August 13, 2019
What’s your worst fear? When I was in High School, my worst fear was the fear of rejection. I still remember the anxiety that would paralyze me when I tried to pick up the phone and ask a girl on a date. I couldn’t stand the thought of being rejected. It was too much to bear. So, I barely dated in High School.
In College, my greatest fear was of failing. However, that fear helped make me a better student. Each semester I would map out all my assignments, studied hard, pull the occasional all-nighter and eventually my hard work paid off. I never failed a class.
When I went on to in Seminary, my greatest fear was that Jesus might come back before I got married. Then after marrying Becky that fear went away and about a half-dozen others took its place. The worst was the fear that something bad might happen to her.
What’s your worst fear? Is it the fear of being alone? Is it the fear of loosing your nest egg? Is it the fear of loosing your health or loosing a loved one? Is it the fear of not being able to take care of yourself as your body wears out? Is it the fear of loosing your memory or is it the fear of death? What’s your worst fear?
Fears, we have all kinds of them. They are part of everyday life. We all fear failure, we fear rejection, we fear being alone… And we fear EVIL. With these shootings this past week it’s become more and more apparent that evil exists. In fact, evil is having a hey day in our culture today with these mass murders, broken marriages, skyrocketing suicide rates, rampant drug abuse, homelessness, human trafficking, sexual perversion, and the wanton display of malice and hatred everyday, evil just seems to be escalating. And along with this rise in evil comes a rise in depression, anxiety, and yes, fear. But God doesn’t want you to fear evil. He doesn’t want you to fret about it. He doesn’t want you to run from it. God wants you to face evil with the confidence He provides.
That’s what we’re going to look at today from God’s Word. So, if you’ve brought your Bible with you today, let me encourage you to find Psalm 23:4,where David shows us how we can have life without fear. And it begins with
Having Confidence in the Face of Evil David declares,“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”
David was familiar with the valley of the shadow of death. Every shepherd is familiar with the dangers lurking in the shadows. Every shepherd in Israel would take the journey with his sheep from the lowlands, where sheep spend the winter, through the valley’s to the high pastures, where they go in summer. And these valleys were places of rich pasture and much water, but they are also places of danger. There’s danger from the wild animals that lie in wait in the canyon walls. There’s danger from sudden storms that sweep along the valley floors resulting in instant death. And since the sun does not shine into the valley very well, the shadows are literally the shadows of death.
The valley of the shadow of death is a strong metaphorfor life today. None of us are immune from the valley of the shadow of death. Sometimes physical illness confronts us with the shadow. When I was writhing in pain from a kidney stone a couple years back, I understood why people welcome death as a relief from the agony of pain. Sometimes the tragedy of loosing a loved one that confronts us with the shadow. I can’t imagine the pain families in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton are going through today. Sometimes it’s the battles of lifethat beat us down, discourage us and even defeat us.
The truth is thatno one gets through lifewithout having to go through some dark valleys. Ourworld is simply full of evil. As much as we’d like life to always be full of green pastures and quiet waters, the Christian life is not always a mountain-top experience. God does allow us to face difficulties, discouragements and yes, even evil. Why? For one, so He can build character in us– to produce perseverance in us, and make us more like Jesus. And two, so we can learn to trust in Him in the good times and the bad. That’s what we see from David’s life. His life wasn’t always easy. He was the runt of the litter, the youngest and smallest of his brothers, so his dad gave him the lowliest job, that of a shepherd. But God chose David to be King and gave David great early success. David slayed the giant; was given a place in the palace with King Saul; became fast friends with Saul’s son, Jonathan, and became the leader of Israel’s army; an army that was undefeated! And David was praised and highly popular because of his early successes. But what did David learn through all his early success?
Well, the Bible tells us that, In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with Him. 1 Samuel 18:14 David knew the Lord was for him and was with him. His confidence was built on God’s presence, not his own performance. But then life turned ugly for David. Saul got jeaous of David, turned on him, and tried to kill him, so David fled. But God was with Davd as Saul pursued him. David hid in caves and God protected him. David stayed in the wilderness and God protected him. David even lived with the Philistines, for 16 months, but God never abandoned him.
So when David says: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” this is not just a shepherd talking, but an innocent fugitive who lived in the shadows of death for years. And where did his confidence in the face of evil come from? It didn’t come from his resourcefulness, it came from knowing God’s presence with him. The whole time David was on the run, God provided for him, God protected him and God delivered him, over and over again. That’s why David could say, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” So David teaches us something about living without fear, and that is this:
Having Confidence Comes From Knowing God’s Presence “for You are with me” The meaning of this verse hinges on this one phrase. I want you to take note of the change in how David addresses God. At the beginning of this Psalm David says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” now he speaks to God personally. “I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” David knows what it’s like to be content in the Shepherd’s care, now expresses his lack of fear to God Himself. Knowing that God is with Him, frees him from the fear of evil, even death itself. And this is exactly what God wants us all to experience this morning. You can live a life without fear. But in order to do that, you need to experience this same confidence – to believe that God is with you. You need to understand that this always been God’s plan for His people, God’s plan for you!
From the beginning of Genesis straight through to the end of Revelation, God’s plan and desire has been to be with His people. He walked in the garden with the man and the woman and sought to rule over creation “with” them. He came to “be with Moses” and help Moses deliver His people. This was also God’s promise to Joshua when he led Israel into the promised land: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5 He went on to say, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:8 So God was with His people then, and He is still “with us” today.
