Play Offense (Isaiah 41:13)

Isaiah 41 13

Today’s verse is just a few verses past yesterday’s verse in context. The Israelites are in exile, foreign lands, under foreign powers, and they are afraid of what is to come. They wonder if God can help them and if he wants to help them. Here, God reminds them – rather, promises them – that he will help them.

Up to this point in the passage God has been content with telling them how he will protect them and keep them safe. Shortly after our verse, however, the tone shifts to offense. God is not only going to protect his people, he is also going to fight for them.

It’s incredibly encouraging to know that the God of the universe protects us and is with us at all times. Just as it is comforting for a child to know his parent is going to do whatever possible to protect him in times of distress. But in addition to protection, God is also going to fight on behalf of his people.

There is an enemy out there who is hellbent on destruction. He wants to destroy the world, and he particularly wants to destroy the faith of the followers of Christ. The enemy wants to plant seeds of doubt in your mind about who God is and what God can do for you. And when those seeds are planted, watered, and allowed to grow, loss of faith is the result.

What God is telling you today is that he will protect you from the enemy, yes, but he will also fight the enemy on your behalf. In fact, God enlists you to his army to fight the enemy with him! Paul talks about putting on the armor of God so that you can fight the battles that life throws at you. Jesus talks about the gates of hell no prevailing over you. In His Spirit you are powerful!

You have within you, by the grace and love of Jesus, the power to defeat the enemy and fight for truth. I encourage you today to claim this powerful truth and suit up! The battle is raging all around us and with God YOU have the promise of victory! Don’t just sit around waiting for the enemy to attack – read Scripture, spend time in study and prayer, and be ready to take the fight wherever God may lead.

In Your Corner (Isaiah 41:10)

Isaiah 41 10

In this section of Isaiah, God is speaking to the Israelites as they are in captivity. They are not free people at this point, and they have been exiled to other countries instead of the Promised Land God had for them. Here, as elsewhere in the context, God is reminding the people that he is with them and he will protect them.

There may have been a sentiment among the Israelites about whether or not God had the power to save his people anymore. They may have forgotten the power and majesty of the God of their ancestors – the God who marched his people through the Red Sea.

There may also have been a sentiment that God could help his people, but he simply doesn’t want to. Here God reminds them that they need not fear because he in fact does have the power AND the will to save them. He WILL strengthen, he WILL help, and he WILL uphold. When we face tough times, it’s easy to forget both who God is and what he desires to do. God is all powerful and he does want what is best for his people – all who choose to follow him.

Don’t forget who you have in your corner while you’re fighting fear and uncertainty, and don’t ever doubt that he will give you the strength you need to make it through!

Power in the Word (Psalm 56:3-4)

Psalm 56 3-4

These two verses form a chiasm in the Hebrew. A chiasm is simply a structure that the Psalmist used to highlight something important. In a chiasm the central idea is always found in the middle. In our verse, the chiasm is this:

(a1) What I am afraid

(b1) I put my trust in you

(c) In God, whose word I praise (or I praise God for what He has promised)

(a2) I trust in God

(b2) So why should I be afraid

What can mere mortals do to me?

You can see how David moves from a point of fear to the point of trusting God, not being afraid, and then exclaiming how mere mortals cannot do anything to him. In the center of it all is the reason for his trust and confidence: God’s word. God’s word is trustworthy and when God says something that is the way it is.

God created the world simply by speaking it into being – it is in that powerful word that we put our trust. When David was feeling afraid and was being pursued by his enemies (as he was in this passage), he took comfort and found courage in the Word. John tells us that the Word is Jesus (John 1).

When our fears start to take hold of us, we simply need to remember that Jesus had the power to simply speak the world into existence, so certainly he has the power to be there in our time of need! When you’re feeling afraid, go to the Word of God and find comfort in the words given to us all – the very words of God.

Remember the Lord is with You (1 Chronicles 28:20)

1 Chronicles 28 20

In Scripture, we are told that David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Because of this, David wanted to build a permanent Temple for the Lord. God, however, gave David the plans, but told him that his son, Solomon, would be the one to build it. In this verse, David is commissioning Solomon to do just that and reminding him that God will be with him during the project.

