Doubt, Faith, and Fear

“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
(Matthew 14:31)

During World War 2 then president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt made a very well timed and profound statement, so well suited for that time and part of it is right during this present time.
“This great nation will endure as it has endured,
will revive and will prosper.
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that
the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

I stated I felt part of FDR’s statement was right for this time, this trial. I have my doubt on the first part of his statement for this present time, but I honestly believe the last part regarding fear.
During this time of government lockdowns and overreach, social distancing and the non-stop fear inducing news stories on tv, radio and social media, many people do not know where to turn. All they know and hear is negative and fear inducing. I have come to appreciate Roosevelt’s statement and understand how right it is for this time.
the only thing we have to fear is fear itself!
Throughout the Bible we read of fear and how some people, sometimes many people, were so overcome with fear they acted irrationally.
Look how many times the children of Israel, through fear, condemned Moses and provoked the Lord. (Numbers 14: 21-23)
During the time of the Exodus the children of Israel saw the hand of God. They saw the plagues against Pharaoh and Egypt, culminating with the death of all the first born of the Egyptians. (Exodus 5-12).
They witnessed the pillar of the cloud move from in front of them at the Red Sea to the rear, shielding them from the Egyptians with darkness but giving them light. (Exodus 14: 19-20). They saw Moses lift his rod and God parted the sea allowing them to cross to safety and then closing it in on the Egyptians. (Exodus 14: 21-28).
They saw manna come from heaven to feed them, (Exodus 16: 14-16), they saw Moses get water from a rock, (Exodus 17: 6). They heard the voice of God at Mt Sinai as He gave the Ten Commandments, (Exodus 20: 1-17), yet they did not harken to the Word of God. They apparently did not believe their eyes or any of their senses. They continued to murmur and complain. None of His actions, as spectacular as they were, seemed to impress them.
As they approached the promised land, God had Moses to select a man from every tribe to scout out the land of Canaan, which the Lord gave to them. After 40 days there, all but two of the men came back with a negative report. They were afraid of the children of Anak, the Amalekites and others who dwelt there even though God was with them.
“And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those that searched the land, tore their clothes. And they spoke to all the company of the children of Israel saying, “The land which we passed through to scout out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord, neither fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.” But all of the congregation said to stone them with stones. (Numbers 14: 6-10).
Ultimately, fear was the reason they spent 40 years in the wilderness wandering, (Numbers 14: 20-38). Was this level of fear warranted? Of the twelve who set out to scout, two had good reports, Joshua and Caleb. They acknowledged it was a beautiful land and that there were formidable people there but, they knew the Lord was for them. They would prevail. The others let their human emotions cloud their vision. Fear controlled them. They had no faith.
If we jump forward about 1477 years we arrive at the time of Jesus’ ministry. He chose twelve disciples that He would teach who would then go out into all the world. Certainly, this personal teaching would allow them to control their fears and human emotions. Personally, seeing the miracles Jesus was performing and hearing His words should have been all they needed. As we will see, not really. Their fears and human reasoning were still intact. They also lacked faith.
Jesus and the disciples were traveling around Caesarea Philippi towards the end of His ministry.
“From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem, and to suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and to be killed, and to be raised the third day.” (Matthew 16: 21; also recorded in Mark 8: 31 and Luke 9: 22).
At this point, there is no indication they even understood what they were just told.
A short time later, while they were traveling to Jerusalem, Jesus again spoke to the twelve.
“And after taking the twelve aside to Himself, He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that have been written about the Son of man by the prophets shall be fulfilled. For He shall be delivered up to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked and insulted and spit upon. And after scourging Him, they shall kill Him; but on the third day He shall rise again. But they understood none of these things, and this saying was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend what was said.” (Luke 18: 31-34; also see Matthew 20: 17-19 and Mark 10: 32-34).
