Second Sunday after Epiphany January 19, 2020
1 Kings 19:9-18
1 Corinthians 3:11
23, 134, 437, 657
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
What are your fears, your phobias? Do you have “omphalophobia?” The fear of belly buttons? Or maybe you have “pteronophobia,” the fear of being tickled by feathers. Then there is “arachibutyrophobia,” the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth.
Are any of those your fears? Probably not. But at one time or another, we’ve all been afraid. Maybe you’re afraid of something right now. If so, whatever your fear, I’m sure it’s no laughing matter.
Fear is a very powerful thing when once it takes root in our hearts and lives. Only with our Lord and Savior can we truly face and conquer our fears. Today’s Word of God helps us step from FEAR TO FAITH.
It was a dark and stormy night out on the Sea of Galilee. It was a night of gut-wrenching fear. The disciples were afraid because their little boat was being tossed about by the rough waves. They became even more frightened when they thought they saw a ghost. Peter was afraid because he thought he was going to drown.
Fear. Yes, we’ve all experienced it. It can suffocate us. It can control us. It can threaten to overwhelm our faith.
So what is your greatest fear? If we took a poll, I’m sure answers would vary. What I might be afraid of you might not be in the least afraid of, and vice versa.
But there’s one thing that should frighten every single human being. Mankind’s greatest fear should be what he justly deserves because of our sin. Hell is real. It is a place of everlasting fire! I can’t think of anything more dreadful than to hear the words Jesus will say to all unbelievers on the Judgment Day: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41)
If you think about it, at the root of all our fears is our sinfulness. It was only after they rebelled against God that Adam and Eve experienced fear. They didn’t know anything about fear until they pathetically tried to hide behind some bushes out of their fear of what God might do to them because of their blatant disobedience. Our sin makes us broken people. Fragile, weak, and broken off from God. Yes, as believers in Christ we are God’s dearly loved sons and daughters, but as long as we are here on earth we will have to battle with our sinful nature, and therefore we will also have to deal with fear.
So how can we deal with fear? How do you deal with fear? By working to get rid of the negative thoughts and taking in the positive thoughts? By closing your eyes and going to your happy place whenever you begin to feel stressed out and tense? These are all human answers, and therefore they are limited and will ultimately fail.
Friends, how foolish of us when we forget that we have the very best antidote against fear there ever could be. As believers in Christ, we have Almighty God to deal with our fears. Whenever we start to be afraid, let’s turn to God with our fears. For only He can take us from FEAR TO FAITH!
What we learn from the Bible is that God is decidedly against fear. How often the Bible speaks those words, “fear not!”
This is but a small sampling of all the times God says “fear not.” I’m told the phrase “fear not” appears in the Bible somewhere between 80 and 140 times, depending on how you count it.
I think you would agree: God doesn’t want us to be afraid. But God doesn’t just say, “Fear not!” If that is all God did, then it wouldn’t be very helpful at all. Jesus did a lot more than tell His disciples and Peter not to be afraid. Jesus took their fears away.
The disciples may very well have wondered, “Will this storm ever end? Will we survive it? Will we make it to the other shore without our boat sinking first?” Maybe you’re going through a stormy time in your life right now, and you don’t think it will ever end. But just as Jesus made the wind cease that night out on the sea, so God will bring an end to your current troubles. What were you worried about at this time last year? Or just a few months ago? Maybe you don’t even remember what it was you were afraid of. But whatever it was that particular trouble is gone and past. God removed it from your life. And, dear brother and sisters, even if you must deal with some pain or some problem for years or decades or for all or your life, one day, we will, with Jesus, make it to the golden shores of that better country, and then that problem will be gone forever.
Or maybe you’re like Peter. You have to love Peter. Focusing all his attention on Jesus, there he goes, actually walking on the water himself. I mean would you and I even think about getting out of the boat to go walking on water way over our heads? Peter not only thought about it, he did it. He was acting in faith. But then, of course, he loses his focus. He notices suddenly how windy and stormy it is; and, maybe it’s just me, but I always picture Peter staring down at his feet, looking around at the waves, and saying to himself, “What on earth am I doing out here?” And, then, with a heart now overwhelmed by fear, he starts to sink. He cries out, “Lord, save me!” But what follows is another reason we need not fear. Peter started to sink, but Jesus caught him. Immediately, He reached down and kept him from going under.
Even when our faith falters, even when we have moments of doubt, even when we fail to keep our focus on our Lord, He’s still there to keep us from drowning in our fears. That’s how much He loves us! Yes, Peter should have trusted the whole way out to Jesus. Jesus even says: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” We can only shake our heads and say, “Why don’t I just trust Jesus all of the time and just quit being afraid!?” But the point is that even during all those times when we fail our Lord, He won’t fail us. He will catch us, and in His strong hands we are safe and need never fear.
But what about that greatest of all fears I talked about earlier? The one where our sin threatens to pull us down into the fires of hell forever! Well, when I talked about it earlier, you probably we’re saying to yourself, “But I’m not afraid of that pastor, because Jesus paid for my sins, and suffered the pains of hell in my place!” You are absolutely right! The Bible says: “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) I urge you the Name of Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior, to never, ever forget that. See your sin for what it is—something wicked and rebellious. Repenting of that sin, lay it at the foot of Jesus’ cross, and then walk away with the certainty that His blood washes it away. His death for you, together with His resurrection, is your power against those greatest of all fears—sin, death, hell. Since your Savior conquered those fears for you, He will surely help you face and overcome all other fears as well. In His merciful and mighty hands we step from FEAR TO FAITH!
Have I told you the story about the time my younger brother and I put Christmas tree lights up along the roof line of our CLC church out in Rapid City, South Dakota? The roof line out there is fairly high off the ground in some spots, so we couldn’t attach the lights by using a ladder. So we tied a rope to one end of the cross on top of the roof with the other end of the rope tied around my brother’s waist. (Notice how I tied the rope around him, and let him slide out to the edge of the roof!) Being securely tied to the cross enabled him to safely attach the lights along the roofline.
Tie yourself in faith to the cross of Christ loved ones and just watch all those fears runaway. The rope that strengthens your faith and your attachment to Jesus and His cross is God’s Word. When Jesus says “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid!” there’s power in those words, for those are God’s words. When we fill our hearts and minds with God’s mighty words of grace, hope, and salvation, we can breathe again, for even our worst fears cannot survive against the strength of God’s words and promises.
So if you haven’t been much in the Word lately, get back into it. If you have been in the Word, stay in it! God’s Word will take you from fear to faith! In Psalm 56 God says:
When I am afraid, I will trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise —
In God I trust and am not afraid. Amen!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.