And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to [him,] and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!Matt. 8:23-27
The Omnipotent God
Stories of faith overcoming fear are often an inspiration to our walk of faith. In this story from scripture, there is little wonder that Jesus was in a deep sleep after the many events that took place leading up to these circumstances. After delivering his lengthy message of teaching and preaching to the multitudes, known as the sermon on the mount, he then healed a man with leprosy, then healed a centurion’s servant grievously tormented from the palsy (paralytic affliction), then healed Peter’s mother in law from a fever, and thereafter healed many that were possessed of devils by casting out the spirits from them.
We shall see in the next study an account of further healing as he arrives on the other side of the sea but until then, let us consider what stands out from this week’s scripture reading. Here, his disciples once again followed him into the ship and while it is common for inclement weather to cause adverse boating conditions, it did not alter the sleep of Jesus. But then, this remarkable reaction takes place from his disciples in waking him up to rescue them. Jesus demonstrated his omnipotent power by rebuking the winds and the sea, with nature itself obeying him. Clearly, this was an incredible miracle, resulting in the disciples asking, “…what manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!”
Fear and Faith
Encompassed in this event of facing fear through faith is a statement from Jesus to his disciples, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? ” Given that faith is of central importance to believers, this will then become the subject hereon for this week’s study. It is notable that Jesus phrased the word fear, or fearful, with little faith. The implied correlation is that fear will adversely affect a person’s faith. Early origins of this were recorded in a vision from the Lord to Abram, “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I [am] thy shield, [and] thy exceeding great reward.” [Gen. 15:1]
A similar occurrence of overcoming fear through faith took place in a vision from the Lord to Jacob, “And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here [am] I. And he said, I [am] God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation.” [Gen. 46:2-3] During the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses also conveyed a message from the Lord as recorded, “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.” [Ex. 14:13]
Fear the Lord thy God
As a general statement, the Lord commanded the Israelite people to fear only one thing and that was the Lord himself. This comprised the collective approach for the people of the Lord to live as documented in the Old Testament, “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? ” [Deut. 10:12-13]
Other notable records from scripture also document the nature of fearing the Lord such as from King David, “The LORD [is] my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD [is] the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” [Ps. 27:1] One of the notable ancient prophets also expressed comparable commandments from the Lord by saying, “Fear thou not; for I [am] with thee: be not dismayed; for I [am] thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” [Is. 41:10]
Noting a few other verses, the writings of David also tend to give a degree of measure of the magnitude of the Lord’s mercy for those who fear him, “For as the heaven is high above the earth, [so] great is his mercy toward them that fear him.” [Ps. 103:11] In the New Testament, Paul the writer of several letters to believers, helped to instill this premise of overcoming fear through faith with this memorable verse, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” [2 Tim. 1:7]
The apostle John similarly expressed this same message of overcoming fear through faith to believers in one of his letters by saying, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” [1 John 4:4] With all of these notable references from scripture on the importance of having a fear of the Lord in humility and devout obedience, perhaps this is now time to consider the other part of the phrase expressed by Jesus from this week’s scripture reading, “O ye of little faith.”
Live by Faith
The first reference to the word faith is recorded about the Israelites dating back several centuries before Jesus. Unfortunately this scripture though was indicative of the lack of faith and its resulting consequence, “And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end [shall be:] for they [are] a very froward generation, children in whom [is] no faith.” [Deut. 32:20] It is most notable that the word faith however is only recorded twice in the Old Testament but the second one affirms the importance of it as being integral for being just, or in other words, having a right standing before God, “…the just shall live by his faith.” [Hab. 2:4] Readers of the Bible will see this verse also comes up in the New Testament in both Rom. 1:17 and Heb. 10:38.
As Jesus went through town after town, he often remarked about the faith of people in one of two ways. It was either an expression of little faith (Matt. 6:30, 14:31, 16:8) or of great faith (Matt. 8:10, 9:2, 29, 15:28, 17:20), providing just a few examples from scripture. At times, he compared faith to the size of a mustard seed in that if one had just that amount of faith, they would indeed have faith tantamount to moving mountains, “And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” [Matt. 17:20]
Of particular interest in this verse is the noted antithesis of overcoming fear through faith and that is unbelief. Perhaps this is why Jesus shortly after that posited this next question on faith, since there was likely an evident absence of it already prevalent during his earthly ministry, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” [Luke 18:8]
Spirit of God
To recap thus far on overcoming fear through faith, the importance of having a godly fear of the Lord is of paramount importance to building one’s faith. The key point on this for believers in Christ is the acknowledgement that this is indeed the Spirit we have already received as shown above, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” [2 Tim. 1:7] Early believers in Christ were notably obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7) and continued in the faith (Acts 14:22). From there, the early disciples and apostles wrote to believers urging them to stand fast in the faith (1 Cor. 16:13), to walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7) and to live by faith (Gal. 2:20). Further to this is the acknowledgement that the fruit of the Spirit includes faith as one of its derived benefits for believers (Gal. 5:22).
All these come about however by realizing the truth in Paul’s proclamation about salvation in Christ as he says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” [Eph. 2:8] The sole reason for this is because the righteousness of God comes through faith as Paul expressed, “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.” [Rom. 3:21-22]
This is how believers are justified, by faith, as Paul continues his inspiring message, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” [Rom. 3:28] And for most people, this faith comes by hearing the word of God as Paul continued in his letter, “So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” [Rom. 10:17] The word of God therefore must be shared with people who are seeking a right relationship with God; one that is based on faith and built on faith in what the Lord Jesus Christ did for them by his atoning work in his death, burial and resurrection. This is the start of overcoming fear through faith versus people thinking they can magically apply a Bible verse to their dilemma of fear in their life.
Justified by Faith
To close off this Bible study on overcoming fear through faith, as believers, we are then justified by faith, and from there, comes the much needed peace in life as Paul writes further, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [Rom. 5:1] Always remember that your faith must stand in the provision God has for you, since God is the God of peace (Heb. 13:20], “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Therein lies the true power to overcoming fear through faith and to build your faith upon a firm foundation.” [1 Cor. 2:5]
There are many other verses worthy of reference for overcoming fear through faith because in reality, what other faith exists on this earth for believers other than from the Lord Jesus Christ. In scripture, our faith is described, as a shield (Eph. 6:6), and a breastplate (1 Thess. 5:8), where we are kept by the power of God through faith (1 Pet. 1:5) and where our faith is described as the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4).
It is therefore with sincere prayer that readers, whether believers, or seekers of faith, will see that there is really only one author of such an incredible faith as proclaimed in scripture from Heb. 12:2, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” [Heb. 12:2]
Bible Study Questions
- In this study on overcoming fear through faith, if you were one of the people in the boat when Jesus performed this incredible miracle, what would have been your reaction?
- What are the two key words in the response from Jesus to his disciples while in the boat?
- Do you think fear has to do with our fallen sin nature or is it simply a natural emotion that we have in life?
- Who are we instructed to fear in life and why? Hint Deut. 10:12-13.
- In Hab. 2:4, what do you think it means when it says, “the just shall live by faith”? Hint Heb. 10:38-39, Rom. 8:38, Rom. 5:1.
- In the section, Spirit of God, name four things we are to do by faith as noted in the first paragraph.
- In Eph. 6:6, faith in God is described as a shield, true or false?
- Bonus question! What is one thing you can do today as part of facing fear through faith?