What does the bible teach about fear and doubt? Fear and doubt, do tend to go together. Fear produces doubt. When we become fearful, we become doubtful. We can become doubtful about a lot of things, but the worst thing that can happen, is that we become doubtful about God.
Most people are aware of the story in the bible about how Jesus walked on the water, aren’t they? Jesus had just fed about 5,000 men, besides women and children, with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes, while on the sea shore, Mathew 14:13-21. Jesus then sent His disciples away in their boat, to the other side of the sea. The boat that they had was a row boat. But Jesus stayed behind and sent the multitudes who had just eaten , back to their homes, while He went up to the mountain, alone to pray. V’s 22-23.
V-24 tells us that the boat had already gone out to sea “many stadia”. A stadia was approximately 600 feet, or 1/8 of a Roman mile. We’re not told just exactly how many stadia they had gone, but if they had gone 10 stadia, they would have been well over a mile out to sea. If they had gone 15 stadia, they might have been close to two miles out. But the scriptures then tell us that the boat began to be “battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary”.
And what do you think was the result, of the “contrary wind” battering the boat around? The result was that the disciples in the boat became afraid! They would have no doubt been afraid that the boat would be capsized and they might drown. And then, at some point that the bible calls “the fourth watch of the night”, here comes Jesus, approaching the boat, walking on the water. The “watches of the night” are divided up like this.. The first watch began at 6 PM, the second at 9 PM, the third at 12 AM, and the fourth at 3 AM. So somewhere between 3 and 6 AM is when Jesus came walking on the water.
The apostle John tells us that “..they had rowed about three or four miles”, when they saw Jesus walking on the water. John 6:19. The sea was about five miles wide, so they still had a couple more miles to go. They were out there in the middle of the sea. John says, “the sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing”. Mathew had said, the boat was, “battered by the waves, for the wind was contrary”.
Now listen to what the apostle Mark tells us in Mark 6:46-48.. This is speaking of Jesus, “And after bidding them farewell, He departed to the mountain to pray. And when it was evening, the boat was in the midst of the sea, and He was alone on the land. And seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night, He came to them, walking on the sea..”
What do those verses tell us about Jesus? He was alone on the land, and saw them “harassed in rowing”. That’s actually the literal translation.. “harassed in rowing”, straining at the oars. The wind and the sea were harassing them, and Jesus could see it.
See if you remember this from John 1:47-48.. “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said to Him; Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile. Nathanael said to Him; How do you know me? Jesus replied; Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
Do you know what Nathanael said to that? He said, “You are the Son of God; You are the king of Israel!” V-49
Let’s go back to Mathew 14. Here’s the disciples, in a row boat, in the middle of the sea, and the wind is strong and contrary, and the waves are rough, and the boat is being tossed around in the waves, and they’re straining to row against the wind and the waves, and they’re being harassed, and they’re afraid! And now they see someone walking towards them on the water!
Listen to verse 26.. “And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were frightened, saying; It’s a ghost! And they cried out with fear!” They were already afraid, and now they think their seeing a ghost. Have you ever been that afraid? Yes? Maybe? What does it take to cure that kind of fear?
Well, it takes God; That’s what it takes.
So, the disciples cried out with fear, because in the darkness, in the midst of the storm, they saw the image of a man walking on the water, coming towards them. They thought they saw a ghost!
V-27 says, “But immediately Jesus spoke to them saying; Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” It took God to make their fears go away didn’t it?
“And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it’s You, command me to come to you on the water. And He said, Come! And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water, and came toward Jesus.” V’s 28-29.
“BUT, seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out saying, Lord save me! And immediately, Jesus stretched out His hand, and took hold of him, and said to him; O ye of little faith, why did you doubt? And when they got into the boat, the wind stopped.”
Why do we doubt God? We can doubt ourselves sometimes, and we sometimes doubt others, but why do we doubt God?
When we doubt God, what happens? We sink, don’t we? We sink from our faith, and we let the world around us, take hold of us, and control us. But what happens immediately when we turn to God again, and trust God? When we turn back to God, HE takes hold of us, just like He did to Peter. “And immediately, He stretched out His hand, and took hold of him.” That’s a great lesson isn’t it?
When you’re afraid, don’t even LOOK at the world around you, just look at God.. Believe that He cares enough about you to save you, from whatever your afraid of, and “the wind will stop”. Isn’t that the lesson that’s in this story? I think it is.
When Peter kept his eyes focused on Jesus, “he could walk on water”. But when he started looking at the waves, immediately, he began to sink. When we DON’T trust God, we immediately sink. But when we DO trust God, immediately He take hold of us.
You could just about end a study on fear and doubt, right there. But we won’t.
I want to point out something kind of interesting. Jesus didn’t go to His disciples as soon as the storm came up. Mathew 14:24 said that they had gone “many stadia” when the storm came up. But it wasn’t until the “fourth watch” that Jesus came to them. John 6:17-18 says that it had already become dark when the storm came up, and Jesus hadn’t come to them yet. The bible doesn’t say exactly what time it was, but if it had already gotten dark, maybe it was 9 pm, maybe 10 pm, maybe even 11 pm. But the “fourth watch” doesn’t even begin until 3 in the morning. So the disciples were probably out there trying to row this boat through the storm for at least 3 or 4 hours, maybe even longer. Maybe 5 or 6 hours. And John 6:19 says that they had only gone 25 or 30 stadia. Even 3o stadia would be only 3 1/2 miles, and the sea was about 5 miles long.
