Do Not Be Afraid

This sermon was preached by Dr. Brent Beasley at Rising Star Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas on June 24, 2018.

Jesus never says, There is nothing to be afraid of. That storm in the Sea of Galilee was fearsome, no doubt, just like the “wind and waves” that threaten us sometimes. Jesus does not say, There is nothing to be afraid of.

What he says is, Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith.

Think about the difference. Imagine a familiar scene. A child wakes up in the dark of night, terrified at some dream that has disturbed her child-like sleep, frightened of some ghost in the bedroom closet or some monster under the bed.

Her father hurries into the bedroom, scoops up the little one into his arms, and sits down in a chair. He rocks her gently, and he whispers what a thousand fathers and mothers have whispered since the beginning of time: Shhh. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

The question those comforting words raise is this: Is the father telling the whole truth to his child? Is there really nothing to be afraid of?
[Michael Lindvall, “Pastoral Perspective,” Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 3, p. 166]

The truth is that storms do come. The truth is that there are fearsome things in this world.

This past week in our nation we have been focused on the children of immigrants who were separated from their families on our border. We’ve seen pictures of fearful, crying children. We’ve heard recordings of children crying in one of the holding centers. We’ve heard about what they were calling “tender age” holding areas where they were taking babies who have been separated from their parents.

Look, I don’t know what the answer is to all of the immigration issues we have to deal with on our border. But setting all that aside for a minute, can you imagine. if, for whatever reason,
you were desperate enough to travel with your
children to another country, and
you were stopped by authorities near the border,
and they took your children away from you.

And you didn’t know where they were except that maybe they were crying themselves to sleep every night in some sort of government holding facility. And they didn’t know where their parents were. And you had
no power,
no money, and
no ability
to do anything about it.

Imagine the feeling of unspeakable panic and desperation.

We wouldn’t say to a frightened child who is in a foreign country, separated from his parents, There’s nothing to be afraid of.

Jamie has a friend she went to school with who died last year. He left behind his wife and a young child. Yesterday morning we woke up to the news that his wife had died yesterday. We wouldn’t tell that you child who has lost both of his parents in a year, There’s nothing to be afraid of.

Let’s not say, There’s nothing to be afraid of. That’s not what Jesus said. The reality is there are many, many fearsome things in this world. We know this. We experience this:
losing one’s job,
money problems,

Jesus didn’t say, There’s nothing to be afraid of. What Jesus did was question why we are afraid. Jesus said, Why are you afraid? Where’s your faith?

Saying, There’s nothing to be afraid of is a very different thing than saying, Don’t be afraid.

What the gospel is trying to help us to understand is that even though these fearsome things are very real, they do not have the last word. They do not have ultimate power over us, because reigning over this world of fearsome things is a God who is mightier than all of them, and that God is with us. The worst things are never the last things.

Time and time again, as Lindvall points out, the word we get from the Bible is, Do not be afraid. You might say it is the first and last word of the gospel. It is the word the angels speak announcing Jesus’ birth to the terrified shepherds: Do not be afraid. And it is the word spoken at the tomb when the women discover it empty: Do not be afraid.

It’s not because there are no fearsome things on the sea of our days, not because there are no storms or fierce winds or waves, but because God is here in the boat with us.

And we know the truth that
“neither death
nor life,
nor angels,
nor rulers,
nor things present,
nor things to come,
nor powers,
nor height,
nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Not the storm, not the wind, not the waves. Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.