Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Do Not Be Afraid!

Matt 14:27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."  NASU

The context of this verse is very familiar. Jesus had sent his disciples away, to the other side of the lake, while He went up the mountainside to pray by Himself. During the voyage, the boat and its occupants were being battered by the wind and the waves. All of a sudden, they see a figure on the water, walking towards them. The biblical account says that they were terrified, believing that they were seeing a ghost. Then Jesus shares the comforting words. “It is I.”

It is interesting how many times the bible records Jesus talking to His followers about their fear. It occurs at least eight times in the book of Matthew. It seems that it is an important topic. We could tend to believe that His followers were rather easily frightened because Jesus spoke about it so often, but I don’t think that is the case. After all, it took tremendous courage just to follow Jesus at this time. For many, it meant leaving their homes, families and businesses, without any knowledge of what might happen. It meant being despised by many of their kinsmen and ridiculed by the Romans.

No, I think that the twelve and all of Jesus’ other disciples were just ordinary people, like you and I. We all experience fear at times. Some commentators say that this event showed lack of faith on the part of the disciples but that is incorrect. If you read the account closely, only Peter is rebuked for lack of faith and that came after he had demonstrated great faith by walking on the water to meet Jesus. Once he got out there, he lost the courage he started out with.

I think we can understand the fear of these men considering their circumstance. After all, Jesus had not said anything about meeting them out in the middle of the lake! It was a pretty natural reaction to a very supernatural event. What is important to see here, is the response of Jesus to their fear. Instead of rebuking the disciples, Jesus encourages them. How does He do that? He does it in two different ways.

First, He encourages them with His words. “Take courage,” might also be translated, “be bold,” or “have confidence.” He is telling them to replace their fear with courage, boldness or confidence. That is nice but it brings up a question. Why should they do that? The storm is raging and they see a strange figure walking toward them on the water. What would give them any reason to replace their fear with boldness or courage?

The answer to that is in the second way Jesus encourages them. It is a point I want you to pay close attention to, because it will make a huge difference in how you approach fear in your life. You see, the second way that Jesus encourages His disciples is with His presence! He assures these men that He is the one who is there with them. “It is I.” What an amazing statement! Jesus is letting them and consequently us know that as long as He is present, there is no need to fear. In His presence, fear can always be replaced with confidence, courage and boldness.

You might be thinking, “yes, but what about when I don’t feel His presence?” Then you must again go back to His words. This is what He says, Matt 28:20 “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (NIV) We base our courage on what He says, not what we feel.


If you are “in Christ,” you do not need to approach life with fear. Jesus is always present in your circumstance. Let Him speak His words of encouragement to you and replace your fear with confidence and boldness in Him. His power, proven in this instance by His ability to walk on water, knows no bounds. He is able to deliver you from any circumstance, any situation. Trust in Him!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Good Work

Phil 1:3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  NIV 

This often quoted passage, is one of the most encouraging pieces of scripture I can think of. The Apostle Paul begins a personal letter to the church at Philippi, which had been established shortly after Paul visited the city on his second missionary journey. It is evident by looking at verses 12-14, that he was a prisoner at the time he wrote the letter.

What you see in verse 5 is that the Philippians had partnered with Paul in ministry. How had they done that? One way was by sending Ephaphroditus to minister personally to him. Another way was by sending Paul financial gifts, to make his imprisonment a little more comfortable (Ph 4:14-19). They had done this on at least two other occasions.

This is a result of the good work that Jesus had begun in the Philippians. As you read through all of chapter one, you can see that the practical application of God’s spiritual work in the believers at Philippi, had stimulated great affection from Paul. Notice, in verses 3 and 4, how Paul prays for this group of committed believers in Christ.

When God begins a good work in your heart, it should also be demonstrated through practical application. In verse 9, Paul mentions that he prays that their love would abound more and more. It stands to reason then, that their love must have already been abounding! When Christ comes into our hearts, one of the first changes that we will see is that our love for Jesus will be demonstrated in love for other believers (Jn 13:35). 

This kind of love (agapee- love without conditions or expectation of anything in return) is a love that only Christ can give. It is visible proof of one’s relationship with God. This love must be the motivation for any good works. Without it, Paul says our actions gain nothing (1Cor 13:1-3).

Here is the best news of all. Look back at verse 6. Who was it that began this good work in these people? It is God. When did it begin? It began on the day that they received Jesus as their Lord and Savior, the day of their salvation. How long will it continue? It will continue until the “day of of Christ Jesus.” That means until He returns for His church or until your personal day of meeting Him face to face arrives. 

Remember, it is He who begins the work in you and He is the one who “carries it on to completion.” That means that no matter what is going on in your life, He is working. When you feel discouraged, beaten up by the world, He is working. When you are excited about life, He is working. When you can’t understand what is going on around you, He is working. He is always working to complete the work of love that He began in you and He will finish the job! Don’t ever let anyone, including the enemy of your soul, who is the father of lies, convince you otherwise. Be confident (convinced by argument), just as the Apostle Paul was, that God will do His great work in you. Then, give Him thanks and praise for His glorious work!

God Bless You