When I Am Afraid

Psalm 56

Opening hymn, It Is Well with My Soul. What about when that isn’t true? When it isn’t well with your soul, when you have little assurance? When your faith is tested to the limit (and it doesn’t take much to reach the limit)? Now add fear to the mix; not the fear of God, the reverential awe and worship the Bible commands and commends. Other kinds of fear, the kind based on circumstances – fear of the unknown, of danger, of surroundings, of enemies, of failure. Be honest, how many of those have you experienced?? Now, how many of you think it is sinful to have those fears? Don’t put your hand up!

Keep finger in Psalms, turn to first book, Genesis 3:8-10. Here’s picture: everything perfect, including fellowship between God and men; man sinned against God, first response one of fear. Hiding from one another behind coverings, hiding from God among the trees, reason given: “I was afraid”. Story goes on, God issues curse on the serpent, consequences on the man and woman, watch it now, for their sin, not their fear.

Fear entered human experience after Adam and Eve sinned, and so it should. In brief slice of time from their act of rebellion until their eviction from Eden, much took place that makes world a scary place to live. Let me say it again: their rebellion was sinful, not their fear. Fear is a response God has made part of our design for our safety and simply experiencing fear is not sinful in itself. In fact, godly fear can keep us from sin, that’s a good thing. Healthy fear can keep us from unnecessary danger, that’s a good thing.

But,… (you knew that was coming!) our response to fear isn’t always good and godly. Fears can become phobias – irrational and illogical fear of things or situations. Fears can turn into anxiety and worry, a response the Bible forbids (Phil. 4:6). Wrong response to fear has two problems: wrong focus, and wrong solution. For the Christian, God in Christ (not circumstances or object of fear) should be our focus, God in Christ (not self or other man-centered help) should be our solution.

David, man after God’s heart, not immune to fear, that’s obvious from our text – he says when not if he is afraid. David was justified in being afraid: Saul wanted to kill him, Achish (Philistine king of Gath) might very well seize opportunity and try to kill him. How did David deal? Faith over fear, short contest, quick victory, next adventure? Not even David the Giant-killer pulled it off like that in this circumstance. Fear at times as much of a Giant as Despair:

Then these six men made up to him, and beset him behind and before : also when Diffidence the giantess came up to help him, old Mr. Honest cut her down at one blow. Then they fought for their lives, and Giant Despair was brought down to the ground, but was very loth to die. He struggled hard, and had, as they say, as many lives as a cat; but Great-heart was his death, for he left him not till he had severed his head from his shoulders. Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress

Required three rounds for David to sever Giant Fear’s head from his shoulders, each time his faith and focus improving until he was victorious in that situation. Let’s consider what the Holy Spirit has to say to us by the pen of David:

A. Round 1 v.1-4

recognizes his circumstances might be consequences – in devising own solution has gone from frying pan into fire:

known enemy (Saul) in known surroundings (homeland) to unknown enemy (Achish) in strange surroundings (Gath)

opens prayer with request for mercy – that God would not hold his sin against him

then lays out his situation before God

explaining circumstances provides no information to God, does accomplish much for us

first step in being relieved of burden – must tell it before they can share it, help bear it

communicating is necessary part in casting – Ps. 55:22 “cast your burden…” 1 Pet. 5:7 “casting all your care…”

essential ingredient in recognizing/acknowledging dependence, inability to solve own problem

communicating to God puts situation in perspective: enemies on the one hand, on the other hand God

God’s supremacy abundantly clear to child of God despite number and nature of enemies

he responds in faith

now that focus is turned back on God rather than situation – declare reliance on God

means seeking security in God and his provision rather than man-made solution

requires recognition of own weaknesses, what it takes to overcome them

for David: intentional focus – on trust and security in God, not on fear of circumstances

repetition – I will trust in you, In God… In God I trust

reaching logical conclusion that results from proper focus

trust in God displaces fear of man; security found in God is adequate defense against any enemy

