How to overcome fear
Jesus calms a storm
Fear is a response to a perceived threat or danger. Some common fears are of spiders, snakes, heights, flying, dogs, thunder and lightning, injections, public speaking, being alone, darkness, death, failure, rejection, the future, terrorist attacks, nuclear war and germs.
This post looks at when Jesus’ disciples were afraid of drowning in a storm, which is described in the Bible. We will see that because everything is under God’s control, Christians can trust in God no matter how bad the circumstances instead of suffering from fear and anxiety.
This event is described in Mark 4:35-5:1 (NIV):
35 That day when evening came, He [Jesus] said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side [of the lake].” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat. There were also other boats with Him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!”
1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.
Other versions of this event are given in Matthew 8:18, 23-27 and Like 8:22-25.
Author: John Mark was a close associate of Peter. The book of Mark is Mark’s version of what Peter preached about Jesus (Acts 10:37).
Audience: The book of Mark was written to Gentile believers.
Content: Mark is an account of the life of Jesus Christ. These events occurred before the beginning of the church on the day of Pentecost.
When written (complied): The book was written by 60AD, but it describes events that occurred about AD 30.
What happened before? – Before the incident, Jesus taught a crowd of people near the Sea of Galilee using four parables.
What happened afterwards? – After this incident, Jesus healed a demon-possessed man.
Sea of Galilee: A lake in northeast Israel that is 13 km (8 miles) wide and 21 km (13 miles) long with an area of 167 km2 (64 square miles).
How did God communicate to people in those days? In AD 30 it was via Jesus, the Son of God. And in AD 60 it was via the apostles.
When they were with Jesus in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee, the disciples were afraid of drowning because huge waves were breaking over the boat. So they woke Jesus from His sleep and pleaded for His help. Then Jesus calmed the storm by commanding it to stop. He also rebuked the disciples for their lack of trust in Him. The disciples were amazed of Jesus’ power over the forces of nature.
What did it mean then?
What is the main point?
Jesus replaced their fear with peace and amazement. The solution came from the God who created nature, including humanity. It came from a divine source, not a human one.
What other things did we notice?
Jesus allowed them to experience a fearful situation and then removed the source of the fear.
The incident also showed Christ’s humanity (He slept in the stern of the boat) and deity (He calmed the storm).
The storm (of wind and waves) stopped suddenly and completely. It was a miracle showing Christ’s power over nature (1 of 9 in the gospels, see Appendix A). It proved that Jesus was the Son of God (Mk. 1:1). Only God can calm a storm (Ps. 107:23-30).
Jesus’ authority over creation raised a question for the disciples about who He was exactly (“Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!”). This verse shows that the disciples followed Jesus even though they did not know all about Him yet.
What does it mean now?
What has changed since when Jesus lived?
How has the Bible changed? We now have the New Testament. And since then Jesus has returned to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to indwell all believers. Although they had the physical presence of Jesus, we have the spiritual presence of the Holy Spirit. And although Jesus taught about the new covenant, He lived under the old covenant.
Who are God’s people today? Believers in Jesus Christ. They are called Christians, or the church. They can be from any nation – Jews have no special privileges, and Gentiles have no special barriers. They live under the new covenant and not under the old one.
What is the main point?
Like the disciples, we can be afraid or anxious sometimes about things like the unknown or a challenging situation. But instead of fear and anxiety, believers should trust in God’s promises for them in the Bible. Through the Holy Spirit, Christians can be courageous when others are fearful – “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid (fearful), but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). This power is greater than we can imagine – “Now to Him [God] who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power [the Holy Spirit] that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20).
Prayer is helpful in overcoming all types of fear:
– “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
– “Cast all your anxiety on Him [God] because He cares for you” (1 Pt. 5:7).
Lessons for us
What is the application to unbelievers?
The first step to an anxiety-free mind is to give your life to Jesus Christ. Then you can trust in God’s promises.
What is the application to believers?
Jesus is all-powerful. He has power over all creation (nature). God cares for His followers. He is preparing a place for them in heaven (Jn. 14:2-3). Meanwhile, they should trust in God no matter how bad the circumstances. He has power to help us. Paul said, “I can do all this [endure difficulties] through Him [Jesus Christ] who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13). The challenge is to face our fears by trusting the Lord through it all.
God has awesome power because He controls all the forces of nature. Other demonstrations of God’s power are His creation of the universe, Jesus’ miracles and Christ’s resurrection from the dead. It’s comforting to know that everything is under God’s control. Because of this Christians can trust in God to help them no matter how bad the circumstances, instead of suffering from fear and anxiety.
Appendix A: Miracles showing Christ’s power over nature
Calming the storm (Mk. 4:37 – 5:1)
Walking on water (Mk. 6:48-51)
Feeding the 5,000 (Mt. 4:15-21)
Feeding the 4,000 (Mt. 15:32-38)
Coin in fish’s mouth (Mt. 17:24-17)
Fig tree withered (Mt.21:18-22)
Large catch of fish (Lk. 5:4-11)
Water turned into wine (Jn. 2:1-11)
Another large catch of fish (Jn. 21:1-11)
Appendix B: What the Bible says about fear
There are three types of fear: protective, chronic (anxiety), and respectful.
These passages are from the books of the Bible written to the early church; Acts to Revelation inclusive.
Courage is the opposite of fear; it’s the ability to face danger without fear.
Christians are commanded to be courageous against dangers and difficulties
– 1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.
Through the Holy Spirit, Christians can be courageous when others are fearful
– 2 Timothy 1:7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid (fearful), but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
Christians don’t fear God’s judgment because Jesus has paid the penalty
– 1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
If you do what’s right, then there is no need to fear those who are in authority
– Romans 13:3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.
Prayer is helpful in overcoming all types of fear
– Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
-1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
Christians don’t fear death because it brings them closer their Savior. In fact, Jesus frees believers from the fear of death
– Hebrews 2:14-15 Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
Believers are commanded to revere and respect God
-1 Peter 2:17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
– Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.
Paul respected the Lord as He is the one to whom Christians are accountable when they are rewarded at the judgement seat of Christ
– 2 Cor. 5:11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.
Let’s bring all our fears to the Lord in prayer so we can exercise protective fear when we are aware of danger and not lapse into chronic fear based on assumed dangers. Although we shouldn’t be afraid, healthy fears help us live godly lives. And most important of all, let’s be aware of God and Christ so we can practice respectful fear until it is part of our character.
Written, July 2019
Also see: Three types of fear