Tag Archives: Fear

“The supreme mysterious stranger” by R.C. Sproul

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ (Mark 4:39–40, NIV)

The life of Jesus was a blaze of miracles. He performed so many that it is easy for us to become jaded in the hearing of them. We can read this narrative and skip quickly over to the next page without being moved.

Yet we have here one of the most astonishing of all Jesus’ miracles. We have an event that made a special impression on the disciples. It was a miracle that was mind-boggling even to them.

Jesus controlled the fierce forces of nature by the sound of His voice. He didn’t say a prayer. He didn’t ask the Father to deliver them from the tempest. He dealt with the situation directly. He uttered a command, a divine imperative. Instantly nature obeyed.

The wind heard the voice of its Creator. The sea recognized the command of its Lord. Instantly the wind ceased. Not a zephyr could be felt in the air. The sea became like glass without the tiniest ripple.

Notice the reaction of the disciples. The sea was now calm but they were still agitated:

They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’ (Mark 4:41, niv)

We see a strange pattern unfolding here. That the storm and raging sea frightened the disciples is not surprising. But once the danger passed and the sea was calm, it would seem that their fear would vanish as suddenly as the storm.

It didn’t happen that way. Now that the sea was calm, the fear of the disciples increased. How do we account for that?

It was the father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Freud, who once espoused the theory that men invent religion out of a fear of nature. Man feels helpless before an earthquake, a flood, or a ravaging disease. So, said Freud, men invent a God who has power over the earthquake, flood, and disease.

God is personal. We can talk to Him. We can try to bargain with Him. We can plead with Him to save us from the destructive forces of nature. We are not able to plead with earthquakes, negotiate with floods, or bargain with cancer. So, the theory goes, we invent God to help us deal with these scary things.

What is significant about this story in Scripture is that the disciples’ fear increased after the threat of the storm was removed. The storm made them afraid. Jesus’ action to still the tempest made them more afraid. In the power of Christ they met something more frightening than they ever met in nature.

They were in the presence of the holy. We wonder what Freud would have said about that. Why would men invent a God whose holiness was more terrifying than the forces of nature that provoked them to invent a god in the first place?

We can understand men inventing an unholy god, a god who brought only comfort. But why a god more scary than the earthquake, flood, or disease? It is one thing to fall victim to the flood or to fall prey to cancer; it is another thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The words that the disciples spoke after Jesus calmed the sea are very revealing. They cried out, ‘What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’ The question was, ‘What manner of man is this?’ They were asking a question of kind.

They were looking for a category to put Jesus in, a type that they were familiar with. If we can classify people into certain types, we know immediately how to deal with them. We respond one way to hostile people and another way to friendly people.

We react one way to intellectual types and another way to social types. The disciples could find no category adequate to capture the person of Jesus. He was beyond typecasting. He was sui generis—in a class by Himself.

The disciples had never met a man like this. He was unlike anyone they had ever encountered. He was one of a kind, a complete foreigner. They had met all different kinds of men before—tall men, short men, fat men, skinny men, smart men, and stupid men.

They had met Greeks, Romans, Syrians, Egyptians, Samaritans, and fellow Jews. But they had never met a holy man, a man who could speak to winds and waves and have them obey Him.

That Jesus could sleep through the storm at sea was strange enough. But it was not unique. I think again of my fellow passenger on the airplane who dozed while I was gripped with panic.

It may be rare to meet people who can slumber through a crisis but it is not unprecedented. I was impressed with my friend on the plane.

But he did not awaken and yell out the window to the wind and make it stop at his command. If he had done that, I would have looked around for a parachute.

Jesus was different. He possessed an awesome otherness. He was the supreme mysterious stranger. He made people uncomfortable.”

–R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1993), 77–81.

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“Christ will swallow up death in victory” by Richard Sibbes

“‘He shall swallow up death in victory, and wipe away tears from all faces.’ (Isaiah 25:8) Death is here represented to us under the word victory, as a combatant, as one that we are to fight withal, a captain.

And then here is the victory of him, Christ overcomes him, and overcomes him gloriously. It is not only a conquest, but a swallowing of him up.

Usually God useth all sorts of enemies in their own kind. He causeth them that spoil to be spoiled, them that swallow up to be swallowed up. So death the great swallower shall be swallowed up.

Beloved, death is the great king of kings, and the emperor of emperors, the great captain and ruling king of the world; for no king hath such dominion as death hath. It spreads its government and victory over all nations.

