, we cannot trust, love, and obey Him as we ought.

God gives us four reasons that fear should not control our lives. When we remember these truths, it will help us to overcome the fear that is surrounding us today.

  1.  God is our Heavenly Father. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15) Fear brings bondage to our lives. In the fog of our fear, we don’t see our Father. We forget the importance of our position as God’s children. Our Father will not abandon us. He promises never to leave us nor forsake us. How can we fear when God, Our Father is near?
  2.  Our Heavenly Father loves His Children. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.” (1 John 4:18) Fear not only brings bondage but also torments us. This torment keeps us from enjoying God’s peace. Because of this torment, we become blinded to God’s love and the needs of others. God’s love is His remedy for our fears. Why should we allow our fears to torment us when we can lean on the breast of our loving Shepherd? Even in the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us. (See Psalm 23)
  3.  Our Heavenly Father’s purpose for our life excludes fear. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Fear keeps us weak in faith. Fear creates a self-centered attitude that keeps us from loving God and others. Fear brings confusion into our lives. We are unable to see life from God’s perspective. A fearful Christian cannot fulfill God’s great purpose in their life. God’s plan involves depending upon His strength, sharing His love with others, and growing in His wisdom day by day.
  4. God promises peace during fearful times. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27) God’s promise of peace is real. His peace overcomes the fear that enters into our lives. Why do we embrace fear instead of embracing Christ’s peace?

God’s children will experience fearful times, but we don’t have to live in fear during those times. God’s Word makes it clear that our Heavenly Father has given us every reason to banish fear in our lives.

“Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for adopting us as your children. Thank you for your love and peace that you give to us. We live in fearful times. All around us, people are afraid. We need to look up to you instead of being dominated by our fears. Please help us to find courage, faith, and love during these fearful times. Amen”

Breaking Fear’s Domination

Fear comes in many forms, but it still has the same effect. Our fears can dominate us spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and even physically. As our fears increase, our faith in God decreases. We lose confidence in His promises, presence, and power. Fear keeps us from enjoying our daily walk with God and others.

Isaiah 41:10 gives us four great promises from God that enable us to conquer whatever fear is crippling our lives. “Fear thou not; for 1) I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God:2) I will strengthen thee; yea, 3) I will help thee; yea,4) I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” 

1. When I am lonely, God promises his presence. He will never leave me. How can I be afraid if I know that my loving Father is with me? He is with me to bring comfort, wisdom, strength, and grace. What we cannot handle alone, can is there with us.

2. When I am weak and feel like quitting, God will strengthen me. How can I be fearful when I remember that: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)? He will give me His strength to bear whatever comes into my life.

3. When I need spiritual, emotional, or physical help, God will help

How can I be afraid when God’s ability overcomes my inability? The Lord is right there with me. He is my help, no matter how fearful and difficult the future is.

4. When I stumble or fall, God will pick me up.

How can I be fearful when I know that God will pick me up when I fall or stumble? When Peter sinned, stumbled, and fell, Jesus picked him up and restored him. Our fear of failure often keeps us from moving forward in our spiritual lives. This promise assures us that when we stumble, God is right there to keep us going.

“Lord, help me to believe your promises. May I know that you are greater than any fear that is dominating my life. Thank you for your presence and power that conquer my fears. Amen”

Note: A special thanks to Karla Da Silva for the photo. The photo is of Waterfall Gully in South Australia.

“I Will Never Leave Thee” (God’s Presence in Dark Times)

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Twenty-seven years ago, I said goodbye to my father. He had suffered a stroke. I traveled from Portugal to see dad one last time. Did he recognize me? I will never know. My return to Portugal was with a heavy heart. I would never see my father again. My father didn’t leave me by choice, but he was gone. I miss my father.

In life, we all face separation from loved ones. This separation is painful; however, there is One who will never leave us. Our Heavenly Father is always with us. Hebrews 13:5 says: ” Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” God is with us in the good times, and He is with us in dark times. How does His presence affect our lives?

God’s presence gives us contentment in dark times. The tendency in life is to complain about everything. As a result, when things don’t happen the way we want, we become bitter and complain. Our lack of contentment is saying that God is doing a poor job of taking care of us.

Contentment means that we find our joy and happiness in our relationship with our Living Lord. In spite of the tough times, we know that He is right there with us. He will not leave us. He will walk with us through any valley. As the Psalmist says: “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”

God’s presence gives us strength in dark times. The Word of God informs us that Our Heavenly Father will never leave us. “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper. ” (Hebrews 13:6) The dark times in this life weaken us spiritually, emotionally, and even physically. We may feel like quitting. God’s presence gives us the strength to carry on. God told Paul: “For my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (Hebrews 13:6)Our weakness says to God: “I need your strength.” God will respond.

