Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Posts tagged “powerful

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.

Text

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.

Context

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.

What happened?

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.

Conclusion

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


What makes the Bible so great?

The Bible is a collection of books which were written over a period of over 1,500 years with unique origin and content.

Unique origin

We will look at three statements about the source of the Bible. “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16NIV). When written in ~67AD by Paul, this statement mainly applied to the Old Testament as not all the New Testament books had been written. But when Paul quoted from the book of Luke, he called it Scripture (1 Tim. 5:18) and Peter referred to Paul’s letters as Scripture (2 Pet. 3:16). So today we can apply the statement to the whole Bible. This means that God is the source of every verse in the Bible.

“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things (mind). For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20-21). The men who were given the message were called prophets. This passage emphasises that the words of Scripture were given by God via the Holy Spirit; and they didn’t originate from the prophet’s mind.

“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words” (1 Cor. 2:13).  Once again, the Bible contains God’s wisdom, not human wisdom (1 Cor. 2:6-15). It’s “the thoughts of God” and the amazing things that “God has prepared for those who love Him”, which can only be understood with the help of the Holy Spirit.

As the Bible is the only book with God as the author, it is unique. The Bible is God’s message to us. The supreme God who created the universe and continues to sustain it has communicated with us. This also means that:

  • The Bible has authority – coming from the ruler of the visible and invisible universe.
  • The Bible is infallible. It is “completely reliable” as the source of truth, being absolutely true (2 Pet.1:19). The original text was without error and only minor copyist errors have occurred over the passage of time. When interpreted correctly, it never deceives us, never contradicts itself and can be trusted.
  • The Bible is profitable. God has told us what we need to know. It’s like our instruction manual for life.

Unique content

The Bible tells us the history of the universe from beginning to end. It begins with the creation of the universe and contains a history of mankind from Adam and Eve to the end of history. It describes the global flood that has shaped the earth and gives a detailed history of the Jewish nation, which is confirmed by archaeology. There is also a history of God’s dealing with mankind, a history of human failures, an accurate record of human behaviour and information about heaven and hell.

The Bible answers difficult questions, such as the following. Why do we exist? Why does anything exist? What can we hope for in the future? What is our destiny? Where has humanity come from? Why are we male and female? Where does marriage come from? Why is there suffering?

The Bible deals with our greatest problem (being God’s enemy instead of His friend) and our greatest need (to be reconciled with God) and how that was addressed by Jesus. God’s plan of salvation through Jesus is the theme of Scripture. We learn the way of salvation through the Bible (2 Tim. 3:15). It also provides assurance of salvation.

The Bible tells us what to know about the unseen world, including: God, angels, Satan, and demons. It describes the interaction between the unseen and seen parts of our world. It reveals what is God like; what has God done; God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. It also reveals that humans are comprised of spirit, soul and body.

As the Bible is the only reliable source of this information, it is unique (Eccl. 3:11).

Powerful

The Bible uses the following powerful images to describe itself:

  • A sharp sword that penetrates and judges our thoughts and attitudes (Heb. 4:12-13). It is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17).
  • A light that shines in darkness (Ps. 119:105; 2 Pet. 1:19). It illuminates the way ahead and guides us.
  • A mirror that shows our true condition (Jas. 1:22-25).
  • Food (milk and solid food) that sustains us (1 Cor. 3:1-2; Heb. 5:12-14).
  • Water that purifies us as we obey Scripture (Eph. 5:25).
  • More precious than gold (Ps. 19:10).
  • Sweeter than honey (Ps. 19:10).

So, the Bible is not just another book, it’s God’s unique powerful message to us. Let’s read it, study it, memorise it and obey it.

Written, September 2011

Also see: Read the Bible in one year


Satan. Part 2: Knowing His Strategies

Many think that Satan is a myth, but we know he is real. That is why we must stay awake and be on our guard against him.

Satan is our enemy who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8 NIV). In a battle it helps to know the enemy. For example, when playing a computer game, advice from someone who has already played it can be a great help. After we have experience and know what to anticipate, we are more likely to be successful at the game.

In this article we’ll look at Satan’s power, his objectives, his strategies and our defenses against him. This is important because if we are not aware of his schemes he will outwit us (2 Cor. 2:11).

Satan’s Power

Although Satan has been cast from God’s presence, he is still powerful. He is the ruler of demons (Mt. 12:24). The demons are fallen angels who follow Satan and who oppose believers (Eph. 6:12). Satan is a great power in the unseen spiritual world. He is the ruler of the sinful world system (Jn. 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2). He dominates unbelievers: “The whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 Jn. 5:19). He has his own kingdom, a vast sphere of influence in our world. He is respected by angels. The archangel Michael “did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you’” (Jude 9). Likewise, we should take Satan seriously; he is no myth or joke.

Fortunately, Satan’s power is limited by God. In Job’s case, God controlled what he could and could not do ((Job 1:12; 2:6). Jesus prayed that God protect his disciples from “the evil one” (Jn. 17:15), so the devil can’t touch believers without God’s permission (1 Jn. 5:18). He has power, but God’s is greater.