So, here again Jesus tells them of His death and resurrection and they still do not understand. Then two days before the Passover Jesus speaks to His disciples,
“Now it came to pass that when Jesus had finished all these sayings, He said to His disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover takes place, and the Son of man is to be delivered up to be crucified.” (Matthew 26: 1-2).
Once again, no indication the disciples had any clue as to what was pending.
After the Passover meal and before departing for Gethsemane Jesus spoke to His disciples. He gave them a preview of their future lives. How He personally chose each of them, (John 15: 16). How they would be hated by those in the world, (John 15: 19). He told them that He would send them the Comforter from the Father Who will bear witness of Christ, (John 15: 26). He left them with this:
“I have spoken these things to you so that you will not be offended. They shall cast you out of the synagogues; furthermore, the time is coming that everyone who kills you will think that he is rendering service to God. And they shall do these things to you because they do not know the Father, nor Me. But I have told you these things so that when the time comes, you may remember that I said them to you. However, I did not say these things to you at the beginning because I was with you. But now I am going to Him Who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, “Where are You going?” Because I have spoken these thing to you, grief has filled your hearts.” (John 16: 1-6)
Having been with Him from the beginning, seeing the miracles, listening to His Parables and having His truth explained to them, they are still having trouble understanding all of this. Jesus goes on,
“A little while, and you shall not see Me; and again a little while, and you shall see Me, because I am going to the Father.” (John 16: 16).
This seemed to confuse them even more. They could not understand what He was telling them. Throughout these scriptures the disciples are sure Jesus is the Messiah. That He is sent from God the Father and that, in spite of their short comings He has chosen them as His disciples. Why then are they having a hard time with His predictions regarding Himself?
“Therefore they said, “What is this that He is saying, the ‘little while’? We do not understand what He is saying.” (v 18.)
Jesus explained to them.
“Truly, truly I tell you, you shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall be grieved, but your grief shall be turned into joy.” “… you indeed have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and no one shall take your joy from you.” (John 16: 20, 22).
He reassures them and then He tells them,
“Listen, the time is coming, and has already come, that you shall be scattered each to his own, and you shall leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation. But be courageous! I have overcome the world.” (John 16: 32-33).
Now they must be beside themselves. They have travelled with Jesus for three and a half years. They have heard and seen all that He has done. They probably never really understood that someday they would be without Him. They may have thought they all would be together forever.
For that past several months He has been telling them the things that must come to pass concerning Him. They have not fully understood.
Jesus was arrested, scourged and crucified and then put in the grave as He said, so scripture could be fulfilled.
Earlier some of the scribes and Pharisees wanted a sign from Jesus,
“Master, we desire to see a sign from You.” And He answered and said to them, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, in like manner the Son of man shall be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” (Matthew 12: 38-40).
This was an answer to some scribes and Pharisees, and we know it is the only prophecy in the entire Bible that relates to how long Jesus was to remain in the tomb before being resurrected. And it was spoken by Jesus. The disciples should have also heard this. Did they have faith that this would be so?
We saw earlier how Jesus told them they would be scattered and leave Him alone. This happened. He told them several times that He would be crucified and die but He would rise on the third day. Did they have faith? Let’s look at their actions. As the First Day of Unleavened Bread, a Sabbath day, came to an end, Jesus was beginning His second night in the tomb.
“Now when the Sabbath had passed, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought aromatic oils, so that they might come and anoint Him.” (Mark 16: 1).
They bought the oils and spices and returned to the city on the preparation day for the weekly Sabbath, and made them ready.
“And they returned to the city, and prepared spices and ointments, and then rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.” (Luke 23: 56).
Then, as the end of the weekly Sabbath approaches, they went to the tomb.
“Now late on the Sabbath, as the first day of the weeks was drawing near, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to observe the sepulcher.” (Matthew 28:1).
They left and returned later with the oils and spices to anoint Jesus’ body.