God’s presence gives us courage in dark times. Dark times can bring out the coward in us. We become fearful of people. We are afraid of the future. Fear of failure rules our hearts. Where do we find the courage to move forward. “I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” (Hebrews 13:6) God’s presence and love will cast out the fear that torments us.

Many of our loved ones are no longer with us, but our Heavenly Father will never leave us. He is with us in good times and dark times. Yes, the clouds of darkness may dim our view of God, but He is still with us. May we lean upon Him in the darkest night; so that we may see his presence amid the darkness.

OVERWHELMED!

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Are you feeling overwhelmed with all sorts of negative thoughts about yourself, people, your situation, and even your relationship with God? These thoughts can bring about depression, anxiety, and fear. What does God say to us when we are feeling overwhelmed? “In the multitude of my thoughts within me, THY COMFORTS DELIGHT MY SOUL.” (Psalm 94:19)

God, with His loving arms, says to us: “Come unto me, I will bring my comfort unto you and bring delight to your innermost being.” When God’s comfort enters into our lives, the negative thoughts will be turned inside out into positive and comforting thoughts focused upon Him.

“Dear Lord, you understand how life seems overwhelming to me. I can’t cope with everything that comes my way. However, your comfort carries me through these times and brings joy out of depression. You also bring peace out of anxiety. I thank you that you are always available with your loving arms outstretched to me. Amen”

Bad Tidings in the Season of Good Tidings

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Storm brewing over Downriver Area of Metro Detroit.

“He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.” (Psalm 112:7)

“We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” is a Christmas Carol that people sang since the 16th century in England. It is a song of joy as expressed in the words: “Good tidings we bring to you and your kin. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” However, not everybody receives good tidings during this time of year. We still face trials, sorrow, and pain. We may feel a great sense of loneliness. Yes, evil tidings don’t stop during this time of year: however, there is good news from God.

In the Bible, we see many people who triumphed over the evil tidings in their lives. Joseph overcame many evil tidings, including betrayal, slavery, and prison, to become the prime minister of Egypt. Ruth overcame the evil tidings of the death of her husband and living in poverty. She would soon marry Boaz and become the great-grandmother of King David.

God gives us his Word to encourage us as we face the evil tidings of life that may come our way. Every day, “bad news” can surprise us. We don’t ask for it, but it is a package delivered to the doorway of our lives. How can we triumph even amid heartbreaking news? Psalm 112:7 gives us an answer to this question.

Typically, our first response to bad news is to be afraid or fearful. Fear paralyzes us. It causes us to focus on the bad news instead of our Great God. God tells us that we do not have to be afraid of the “evil tidings” that enter into our life. God knows that fear will keep us from seeing Him. Fear causes us to doubt the goodness and the power of God. For this reason, God gives us many verses that command us to “fear not.”

  • But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob,and he that formed thee, O Israel, FEAR NOT: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
  • ” FEAR THOU NOT; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God:I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)
  • “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, NEITHER LET IT BE AFRAID.” (John 14:27)

When fear departs amid the bad news, then we can do the next step in facing our bad news. We now can “fix our heart” upon the Lord. Our bad news is an opportunity to focus on God. We can focus upon all of His attributes and promises. When we fix our hearts upon the Lord, it may not change our circumstances, but it will change how we face our situations. We will understand with the Apostle Paul that God’s grace is sufficient for the “evil tidings” that may come in our life.

Once fear has departed, and we have fixed our heart upon the Lord, then we can have faith in Him. Faith is responding to all that we know about God. The more we know the Lord, the more we will be able to trust Him. True faith knows that God will never leave us, nor forsake us regardless of the “bad news” that may come our way. His love is unchanging. He loves us with an “everlasting love.”. Faith in our Lord will dispel any fear in our life. It will enable us to bear whatever “bad news” that comes our way.

In summary, when we receive bad news, Psalm 112: 7 tells us three ways to respond to the “evil tidings.”

  1. Do not allow fear to dominate our thoughts and actions.
  2. Fix our hearts upon the Lord. Let our thoughts focus on the Lord.
  3. Place our faith in the Lord. He will carry us as we face the “bad news’ in our life.

When “evil tidings” enter, God has a way of turning those evil tidings into an opportunity to see Him work in our lives. God will turn those “evil tidings” into “good tidings” that will draw us closer to Him, and bring glory to His name.

