Key verse:
But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” – Matthew 14:30 NKJV

Dealing with and overcoming fear

All of us have something that we either fear or makes us anxious.  Today, I want to take a look at scripture and see how we can learn to deal with and overcome the things that we fear and makes us anxious.  I am not one who has overcome all of the things I fear, and the things that make me anxious, but I have learned how to at least deal with those things.  I feel that if we are to become our very best person, we must learn how to deal with the things that can keep us from becoming our very best person.

I want to take a look at something that happens in scripture that I feel can help us.  In the book of Matthew, we find that Matthew recounts about a time following Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000.  Following the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus sends the multitude away and tells the disciples to depart to the other side of the sea of Galilee (Matthew 14:22).  Jesus sensed that the multitude was going to try to make Him king, as the disciple John recounted (John 6:15).  Jesus would go back up into the mountain and pray after the multitude and the disciples left Him alone.

By evening, the disciples had made it to the midst (middle) of the sea (Matthew 14:24).  The disciples ended up facing some very tough conditions as they were trying to sail to the other side of the sea.  Both Matthew and John describes tough sailing conditions in their books.  The boat that they were sailing in was being tossed by the waves, and they found themselves sailing against the wind (Matthew 14:24).  John does not go into great detail about what took place in his gospel but Matthew gives us some really good details.

In the fourth watch (3am-6pm), Jesus left the mountain to come to the disciples (Matthew 14:25).  Jesus did not use another boat or some other means of transportation to come to the disciples; He simply walked to them – on water!  Jesus did not drop out of a helicopter nor an airplane (both not available at that time).  I point this out because Jesus walked in the conditions they were struggling to sail in, gave them a head start, and still caught up to them.  I feel that this is how our “struggles” are to the Lord – they give Him no problem at all.  The sight of Jesus, or to the disciples, a ghost, walking on the water gave the disciples a fright.  Scripture (Matthew 14:26) tells us that the disciples cried out in fear!

Have you ever saw or heard something that made you cry out in fear?  Jesus says to them (Matthew 14:27): “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”  The disciples were completely shaken by what they were seeing.  I want to point out to you that these men were fishermen, so an angry wind and waves were not something that would frighten them unless it was severe.  In fact, Mark wrote of another time where Jesus and the disciples were at sea facing a terrible storm and in that story, the disciples were very fearful of that storm (Mark 4:35-41).  What is recorded in Matthew is not that story but a completely different story.

In this account, the disciples were dealing with the storm – the winds and the waves did not have them in fear.  We are like that as well, in that something that may have had you in fear before does not give you such fear because you eventually overcame that fear.  I want you to notice that it was Jesus walking on the water that made them become very fearful (troubled).  Peter, saw himself as the “head” disciple and so when Jesus speaks to them, on the boat, notice that it is Peter who first answers.

I want you to pay close attention to what Peter says to Jesus (Matthew 14:28).  Peter says, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  Notice the first thing Peter says to Jesus. (Not where he calls Jesus “Lord” because he is merely addressing the “spirit” that he and the disciples believe they see.)  Remember, the disciples believe they are seeing a spirit and now the spirit is telling them that it’s Jesus.  The very first true word out of Peter’s mouth is “if”.  I point this out because a side effect of fear is doubt, but we will get to more on that later.

Peter comes down from out of the boat, stands on the water, and walks on the water.  I believe that Peter, at the point of walking on the water, realized that indeed it really was Jesus.  Peter was doing fine so long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, but then Peter noticed the wind and then he became filled with fear and began to sink (Matthew 14:30).  I feel that Peter would have been fine had he not taken his eyes off of Jesus to notice the wind.  I feel that there is a lot of representation in this passage of scripture that we need to discuss.

I want to discuss three things in this passage of scripture that will tie back to us.  First: let’s take a look at Peter and who or what Peter represents.  Peter was, at this point in time, a very impulsive person that would act on his first impulse.  At the same time, Peter was also a man that could be filled with fear; we see it here in this account and we see it again when Peter sliced off the servant’s ear in the garden (John 18:1-10), and we see it again when he was accused of being one of Jesus’ disciples (Luke 22:54-62).  I believe that Peter is very representative of all of us; all of us are very impulsive people who are filled with fear.

