Fighting the Battle (Psalm 115:11)

Psalm 115 11

If you fear God, then you should trust him. And why shouldn’t we fear God? There’s a lot of talk about God being loving and caring, and I’m one of the first to describe God that way, but there’s also a part of us that should fear God, meaning we should be in reverent awe of his power and majesty.

God is not like our buddy down the street. He is not like our athletic heroes. He is the Creator of the Universe – the one who simply spoke all things into being. As creator, he has the power to create, but also the power to destroy, all with a word. So when we think of God, love should be part of it, because God is love (1 John 4:16), but God also deserves our awe and respect. It is only by the grace of God that we can even approach him; let us not forget the privilege that it is.

The second part of the verse tells us that if we do fear God, he is our helper and shield. The word shield captured my attention as I read this verse. The history of shields is vast – dating back thousands of years B.C. Shields were clearly around when the Psalmist penned these words. I did some research on shields and it was very fascinating how humankind has changed and modified the shield throughout history. In Bible times it was probably made from animal hides.

What captures my attention, however, is that a soldier was never armed with just a shield. The shield is a defensive weapon which is meant to be carried in the opposite hand/arm from the weapon being wielded. So when we picture the Lord with a shield in one hand defending us, we can also picture him with a sword in the other attacking for us.

God is not just playing defense for us – he is offensively attacking that which seeks to destroy us. When we are filled with fear, remember that Jesus has already fought the battle for us – we just need to stand beside him and be confident (“trust”) in him and his ability to protect us.

The Power of the Spirit (2 Timothy 1:7)

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The Spirit of God – the Holy Spirit – who lives inside each believer, gives each of us certain gifts. The Holy Spirit also dispels certain things. In this verse, Paul reminds Timothy that when the Spirit of God is in you, the spirit of timidity cannot be. To be timid means “the trait of lacking the quality of spirit that enables you to face danger or pain without showing fear.” When the Spirit is inside of you, as he is for all believers, he gives you the way to face danger and pain without showing fear! When you feel afraid, simply call on the Spirit to fill you with his confidence and power.

In fact, Paul continues to say that the Spirit gives the believer power, love, and self-control! Power means to be capable of manifesting influence over reality. Love is the agape love that describes the love that God has for us, his children. And self-control is the ability to make sound judgements and wise decisions. All three of those traits are in YOU when you are a believer.

Don’t allow Satan to trick you into believing you have no power, love, or self-control. Don’t allow Satan to deceive you by telling you you have to be afraid! The Spirit of Creator God lives inside you and through him you can vanquish the fear and grasp onto the power, love, and self-control he provides!

Don’t be discouraged if you struggle with this, however. Even Timothy had to be reminded in the verse before this to “fan into flame the gift of God” – that is, if you feel timid and powerless, go back to the truth of Scripture and allow God to rekindle the flame inside you!

God is Greater (Psalm 118:6)

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Psalm 118 starts with this verse, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1). Verses 2-4 repeat the phrase, “His faithful love endures forever.” And in verse 29, the Psalm ends with, “His faithful love endures forever.”

In the midst of reminding us about God’s love, the psalmist says in our verse that he will not be afraid because the Lord is with him. He then posits the question, “What can mere mortals do to me?” (NIV).

It is important during this time to remember that God’s love is never ending, knows no limits, and is all encompassing. God loves you and God loves me, and nothing will ever change that. He loves us so much that he sent Jesus to die for us. When we face uncertainties – and even if we face certain death – we can rest in the fact that God’s love is with us. He offers to comfort us in our time of need and we can count on him to be faithful.

If we are truly surrounded by God’s love, protection, and grace, then what can anyone do to us? No one can take God away from us. You can make laws that say we can’t gather together, but you can’t take Jesus from our hearts. You can say that churches are closed, but the true Church is the unity of believers from all time and place and it can never be closed!

Be encouraged, dear friends, that as believers YOU are the Church and that God’s Spirit dwells within you. With God literally dwelling inside of us, what do we have to fear? What can a mere mortal do to us? Nothing compared to what God can and will do for those who seek him!