“And very early on the first day of the weeks, at the rising of the sun, they were coming to the tomb; and they were asking themselves, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” For it was a massive stone. But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away.” (Mark 16: 2-4; also see Matthew 28: 2, Luke 24: 1-2, John 20: 1).
“And when they entered it, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass while they were puzzling over this, suddenly two men in shining garments stood by them. And as they bowed their faces to the ground, being filled with fear, they said to them, “Why are you seeking the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen: remember when He spoke to you while He was in Galilee, saying, ‘It is necessary for the Son of man to be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and to be crucified, and to arise the third day’?” Then they remembered His words;” (Luke 24: 3-8; also see Matthew 28: 3-6, Mark 16: 5-6).
These women spent a lot of time with Jesus and the disciples. Did they believe what He had been saying? Where was their faith? I’m sure they were going through many emotions. Fear of Him never being with them again was probably right up there. They truly loved Him and would miss Him.
They then leave the tomb and return to the others to relate what they had seen.
“And after returning from the tomb, they related these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James, and the others with them, who told these things to the apostles. But their words appeared to them as idle talk, and they did not believe them. Then Peter rose up and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen clothes lying alone; and he went home wondering about the things that had come to pass.” (Luke 24: 9-12, also see Matthew 28: 7-8, Mark 16: 7-8, John 20: 2-10).
We are familiar with the rest. Jesus appearing to Cleopas and another on the road to Emmaus. They seemed as confused as the others until Jesus finally revealed Himself.
These scriptures also show us that Thomas was not the only doubting disciple. He was just the last to see the resurrected Jesus, so his fear and doubt was still intact.
Here we are seven weeks into a “pandemic”. The levels of frustration and fear are running high. We, as a country, are more sharply divided. Churches are not meeting and their relevance during this time has been downgraded to the status of an unnecessary business. Liquor stores and abortion clinics are deemed necessary, though. Any question on who runs this world?
As good Christians we read our Bibles. We get together every Sabbath for fellowship and studies. We keep all of God’s Holy Days. We search during the week for other studies of God’s word trying to get a deeper understanding and meaning of His word. We want to learn the truth. His truth. We try so hard at times and sometimes it’s like they are only words on a page or even worse, just a jumble of letters with no meaning. Where is our faith?
We started off with a quote from FDR regarding fear. As we have seen through scripture, fear was in the hearts of the children of Israel and the disciples. Faith was not. From just before Passover when His statements began to be more focused, through the next several days until they saw Jesus again, they were in the grip of terrifying fear. They feared losing Jesus. They feared being caught and arrested and being crucified. They had developed a close-knit fellowship and may have been afraid that was going away, also. They had left everything they had to follow Jesus. They may have felt it had been in vain. Fear was ever present those several days. Their faith was failing. Jesus had to know this. He told Mary Magdalene to tell the disciples to meet Him in Galilee. This was a place they could all relate to. They spent a lot of time there. It was a comfortable and reassuring place for all of them.
For the next five weeks, or so, Jesus taught them, and their minds were opened. They were much more prepared for all that lay ahead for them. This was during the count to Pentecost, as we are in now.
Although these times are different, we still have our fears. Are they preventing us from seeing things that are laid out before us? Do you, like the disciples, think you are alone in your fear? Like them, it is hard sometimes to realize that others have gone through similar things. It’s also hard to accept that we aren’t the first ones going through a particular trial. Remember Solomon’s comments?
“That which has been is that which shall be; and that which has been done is that which shall be done; and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1: 9).
What we are going through is nothing new. It’s only new to us. Think back on your parents, grandparents and even great grandparents. Those who were around in the early part of the 20th century. They went through World War 1, a flu epidemic, the Great Depression, World War 2. They endured more than most of us have had to, and they made it. I will add though, there was much more faith then than there is now.
We may have wondered as we read scripture, why didn’t these people get it? Where was their faith? In the Exodus, they saw the glory and majesty of God and for the most part, failed to appreciate it. Why didn’t the disciples seem to be able to grasp what Jesus was telling them? Did they become too comfortable with things? Did they lose all faith in Him and His teachings? We can’t really know. We could speculate, but we don’t have to.