God’s word against man’s promise – no contest, no need for fear

B. Round 2 v.5-7

comes out of Round 1 doing right thing, should be end of it, right? wrong! Enemies of the righteous use even their righteousness against them

say what you will, even quote from the Bible, media will put spin on it to serve own ends, agenda

do what is right and pleasing to God, media will find what is offensive to man and zero in on that

seems like they spend all day plotting and devising how to twist the truth, bring as much evil as possible out of good

btw, not just media types that do that, they’re just easy to identify; all enemies of God and his people use similar tactics

the attacks are incessant – all day long, from all sides, with no relief; any letup simply for purpose of renewing attack

with renewed strength, additional allies, fresh information, more subtle strategy

what they can’t accomplish alone they attempt together; what they can’t achieve by frontal assault, attempt by deception

it’s all wrong and I can’t do anything about it – either to stop them or bring them to justice

oh yeah, God can take care of them – DEAL WITH THEM GOD!

all their efforts increase their guilt – they may escape man’s justice, God will ultimately do right, regardless of appearances

nothing can save from God’s wrath except for righteous Substitute – he endured wrath of God in place of those he saves

C. Round 3 v.8-11

comes out of Round 2 with sights on God as one who brings about ultimate justice, who sets all things right; good to go, now

umm, not so fast; have named God as object of trust, claimed by faith his promises as source of hope and deliverance, but…. nothing has changed

offers up a not-so-subtle reminder question to God

you’re keeping track of my misery, you see my difficulty and are collecting my tears, you’re writing all this down, right, Lord? Lord?

I have faith, I’ve exercised faith, I’ve cried out to you, I’ve trusted you, I’m still in deep weeds, what’s the matter?

==>short rabbit trail: so, has David failed? after all, this is 3rd crisis of faith? sound familiar, like your own experience?

David did not fail, any more than father of demon-possessed boy was a failure in faith category

he said “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24) I have faith, help my insufficient faith

each trip David and you make to well of God’s grace and mercy supplies strength to your faith, causing it to grow with each test, with each crisis

<==turning point in Psalm, in believer’s experience – confidence in faith that “God is for me”, nothing else matters

purposefully directing his whole being toward God – heart, soul, strength

preaching to himself, reminding himself who he trusts, why it matters

he trusts in God because of who God is, what God has said/promised

continued trust does not depend on appearances, circumstances or result

not simple as mind over matter – you don’t mind, it don’t matter – rationalizing the problem away

is about moment by moment conscious dependence on and trust in God for all things

requires continual reminding, maintaining focus, regular resupply of strength and grace

D. Wrap-up v.12-13

believer is obligated to praise God whether circumstances change or not

think about it: which represents greater act of God

deliver from danger, or, deliver from fear while still in danger?

God isn’t obligated to save from danger; can and often does provide what we need to please him while in same circumstances

believer recognizes that deliverance not gratuitous, without cause or purpose

God delivers his child so they can serve him

rules out several options: revenge on enemies; return to fearfulness; resume old lifestyle

proper response to deliverance is thankful loving obedience

believer is keenly aware of absolute dependence on God in order to walk before him

to not desire revenge, to not be overcome by fear, to not return to former way of living requires God’s gracious help

all blessings and benefits flow through Christ to believer – Phil. 4:19my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

must take place beside Paul: Phil. 4:13I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

only by our union with Christ, in strength he supplies that we can please God

“O to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be! / Let Thy goodness like a fetter Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee. / Prone to wander – Lord, I feel it – Prone to leave the God I love; / Here’s my heart – O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.”

So, “when doubts and fears assail your soul and o’er your heart like billows roll”, how will you respond? Cower in a corner somewhere? Or cry out to God for help? for deliverance from fear? for strength to serve him well? Our great Heavenly Father stands ready to deliver whenever we cry out to him, to supply our every need when we depend on him. Let’s follow the example David has given to us, endeavor to keep focus on our Savior and not our circumstances.

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