The Fearlessness Of Faith

June 17, 2001 / No. 3050

Dear radio friends,

A very precious portion of the Word of God is our meditation for today: Psalm 27:1, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” No doubt when you hear that Word of God, you immediately sense that there is something extremely victorious and freeing in those words, something far beyond anything that the world knows or can give, something that is to be found in God alone.

This confession which we just read in Psalm 27:1 would set us above all that we experience in this present life, above all that we would see as being against us. It would challenge anything in the future to shake us. It would infuse us with a strength not of ourselves. The Lord is the strength of my life!

What is important for us to know is that this Scripture was not written for David alone. David is the author, the inspired writer, of Psalm 27. But it was not his confession alone. It is the confession of all those who by grace belong to God and walk by faith; those who know their own unworthiness and sin and know the power of their salvation in Jesus Christ.

The exact time in which David wrote Psalm 27 is not known. Beyond all doubt, when you read the Psalm you discover that it was a time in David’s life of great trouble and suffering which was not unique for David. Some speculate that perhaps it was written during his youth, when he fled from Saul. Others say, No, it more properly fits those years of his mid-life when he was coming to the throne over all the tribes of Israel, confronted by many troubles, and when his parents died. There are others who say that it more likely belongs to his old age, perhaps after that wonderful deliverance from the sword of the giant when Abishai drew the giant aside and killed him, and afterward the men of Israel said to David, “Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel.” Little does it matter what time it was in David’s life. What is important for us is to see that it was a time of trial, danger, suffering, loss, slander, evil pressing in upon him all around. That is important because the power of a God-given faith comes out only in the way of trial.

… the power of a God-given faith
comes out only in the way of trial.
An obvious lesson that is, but an important one for each of us to know. Trials, testings, difficulties, problems – these all serve the purpose of God to reveal His work in us. It pleases God to subject our faith to trial. It must be so now in this life. God leads us in ways of trial, struggle, trouble in order, as we read in I Peter 1, that our faith might be found to the praise and glory of God. There are your personal trials and fears, family burdens, feelings of inadequacy, sorrow over what has happened. There is the knowledge of your sins. There is the scene of your loved ones in sickness or your dear, precious loved ones walking in ways of ungodliness and rebellion. God leads us in ways of testing. He leads us in ways of struggle because it is exactly in that way that God strengthens our faith in order that faith might be shown to be the work of God and thus might be shown to be the victory which overcomes the world, as we read in I John 4.

That was a very bold question that David asks and that we ask with him: Whom shall I fear? Of whom shall I be afraid? And we ask, “How can we say that?” For the question includes not only the present but the future. And we certainly do not know what awaits us in the will of God. How can we say, “Whom shall I fear? Of whom shall I be afraid?” This statement, you understand, is a statement of undaunted courage, of confidence in any and all circumstances. Later on, in verse 3 of the psalm, David says, Though an host shall encamp against me, my heart shall not fear…. My heart! There are some who can control their outward reactions and do not flinch. They are composed under fire. They rein in their emotions by a force of will. But the heart? How can one tell his heart not to fear? Is this, perhaps, the boast of ignorance? Is it the boast of vanity, a vain, human boast? Was it because there was nothing at that time for David to fear? Is this boast made, perhaps, only in days when spiritually the sun is shining? We answer to all of that, obviously, No. Absolutely not. This bold question, “Whom shall I fear?” is not spoken from the imaginary rock of self-confidence. There is that in the church. Sometimes you will hear the boast of one who is courageous enough when there is no enemy in sight, when there is no cost, no ridicule, no suffering. But when cost, ridicule, and suffering approach, the voice is silent. Church history shows us that there were those who were heroes in word when there was no heroism called for. But when the scaffold was built and the fires were kindled, they soon joined the ranks of the enemy. That is very important. Sometimes you see in the church those in the days of their youth saying, “I will not be so dumb as to drink. I will not follow along with the crowd. I will stand up, I’ll make the right decisions.” But then there is that moment of pressure. Then there is that car full of young people and someone has brought along the beer and suddenly the confession of faith is silent. Each one of us can be very quick to criticize the falls and spiritual weakness of others. But we are very slow to recognize the cowardice and the weakness that is within ourselves.