“Afterwards, as they were sitting to eat, He appeared to the eleven and reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.” (Mark 16: 14).
Jesus let them know they should have believed. They should have had more faith in Him and His word than they did. So should we.
“Then He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts come up in your hearts?” “… And He said to them, “These are the words that I spoke to you when I was yet with you, that all the things which were written concerning Me in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24: 38, 44-45).
As members of the Church of God we have been blessed with this same gift. Because of our Sabbath keeping, repentance and Baptism and commandment keeping, Scripture has been opened to us. It is a gift of God, but it can be removed if we do not continue to obey His voice and keep His commandments.
We also have an advantage the disciples did not have. Our guidebook, the Holy Bible in its entirety. The disciples and the early church had the Old Testament. As the apostles began their ministries, they recorded God’s word culminating with The Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Apostle John. We have all of God’s canonized writings to go by, to lead us and guide us.
One of the great things about the Holy Bible is that it chronicles all the wonderful works of God. It also shows us the frailties of His people. Nothing is hidden. We have the good, the great, the miracles, the failures, the trials and the consequences for not obeying. All is there for us to read and learn from.
“In the same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You did hide these things from the wise and intelligent, and did reveal them to babes. Yes, Father, for it was well pleasing in Your sight to do so.” Then He turned to the disciples and said, “All things were delivered to Me by My Father; and no one knows Who the Son is, except the Father; and Who the Father is, except the Son, and the one to whom the Son personally chooses to reveal Him.” And He turned to His disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that have seen the things that you see. For I tell you, many prophets and kings have desired to see the things that you see, and have not seen them; and to hear the things that you hear, and have not heard them.” (Luke 10: 21-24),
Because of the way God has preserved it for us we can do something somewhat unique to our time, we can be a Monday morning quarterback. This is a double-edged sword, though. We can read and critique their actions, but we must be able to be honest with ourselves. When we see ourselves in their short comings, we must correct it.
This is a point we have been going over each week on our way to Pentecost. As we read about the churches in Revelation 2 and 3, we have learned their particular traits and attitudes. Their triumphs and short comings. They had their own traits and examples of the different church era’s over time and can even be traits we see in ourselves. We may even see traits from several of the churches together.
As we read scripture, we will see these, and similar examples and our job is to be able to self-correct if we see them in ourselves. Because we have the Holy Bible, we have everything laid out before us. All of His word. Everything we need to know. The things that He loves and the things He hates. He tells us how to worship Him and how not to worship Him. He tells us and shows us how to love Him and each other.
We are going through individual trials right now as well as this national and global trial. There are some very evil forces at work here. They reveal more of themselves as each day goes by. The infliction of fear is a terrorist trait. We know we have independent free moral agency. Free will. We can choose to be in fear or not. With our guidebook, why would we choose fear? Choose faith. We know the rest of the story!
We have God’s Spirit working in us. We have God’s word. God chose us. We are heirs.
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. Now you have not received a spirit of bondage again unto fear, but you have received the Spirit of sonship, whereby we call out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit itself bears witness conjointly with our own spirit, testifying that we are the children of God. Now if we are children, we are also heirs-truly, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ-if indeed we suffer together with Him, so that we may also be glorified together with Him. For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8: 14-18).
We do not need to doubt. We do not need to fear or be afraid. Unlike most of the country, we have God’s word, His grace and His promises. We have family. We have our fellowship groups. For those who do not have a close group we have options online. God is with us.
God has prepared His written word for His church through the ages. He is revealing more of it to this era because we are closing in on the end times, the end of the age. We need to be more prepared than ever.
As good as FDR’s statement is, I feel Moses had a more fitting response to the children of Israel when he said to them,
“Fear not! Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord which He will work for you today, …” (Exodus 14:13).

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