“Dear Lord, the news that I receive is not always positive. I see people who are suffering. I visit those who have marital problems. I talk with those who have a loved one who is dying. I see people who have turned away from you. I also face difficulties from time to time in my life. I tend to meet the bad news with fear. Help me to turn my eyes off the “bad news” and fix my heart upon you. Please, increase my faith. Help me to believe that you will take this “bad news” and make it into a blessing. Thank you for your excellent plan for my life. Amen”

When I am Afraid

Guincho Beach outside of Cascais, Portugal (Photo by Mark J Booth)
Guincho Beach outside of Cascais, Portugal (Photo by Mark J Booth)

“What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” (Psalm 56:3)

“Mom, please leave the hall light on and don’t close the door.” These words were almost a nightly ritual when I was a child. Growing up I was afraid of many things. When I went to bed, I was afraid of the dark. When I went to school, I was afraid of failure. When I tried to become friends with someone, I was afraid of rejection. When I heard about somebody having cancer, I was afraid that I would get cancer. Being afraid is something that we struggle with throughout our lives.  We may outgrow some of our childhood fears, but we replace them with new fears.

As adults, we may suppress our fears before others, but deep down, we have to admit that we are still afraid of many things. We are afraid of what the future holds in our lives.  We fear rejection by people around us. Fear can overtake us as we contemplate death.  Sickness or financial reversal always seem to be lurking around the corner. We dread what will happen next.

Being afraid has been a reality since the fall of man. Adam and Eve were afraid of God after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. Abraham was afraid of Pharaoh when he and Sarah fled to Egypt to escape a famine. Moses was afraid of being executed for murder; so he fled to the wilderness. The disciples were afraid of the storm, and cried out to the Lord. Peter was afraid of those who were warming up by the fire; so he  denied the Lord.  John Mark was afraid of persecution for preaching the Gospel; so he abandoned his mission work.

David faced several events in his life that caused him to be afraid.  How did he handle those times of fear. In Psalm 56:3, David writes: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”  David understood the reality of his fear, but he also remembered the reality of God. Let’s join David and see how we are to handle those times when we are afraid.

Before we can share our fear with God, we must recognize that we are afraid. Most of the time we are afraid of the “What ifs” in life. “What if something happens to me?” “What if I lose my job?” “What if I can’t complete my assignment?” Our fears often creep up upon us in an unexpected way. Soon, we become paralyzed by our fear, like a deer staring into the headlights of an oncoming car.

Other times, we become afraid of something that is not imaginary, but very real. We receive bad news from the doctor. We receive a notice in our mailbox that our house will soon be repossessed. David recognizes these times of being afraid. He doesn’t face his fear with a false bravado, but he recognizes his fear. He knows that the relief from his fear doesn’t come from within himself, but in the Living God.

After recognizing his fear, David focuses upon the One who can take care of his fear. God alone has the power, strength, love, and wisdom to carry us through our fear.  When the disciples were afraid of the storm, they went to Jesus who was sleeping in the boat. They knew that He alone could calm the storm about them. Yes, the storm was threatening. Yes, the storm was violent, but they knew that the Lord would carry them through this storm.

Our fears often control us because we forget the greatness of our God. David, as he faced Goliath, recognized that there was One greater than Goliath. Our God can deal with whatever Goliath we are facing. The more we grow in our knowledge of God, the more we will live a life free from fear.

After recognizing his fear, and focusing upon God’s greatness, David now entrusts his life to God. The word “trust” in Psalm 56:3 has the idea of leaning upon. David understands that the only way to conquer his fear is to totally lean upon God as he walks through the dangerous path that is before him.

As David wrote in Psalm 23, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;” Even in the most dangerous road of all, death, David is not afraid because he is leaning upon the Lord who is walking with him through this very dark valley.

Like David, we face many dangerous roads. Yes, some of the dangers are imaginary, but many of the dangers are real. If we choose to walk those dangerous roads alone. our fears will consume us. However, if we choose to lean upon Our Loving, All-Powerful Lord, we can walk upon the most dangerous road with courage.

“Dear Lord, we live in a world filled with danger. We find it easy allow fear to control us.  especially when we forget you. Help us to lean upon you completely, as we travel every dangerous road that is before us.  We do not ask to live a life without danger, but please be with us as we travel into danger. Thank you for allowing us to lean upon you no matter how dark the path is before us. Teach us that we don’t have to be afraid, because you are greater than any fear. Amen”

Five Great Promises As I Travel this Life (Isaiah 41:10)

The Moon over Cascais, Portugal: Photo by Mark J. Booth
The Moon over Cascais, Portugal: Photo by Mark J. Booth

Growing up my Dad gave me a love for travel. Every year, we would plan and then execute a trip. One year we went to the New England states. The next year, we went down to Tennessee and then to New Orleans. Another year, we travelled to the Grand Canyon.  Every trip had its difficulties, but I don’t regret any of our travels. These trips gave me an opportunity to learn new things and enjoy new experiences.