God Cares (1 Peter 5:7)

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In the verse immediately preceding our verse, Peter says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). This concludes a short section on the value and importance of humility. The sense of the Greek word for humility means “the character trait of valuing and assessing oneself appropriately, especially in light of one’s sinfulness.” I think we all have a basic understanding of what it means to be humble.

But what does being humble have to do with casting our anxieties on Christ?

It’s quite simply the fact that we understand that being anxious for things, particularly things that are outside of our control, is a form of arrogance. You are basically saying to God that you don’t trust that he will work things out. You are putting yourself above his power. It’s the opposite of recognizing your humility in comparison to him.

The anxiety that you have (literally, “cares that bring disruption to the personality and mind”), causes you to doubt the order of creation. Is the Creator God really in control of everything, or do you, in your finite mind, need to worry and concern yourself with the things you have no control over?

Even though Peter is reminding us to be humble, particularly when considering our place compared to God, he emphasizes the fact that God cares for you! The word cares means, “to be relevant or important to; to be of interest to.” God cares about YOU and YOU are interest to HIM. God doesn’t want you to worry or be anxious – he wants you to humbly accept the fact that you have no control and need to rest in his arms of compassion and care. Once we can let go of the fact that we have to try to control everything, we can finally be assured that God is in control and we truly have nothing to fear because he cares about us more than we can ever know.

Light Wins (Psalm 27:1)

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In this Psalm, David is proclaiming to all the position that God has in his life – the “stronghold” – or in other places translated “refuge.” David says that when the world around him is crumbling, he can count on the refuge of his God.

In God, David sees his light and salvation. The darkness seems to overtake the world at times, but the darkness is no match for the light of God. God’s light shines even into the deepest pit of despair and illuminates the unknown so that we won’t be afraid. And the salvation that is given to us through God is one that cannot be fathomed. Jesus died so that we might live! What a reason for us to be joyful!

When we are overwhelmed with the “what-ifs” in this time, we should recognize that our God is our salvation and our light. In him we should not be afraid! If the God who created the world has also provided us with salvation and refuge, then why would we be afraid of the things that this life throws at us? The simple answer is we shouldn’t be! God’s light has defeated the darkness and in the end the light will shine throughout the world. We can take comfort in the fact that in the midst of this time, when the darkness seems to be winning, we know that in the end light wins; God wins!

Nothing Can Separate Us (Romans 8:38-39)

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In our passage today, Paul reassures us that NOTHING can separate us from God’s love. God’s love is always present in our lives, no matter what else is going on. But before you think that Paul is just writing some platitude to help people feel better, please remember that Paul is writing out of his own experience.

Paul has endured great hardships in his life. He has been beaten multiple times, imprisoned, stoned, faced death, shipwrecked, robbed, faced danger “in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas,” endured sleepless nights, faced starvation, dealt with severe thirst, and was in the cold with nothing to warm him (1 Corinthians 11:23-27). He is a man who has suffered!

Yet in his suffering, he is able to find solace in the fact that God has never left him; more specifically, that God’s love has never left him. What does it mean that God loves us? God’s love was ultimately demonstrated for us when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. What greater act of love can there be than to take someone else’s place in death? John tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8). That means that all that is love is also God and all that is God is also love. And without God’s love, we could not love one another (1 John 4:19).

When you can stop your worry and anxiety long enough to consider who you love, recognize the fact that God loves you even more than you love that person or people. There is no limit to how much God loves you and how much he cares about you. In the midst of our worry, remember that God’s love knows no limits and he loves you more than you’ll ever know. Nothing can separate you from that love!

Remembering Your History (Psalm 94:19)

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In this Psalm the writer is remembering a time when the Lord had helped him in the past. The verses right before our verse say:

Unless the LORD had given me help,

I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.

When I said, “My foot is slipping,”

your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. – Psalm 94:17-19 (NLT)

The Lord has a history with this person – He has protected him (or her) in the past. The writer recognizes that without God’s help, death would surely have been his outcome.

“Doubts” in our verse mean the thoughts that cause a person to be troubled or disquieted. And the “me” in our verse refers to the soul or inner being of a person. When our inner being is being troubled, we can rest in the fact that God will give us relief in affliction (“comfort”). Why is the Psalmist certain of this? Because God has done it for him in the past.

