Friday, June 26, 2015

Faith or Fear

As evening came, Jesus said to His disciples, "Let us cross to the other side of the lake." So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with His head on a cushion. The disciples woke Him up, shouting, "Teacher, don’t you care that we are going to drown?" When Jesus woke up, He rebuked the wind and said to the water, "Silence! Be still!" Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then He asked them, "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?" The disciples were terrified. "Who is this Man?" they asked each other. "Even the wind and waves obey Him!" Mark 4:35-41 (NLT)

After teaching varies parables to the crowds about God’s Kingdom (Mark 4:3-32), Jesus and His disciples (followers) crossed to the other side of the lake (Mark 4:35). This lake was the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was temporarily leaving the territory of Galilee to go over to the Gentile (non-Jewish) territory of Gerasenes (Mark 5:1). Soon, a violent and unexpected storm arose with high waves breaking into the boat until the boat was nearly full of water and about to sink (Mark 4:37). Jesus’ disciples panicked (Luke 4:37-38). However, Jesus was sound asleep at the back of the boat with His head on a cushion (Mark 4:38). Jesus was weary from a long day of teaching about God’s Kingdom (Mark 4:1-32). The disciples were afraid of the storm, but Jesus was not! Jesus kept on sleeping, confident that God the Father was completely in control (Psalm 4:8; Psalm 89:8-9; see also Romans 8:28). 

Frantically, the disciples awakened Jesus, shouting, “Teacher, do You not even care that we are all about to drown?” (Mark 4:38). The disciples panicked and were filled with fear (cowardliness) because several of Jesus’ disciples were expert fishermen and they knew the dangers of these storms on the Galilean Sea (Mark 1:16-20; see also Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:40-41). Jesus seemed unworried about the storm. When Jesus woke up, He rebuked (commanded) the winds and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” (Mark 4:39, NKJV). Suddenly, the winds stopped, and there was a great calm on the waters (Mark 4:39; Luke 8:24; see also Psalm 65:5-7; Psalm 107:29). Then, Jesus asked His disciples (followers) asked two important questions: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40; see also Matthew 6:30-34; Matthew 8:26; Matthew 14:31; Luke 8:25; Luke 12:28-31; James 1:5-8). Jesus was amazed and shocked that His disciples had not yet developed faith (confidence or trust) in Him, and they were acting like cowards (see also Revelation 21:6-8). At this point, the disciples clearly did not understand Jesus’ full identity. Jesus’ disciples said among themselves, “Who is this Man?” because even the winds and waves submit and obey His authority (Matthew 8:27; Mark 4:41; Luke 8:25). 

Mark 4:35-41 reveals a pivotal moment in the life of Jesus’ disciples (see also Matthew 8:18, 23-27 and Luke 8:22-25). With this miracle, Jesus sought to establish and increase His disciples’ faith in Him as God’s divine Son and to trust Him for salvation. This miracle was just another display of Jesus’ authority and power as God’s Kingdom was present in His life. Jesus performed one of His greatest miracles – He “rebuked the winds and the waves. And there was a great calm” (Matthew 8:26). Overwhelmed, Jesus’ disciples shouted, “What kind of Man is this?” (Matthew 8:27). These disciples, who would eventually be called apostles (Mark 3:13-19; Mark 6:30), did not fully understand Jesus’ identity at this point.  Jesus’ disciples had been with Him during His public ministry. These disciples heard Jesus’ wise teaching and witnessed firsthand His powers and miraculous healings and casting out evil spirits. Now they discovered that Jesus even had authority over nature – winds and the seas. Yet, Jesus’ disciples did not fully understand that Jesus, the Jewish carpenter from Nazareth, was indeed the Son of God (Mark 1:1; Mark 15:39), the Messiah (Christ) (Mark 8:29-30; John 20:31), God incarnate (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 1:23; John 1:1-5, 14; Colossians 1:15-20; Colossians 2:9), Lord (Romans 10:9), the Word of God (1 John 1:1; Revelation 19:13), the Seed that defeats evil (Genesis 3:15); King (Matthew 2:2; John 1:49) and Savior (Matthew 1:21). Jesus is God incarnate (in the flesh) and the fullness of God dwelt within Him (John 1:1-5, 14; Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:13). Moreover, Jesus is not just a Messenger from God but Jesus is God (John 1:1; John 20:28; Romans 9:5). As God, Jesus controls the forces and powers of nature, suffering, sickness, and death. Jesus has the power to calm the raging storm at sea and in our hearts. 