Second: I want to focus on a very noticeable place of refuge that we see in this passage of scripture.  I stated before that I don’t believe the disciples were afraid, or as afraid as it is sometimes portrayed, of the wind and the waves during this account.  The reason why I believe that to be the case because in both Matthew and John’s writings, fear is not mentioned until they see what they thought to be a spirit walking on the water.  I also believe the fact that they were in a place of refuge (the boat) that they were somewhat in control of the situation.

For many of us, our home makes us feel safe and it becomes our place of refuge.  We feel that so long as we are in the comforts of our home, there is absolutely nothing to fear.  For others, family and friends become a refuge and they feel that so long as they’re with the people they love, there is absolutely nothing to fear.  There are some who find refuge in their money, and so long as they have plenty of money, there is absolutely nothing to fear.

Third:  the terrible wind and the choppy waves were something I have said they were not fearful of, but they were certainly something outside of them and giving them fits.  I am no sailor, but I do know that sailors don’t enjoy sailing against the wind or in choppy waters.  Problems, things out of our control, is certainly something that can trouble us.  I want to also point out that fear does not always have to be something that frightens you, but fear can also be something that troubles.  We think only one way about fear, but fear actually works in more than one way.

We all have things that frighten us.  We all also have things that trouble us and can trouble us deeply.  These feelings can disturb us so deeply that we will try to put something else on our mind, but the problem with fear is that it is always there until you either learn to live with your fear or overcome your fear.  Again I say, we all have our fears – some minor and some major.

Fear, if it is not dealt with, can hold us back.  I consider where we are as a nation, and a great deal of me feels we should have accomplished a great deal more as a people.  Unfortunately, fear has held us back as a people.  Black men and black women, people of color, have been unable to progress for fear of what they could become.  This reminds me of how the children of Israel were held back, in Egypt, after the death of Joseph.

There’s this myth that we, as a nation, can become great yet I tell you that nobody can become anything if they are ruled by fear.  Fear can also blind you and cause you to live by the fear of your imagination than what is really there.  Living in such a way will not allow you to grow and prosper as a person.  This reminds me of the parable of talents found in Matthew 25.

The third man received one talent.  A talent is a form of money.  Instead of putting the talent to use, this man was fearful of his lord and chose to bury the talent instead of using it – the man was afraid to lose the talent he was given.  One day his lord returned and the man was so relieved to be able to give back the other man his talent.  Yet, his lord was furious with him because the man let the talent sit and waste.  The lord berated the man and told him that he could have at least put it into a bank to allow the talent to occur interest, but the man was so fearful that he did not even consider doing such a thing.

I believe that all of us have a purpose, but many never fulfill their purpose because they allow fear to hold them back.  I believe that the Lord has given all of us a gift, and a purpose for our being, but we allow our fear to hold us back.  Again, notice that the disciples were fearful of Christ walking on the water.  We become fearful of how the Lord is going to work on our behalf at times.  We say, “I don’t know how God is going to do that,” but what’s it to us how God is going to accomplish anything?

I want you to see something: notice what happens when both Jesus and Peter return back into the boat.  Scripture tells us (Matthew 14:32) that when they returned back into the boat, the wind ceased.  I tell you that this is what Jesus can do with our fears (our troubles) – He can cause them to cease.

Turn it over to Jesus

It sounds like old church rhetoric, but I believe turning over your fears to Jesus is how we can best learn to deal with and overcome our fears.  I don’t believe this event to be a mere coincidence, but it occurred for a specific reason that would go on to help teach the disciples, and us, a very valuable lesson.  There is absolutely nothing that the Lord fears and no trouble that the Lord cannot cause to cease.

Soon the disciples would be without Jesus, physically, and they would have to learn to trust in the Lord with all of the fears (troubles).  The disciples would find themselves one day having to be the captain of their own boat in an angry sea.  I say that metaphorically speaking, in that we are also captains of our own boat, sailing in a sea (the world).  The world is certainly a scary place and there are many things to fear in this world, but I tell you that you should have no fear.

God is your refuge and in Him, you have nothing to fear.  David, who was troubled on every side, said that the Lord delivered him from all his fears (Psalms 34:4).  I tell you today, if you trust in the Lord, He will deliver you from all of your fears.  You see, fear can create mistrust between us and the Lord.  Peter, when he was walking on the water, was fine so long as he saw Jesus – he was trusting.  Peter took his eyes off of Christ to look at the wind, his trust was gone, and then he fell due to his fears.  We cannot continue to fail because of our fears holding us back!

I leave you with this scripture:

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

Matthew 7:24-25 NKJV

Christ is our solid rock!


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