He is equal, though a tyrant. As a tyrant spares none, he is equal in this. He subdueth young and old, poor and rich. He levels sceptres and spades together. He levels all.

There is no difference between the dust of an emperor and the meanest man. He is a tyrant that governeth over all. And so there is this equity in him, he spares none.

He hath continued from the beginning of the world to this time; but he is a tyrant brought in by ourselves (Rom. 5:19).

Sin let in death. It opened the door. Death is no creature of God’s making. Satan brought in sin, and sin brought in death. So that we be accessory ourselves to the powerful stroke of this prevailing tyrant.

And therefore sin is called the cause of death. Sin brought in death, and armeth death. The weapon that death fights with, and causeth great terror, it is sin. The cause is armed with the power of the wrath of God for sin, the fear of hell, and damnation.

So that wrath, and hell, and damnation, arming sin, it bringeth a sting of itself, and puts a venom into death. All cares, and fears, and sorrows, and sicknesses, are less and petty deaths, harbingers to death itself.

But the attendants that follow this great king are worst of all, as Rev. 6:8, ‘I saw a pale horse, and death upon it, and after him comes hell.’ What were death, if it were not for the pit, and dungeon that followeth it? So that death is attended with hell, and hell with eternity.

Therefore here is a strange kind of prevailing. There is no victory where there is no enemy, and therefore death must needs be an enemy, yea, it is the worst enemy, and the last enemy.

Death depriveth us of all comfort, pleasure, communion with one another in this life, callings or whatsoever else is comfortable. The grave is the house of oblivion. Death is terrible of itself.

Death is the greatest swallower, and yet it is swallowed up by Christ. Death hath swallowed up all, and when it hath swallowed up, it keepeth them. It keeps the dust of kings, subjects, great and small, to the general day of judgment, when death shall be swallowed up of itself.

It is therefore of the nature of those that Solomon speaks of, that cry, ‘Give, give,’ Prov. 30:15, and yet is never satisfied, like the grave, yet this death is swallowed up in victory.

But how cometh death to be swallowed up? Christ will swallow up death in victory, for Himself and His. Because sin brought in death, our Saviour Christ became sin, a sacrifice to His Father’s justice for sin.

He was made sin for us, He was made a curse for us, to take away the curse due to us. And sin being taken away, what hath death to do with us, and hell, and damnation, the attendants on death? Nothing at all.”

–Richard Sibbes, “The Glorious Feast of the Gospel” in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes (ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart; Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet And Co.; W. Robertson, 1862), 2:471–472.

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“The clouds are big with mercy” by Charles Spurgeon

“The hardest blow that our God ever strikes, if it puts us right and separates us from self and sin, and carnal policy, is a coup de grace, a blow of love.

If it ends our life of selfishness, and brings us back into the life of trust, it is a blessed blow. When God blesses His people most it is by terrible things in righteousness.

He smote David to heal him. He fetched him out from the snare of the Philistine fowler, and delivered him from the noisome pestilence of heathen association, by a way that brought the tears into his eyes till he had no more power to weep.

Now the servant of the Lord begins to see the wonderful hand of God, and he shall yet say, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept Thy word.”

I, the preacher of this hour, beg to bear my little witness that the worst days I have ever had have turned out to be my best days, and when God has seemed most cruel to me he has then been most kind.

If there is anything in this world for which I would bless Him more than for anything else it is for pain and affliction. I am sure that in these things the richest, tenderest love has been manifested towards me.

I pray you, dear friends, if you are at this time very low, and greatly distressed, encourage yourselves in the abundant faithfulness of the God who hides Himself.

Our Father’s wagons rumble most heavily when they are bringing us the richest freight of the bullion of His grace. Love letters from heaven are often sent in black-edged envelopes.

The cloud that is black with horror is big with mercy. We may not ask for trouble, but if we were wise we should look upon it as the shadow of an unusually great blessing.

Dread the calm, it is often treacherous, and beneath its wing the pestilence is lurking. Fear not the storm, it brings healing in its wings, and when Jesus is with you in the vessel the tempest only hastens the ship to its desired haven.

Blessed be the Lord, whose way is in the whirlwind, and who makes the clouds to be the dust of His feet.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “David Encouraging Himself in God”, inThe Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 27 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1881), 372–373. Spurgeon preached this sermon on 1 Samuel 30:6-8 on June 26, 1881.

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“We have no reason to fear death” by Richard Sibbes

“Why should we fear death, that is but a passage to Christ?

