Since the beginning of time God has offered humanity His presence as the antidote to fear.
I was in the Philippines, enjoying lunch with friends in a restaurant overlooking a beautiful lake with a dormant volcano crater in the middle. Suddenly, we saw a small cloud of steam appear over the crater that kept growing bigger until we realized that the Taal Volcano had just woken up from its long slumber. By the time we got home, it was raining ash! Within hours everything was covered by a thick layer of gray volcanic ash.
This was the beginning of a Week of Prayer entitled “Blessed Assurance,” at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies. It turned out to be one of the most memorable ones I have ever participated in.
This was not by far the only unexpected crisis of 2020. Volcanoes, tornadoes, the coronavirus pandemic—and all of this packed just in the first half of the year! At a time like this, how can we live with “untroubled hearts”? Can we experience God’s peace while facing volcanoes, floods, tornadoes, fires, emotional turmoil, and pandemics? Let me share the four P’s that focus on who God is and why we can choose faith over fear.
Throughout history God’s people have faced insurmountable problems, yet God has repeated time after time: “Do not fear, for I am with you” (Isa. 41:10, NIV). Since the beginning of time God has offered humanity His presence as the antidote to fear. God spoke these comforting words to Abraham, Joshua, David, Isaiah, and many other biblical characters. He promised His presence to His people to the very end. Jesus Himself reminds us, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Why is His presence so important?
His presence is not only comforting but also powerful. When the people of Israel were camped by the Red Sea with no place to hide and saw Pharaoh and his army approaching them, they were terrified. But God reassured them through Moses that He would act powerfully on their behalf to bring deliverance. “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. . . . The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Ex. 14:13, 14).
This was the same message that King Jehoshaphat received centuries later as he faced a sudden fear-inspiring invasion (2 Chron. 20:17). Throughout the Bible we see God’s powerful presence bringing deliverance to His people in His way and in His time. I often wonder what it would have been like to be in the boat with Jesus on the Lake of Galilee, to be in the middle of the sudden storm, and to hear His words: “Why are you so afraid?” (Matt. 8:26, NIV), followed by a perfect calm after He had rebuked the winds and the waves. I imagine the disciples thinking, Yes! Why were we afraid? Jesus is with us, and He has power over everything!
But how can we be assured of His powerful presence with us at all times?
Many people live in fear, believing that they must do something to deserve and earn the presence of God in their lives. True assurance, however, comes to us only through His Passion. And I don’t mean here the fact that God is passionate about us, even though He is, or that He feels compassion for us, even though He does. I am referring to the Passion of Jesus, His death on the cross for each one of us. He was punished for our sins so that we may have eternal life. He received what we deserve that we might receive what He deserves (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). He purchased our peace: “The punishment that brought us peace was on him” (Isa. 53:5, NIV).
When we accept Jesus as our personal Saviour and Lord, nothing—no trouble, no hardship, no catastrophe, no sickness, not even death—can separate us from God’s love through Christ (Rom. 8:31-39). We can live with the assurance of His grace and powerful presence with us every day until the very end. We can be fearless about the future because we know Him who told us how the story ends!
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. . . . I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3). The blessed assurance of His promise! The dis- ciples had received the bad news that Jesus was going away, and that at this time they could not follow Him (John 13:33, 36). They had obviously become fearful and anxious, because the following chapter begins with the comforting words of Jesus: “Let not your heart be troubled.” They were fearful and distressed, and Jesus gave them a reason not to be. They could choose faith over fear and believe in Him! Jesus had a plan; He was going to accomplish it and come back for them! He was going to prepare a home for them.
Jesus knew that His disciples would experience difficult circumstances. But He invited them to believe in Him, to believe in His promise that He would return for them and live with them eternally.
Every follower of Jesus can claim this promise, for we know how the story ends: Jesus wins! We’ll be with Him—forever. In the last book of the Bible we are reminded that the antidote to fear is the crucified and risen Christ. He holds the keys of death. He was there at the beginning and will be there at the very end: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rev. 1:17, 18, NIV).
So, can we face difficulties with “untroubled hearts”? Can Jesus’ followers experience His peace while facing volcanoes, floods, tornadoes, fires, emotional turmoil, and pandemics? Absolutely yes! Why? Because His presence and His power are assured through His Passion to all who eagerly believe in His promise.