Why did Jesus with so long before He went out there to the boat? He knew what was going on out there because He could see them. Remember, Mark 6:47 said “He was alone on the land”. And then V-48 said, “He could see them straining at the oars”. When Jesus headed out there, He was evidently walking a lot faster than they were rowing, wasn’t He?
Now listen to this.. John 6:21 says, “They were willing therefore to receive Him into the boat, and immediately, the boat was at the land to which they were going”. They had been rowing for hours! And Jesus gets in the boat, and all at once, it’s at the land on the other side. But Jesus left them out there afraid, and rowing, for hours. Why do you think He did that?
Ask yourself this question.. Does God ever test us, to see how faithful we are? Aren’t trials and tribulations called “testing” in the bible?
James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren when you encounter various trials (or temptations). Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance (or steadfastness) have it’s perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
We don’t like trials do we? When we’re going through them, they don’t feel very good. But when they’re over, hopefully, we’ve come out stronger. Don’t you think that a trial, can cause us to see our weaknesses? And if we can see where our weaknesses are, then we can work at strengthening them. But if we never see our weaknesses, how can we ever get stronger? So God allows us to go through trials, because that’s how we grow. “Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have it’s perfect result..”
It’s probably inevitable that trials should bring on a certain amount of fear. What we’re afraid of, is the unknown. We fear, because we don’t really know what the outcome is going to be. But fear doesn’t have to produce doubt. At least it doesn’t have to make us doubt our faith. If we put our faith to proper use, we can be afraid, and use that fear to help us realize that we’ve got to put more trust in God. So then we can actually USE fear, to increase our faith in the promise of God, that.. “God causes all things to work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose”. (Roman’s 8:28) It might not be the easiest thing to do, but it’s how God builds us up. We need, to trust in God for everything! If we claim to trust God, then we need to do it!
Can you overcome fear? Of course you can. We are assured, in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things in Christ, who strengthens me.” But of course that promise, as well as all promise made to Christians, is conditioned upon being “IN Christ”. “I can do all things IN Christ, who strengthens me”. “God causes, all things to work together for good, to those who LOVE God, who are the CALLED according to His purpose.” Jesus said, “If you LOVE Me, you will keep My commandments”. John 14:15. By the keeping of God’s commandments, is how we get IN Christ. NO ONE can be IN Christ, who does not keep His commandments! We can claim to love God, but the evidence of that love is in the keeping of His commandments.
If we are among those who are “the CALLED according to His purpose”, we must be among those who ANSWER that call, with our obedience to His commands. Jesus said in Mathew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen”. You see, God’s calls everyone to be IN Christ. But do you know why it is that few are chosen? It’s because God has chosen, those who will obey the commands given in the bible, to be “IN Christ”. And so you and I decide for ourselves, whether or not we are among the chosen. If we want to be among the chosen, and have all the promises of God applied to us, then we will obey His commands. We’re told in 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we KEEP His commandments; and His commandments are not grievous.” In other words God doesn’t ask us to anything unreasonable. He doesn’t ask us to do anything that we can’t easily accomplish. His commands are NOT grievous. They are very simple, and very reasonable, and very rewarding. Our obedience to His commands is rewarded with all the fulfillment, of all the promises of God.
When we’re In Christ, we don’t need to fear, because He will cause all things to work for good to us. And because we can DO all things, IN Christ, who strengthens us. The bible has a lot to say about being IN Christ. But what does that mean exactly? Well, here’s what it means, exactly. To be IN Christ, means that you are in the covenant relationship with Him. Jesus referred to, “The new covenant in My Blood”. (Luke 22:20) That’s exactly what the new testament is. It’s the new covenant that has been “ratified” with His blood. When something is “ratified”, it is put into force. When we want to see what laws that God has put into force, for us to live by today, we must look to the new covenant, not to the old covenant. And here’s what the new covenant says, puts us IN Christ..
We’re told in Galatians 3:27, “For all of you who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ”. We have “put on” Christ and His new covenant, when we are baptized INTO Christ.
We’re told in Romans 6:3, “Or do you not know, that all of us who have been baptized into Christ, have been baptized into His death?” We are “baptized”, or I other words “immersed” in His death, and in all the benefits that come from His sacrificial death, when we are baptized INTO Christ. To baptize means to immerse, to completely cover and overwhelm. If you have been baptized, you have been completely immersed in water for the forgiveness of your sins. And if you have NOT been completely immersed in water, then you have NOT been baptized.
Romans 6:4 tells us, “Therefore, we have been BURIED with Him, through baptism, into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead, through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” Do you know WHY we “might walk in newness of life”, after we have been “buried with Him in baptism”? It’s because in baptism, your sins are forgiven! There would be NO newness of life, if we still remained in our sins. Simple common-sense will tell you that. That’s exactly why hear these words in Acts 22:16, “And now, why do you delay? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” When we are baptized INTO Christ, we are “calling on His name”, in other words, we’re “calling on His authority” to forgive our sins, as He has promised to do, when we obey His commands. Jesus said in Mathew 28:18, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
It’s only after our sins have been forgiven, that we “might walk in newness of life”. And it’s only after our sins have been forgiven that we can be IN Christ.
The only way to be in a covenant relation with Christ, is to obey His commands. And if you truly love him, not just love Him in word, but love him in deed, then you will keep His commandments. And His commandments are not grievous! The keeping of His commands, is simply a loving response TO His commands.
Thanks for being here to study a portion of God’s word. And may God bless you always, in the study of His word, and in the keeping of His commands.