January 12, 2014
Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you.”
Isaiah 43: 2, Amplified Bible
“When Thou passest through the waters,”
Deep the waves may be, and cold,
But Jehovah is our refuge
And His promise is our hold;
For the Lord Himself hath said it,
He the faithful God and true;
“When thou comest to the waters,
Thou salt not go down, but through.
Seas of sorrow, seas of trial,
Bitterest anguish, fiercest pain,
Rolling surges of temptation,
Sweeping over heart and brain,
They shall never overflow us,
For we know His word is true;
All His waves and all His billows
He will lead us safely through.
Threatening breakers of destruction,
Doubt’s insidious undertow,
Shall not sink us, shall not drag us
Out to ocean depths of woe;
For His promise shall sustain us,
Praise the Lord, whose word is true!
We shall not go down or under,
He hath said, “Thou passest through.”
Annie Johnson Flint
“Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”
Psalm 23: 4
Today’s Study Text:
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”
Psalm 23: 4, K.J.V.
Psalm 23 Part 14
“Nothing To Fear”
“The fear of life is actually more debilitating than the fear of death.”
H. Norman Wright
Have I ever found myself paralyzed by fear?
When David said, “I will fear no evil,” what do I think he meant?
“God can secure us from fear, either by removing the thing feared, or by subduing the fear of the thing.”
“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. I do not give to you as the world gives: So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
John 14: 27
There have been three times in my life when I’ve been forced to evacuate the place where I was living due to the threat of a massive forest fire. The first time was when, as a young nurse, I lived in La Grande, Oregon where I worked the night shift at the local hospital. While I was only renting a small apartment and had very few personal belongings, I’ll never forget being asked by one of the firefighters stationed outside the hospital, “Where do you live?” When I replied, he blurted out, “You’ll be lucky if you have anything left when you get off duty in the morning.” This wasn’t the greatest news to hear and as you might well imagine, I felt like a blanket named fear and dread had just been dropped over me.
When I got home from work early the following morning and found my apartment completely intact, with nothing disturbed, I sat down on my couch, the only piece of decent furniture I owned, and thanked God for His protection.
However, in the coming days, this event proved to be an “unearthing,” as I call it, of what I found to be the buried fears in my life.
I think all of us have, if we are totally honest with ourselves, areas in our lives where we truly believe “God will take care of us. I have nothing to fear.” For me, after the forest fire experience, I really felt that if what little I had in the way of earthly possessions was to be swept away overnight, so be it. In reality, all through my life, I’ve always carried within me the belief that the “things” I have are not as important as the people I love and cherish. And this is where there is a significant paradox in my life and possibly in yours, too. While someone may think my faith in God appears to be unshaken if my house was washed away by a flood or burned down by a fire, if something affects those I care for, I have this overwhelming sense that I’ve got to jump in and take care of the situation myself. I have to “fix” things. Believe me, I’ve scratched my head on more than once occasion when I found that I “feared” God couldn’t take care of my family as well as I could. I have plunged into some turbulent waters, trying my best to clean things up, only to realize, in hindsight, that if I’d given my fears to God in the first place, maybe everything wouldn’t have ended up in such a mess. The bottom line is that when I find myself afraid because life around me isn’t functioning the way I think it should, rather than slapping my hand down on the panic button, I’d do so much better if I lifted my empty hands to heaven and asked my Father to fill them with what He would have me do – and then, in honest, humbleness, I gave my Father my greatest fears and let Him go to work in the lives of those I hold so dear. It’s not easy to trust God with our deepest fears about today and especially about the future. It’s not easy to place your precious children in God’s hands and let Him work out His plan for their lives. It’s not easy to lay your troubled marriage at God’s feet, allowing Him to do the work necessary. It’s not easy to let God take your financial upheavals and straighten things out. I know. I’m an expert at holding my fears close to my heart and letting them wear me out and sometimes completely paralyze me. Speaker and author Beth Moore really got to the core of the problem with fear when she correctly observed that, “Fear trades self-control for a controlling spirit, every single time.” What a great deal of truth is found in these words, for whenever I have tried to take care of any situation that is making me afraid, I’ve had to recognize that at the heart of my distress is my need to control a situation that I think I can fix better than God can. How arrogant and self-serving is this behavior? Taking our fears to God before we try to intervene is the wisest decision we can make, for as Mary Southerland so descriptively portrays, “committing our fears to God means crawling up into His lap until the storm passes.” How comforting is this!