Satan’s Objectives

Satan has a major influence in the world. His main objective is to oppose God and oppose God’s purposes. This started in the beginning and has continued through history. Even though Christ is victorious over Satan, he is still opposing God’s purposes in this world. His character is the opposite of God’s. He’s full of darkness, not light (Acts 26:18); he promotes hate, not love (1 Jn. 3:7-15); he brings death, not life (Heb. 2:15).

When we hear about the “forces of evil” in the world, undoubtedly Satan is still active today. Here are three of his more specific objectives. First, he works to deceive nations (Rev. 20:3,7). Apparently, he has been successful in this as he was able to offer Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world” (Mt. 4:8-9). In fact, he “leads the whole world astray” (Rev. 12:9). Second, he works to control unbelievers. Satan uses his power to control unbelievers by trapping them and keeping them captive (Acts 26:18; 2 Tim. 2:26; 1 Jn. 5:19). Meanwhile, these people are deceived and unaware of his activities. Third, he works to destroy believers and Christianity. We do not fight against a human enemy, but against Satan and his demons in the unseen world (Eph. 6:12). Our enemy is the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to attack (1 Pet. 5:8). He wants believers to be ineffective.

Satan’s Strategies

Satan uses three strategies in his battle. First, he attacks God’s character and His control. From the beginning Satan misquoted God when he asked Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Gen 3:1-5). Then he denied that God had said they would surely die. He has denigrated God, Christ and the Bible throughout history.

Second, he prevents acceptance of the truth. Satan prevents others from accepting the truth by blinding their minds: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4). “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Cor. 1:18). In the parable of the sower, Satan “takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved” (Lk. 8:12). He gives unbelievers a false sense of security. He is like an evil man who drugs his victims (Lk. 11:21).

Third, Satan promotes sin within our world. He “has been sinning from the beginning” (1 Jn. 3:8). Here are some of his weapons:

False beliefs: Satan deceives people so they believe lies, such as atheism, agnosticism, humanism and evolution (2 Th. 2:11). These often deny the reality of sin and evil.

False religions: In addition to denying the truth, Satan also promotes false religions, such as idolatry, the occult (Rev. 2:14) and all faiths not consistent with the Bible.

False lifestyles: Satan tempts people to follow the world’s sinful ways, including a self-centered lifestyle of pleasure, possessions, position and power (Mt. 13:22; 1 Jn. 2:15-17).

Demonic leaders: Satan uses powerful rulers for his ends. The Roman emperor Nero persecuted believers in the early Church. Some nations persecute Christians today. The anti-christ will persecute them in the future (2 Th. 2:3-12).

Destabilized society: Satan works to destabilize God’s plan for government, law and order (Rom. 13:1-2). He also works to breakdown marriages and families. God hates his activities (Mal. 2:16).

Satan’s Strategies Against Christians

Satan also uses many strategies to divert believers from following the Lord (Lk. 14:27). Here are some of them: discrediting the Bible (Lk. 4:1-13); tempting them to lie, to lust, to seek human wisdom (Acts 5:3; 1 Cor. 7:5; Mt. 16:23); pride (1 Pet. 5:5); doubt (Gen. 3:1-5); discouragement and depression (1 Pet. 5:7); denial (Lk. 22:31,57); division (Eph. 4:3; 1 Cor. 1:10-13; 3:4; 6:6-7); false doctrine (1 Tim. 4:3; 2 Pet. 2:1); false leaders (2 Cor. 11:13-15); persecution (2 Cor. 11:23-25). Satan reminds God of our sins and imperfections (Rev. 12:10). But Christ, “speaks to the Father in our defense” (1 Jn. 2:1).

Our Defenses

Christians are told to “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:9-10). To withstand Satan we need to do four things: recognize, remember, resist and respond.

First, we need to recognize that our struggle is not against humans but against Satan and his demons in the unseen world (Eph. 6:12). We are warned to “be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:9). Many think that Satan is a myth, but we know he is real. That is why we must stay awake and be on our guard against him.

Second, we need to remember that while Satan and his demons are always on the prowl, Christ is already the victor. He is all powerful and has already defeated and judged Satan. He controls all things and cares for us. We also need to remember our position: seated with Him in heaven (Eph. 2:6). His work is finished and we are secure. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). And Christ prays for our protection from Satan (Jn. 17:15).

Third, we need to resist Satan and his tricks. “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes … stand your ground … stand firm” (Eph. 6:11,13,14). “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7). Our resistance needs to be active. This is war! Satan wants us to have a false sense of peace, but we are really on the front line. If we sleep, Satan will have us for breakfast!

Fourth, we need to respond, not with physical weapons, but with “divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4). Our spiritual weapons are listed in Ephesians 6:13-18. “Put on the full armor of God … the belt of truth … the breastplate of righteousness … your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace … the shield of faith … the helmet of salvation … the sword of the Spirit. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” to headquarters. To overcome the enemy, we need to be in constant communication with our Leader.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7).

Published: September 2004

See the other article in this series:
Satan. Part 1: Knowing our enemy