Church history shows us that there were those
who were heroes in word
when there was no heroism called for.
No, this bold question is not asked on the ground of any imaginary self-confidence. Let us look at the life of David a moment. When he spoke these words and wrote this psalm, it was very plain that David was in a way of deep struggles. He felt, first of all, the spite of spiritual enemies. He says in verse 2, “When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.” That is very graphic language. He says his enemies were carnivorous about his life. They feasted on anything that would bring him down. They relished seeing him in trouble. They thirsted for his blood. Have you ever experienced something like that – such an intolerance, such a contempt of you, such a scorn for you as one who belongs to Christ that your enemies would like nothing more than to eat you up? That was David’s experience when he said, “Whom shall I fear?”

Still more. He was struggling with experiencing the presence of God: verse 9. He prays to God, “hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.” Under the strains and hardships that God had willed for him in his life, David began to think that perhaps God was not pleased with him anymore and that God was going to put him away in anger. Have you ever experienced those thoughts? David did.

Still more. We learn from the psalm that at this time David was experiencing a profound personal loss: When my father and my mother forsake me, he says in verse 10, then the Lord will take me up. He does not refer there to the abandonment of himself in the divorce of his parents. He is likely referring to their final parting in death. In the death of one’s parents one feels an orphan, as a ship cast off from harbor, reminded of the loneliness of this human life all of itself. David says, “The Lord will take me up. The Lord will supply at that moment my deepest psychological, emotional, spiritual needs. By faith I will not lack.” David, when he asked, Whom shall I fear? was experiencing the reality of this life of trouble and sorrow, as one who confessed the name of God.

If we are to make this verse ours, by grace through faith, then we have to reckon equally with the experience of the child of God in this world. I would have you note that the question is: Whom shall I fear? Not what, but whom. That is, David envisions not blind forces against him but intelligent, cunning, plotting enemies against him. In the Word of God there are three such enemies.

There is the devil, that fearless opponent, that tireless opponent, that one who is the insane hater of God and all that is the work of God, and therefore your sworn enemy in the confession of Christ. He wants nothing so much as to move you away from those things which you have been taught in Christ. He wants you to live your life nodding your head outwardly towards His truth, going through your spiritual life with a non-committal attitude, a mere superficial attachment to Him and to His church. He wants you to begin to think that the things of the Word of God and of the church are merely narrow, stilted, inadequate things. And he lures you away from them.

There is, secondly, the wicked world. And the world is to be feared today. It is to be feared exactly because the world says to the Christian, “There is nothing to fear. There are no problems, there are no evils, there are no consequences for your actions. Don’t be afraid about what’s going to come of this or that action. You live outside of marriage; you have children with different partners; you buy on credit cards. Well, don’t look down the road. There is just you and the pleasures right now. It’s wrong,” says the world to you and to me, “it’s wrong for you to be held accountable and to be responsible for your actions. To have to pay for your actions? To have to deny yourself something? Oh, that’s horrible.” That is the world. It says, “Don’t fear.”

If you do not fear your sinful flesh as your full-time and number-one enemy, then you are deceived.
And then there is our sinful flesh. That is enemy number three and that is enemy number one! That is our biggest enemy. If you do not fear your sinful flesh as your full-time and number-one enemy, then you are deceived. If you do not fear sin in you, it is because you do not know it in you. You do not reckon with what kind of a person you are and the power of sin within you.

Now, in the light of these three enemies: the devil, the world, our sinful flesh; in the light of the fact that it pleases the Father now through many trials to test our faith; how is it possible to make this bold question ours: “Of whom shall I be afraid, whom shall I fear?” Is it possible?