In Psalm 23: 4, it appears that from his own personal experience, David came to realize the fact that when fear attacks especially when we face a valley and are feeling insecure in the shadows, because we don’t know what we will encounter next, this is when we need our Shepherd’s guiding hand to lead us and we will “fear no evil.” As the poet Anne Steele so beautifully penned:
“This only can my fears control,
And bid my sorrows fly;
What harm can ever reach my soul
Beneath my Father’s eye?”
In his comments regarding the words, “I will fear no evil,” Pastor and author F. B. Meyer points to the words written by the Apostle John who gives us this hope-filled assurance, “There is no fear in love (dread does not exist), but full-grown love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror” (1 John 4: 18, Amplified Bible). As Pastor Meyer explains, “There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts our fear. Nothing else can do it. You may argue against fear. You may deride it. You may try and shame it. But all will be in vain. If you would master it you must expel it by the trust which is born of love…” God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46). Therefore will not we fear.”
Pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon whose sermons and books are a great inspiration to me personally, writing about the passage, “I will fear no evil,” draws attention to the fact that David did not say “there shall not be any evil; he had gotten beyond even that high assurance…but ‘I will fear no evil;’ as if even his fears, those shadows of evil, were gone forever.” And then Pastor Spurgeon notes that “the worst evils of life are those which do not exist except in our imagination. If we had no trouble but real troubles, we should not have a tenth part of our present sorrows. We feel a thousand deaths in fearing one, but the Psalmist was cured of the disease of fearing.”
During the past few months as I’ve studied Psalm 23, I found repeated references which referred to this treasured Psalm as the “Nightingale of the Psalms.” This title is deserved for it is in the dark of night when nightingales are frequently found singing. The Anglo/Saxon form of the word “nightingale” means “night songstress.” Whether in the dark or in the depths, how thankful we can be that there is no fear that can conquer or defeat us. As author Phillip Keller shares, “Let come what may. Storms may break upon me, predators may attack, the rivers of reverses may threaten to inundate me. But because He is in the situation with me, I shall not fear. To live thus is to have taken some very long treks toward the high country of holy, calm, healthy living with God.”
“What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.”
Elisha A. Hoffman
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
Psalm 27: 1, K.J.V.
“Again and again, dear Lord
I read Your words, “Fear not.”
Surely You would not say it so often
If there were any reason to fear.
Nor would You command it so explicitly
If You could not keep me from fearing.
God, You have given me a Fear Not
For every puzzling circumstance
For every possible emergency
For every trial and testing
Real or imagined.
Yet I confess wasted hours –
Even days, dear Lord
When fear clutches and clobbers me
Until I am physically and emotionally spent.
Lord, when David cried to You
You delivered him from all his fears.
On this gray-sky morning
I kneel before You with David’s cry.
O my Father, I cannot believe
You would be less kind to me
Than You were to David.”
Ruth Harms Calkins
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
P.S. During the coming weeks, gifts which are sent to Transformation Garden will help us honor requests for God’s Word, as shared through our bookmarks, with God’s children in India, Russia, Pakistan, Australia and here in the United States in women’s prisons and for Domestic Abuse Shelters. I thank you so much for the gifts you have chosen to send – Praise God! Your generosity is helping us share God’s Word in countries where the bookmarks are accepted as beautiful artwork but they carry the message of God’s saving grace. Thank you again!!
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