No matter how much upheaval there may be economically, politically, socially or technologically, no matter how chaotic the world may become, we can have “shalom shalom” – “perfect peace” – in the midst of it all. We shouldn’t be afraid to face the future, no matter what it holds, for five reasons.
First, we shouldn’t be afraid because we know who God is.
He is King of the universe and Lord over all things. He is in control. No one can thwart His purpose, His counsel, or His will. All is well, and will end well. He is also omniscient, wise, good, merciful and loving, so joined to Him by faith, we have all the knowledge, wisdom, protection, mercy and love we will ever need to face the future. God is infinite, so joined to Him, we have limitless resources to meet our needs. Let us therefore trust Him and look confidently to the future.
Who is God? He is El Shaddai – the All-Sufficient God. As a nursing mother cares for her little children, so God completely nourishes and satisfies His people. He has committed Himself to see to our needs. He is all-sufficient, so our help is adequate for every situation. Since He is all-powerful, we are all-protected. Why should we be afraid?
He is El Yeshuati – the God of My Salvation. God Himself is the source of our personal, individual salvation. He is a God who has time and again intervened in history to save His people. Where He is, there is victory, salvation, and deliverance.
He is Adonai Nisi – the Lord My Miracle, or the Lord My Banner. If we need a miracle, Adonai is the One to whom we may turn. In the midst of life’s raging battles we see Him high and lifted up. If we keep our eyes on Him, we will be miraculously upheld, as Simon Peter learned on the waters of the Kinneret.
He is our Refuge and Fortress. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust!” Are we facing danger? God is our refuge to whom we may flee, and in whom we are safe. God is a far better refuge than our armies and our technology. He is the place to which refugees may flee from all the tumult of their lives. He is a fortress from all attacks – from fire, flood and storm, from war, famine, trials and difficulties. As a result, when we are sheltered in Him, we need not fear.
He is our Shield. The Word of the Lord came to Abraham saying, “Do not fear Avram, I am a shield to you; your reward will be very great.” As our shield, God protects us from danger. The Lord took father Abraham through many difficult circumstances, shielding him from danger throughout his long life, and He will do the same for you.
He is our Rock. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Dwelling among the rocks and mountain hideouts of Judea, David was able to escape from Saul. David compares God to such a place of concealment and safety. God is a rock in the sense of firmness, stability, enduring strength and support.
He is our Light and Salvation. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life, whom shall I dread? God is a light to those who believe in Him, to show them the way when they are in doubt, to comfort them when they have sorrow. It is by the truth and wisdom He gives that they now walk on their way, and on an eternally well-lit path. If the Lord is my light, I fear no darkness. If the Lord is my salvation and the defense and protector of my life, what circumstance will I fear?
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Are we weak? God is our strength, to bear us up under our burdens, equipping us for our duties and responsibilities, our sufferings if need be, and for every good work. If God is my strength, then I need not fear my weakness. Are we surrounded by troubles? God’s help is continually at hand for each difficulty encountered. With God as a very present help, fear is unnecessary and even irrational. Since God is our refuge, strength and help, it is our duty to be fearless.
We need not fear, whatever may happen, even if it is as severe as the earth changing before our eyes. If everything familiar to us is suddenly changed, even to the extent that the mighty mountains collapse before us and fall into the sea, we have no reason to fear. Should the oceans roar and rage, and the world be in confusion, yet we will not fear, knowing that God is with us, and His all-sufficient help is there for us.
Second, we shouldn’t be afraid, if we will remember how God has acted in the past.
God has shown Himself faithful to in history to deliver so many from such difficult circumstances. Noah was brought safely through the Flood. God delivered the Jewish people from the strongest nation on earth, sending plague after plague which destroyed the land of Egypt; yet the Jewish people, living in its midst, were protected. We safely passed through the Red Sea, while the Egyptian army which pursued us was destroyed. He was able to sustain several million Jewish people for forty years in a harsh, desert wilderness. He was able to bring water out of a rock, and manna from heaven to feed them. He then enabled Joshua to conquer the Canaanites, and bring our people into the land of promise.
Gideon courageously followed God in the face of vastly superior forces. Deborah and Barak laid hold of God, and the impossible became possible. Was there ever a person who endured so many trials and difficulties as King David? Young David, alone out of all Israel, was willing to face the giant Goliath in single combat. David, a young shepherd, without armor, carrying only a sling and a few stones, but filled with faith in God, prevailed over the nine-foot giant. God was able to sustain the prophet Eliyahu, hiding by the brook Cherith, by supplying him bread and meat morning and evening, by means of ravens who brought his food to him. God was able to feed the widow of Zarephath, who had just a little flour in a bowl, and a little oil in a jar, and was on the verge of starving to death. She befriended Eliyahu and, because of her faithfulness, was provided by God with an inexhaustible supply of flour and oil. Can’t He do the same for us?
