If I were to pose a question to each of you, it would be simply this: What is behind the most significant opposition or struggle that you face in your life today?
It may be that your life is full of opportunity and responsibility and you don’t think much about opposition or difficulty. However, the more personal you become, the more aware you will be of what it is that you fear.
Let’s be clear that when we use the term fear, we’re not talking about the kind of emotional reaction that we have to scary circumstances. Rather, we’re talking about the possibility that what we most need, what we hope for or dream about and perhaps what we want most out of life will not come to pass.
It should not surprise us that the number one command of scripture, the one that’s repeated more than any other, is simply this: Do not fear. We would think that it would be something that seems more spiritual like serve more, pray more, give more, or even love more.
However, the Holy Spirit, the author of scripture, goes right to the heart of what keeps us from such things and that is simply fear. It is a fear born not so much of our inability as much as it is our lack of revelation of who God truly is and perhaps even more important, what He thinks of each of us.
In one of the most beloved stories in the gospels we see the disciples attempting to cross the Sea of Galilee in a boat as Jesus had commanded them. Jesus sent them off and went up to the mountain to pray it says in Matthew 14:23, and though the boat made some progress, it was “buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.” (verse 24)
“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.'” (verse 27)
Many interpretations of this story have been expressed by Bible teachers and scholars over the years.
One analogy that seems to fit in my life is I see the boat as representative of my life’s journey in obedience to God across the ‘lake of life’ to a destination that represents His highest purpose and destiny for me.
But like so many others I find that crossing this lake is a challenge that taxes all of my resources. There are many times when I feel the ‘wind and waves are against me.’
What is so instructive about this portion of the story is that when Jesus moves toward the boat walking on the disturbed waves of the lake, it is fear that prevents the disciples from embracing Him. The very presence of God which is coming to them to provide strength and help to cross over the lake is rebuffed by the power of fear.
It is no surprise that Jesus directly speaks of that and says ‘Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.’ (verse 27)
For today’s reflection, spend a few moments asking the Lord where fear has possibly resisted the intervention of God in your life circumstances. Think about where by virtue of difficulties that you can’t overcome, circumstances that don’t seem to change or opposition that seems too strong to overcome fear has halted your progress in the purposes of God.
Keep in mind that our first inclination is not to see this as fear but as discernment or perhaps even a willingness to accept something different than what you believe God had told you.
In our next study we’ll look at two responses to the presence of God and how both of them address this issue of fear. For today, take heart simply in the words of Him who will never fail you or forsake you. “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.”