It is but a grim sergeant that lets us into a glorious palace, that strikes off our bolts, that takes off our rags, that we may be clothed with better robes, that ends all our misery, and is the beginning of all our happiness.

Why should we therefore be afraid of death? it is but a departure to a better condition? It is but as Jordan to the children of Israel, by which they passed to Canaan. It is but as the Red Sea by which they were going that way.

Therefore we have no reason to fear death. Of itself it is an enemy indeed, but now it is harmless, nay, now it is become a friend, amicable to us, a sweet friend.

It is one part of the church’s jointure, death. ‘All things are yours,’ saith the apostle, Paul and Apollos, ‘life and death,’ 1 Cor. 3:22.

Death is ours and for our good. It doth us more good than all the friends we have in the world.

It determines and ends all our misery and sin; and it is the suburbs of heaven. It lets us into those joys above.”

–Richard Sibbes, “Christ is Best,” in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume 1, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1862), 340.

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“Shall the Eternal fail thee?” by Charles Spurgeon

“Get rid of fear, because fear is painful. How it torments the spirit! When the Christian trusts, he is happy; when he doubts, he is miserable. When the believer looks to His Master and relies upon Him, he can sing; when he doubts His Master, he can only groan.

What miserable wretches the most faithful Christians are when they once begin doubting and fearing! It is a trade I never like to meddle with, because it never pays the expenses, and never brings in any profit—the trade of doubting.

Why, the soul is broken in pieces, lanced, pricked with knives, dissolved, racked, pained. It knoweth not how to exist when it gives way to fear. Up, Christian! thou art of a sorrowful countenance; up, and chase thy fears.

Why wouldst thou be for ever groaning in thy dungeon? Why should the Giant Despair for ever beat thee with his crabtree cudgel? Up! Drive him away! Touch the key of the promises; be of good cheer! Fear never helped thee yet, and it never will.

Fear, too, is weakening. Make a man afraid—he will run at his own shadow; make a man brave, and he will stand before an army and overcome them. He will never do much good in the world who is afraid of men.

The fear of God bringeth blessings, but the fear of men bringeth a snare, and such a snare that many feet have been tripped by it. No man shall be faithful to God, if he is fearful of man.

No man shall find His arm sufficient for him, and His might equal to his emergencies unless he can confidently believe, and quietly wait. We must not fear; for fear is weakening.

Again; we must not fear; for fear dishonors God. Doubt the Eternal, distrust the Omnipotent? Oh, traitorous fear! Thinkest thou that the arm which piled the heavens, and sustains the pillars of the earth shall ever be palsied?

Shall the brow which eternal ages have rolled over without scathing it, at last be furrowed by old age? What! Shall the Eternal fail thee? Shall the faithful Promiser break His oath? Thou dishonorest God, O unbelief! Get thee hence!

God is too wise to err, too good to be unkind; leave off doubting Him, and begin to trust Him, for in so doing, thou wilt put a crown on His head, but in doubting Him thou dost trample His crown beneath thy feet.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Fear Not,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, Vol. III (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1857), 396.

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“God requires the heart” by Richard Sibbes

“God requires the heart; and religion is most in managing and tuning the affections, for they are the wind that carries the soul to every duty. A man is like the dead sea without affections. Religion is most in them.

The devil hath brain enough, he knows enough, more than any of us all. But then he hates God. He hath no love to God, nor no fear of God, but only a slavish fear. He hath not this reverential fear, childlike fear.

Therefore let us make it good that we are the servants of God, especially by our affections, and chiefly by this of fear, which is put for all the worship of God.”

–Richard Sibbes, “The Spiritual Favourite at the Throne of Grace,” in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume 6, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1863), 97.

[HT: Justin Perdue]

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“Christ alone is your defense” by Ed Welch

“When you belong to the King, how can you discern the difference between the Devil’s condemnation and the Spirit’s conviction? How can you determine if you are in the bogus courtroom or the real one?

In the real courtroom:

  • you know your good deeds are not enough
  • your hope is in Christ alone for your deliverance
  • when convicted of sins, you are pointed past your sins and on to Christ
  • the last word is always hope.

In the Devil’s counterfeit:

  • the attention is all on your sins
  • you stand and fall on your own behavior
  • you are alone without an advocate
  • questions are raised about the extent of God’s forgiveness.

Christ alone, Christ alone– that is your defense.”

–Edward T. Welch, Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007-8), 221.

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