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Don’t be afraid


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JN 6:16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

According to our scripture text, the disciples were out one time enjoying what could have been a peaceful boat ride across the lake to Capernaum. Suddenly, the wind started to blow hard, and the waters grew rough. Panic-stricken, the disciples tried to manage the situation by rowing steadily, but apparently, their efforts were in vain. After striving desperately to manage the situation, they suddenly saw Jesus walking on water, coming to their rescue. The disciples did not immediately recognize the Lord. They thought they had seen a ghost, and became even more terrified. They only realized it was Jesus when he finally said, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

What gives this account an interesting twist is the fact that according to the gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and John, this particular incident happened just a few hours after Jesus performed the feeding of the 5,000 — a miracle that literally shook the entire region.
It must have been very frustrating for Jesus to discover that after being witnesses to one of the greatest miracles ever performed by the Lord, his disciples still failed to grasp the real meaning of faith.
How telling this is of the frailty of our faith and understanding of the Lord’s ways. One moment we are in awe of God’s power, and in another moment, we shrink back in the face of fear.
This theological tension of faith and fear, and fear and faith will always be part of our human frailty. This is the glaring reality that we see from our scripture reading. Human as we all are, our faith is so volatile. We constantly need to hear the voice of Jesus telling us, “It is I, don’t be afraid.”

Be still
In spiritual language, stillness is not the absence of action. On the contrary, stillness is putting our faith to work.In the Old Testament (1 Kings 19: 1-12), we read a famous account where prophet Elijah, while in Mount Horeb, waited for the Lord to pass by. If you remember, three things happened: the great wind came, a mighty earthquake came, and finally, there came fire– but in all three, we are told, the Lord was not there.

Where was the Lord? Well, according to the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, the Lord was in the sound of sheer silence.
In an article titled ‘Silence is to Dwell in’ in Christianity Today (Aug. 7, 2000), “Stillness is a kind of silence that is large enough, long enough, and intentional enough to open a sacred space for the Holy One to enter. In other words, stillness, in the truest sense of it, is our ability to accept both what God chooses to do or not to do in our situations.”
You see, the disciples were coming from a very self-serving and dictating concept of faith. After the feeding of the 5,000 when the people saw the power of Jesus, they were even willing to make him King.
You see, they only wanted Jesus for as long as he served their purposes, but the moment they got what they wanted, they leave Jesus behind.
You see, this kind of faith is dangerous and very unsafe. Unfortunately though, this is the kind of faith that the world promotes these days. It is a kind of faith that is making a mockery of God, and his sovereignty upon our lives.
Brothers and sisters, being still can be the hardest thing to do when we are in the thick of crisis or when things are falling apart.
But you see, when all is said and done, there is greater wisdom when we give God the space that he wants to move in our lives.
When God declared his favor upon the Israelites, Moses uttered the Lord’s awesome promise to his people Ex 14:13 “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you …14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Be sure
When Jesus said the words, “It is I”, he was drawing the attention of his disciples away from the rising water, and away from the strong winds. It’s not that Jesus was drawing their attention away from reality of the situation.

On the contrary, Jesuswas bringing them to a right perspective of the problem. But you see, this is the problem when panic sets in.
In my final year in nursing school, our class had to go to a month-long community exposure in an isolated town in Tarlac. My best friend and I were partners one time, and we were conducting our house visits. As we were walking, low and behold, a big, black, wild boar suddenly emerged from nowhere, and it walking toward us. At that moment, my best friend and I were panic-stricken. I could still remember the feeling of sheer fear– your blood just rises to your head, something in your mind just kind of detaches from reality, and you get this impulse to do something really daring but stupid.
This is the problem with panic. Panic often leads us to miscalculate the whole situation. We end up making impulsive decisions that are arbitrary and counterproductive.
It was just sheer grace that the wild boar just suddenly walked away. And when the boar was a few meters away from us, that was the time when we both ran for our lives. That was the fastest run I ever made my entire life. My poor best friend had to massage my legs the whole night!
The key to being sure is perspective. It is the ability to see every situation in our lives from the viewpoint of God’s sovereignty and eternal purposes.
In this life, we will have our share of strong winds and rough waters. But as always, Jesus leads us back to safe shores. It may take a while for us to be rescued. It may take some time for the storm to quiet down.
And so while in the midst of it all, while our boat is being pounded from all sides, and while the strong winds refuse to stop, we, the people of God, resolve to be still, and to be sure, holding ever so strongly on to the sweet words of Jesus, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

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