Fear No More (Part 1)
Have we had to deal with fearful situations in our lives? Maybe because we have come to a totally new place and we do not know if we can cope? Maybe new responsibilities stirred up fears that we will fail? Maybe we are having relationship problems and we fear it will break up? Or maybe health issues cropped up and we are fearful of what might happen?
There are so many things in life that cause fear to grip us. How do we come to grips with such fears? To the believer, the Bible provides us great assurances that we need not live in fear.
Psalm 23:1-4 (NIV) 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
King David who wrote this psalm was expressing the fact that he feared no more because of God the Good Shepherd. When David wrote this, it was not out of some naïve, idealistic romantic feelings that he had of God who would somehow help him not to be fearful. Rather, it was a song written out of a depth of experience. For David and his man has had to face many life and death situations.
David knew what it was like to be a man hunted, with a bounty on his head. For years he had to run for his life. David knew what it was like to be fighting in the heat of battles and wars against enemies. Where a single arrow or sword could spell the end of his life. David knew what it was like to be threatened, betrayed, at the mercy of others.
This psalm expressed the sentiments of someone who learnt how he could fear no more when he was in the Good Shepherd’s hands. Here are 3 key thoughts on why we should fear no more.
1. GOD GUIDES ME (v3b-4a)
We need not fear because God is available to guide us. The fact that God is available to guide us should be reassuring, because He does so….
For His name sake (v3c) “…for his name's sake.”
What it means is that God has staked His honour on it.
Isaiah 48:9 (NIV) For my own name's sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to cut you off.
When God puts His Name unto something, He is basically staking His honour, His glory on keeping His promise. The Bible declares that God is a good, loving and faithful God. God is a faithful God, whose faithfulness is everlasting. It is who He is. Because God is faithful, He cannot be unfaithful to us. Hence, God is guaranteeing that he will guide us into good paths. Paths that are right before God. God will never lead us into bad or sinful paths. It will be…
God is guaranteeing that he will guide us into good paths. Paths that are right before God.
In paths of righteousness (v3b) “He guides me in paths of righteousness".
What could these paths of righteousness mean? I believe these mean paths of righteous living. It is about our daily living. These paths of righteousness are not referring to imputed righteousness, or right standing before God.
Let me explain the difference between imputed righteousness and righteous living. Now this is what imputed righteousness is. In a legal sense, God places the righteousness of Christ on our account. He stamps the file of our life as “righteous in Christ”. Because now God looks at the righteousness of Jesus Christ and places it upon us.
Let’s say I adopted a child from overseas legally into Australia. It means this child becomes a Lim and an Australian because the Lim family are Australians. This child is not an illegal immigrant. Hence, this child has a right standing in the eyes of the Australian government. Similarly, when we accept Jesus as our personal Saviour, we gain a legal right standing before God. Now this child may not behave like a Lim. He may misbehave. He may even do wrong things and commit crimes. But he will always be a Lim and an Australian in the eyes of the law. But he will break our hearts.
In the same way, as a follower of Christ, we may have right standing before God legally as a child of God and as a citizen of heaven. Yet we can break the heart of God when we live unrighteously. Because righteous living is about our day-to-day living. That is the difference between imputed righteousness and righteous living. When we come to Christ, we do not immediately live righteously. We have a journey of spiritually growth to make. We need to walk along the paths that develop our righteousness. God’s intent is to guide us into paths of righteous living. That we may live rightly before God.
Psalm 32:8 (NIV) I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.
Further, I believe that these paths are also intended to develop righteousness in our lives. The more we choose to walk in righteous living, it develops our convictions for righteousness. For we see more the benefits, the joy, the peace, the blessings that comes with righteous living.
Did you realise that there are paths of righteousness? It is in the plural? There is not just one path, but many. There are many ways of doing the right thing normally in all kinds of situations. It is not some kind of rigid, legalistic way of living at all. So, we need not fear about the nature of the paths God will guide us to. It is always paths of righteousness. Paths of right living designed to develop our righteousness. In other words, if we trust God and keep to the principles of God’s Word in the way we live, we can be assured to be on the right paths. For God will guide us unto it and along it.
We need not fear about the nature of the paths God will guide us to. It is always paths of righteousness. Paths of right living designed to develop our righteousness.
Even through the valley of death (v4a) “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”
What is this valley of the shadow of death? Its deeply troubling situations, maybe even potentially dangerous to our lives. The psalmist is speaking of all kinds of trouble, even to the point of facing death. As I mentioned earlier, David faced many life-threatening situations. There can be several reasons why we end up in the valley of death.
We could wander into the valley of death. Perhaps our poor decisions cause us to end up in a valley of death. Yet we need not fear. For God is available to help us find a righteous path through it. No matter how bad, how close to death we may find ourselves, there is always a way of righteousness that God will lead us to.
As long as we are willing to listen to God. He will lead us back to paths of righteousness. Others could push us into the valley of death. We could find ourselves in the valley of death because of the actions of others. Ps. Mapya, our key pastor in the Democratic Republic of Congo was once threatened by a soldier with a gun. As the soldier wanted their money and phones. Unfortunately, it is very much like the wild, wild west in DRC. Instead of giving in to fear, he preached the Gospel to the soldier instead. God moved upon the soldier’s heart and he repented.
God can lead us unto paths of righteousness and leads us out of such valleys. God is saying to us, “Look here is the path of righteousness, walk in it and I will take care of you.” If we trust God and do what is right!
Lastly, God Himself may lead us through the valley of death. Is that too hard to accept? Consider the journey of Jesus on earth, it required Him to go through the cross. To face persecution and finally crucifixion. Jesus went into the valley of death. It was the chosen path that Jesus had to walk. Apostle Paul also had to walk in the valley of death at certain points of his ministry too. If God leads us through the valley of death, it is always for a greater good. It is intended to produce godly character in us.
If God leads us through the valley of death, it is always for a greater good. It is intended to produce godly character in us.
Romans 5:3-5 (NIV) 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us…”
Consider shepherds bringing sheep to another green pasture but must go through the valley of death to get there. The last thing any sheep should do is panic in the valley and run from shepherd. They will surely be exposed to the dangers there. But if the sheep followed the shepherd, they will be kept safe.
The key assurance is that God is always there to guide us along paths of righteousness even through the valley of death. The key perspective is that we need not fear. There is always a way out, God's way, a righteous path.
The key assurance is that God is always there to guide us along paths of righteousness even through the valley of death.
Continued in Part 2 [click]
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