The lessons to be learned from the lives of these men and women are that joined by faith to the living God, marvelous deliverances can be accomplished. Incredible victories can be won against superior forces. The impossible becomes possible. Life can be meaningful even under the most difficult circumstances.
The third reason we need not fear is because of God’s precious promises.
God has promised to give us all the wisdom we need. He is our “Pele Yoetz,” our Miraculous Counselor. He gives wonderful, miraculous counsel, unfailing in the depths of its wisdom for all who come to Him. His counsel is miraculous, because it transcends human understanding. In every situation He can discern what is best for us and give us wonderful guidance. When you find yourself in a difficult situation, and lack the wisdom to handle it, you are invited to ask the Miraculous Counselor for wisdom, and He promises to generously provide it.
God has promised to remove a shy, cowardly attitude and replace it with a healthy dose of courage, strength and boldness. God has not given us a spirit of timidity (an attitude of fear or cowardice) but of power and love and discipline. That’s why Messianic Jews and Christians have been able to face all kinds of opposition throughout the ages, all manner of trials, dangers and tribulations, with dignity, faith, and hope intact.
God has promised to give us all the security we need. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust (security) is from the Lord. He will be like a tree planted by the water that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit. It is easy to be confident when showers of blessing are falling, when the economy is booming, and your 401K plan is climbing. But not everyone can be happy when circumstances change – when they are feeling the heat and the drought – only those who place their confidence in God can remain free of fear or anxiety. The one who trusts in God is blessed at all times, whether times are good and the rains are coming, or when circumstances are difficult, and he is feeling the heat. He will be like a beautiful fruit tree planted near a stream which constantly supplies it with water, even in a time of drought, even when other fruit trees are drying up, their leaves withering and little fruit being produced.
God has promised to provide for our needs, according to His riches in glory, the source of which is Messiah Yeshua. At one point in Yeshua’s ministry, He and His disciples had been through a very busy time, and needed a break. Yeshua took these disciples to a lonely place to get some rest, but not without some difficulty. Many people saw them leave by boat and, recognizing them, ran ahead on foot from all the towns and got there first. When Yeshua came ashore, a huge crowd already awaited Him. He began teaching them many things. When they became hungry, He also miraculously fed them in order to demonstrate that He was the Messiah sent by God to meet all the needs of the Jewish people. Yeshua can provide rest for His disciples, truth for the multitudes and miraculous food for all, even in a wilderness. Doesn’t it make sense that if Yeshua was able to feed five thousand from a few loaves of bread and a few fish while on earth, He is all the more able to meet the needs of His people now that He is resurrected, victorious, exalted, glorified, all-powerful, and seated at the right hand of God?
God has promised us all the contentment we need. He can teach us to live contentedly in all circumstances, as did Rabbi Paul, who wrote: I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am (in good times and bad, in times of abundance and times of lack). I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. What is the secret of this contentedness? The answer: I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. If you are on intimate terms with the Almighty, close to Him, He will strengthen you in all circumstances so that you may be content. Let your attitude be that recommended by Rabbi Paul to Timothy: Godliness is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we can not take anything out of it. And if we have food and covering, with these we will be content. We have had fifty years of unparalleled prosperity, but that is no guarantee that good times will last. If our society suffers, we may suffer, but we can be at peace, knowing that our life, our well-being, our happiness does not consist in the abundance of our possessions.
God has promised to remove anxiety and fill our hearts and minds with peace. Simon Peter tells us that we are to cast all our anxiety upon God, because He cares for us. With all the situations we are concerned about, it is wise to make prudent preparations, but then we must entrust ourselves into the hands of the God who cares for us. Rabbi Paul adds that we must be anxious for nothing, but in everything (in every situation, especially difficult ones) by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. If we pray and thank God, the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds joined to Messiah Yeshua. Anxiety is a normal response to a threat, but Messianic Jews and Christians must decide to entrust their concerns to God, knowing He cares for them. As we give thanks for the blessings we have already received, and make requests for what we lack, we rise above the situation which threatens us. We then gain peace, despite our circumstances; a genuine peace from God, who cares for His us and works everything out for our ultimate good.
Fourth, don’t be afraid because no matter what happens, nothing truly evil can happen to us.
Even if things get so bad that some of us die, we need to know that there are things to be feared more than death. I love the attitude of Daniel’s three friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. They preferred to be thrown alive into a fiery furnace than to deny God by bowing down before the image of the king. I love their answer to Nebuchadnezzar: Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods. Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah knew that death for the child of God is not an evil to be feared, but denying God is.
As a nation, we have been blessed with peace and prosperity for the past fifty years. We might be tempted to think that this is normal, since this is all that most of us have known, but when compared to the last 6000 years of human history, we should realize that it is very unusual. We need to understand that a measure of suffering, trials and tribulation are normal in a fallen, sinful world. That’s why Simon Peter tells us not to be surprised at any fiery ordeal that comes our way, as though some strange thing were happening.