Our life on this earth is also one great journey. Our journey begins at birth and continues unto death. We may encounter different experiences and roads in our journey. We will face joys and heartaches, pain and pleasures, companionship and loneliness. However, this journey is not to be travelled alone. Where will we find help in the difficulties of our journey?

God gives to His children (those who believe on Jesus Christ, as their Lord and Savior) five great promises to help us in our journey. God’s promises are only effective in our lives when we believe them and act upon them. The road ahead is unknown, but if we know God and His promises, we will successfully navigate the road ahead of us.

God’s promises are seen in Isaiah 41:10: “Fear thou not; for 1) I am with thee: be not dismayed; 2) for I am thy God: 3) I will strengthen thee; yea, 4) I will help thee; yea,5) I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” 

1, When I am lonely, God promises his presence. God will never leave me. “I am with thee.” 

One of the most lonely experiences in life is at the airport. There are people everywhere and yet you are all alone. Everybody is hurrying to catch their flight, sleeping, or catching up on their reading. No one seems to care about others.

Life is much the same way. Everybody gets caught up with what they are doing. No one seems to care. We face our trials alone. We face our heartaches alone. We face our decisions alone. Does anybody care? Yes! God assures His children that He will never leave us. He is walking life’s journey with us. He will guide us when we are making decisions. He comfort us when we have sorrow. He will give us the strength to endure our trials. God’s presence enables us to continue on our journey with confidence, hope and joy.

2. When I am discouraged, God promises a personal relationship with Him. “For I am thy God.” 

 Discouragement means that we have lost heart. In the midst of our journey, we just want to quit everything. We may want to quit our walk with God. We may want to quit serving God. We may want to quit our work or even our family.

God knows how His child can easily lose heart in the difficult times of life. He assures us that we will always belong to Him. Our circumstances may change. We may change, but God will always be Our God. He will always be Our Father. He will always take a personal interest in our lives. He will encourage our hearts through the most trying times by saying to us: “I will always be your Father. I am going to get you through this. Trust me no matter how dark the journey may seem. I will bring light to this darkness.”

3. When I am weak and feel that I can’t continue, He will strengthen me. “I will strengthen thee.” 

Life is much like a race. There are times when we feel strong and then there are other times when we feel as though we can’t do any more. We have nothing left in us spiritually, emotionally or physically. We just can’t go any further. However, our Heavenly Father gives us His strength to continue on. Paul understood this when he said: “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) When we feel that we can’t go any further, we can always lean hard on His Everlasting Arms. He will carry us.

4. When I am in need of spiritual, emotional or physical help, He will help me. “I will help thee.” 

In my travels, I occasionally find myself lost. I don’t know where I am and I don’t where I am going. My natural response is to try to resolve my situation on my own. This only makes the problem worse. I lose time and become even more lost than before.

Likewise, we often find ourselves needing help in our journey of life. However, pride keeps us from calling out to God. We want to resolve the difficulty ourselves. David, the Psalmist, understood the need to call out to God when he said: “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:6)

We may think that our problem is insignificant to God. Perhaps, we think that God isn’t interested in us. God is our Father! He does want to help us, because He knows that His children need help every day. When we need help, we must never hesitate to run to the waiting arms of Our Heavenly Father. He will never hesitate to help us.

5. When I stumble or fall, He will pick me up. “I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Many years ago, I experienced my first car accident.  I don’t know how it happened, but it did. The front of car was totally smashed. The car looked as though it would never be driven again. However, I had the car taken to a body shop and after two weeks time, it looked as though the accident had never occurred.

In our life’s journey, we also have accidents. Most of these accidents are self-inflicted because of our sin. We have fallen in a ditch filled with guilt, pain, and sorrow. How can we get out? God assures us that when temptations come, He is there to bring deliverance. When we sin, He assures us of His forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

“Dear Lord, I thank you for my great salvation through your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank you for this journey called life. Yes, I have experienced loneliness, pain, weakness, and discouragement; yet you have always been there with me each step of the way. You have brought joy in my sorrow. You have brought encouragement in my times of discouragement. You have brought hope in my despair. You have brought strength in my weakness.  I have cried out to you, and you have answered. Thank you for taking a personal interest in my life’s journey. May I always glorify you each step of the way. Amen.”