Apostle Paul:  "Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again — rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Do not worry (anxious) about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live (trust) in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7 (NLT)

Think about the storms in your life — the situations that cause great worry and anxiety. We can choose between faith and fear (Mark 4:35-41; see also Matthew 6:25-33: Luke 12:22-31). Essentially, everyone has two options: self-centered worry and panicked or to resist fear by praying and putting our wholehearted trust in God (Philippians 4:6-7; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, 23). At Philippians 4:4-7, Apostle Paul continued Jesus’ teaching on worrying (Matthew 6:25-33; Luke 12:22-31). When you feel like worrying, Apostle Paul encouraged us to tell our problems and needs to God in prayer and then trust God to care for us. Our sovereign and all-powerful God has promised never to leave us or to forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6; see also Joshua 1:9). When we are afraid, we can trust God and rest quietly in Him (see Psalm 56:3). God is our salvation, and we can always trust in Him and never need be afraid (Isaiah 12:2). As the all-powerful God incarnate, Jesus also cares about all our problems and needs and we can always trust Him regardless of the challenge (Mark 4:35-41). Jesus is the sovereign God of every situation and the Conqueror of every enemy. He is willing to help if we only ask, trust Him and obey His orders. Jesus provides His peace in the middle of any storm (Matthew 23:27). 

In His final teaching to His disciples before His sacrificial death, Jesus told His disciples (followers) “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in Me” (John 14:1, NCV). The God of the Old Testament (Yahweh) fully dwelt in His Son, Jesus of the New Testament (John 14:9-11, 20; John 17:11, 14, 21; see also Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:1-4). No one can come to God the Father except through His Son Jesus because Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6, NLT).  By uniting our lives with Jesus, we are united with God the Father (John 17:22-24; see also Romans 5:10-11; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Jesus promised His disciples (followers) that if we love Him and obey His teachings, He will ask His Father and God the Father will send the Holy Spirit, who will never leave us (John 14:15-16, 23). The Holy Spirit is God the Father and Jesus’ presence living within Jesus’ disciples who love and obeys Jesus’ teaching (John 14:21, 23; John 15:10). Jesus’ teaching comes directly from God the Father (John 14:24; John 17:8). The Holy Spirit will teach Jesus’ disciples truth (John 14:26). Even more through the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives His disciples the gift of peace of mind and heart (John 14:27; see also Romans 8:15; Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Timothy 1:7). “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid (fearful), but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV2011). God is not a God of disorder but a God of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). So, Jesus told His disciples do not be troubled or afraid (John 14:27; John 16:33; Romans 5:1; Philippians 4:7; Colossians 3:15) but remain (live in) and trust Him (John 15:5). Jesus said to His disciples that “here on earth we will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NLT) and God the Father will keep us safe from evil and the evil one (John 17:15).

That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! "Peace be with you," He said. As He spoke, He showed them the wounds in His hands and His side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again He said, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you." Then He breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. . . ." Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. "Peace be with you," He said. Then He said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and look at My hands. Put your hand into the wound in My side. Do not be faithless any longer. Believe!" John 20:19-22, 26-27 (NLT)

Even after Jesus’ death, His disciples were still afraid. But Jesus’ first word to His frightened disciples was the traditional greeting, “shalom — peace!” Jesus could have easily criticized His disciples for their unfaithfulness and cowardice just before His arrest and crucifixion, but He did not. Jesus said “peace” to His disciples and calmed their fears. “Shalom” means “peace” and this peace is a precious word to the Jewish people. Shalom means much more than just the absence of war, hostility or distress but a total well-being and inner rest of spirit that comes with faith and fellowship with God and His Son, Jesus. In our relationship with Jesus, Jesus brings God’s peace – wholeness, completeness, health, security, joy, contentment even prosperity.  We receive God's wonderful peace by faith in His Son, Jesus and His gifting of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5). The Holy Spirit is the very presence of God the Father and Jesus the Son living within all faithful believers. By faith and obedience, we can receive God’s peace and power each day for victorious living. 

Evil does not care how many Bible truths we know as long as we do not obey and live out our faith each day. God wants us to hear AND obey God’s Word from our hearts. True faith is obeying and trusting God in spite of feelings and circumstances (see also James 2:14-26). Faith and fear cannot dwell together in the same heart. “Doing the will of God from the heart” is what God wants from His people (Ephesians 6:6). If we want to experience full God’s grace (favor), peace, and blessings, we must hear and obey God’s Word that was fully lived out in His Son, Jesus (Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 11:8-9, 22-25; Joshua 1:5-11; Proverbs 3:1-8; Luke 8:21; John 15:10). 

At Mark 4:35-41, Jesus contrasts fear with faith and equates fear with no faith. Faith brings peace while unbelief brings fear. The medicine for a troubled heart is trusting in God and His Son, Jesus (John 14:1; see also Psalm 56:3-4, 10-11; Isaiah 26:3-4). Faith means trust in God’s helping power in crisis – a help that is both present and active in Jesus. Jesus is in constant control of every situation! Jesus is our Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6; see also Micah 5:5).

Jesus: "That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life . . . . Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? . . And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? So do not worry about these things, saying, What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need." Matthew 6:25, 27, 30-33 (NLT)

Disciple's Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible, 1988).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Life Essentials Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2011).
Spirit Filled Life Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary (Victor Books, 1989).

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