According to the book of Acts, after Rabbi Paul preached the Good News that will save us, he went around strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, telling them that through many tribulations (one wonders just how many) we must enter the kingdom of God. How does that message strengthen the soul? When we know that many troubles are to be expected, we will have realistic expectations, and not be so easily discouraged.
Even though various trials and difficulties may surround us, the good news is that nothing truly harmful can hurt us. For you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place. No evil will befall you. Troubles and trials will do us no real harm when the Lord is our dwelling place. Instead, those difficulties will actually bring us benefit, much like a metal brush cleans away rust, but does not destroy metal, and leaves the tool clean. God will allow difficult circumstances to come into our life as a way of purifying and improving us. That’s why Ya’akov (James) says that we should consider it all joy when we encounter various trials, knowing that the final result of these trials is endurance, that we may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Even if others try to harm us, God can turn this around for our ultimate good. Joseph told his brothers that their attempt to destroy him, by selling him as a slave, was turned around for good by God. The Lord’s purpose in this was to get Joseph into Egypt, in order to save him, his family, the land of Egypt and many other people during what would be a seven year long famine. We know that God causes all things (not just some things) to work together for good to those who love God (who are faithful to Him and obey Him – which shows our genuine love), to those who are called according to His purpose.
God has a larger purpose for our life that we seldom see. Our life may be compared to a tapestry. God, the Master Artist, is weaving brightly colored threads together with dark, richly colored threads to make up the tapestry of our life. Right now we can’t see the front of the tapestry. We can only see what appears to be a jumble of threads underneath. Only when we look back from eternity, through the mists of time, will we be able to see how all the various threads – the bright ones and the dark ones, the good times and the hard times in our lives, came together to form the finished product, a beautiful tapestry fit to be displayed on the walls of the Master Weaver’s home. In the meantime, we need to trust Him, and patiently endure.
Even death can’t really harm us, and need not be feared. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me. King David did not fear walking through the valley of death, because he knew that death would one day be swallowed up in victory. O death, were is your victory? O death, where is your sting? If we who know the Lord die faithful to Him, death is our gain.Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord… I prefer rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord. Rabbi Paul knew that for us, death is an advancement. We are drawn even closer to our Lord, and we enter a far better place, where there is everlasting light, no suffering or pain, and where God Himself will welcome us, comfort us, wipe away all of our tears, and the former sufferings will fade away.
Fifth, don’t be afraid, because a good shaking will bring great opportunities. The Torah declares:Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Unfortunately, over the last four decades we have lived less and less by the word of God. In Biblical times, whenever Israel abandoned the Lord, He allowed disaster to overtake us which was designed to bring correction, and drive us back to Him. If God allows a major shaking to take place, it will bring some very good results. In fact, the book written to the Messianic Jews (Hebrews) warns us: “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens. This denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.“
This passage expresses the truth that, in general, people are more receptive to the Kingdom of God in times of upheaval and crisis. A major shaking may be just the thing this sinful generation needs to get us rethinking our priorities. If there is a major shaking, there will also be new opportunities to preach the Good News to both Jews and Gentiles, who may suddenly find themselves with ears to hear. If God allows things to be shaken up, many of those who have been trusting in the wrong things may find their attention turned to those things that can’t be shaken. Many people who are comfortable with their place in the world and satisfied with themselves, who once would not have given us the time of day, may suddenly be eager to hear that Yeshua is the way to have genuine peace with God, and true joy. True peace and joy don’t come from alcohol, from drugs, or from the size of our 401K, but from a dynamic relationship with the God of Israel that only comes through Messiah. He alone can be our Rock in the midst of a world that suddenly becomes less stable in the days to come.
It may be God’s will to allow the Messiah’s Holy Community of Jews and Gentiles to receive a good shaking so that we return to our first love. Parts of the Church have become apostate, spiritually fat and lazy. This corruption is epitomized by the so called “prosperity-preachers,” who have taught a message of worldly greed instead of the non-materialistic truths of the Carpenter from Nazareth. The message to the congregation at Laodicea runs through my mind: You say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. God’s beloved sons and daughters are to be concerned with greater things than earthly wealth, things like taking up our cross and following Messiah, dying daily, building ourselves up in our most holy faith, serving the saints, preaching the Good News to those who don’t believe, and taking care of the poor and needy. These are to be our chief concerns.
In spite of potential difficulties, I’m excited by the future, knowing who God is, remerbering how He has brought about marvelous deliverances in the past, standing on His precious promises, believing that God will not allow anything truly evil to harm us, and looking forward to the unprecedented opportunities that a good shaking may bring. If we will keep an eternal perspective, living each day in the knowledge of our Redeemer’s love for us and the glorious future awaiting us, we will experience His perfect peace and His victory, even in the midst of trials and tribulation.