“Why Are Ye So Fearful?”

Late on Christmas eve last year a pickup truck, having gone out of control on a snow-covered and slippery stretch of M-50 slid off the highway and overturned in the ditch. No one witnessed the accident. A few cars did pass that way during the next quarter of an hour or so, but, with nothing to draw their attention to the wreck in the darkness off the side of the road, the passersby were unaware of the plight of the young couple trapped inside the truck. At length however a motorist happened to see skid marks in the snow, and then turned his head in time to catch a glimpse of the truck’s taillights in the ditch below. If he had not decided to stop and investigate, the occupants of the truck may not have survived the accident, for he found them both trapped in their vehicle — the driver unconscious and the passen­ger with her head stuck between the roof and the door. Within a short time, however, they were both in an ambul­ance on their way to the hospital.

Both the rescuer and the rescued, according to the newspaper account, later allowed that God must have “played a major role in the rescue.”

Many years ago, there was a small boat caught in a fierce storm on the Sea of Tiberias in Palestine. The men who manned the oars were veterans of the sea. being fishermen by trade. They were therefore no strangers to the sudden squalls which were common on that lake. It lay in a deep basin surrounded by hills which, particularly on the western side, were intersected by narrow gorges. Through those gorges the wind would sometimes sweep toward the sea, raising the waters very quickly into a violent storm. The fishermen were therefore not immediately alarmed when, in the darkness of this particular night, they found it necessary to contend with the sea. But the storm gradually intensified, to the point where it was anything but an ordinary squall. The fishermen struggled valiantly to maintain some kind of control of the vessel, but it began to appear that the cause was lost. Towering waters were beating into the ship, and the men had all they could do simply to hold on. At any moment, they feared, the waters would close over them. Death therefore stared them in the face, and their hearts were gripped with cold terror.

What is “peace”? More particu­larly. what is the “peace” which is part of the fruit of the Spirit of which Galatians 5 speaks? John Calvin, in commenting on this passage, contrasts this peace with quarrels and contentions. It is the peace, therefore, which should characterize our relationships with one another. We must, as the apostle Paul admonishes elsewhere, “be of one mind” and “live in peace” (II Cor. 13:11). “Be at peace among yourselves,” Paul says in II Thessalonians 5:13.  There is. however, also the peace of which Isaiah speaks, in chapter 26, verse 3: ‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusted in thee.” Jesus must have had in mind something similar when He said to His disciples, “My peace I give unto you” (John 14:27); and, again, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace” (John 16:33). It is a “peace of God, which passeth under­standing” (Phil. 4:7). A peace it is, therefore, which leaves no place for anxiety or fear or distrust of divine provision.

Both are fruits of the Spirit. Both belong to those gifts which we are encouraged to covet. And both are exemplified clearly by Christ Himself. For our purposes in this article, however, let’s concentrate on the latter, on the peace of mind which can be contrasted with an anxious, troubled spirit. Christ, we say, exemplified that peace. To see that, let’s return to that storm on the Sea of Tiberius (also known as the Sea of Galilee). Interest­ingly Jesus was in that boat that was being pitched about on the waves. We are able therefore to see how He carried Himself in the very circum­stances which, as we have just seen, brought terror to the disciples. We notice, to begin with, that while the disciples were striving mightily to keep their vessel afloat, Jesus lay sleeping, unmindful of the raging storm which, to the practiced eye of the seamen, threatened the very lives of those who were overtaken by it. Prior to His entering that boat, Jesus had been preaching all day, and, because He possessed a weakened human nature (like unto ours in all things save one), he was, to put it simply, exhausted. He made Himself as comfortable as He could in the boat therefore, and before the rhythmic rowing of the disciples had gotten them very far from shore, our Lord must have fallen fast asleep.

It was to the liking of the disciples, of course, that Jesus’ rest was not immediately disturbed by the rising of the storm, for they wished to spare Him whatever trouble they could. But as time went on they could only have been dumbfounded that such an uproar as this had not yet awakened Him. And, as it became apparent that their heroic efforts to ride out the fury of this storm were to no avail, their wonder must have changed to consternation that Christ could be so apparently unmoved by their common peril. “Master, master,” they finally cried, “carest thou not that we perish?

