The Struggles of the Believer (Part Two)

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4 NIV)

The first struggle of the believer we will consider is the struggle of faith with fear. What should you do when you are afraid? Do not be mistaken. You will have to struggle with fear. You are not yet in eternal glory. One of the issues that causes tension or a pull between opposites is what is called “the now” and “the not yet”. We are now richly blessed with all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3), but since the Lord has not yet returned, we must wait in faith for the full realization of all blessings. For example, we continue to struggle with suffering (Ephesians 3:13), unity (Ephesians 4:3), communication issues (Ephesians 4:25-29), etc.

In this struggle, we must replace fear with faith in God. Fear can cripple us as we seek to walk with the Lord. However, the time of fear is the opportunity to exercise faith.

We need a godly view of fear, and by godly, I mean more than saying, “We should not fear.” Fear by itself is an emotion given by God for human preservation. Fear motivates us to seek protection from what may harm us. For example, we ought to fear God. Jesus said, “I say to you, my friends, don’t fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will show you the one to fear: Fear him who has authority to throw people into hell after death. Yes, I say to you, this is the one to fear! (Luke 12:4-5 CSB; cf. 1 Peter 2:17) We ought to fear God, because he is holy and almighty. But since he is also loving and gracious, we sinners may find refuge in Christ that God has provided. Fear is a problem when it hinders us from drawing near to God or from serving God and others in love. Consider again what Christ says in Luke 12.

The way to confront fear is to replace it with faith. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. It is a mistake to assume that you can simply stop being afraid. Someone who merely quits being afraid is an unemployed worrier, who will fear again when another problem arises. “Faith is seen here as a deliberate act, in defiance of one’s emotional state” (Kidner). In other words, when fears starts to control, you choose to trust. You think on the overwhelming greatness of the Lord God. You realize that God is leading you through the present situation so that you may turn from your insufficiency to his all-sufficiency.

The replacement for fear is not merely faith, but faith in the living God. The whole phrase is crucial. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you (my emphasis). We should avoid saying trite phrases like “You just need to believe!” Biblical faith requires the proper object, who is the true and living God. And God must be approached through the Lord Jesus Christ. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father (Ephesians 2:18 ESV). David is not suggesting that faith by itself will deliver. The Bible never tells us to have faith in our faith. Instead, David instructs us to trust in God. Our faith must have an object that is worthy of trust. And God is worthy! “Only God is the object of Biblical faith… This simple truth can be an immeasurable help in the Christian life. Faith is not blind. It is not an ambiguous trust in some abstract entity. It is not a leap in the dark. God is the object of faith” (Matthews, Growth in Grace, p. 117).

Observe this in the life of Paul the apostle, as he neared the end of his earthly journey. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen (2 Timothy 4:18 NIV). He turned to the Lord in the midst of evil attacks. His confidence was in God, not in pleasant circumstances.

Grace and peace, David

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