Overcoming Fear

“You believe at last!” Jesus answered. “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:31-33)

Certainly our Lord’s words to His disciples must have stung bitterly. They could not have imagined forsaking their Master. Over-confidence in our actions and abilities can be our downfall, can it not? Preoccupied, distracted, lacking a fixed focus, selfish indulgences, vain conceits, and fears all have a way of catching us off guard. Before we know it, we, like the disciples, find ourselves doing something we could never have possibly imagined doing. They were sure of their stick-to-itiveness–seemingly unable to comprehend that they could forsake or flee from the One they so dearly loved. Paul tells us:

“They had not rightly estimated the weakness of the flesh, the power of the devil, the feebleness of their own resolutions, the shallowness of their own faith. All this they had yet to learn by painful experience. Like young recruits, they had yet to learn that it is one thing to know the soldiers drill and wear the uniform, and quite another thing to be steadfast in the day of battle.”
-John Charles Ryle

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:11-13)

Even the most committed followers of our Lord know little of their own hearts–loudly professing loyalty yet scattering for cover as soon as difficulty strikes. The disciples simply did not know themselves–they were unaware of the shallowness of their convictions, the weakness of their flesh, and the depth of human depravity that was buried within their hearts. Scripture tells us:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

We would do well to mark this in our memories–we are all capable of a fall.

“In the Kingdom, there are no great men of God, just humble men whom God has chosen to use greatly. How do we know when we are humble? When God speaks, we tremble. God is looking for a man who trembles at His word. Such a man will find the Spirit of God resting upon him; he will become a dwelling place for the Almighty. God asks for nothing but ourselves.” -Francis Frangipane

We must remember that we can do nothing of eternal value apart from Christ. It is only when we are weak in the estimation of our own abilities that we are strong in God’s perfect all-achieving power. Paul tells us:

But he [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Life is difficult. We can expect trouble and hardship. The word which Jesus uses for trouble in our verses for today is translated from the Greek word thlipsis meaning “to crush, press, compress, squeeze; tribulation, trouble, affliction; conveys the picture of something being crushed or squeezed as from a great weight; used to denote grievous physical affliction or mental and spiritual distress” (Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible New Testament Lexical Aids). Yet, Jesus goes on to say that in Him we can have His perfect peace amid the turmoil, trials, and testing’s of this life. He is our only sure and continuous fountain of true and lasting comfort. Paul tells us:

“For he himself is our peace.” (Ephesians 2:14)

Take It to Heart

Jesus said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

As we live in close communion with the Lord–with a steadfast mind and focus on the Prince of Peace and His achieving power, we are able, like the eagle, to soar above the storm clouds. This does not mean that we will not feel the pain or the loss or a hurt, rather our pain can be seen with a view of “the big picture.” Whatever God allows can ultimately be used for our good and His glory.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)