When we face a time of uncertainty or anxiety, it is helpful to hit the pause button and think back to a time in our lives when God did come through for us. That’s one reason why it can be helpful to keep a journal – to keep a written record of when God came through for you. In this time, remember that God has gotten you through everything else that life has thrown at you – he will get you through this as well.

Fear and Freedom (Psalm 34:4)

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In this verse, David is proclaiming the victory he received after seeking out the Lord. It says that he “sought” the Lord. The word sought carries with it the idea of addressing a question and expecting an answer. It reminds me of playing Marco Polo – the person who has their eyes closed calls out “Marco” and expects the other players to respond with “Polo.” In the case of David, the person he seeks is the Lord. The answer he receives is from God. The result is that he was delivered (or freed) from his fear.

When we are in a place of fear, it can be immobilizing. It can consume us from the inside out. It causes emotional problems as well as physical distress. Fear can cause sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, pain or tightness in the chest, or a rapid heartbeat. Our body physically responds when we are afraid, anxious, or worried.

David was feeling this way, too. He was filled with fear and anxiety. His response, however, was not to cower in the corner; it was to cry out to the Lord. David had faith that when he sought the Lord, the Lord would answer him. And in that answer, David found true freedom.

God has given us all that same ability. When we are filled with fear, we should cry out to the Lord and expect him to respond. He probably won’t respond with a physical voice, though he could, but in our turning to Him, he will dissolve our fears. You can’t focus on Jesus and also focus on fear.

It reminds me of the song, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” I want to leave you with those lyrics:

O soul are you weary and troubled?

No light in the darkness you see?

There’s light for a look at the Savior

And life more abundant and free

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace

Comfort in the Valley (Psalm 23:4)

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I have been fortunate to have many people in my life who have loved me unconditionally. One of those people was my grandma, who we called “Batsa”. Batsa was the best kind of grandma I could have ever asked for. She loved my brother and I immensely and would demonstrate that love through many hugs, kisses, and of course, her famous cookies. Even when I moved away to college, she would still bake cookies and mail them to me! She found that packing them in with popcorn kept them from breaking, and even with that added, somewhat odd taste, her cookies were out of this world. Soon my roommates found out what was in the box and I had to start hiding them!

Near the end of Batsa’s life, however, she developed Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a slowly progressing disease that takes a little bit of a person’s mind at a time until they are literally just a shell of their former selves. To see Batsa go through this terrible disease was one of the worst, most painful things that has ever happened to me and my family. To see her and have her not know me was gut-wrenching and agonizing.

The only thing that got us through that difficult time was knowing that Batsa had a strong faith in Jesus. She knew Scripture well. She had a personal relationship with Jesus. I know that even though Batsa’s mind had gone, Jesus had not. And in those last days before Batsa went to see Jesus, I know that he never left her.

In the midst of her valley – the very shadow of death – though she could not communicate with us, I know she clung to the hope of Jesus – and in her death so did I.

You may be going through your own valley right now. I urge you to cling to the hope of Jesus because with Jesus you can face anything this life throws at you.

Brought to Safety (Isaiah 43:1)

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This verse is found in the midst of a passage written by the prophet Isaiah, first about the terrible tragedy of the exile, when God turned the Israelites over to the Babylonians as a result of their sin. Second, beginning with our verse, God says that he will redeem Israel in spite of their sins, a result of his grace.

The Israelites repeatedly sinned against God throughout their history. But here, remarkably, we see that God promises to redeem them; promises to make them whole again. He uses personal pronouns throughout the passage (I/mine), reminding the people that they belong to Him – the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

In times of uncertainty, we can take the same refuge in God that the Israelites did so long ago. In spite of our sinfulness, God still loves us, cares for us, and ultimately will redeem us. The word “redeem” means to bring into safety.

God is showing his grace and love to us each and every day, and he will bring us into the ultimate safety of his arms at some point in the future. No matter how bad things get, we can have confidence in the fact that in the end, God wins. God will save us from this world and all of the evil and sin that abounds. That promise of ultimate salvation should give us solace in our temporary situations that are so often filled with fear and anxiety.

God’s got this and God’s got you.