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When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid."

-- John 6:19-20, ESV

My middle name is Franklin, named after my father, who was named by his father, in 1941. Obviously, Pop was a big fan of the president at the time. Everyone knows this president's most famous line from his first inaugural address: "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."

People are afraid today, of a new and dreadful virus, of the ensuing economic difficulties, of whatever China may do next. Fear is a part of every generation, every life, even every Christian's life. But is fear really to be feared? Could fear be something good that leads us to something better?

Fear is a gift from God

"They were frightened" (vs. 19), those 12 disciples, in a small boat on a medium-sized lake surrounded by large mountains. The cut of those rocks could whip the wind upon the sea in such a way that waves raise up large enough to sink a boat. Fear feels bad, but is fear a bad thing? No, fear can be a good thing, even a healthy thing, that God has given to us for our good.

Fear is a sign of good sense. I have acrophobia, which helps keep my feet on the ground and my hands on the rail when I am in high places. I have ophidiophobia, which is why I never became one of those snake-handling preachers. I suffer from glossophobia, which is the fear of public speaking, which makes me prepare incessantly and pray unceasingly to deliver sermons. Fear makes us prepare and put up safeguards that are simply signs of good common sense.

Fear is a sign of godly respect. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (ref. Psalm 110:10; Proverbs 9:10). "Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word" (ref. Isaiah 66:5). Healthy fear makes us listen to the right words from the right person for the right reasons, especially when that person is God and the source is God's word, the Bible. The fear of God honors God and keeps us from committing sins that will do harm to others and ourselves.

Fear is sign for help. Fear can make you place your hand on the rail, or take someone else's hand, or put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee.

The disciples had been in a similar storm before, but Jesus was in the boat with them. This time He was not, yet. They feared death, a healthy fear indeed. They knew they needed Jesus to save them, a good spiritual observation. Then, Jesus showed up, and fear was conquered by faith.

Faith is a gift from God

It was not a ghost, but God who came to the twelve in the boat, doing something that only God can do; therefore, Jesus Christ is God, Jesus Christ is Lord! Believe in Him!

Faith is a present from the Lord. Paul wrote that faith is a gift from God (ref. Ephesians 2:8). Peter wrote that faith is a gift from God (ref. 2 Peter 1:1). James wrote that faith and every other good gift comes from God (ref. James 1:17). These are impeccable witnesses, so the case should be closed concerning the origin of faith.

Faith is the presence of the Lord. God is real, whether one believes in Him or not. But faith makes Jesus personal, in the boat, in your life. The disciples obviously remembered this day when Christ came into the boat, as every Christian should remember the day Christ came into our lives.

Faith is the promise of the Lord. Faith is the gift that keeps on giving, through the inspired and enduring word of God. It was a word from Jesus, God incarnate, that inspired the disciples' faith, calmed their fears, and brought them safely to shore.

Only one gift will endure forever

With a final word, Jesus conquered their fears with faith. "It is I; do not be afraid" (vs. 20). In the original language, that phrase is only four words. A literal rendering is, "I Am, no fear." Jesus Christ is Lord. If you have faith in Him, in His person and work, then the day will come when you will have absolutely no fear, no fear of heights, no fear of snakes, no fear of speaking, no fear of death. You will have nothing to fear, not even fear itself.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. He is a graduate of Valdosta State University, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has served churches in Arkansas and Georgia, and preached the gospel across the United States and other countries. Email him at [email protected]

Religion on 05/16/2020

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