That’s why God sent Jesus. That’s why Jesus is called, “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” Jesus didn’t come just to take away our sins. He came to make us right with God, “so we could be with God;” so we could fellowship with God; so we could know God personally. That’s what eternal life is! Jesus said, “This is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:4 Right now any one who has been made right with God through faith in Jesus Christ can know God. You can know God intimately. You can experience communion with Him, fellowship with Him, and like David, you can have confidence that God is with you, both now and forever. And you will have the hope of one day seeing God face to face.
That’s always been God’s plan: God’s desire to be with us is what is at the heart of the gospel. And one day when all the pain and evil of this life has passed away we will “be with God” forever. For this is God’s goal for you seen in the celebration that will take place at the end of all things: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.” Revelation 21:3
This is our hope and this is God’s plan for you. If you belong to Him through faith in Jesus, then you can be confident that God is with you. You don’t have to be afraid of anything. Nothing. Absolutely nothing – not death, not the loss of loved ones, not being without someone to care for you. Because God is with you, you can live without fear. This is His promise: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk throughthe fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1–3 So having confidence in the face of evil comes from knowing God is with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you! He will watch over you and protect you. And that’s what we see next:
Having Confidence Comes From Trusting God’sProtection Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. David takes comfort not only from God’s presence, but also from His protection. He is the shepherd who comes alongside of us, and always watches over us. He watches over us to protect us and guide us along life’s path. Here he illustrates God’s protective care by the use of the shepherd’s rod and staff. The rod is the shepherd’s weapon He uses to defend us from the enemies that seek to destroy us. And the staff is the tool he uses to gently guide us to keep us on the right path. And when you understand this about God, this truth will give you great comfort. He’s basically, your body guard in life!
Now, I’ve never been famous enough to have a body-guard or security officer assigned to my side to watch out for and protect me. The closest I’ve ever come to something like was in high school when I had just started dating this girl and was going to take her to a party. No big deal, until her ex-boyfriend found out I was dating her. And when he found out, he told me that if I took her to this party he’d come there and punch my lights out. Well, I wasn’t going to be threatened, so I took her to that party but I also told a few of my friends how this bully had threatened me. Now, that night this bully showed up, but when he did, all of a sudden I had like the entire North Salem football team at my side. And I’ve gotta say, I was no longer afraid. It was pretty comforting and incredibly encouraging to see all these guys who were ready to stand up for me.
And that’s kind of the picture here. Except the one standing up for you, who promises to defend you and protect you is the God of the universe. God’s not only with you, He’s got your back!
And this knowledge should give you comfort in the face of evil, knowing that He is more than able to protect you. Elsewhere David wrote these words echoing God’s protective care: The Lord will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:7-8 We often forget this reality. We forget that God is for us. We forget that God is with us and we forget that God is watching out for us. But when we remember He watches over us we have nothing to fear. Nothing.
So I ask this morning? Do you believe God is with you? Are you trusting that God has your back? Or do you still feel like God is distant? My guess is that you believe God is with you – at least understand He is with you because He says He is with you, but you still live compartmentalized lives – you worship God on Sundays, you pray and read your Bible most days, but when you go throughout your day, its like you leave God in your study – and it’s like He’s not really with you every moment of every day. And if you’re like me, you’d want that to to change. You want to say like David, “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 staff, they comfort me.” And if that’s you this morning, if you want to know life without fear in the presence of God your Savior, then I want to give you a few ways you can go about Cultivating God’s presence in your everyday life:
- Keep your eyes on Jesus: “God With Us” When you see Jesus you see what God is like. You see how He is always for us, how He promises to be with us by His Spirit, and how he defeated sin and death, and evil itself on the cross. So keep your eyes on Jesus by feeding your heart and mind daily in His Word. That’s one way to cultivate God’s presence. Here’s another:
- Pray without ceasing: 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Keeping in constant communion with God through prayer may be the best way to cultivate God’s presence in your life. When you call on God, the Bible says this: The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18 This is a habit anyone can develop. This is a habit that many of the great saints of the past used to cultivate God’s presence in their lives. Pray without ceasing.
- Get intentional about making disciples: Matthew 28:18-20 Look at the promise Jesus gives us when we are intentional about making disciples: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Our vision is “People helping people become friends, family and followers of Jesus.” Who are you helping learn how to follow Jesus? Are you mentoring someone in their faith? Are you sharing your life, your faith with someone who hasn’t yet come to faith in Jesus? You want to experience the presence of Jesus in your life, start obeying the Great Commission.
- Memorize God’s Promises:Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 43:1-3 Sometimes all it takes is to renew our thinking about who God is and what God does, is to hide God’s Word in our hearts. And one of the best ways to do that is to memorize what God’s Word says about His presence with us. I’ve given you two passages to memorize here. The first is Isaiah 41:10 It says, So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Another Scripture your might memorize is Isaiah 43:1-3, or others from this message today: Joshua 1:8; Psalm 121:7-8; Psalm 145:18; or Revelation 21:3. A really great passage on God’s presence with us is Psalm 139. The more God’s Word gets into you, the more you will know He is with you. That’s God’s plan for you – so you can live this life without fear.
You see, in this life, we will have all kinds of fears, but when you know God is with you and is watching over you to protect you, there is nothing to fear. So walk with Jesus, keep you eye on Him, pray without ceasing and know God is with you, and you will live a life without fear. Let’s pray.