With that, Jesus awoke of course; but His disciples were in for further surprises. The first must have come even before Jesus opened His mouth to utter a single word. It was in His bearing. Where they would have expected a look of startled surprise at what they perceived to be a terrible danger, they saw not so much as a trace of anxiety. Christ was totally unruffled by that which had struck terror into their own hearts. Further, and perhaps at the moment far more profound surprise, came for the discip­les when, by a word to the wind and to the waves, Jesus effected an immediate calm. Very likely the disciples won­dered about the connection between the two — that is, between His power over the waves on the one hand, and His quiet serenity on the other. The former, they would conclude, is the cause of the latter. Knowing as He did that the wind and the waves were subject to His command, He had never felt threatened by the storm. That they had been alarmed, however, was to be expected, for they were at the mercy of the waves. So might they have reasoned. But then came the biggest surprise of all. For. after Jesus had stilled the storm (see Mark 4:39, 40), He turned to His disciples and asked, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?’’

More faith they should have had in Christ, of course. He had, prior to this time, plainly laid claim to divine Sonship. That He had dominion over the “powers of nature’’ should there­fore have come as no surprise at all to them. Besides, they had surely believ­ed that He was the Christ, the anointed of God. Was it even remotely possible that He, and they, who constituted His church at that time, be swallowed up by the sea? Where was their faith?

But there’s more. The question was not, “Why were ye so fearful. . . when you knew that I was right here with you in your boat?” Simply this: “Why are ye so fearful?” The truth of the matter is that they had no reason to be fearful. . .whether Jesus was in that boat or not. The same sort of calm repose which they had seen in their Master should have been theirs. “Be like Me” — that is what Jesus was telling them. They should take Him as their model. To be sure, they knew that they were in the care of their heavenly Father. And surely they would have been quick to agree that every circum­stance of their lives is determined in God’s counsel and will serve their good. Nevertheless they were afraid, or, more accurately, panic-stricken in this time of “danger”. And to be that was to deny what they would otherwise profess with their mouths. Their faith failed; and by their unbelief they were depriving themselves of the peace, the perfect peace, which ought to charac­terize the life of the child of God.

How like us! Are we ever anxious about our daily bread — i.e., about our employment, our health our wages the rent or mortgage, the economy, money. . .? The Master strictly, imperatively, urgently requires trust. Do we ever fear impending catastro­phes? The Lord says, trust.

No child of God need pass beyond the door of his own house to find abundant reason for an all-encompass­ing peace in the confidence of divine provision for all his needs. But, if we do look beyond that door, let’s consider the Master’s own illustrations. When you read these lines, the miracle of spring will be upon us. But think of those long cold winter months which are past. The birds of the air, on an earth covered with 1 mantle of snow, by the providence of God somehow managed to find their garments and their food and their songs. Today they make melody in a world fragrant and beautiful with flowers. And the frag­rance, the beauty, and the melody all combine to rebuke us — “O ye of little faith.”

Do we think perhaps that the disciples had less reason to fear than do we. because they, after all, had Jesus with them in the boat? But. . . are we not convinced of the sincerity of Christ in one of the last of His words of comfort to the disciples, and therefore to the church: “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the ends of the world” (Matt. 28:20). Or do we, by our anxiety in time of trouble, call into question Jesus’ control of the elements, and of the storms of life? His own testimony, however, is this: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18). Do we ever wonder about His readiness to use that power on our behalf, wretched sinners that we are? But, we need only read the word of God to His church already in the old dispensation. To a people who had been given over into the hands of their enemies because “they would not walk in his ways” (Is. 42:24), God declared, “Fear not, for I have redeemed thee. . . . When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee” (Is. 43:1, 2). And what does it all mean? Simply this: We have no reason to fear. If we had faith as the grain of a mustard seed, we would have the peace which comes from the knowledge of perfect security.  To the ungodly there is no consolation in the knowledge that the future is in God’s keeping. Nor is there much comfort in allowing, as did the occupants of that pickup truck, that God plays “a major role’’ in important events in our lives — for that leaves room for a whole lot of anxiety for the part, be it ever so little, which is not played by God. But for the child of God, who has learned to place all of his trust in his heavenly Father, no other solace is needed. Neither life’s storms nor it petty problems will unsettle the childlike confidence of one who has found blessed peace in abiding under the shadow of the almighty. The Lord is our God. In Him we find an ever present help in every time of need — barring none.