Solomon was the wisest person in the world. People would come from around the world to consult him – to hear him speak wisdom. Yet, when it came time to commission Solomon for the building of the Temple, David found in important to remind him that God would be with him and not forsake him during that time.

It’s remarkable to me that a man filled with such wisdom still had some doubts about himself and his standing before the Lord. So much so that his father felt the need to remind him of those facts. When we are having our own doubts about God being with us, we can take comfort in the fact that we are not alone in our concern. Even Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, had his own concerns.

While we may find ourselves in good company with King Solomon, we must heed the advice of his father David when he reminds him (and us) that God will be with us always. Don’t believe for a minute that you are going through this time alone – God is with you! If you need help remembering that, go back and read the previous devotions or reach out to your pastor. As a pastor myself, I know that I’d be happy to talk with you and walk through this time with you. You are not alone!

Commands? (Psalm 112:1)

Psalm 112 1

Have you ever been commanded to do something? Sure, we all have. Whether it was to put our dishes in the dishwasher, do our homework, or have a report ready for work, we have all been commanded to do something at one point or another. In fact, most of us are commanded to be at work at a certain time of day, so we are dealing with commands on a daily basis.

The problem with commands is that we typically don’t like them. Even if they are good and decent commands, most of us simply don’t like being told what to do or when to do it. We want a sense of autonomy over our own lives and decisions and someone else’s commands don’t fit well within that framework. Just consider how people have reacted to stay-at-home orders during this pandemic!

But in our verse today, the Psalmist says that those who “delight” in obeying God’s commands will be blessed or find joy. The word delight means in the Greek basically what it means in English – to take pleasure in. So are you telling me that we should find pleasure in doing what God has commanded us to do?

The simple answer is yes!

God has laid out his commands in Scripture for us to follow. Granted, we are no longer under the Old Testament Law, but we still have commands and precepts that God has laid out for us. One of those commands is to not fear what the world or our enemies may throw our way.

God has given us the guidance we need to live our best lives following and serving him – when we actually do what he has said, blessings and joy will follow. So instead of rejecting God’s plans for us – rejecting God’s commands – let’s embrace the truths of Scripture and praise the Lord in the midst of our circumstances as we seek to trust and obey him in all areas of our lives.

Ask for Wisdom (James 1:5)

James 1 5

A verse about wisdom may seem to be out of place in a series of devotions about fear. But wisdom is the trait of utilizing knowledge and experience with common sense and insight. True wisdom, of course, comes from God, and in our times of fear, it does us good to ask God to share his wisdom with us.

When we are in a place of uncertainty, when we are focusing on the wrong things, it is critical that we turn to the Author of true Wisdom to guide our hearts and minds back to the truths of Scripture. In Scripture, as we have studied thus far and will continue to study, we see God over and over telling us to not fear because he is with us. This knowledge comes from Scripture and from our experience with God in the past. When we find ourselves spending time, energy, and mental focus on things that are not in line with what God’s Word has said, we need to ask God to give us his wisdom to get us back on track.

When we ask for wisdom, God has promised to give it to us. What a great promise given to us when we are in need of reassurance about the truth of God’s Word!

The next verse says, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). When we ask God to give us his wisdom, we should ask with full confidence that he will answer our request. If we doubt that God could or would give us the confidence of his wisdom, then James says that we are like a wave blown and tossed by the wind. Instead of making us fearful, however, that verse is meant to give us courage and boldness when approaching God’s throne.

And if we still have doubts, then we can do as the man who was asking Jesus to heal his son did, when he cried out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). When we face doubts of any kind, we need God’s wisdom to pull us through. Relying on God’s wisdom means that we remember the knowledge he has given us in Scripture as well as the experiences we have had with God when he has been faithful to us in the past. When you forget those things, ask God to remind you and believe that he will.

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)

2 Timothy 1 7

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!

Fear and Freedom (Psalm 34:4)

Psalm 34 4

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)

Psalm 23 4

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.