The answer is decidedly “Yes!” The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? There is a solid reason. David does not just shout out the question. But he knows someone personally, Jehovah, the God of salvation. The reason that he can make this statement is his experiential knowledge of God, who He is, and an experience of who God is to him. The great object of our faith is God. Jehovah is my light and my salvation! Saving faith is a knowledge of God. The knowledge of God brings the absence of fear. The counsel of the Word of God to us is, “If you are to be free from fear, if you are to know the slightest measure of confidence and courage and repose and solace of heart, you must know Him. You must know Jehovah, the I AM THAT I AM.” That is the whole Bible. Jeremiah 9:23, 24 puts it so powerfully: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me.”

The object of your study and your growth as a child of God is not man and it is not how you feel. The object of your spiritual life is not your feelings, to be in touch with your feelings. That is not number-one priority of the spiritual life. But the number-one priority of the spiritual life is to know God truly, to know God thoroughly, to know God in faith, to know Him reverently, to know Him with unreserved trust, with obedience and love. Jehovah is my light and my salvation. The I AM THAT I AM is my strength, the eternal, the trustworthy, the faithful, the immutable, the unchangeable God, the God who cannot lie, the God in whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning, the God who has spoken and shall He not do it? The God who is the same from everlasting to everlasting – we cannot take it in. All we know is change and decay. Look around you. Look at yourself. What is stable? What is trustworthy? Nothing, except Jehovah.

Jehovah is the same in power, purpose, love, and mercy. The I AM THAT I AM, Jehovah, is my light. It is especially that attribute of God’s faithfulness, God’s unchangeableness, which warms our soul and draws us to Him. It is also that attribute which wicked men despise the most. Wicked men grit their teeth when they hear of Jehovah that He is righteous, holy, and just. But they are infuriated when they hear that He ever abides so; that His name is Jehovah (I change not); that He is and ever shall be righteous, holy, and just; that there shall be no compromise of the divine unto the level of man; that He is God forever. Wicked men tremble and hate it. Oh, but we love it. This is our strength, our light, our salvation. Our God remains forever the same, in love, purpose, mercy, wisdom, and strength.

Jehovah is my light. No doubt the word “light” refers to understanding, guidance for one’s life and pathway. Knowing God means that you will not walk in darkness but you shall have the light of life. That light, of course, is given in His holy Word. Read the Bible. Jehovah is my light? Then you will read the holy Scriptures. I believe that one glaring thing will probably impress us more than any other thing when we stand at last with God in glory. That is this, how we underestimated the gift and the power of holy Scripture. Do you read your Bible? You would not miss that TV show. You have to have your paper and coffee. Oh, that magazine article or that book – you found time for it. Did you set aside the Scripture this week? Did you?

Then there is the preaching of the Word of God in the church. Now, I want you to note in the psalm (read it for yourself) where the psalmist goes from verse 1. In verses 2 and 3 he explains in detail some of the things that would make him to fear. Then immediately after that, where does he go? He goes to God’s house. In the midst of his fears, he says, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.”

Jehovah is my light? Then hear it well, and understand it. That means that the church, where His Word is preached, is the place where you must be. There the light of the living God is flooded upon you so that you may walk with Him. How often ought you to go to church? You say, “Where does it say twice, and maybe we ought to have a different service in the evening to get more people in?” That is the word of man. How often do you go to church? Whenever the church is called for worship. Whenever the people of God gather around the Word. Whenever the Word is preached to us. That is when you go to church. Two times. You say, “Why two times?” Well, I guess, it is two times because it is not three. For if it were three, then you belong there three times.

But you need to belong to a theocentric church. That word “theocentric” means God-centered. The God who is God, the God who reveals His beauty in His church through the doctrine and through the preaching of the truth.

You need to belong to a theocentric church.
Jehovah is my light. He is my salvation.

Here the idea is deliverance from misery. Rescue from despair. He is the one who reaches down to me, says David, with His grace and lifts me up above the foes all around me.

Then He is the strength of my life. That refers to endurance, the ability to go on. He is my shield. He defends me, He holds me up, He keeps me going. Do you understand the fearlessness of his faith? He has a very solid reason. We have solid reason to ask the question: Whom shall I fear? Jehovah is my light, my strength, my salvation. Because of who God is and because of all that He is to us, that is why we do not need to fear. Do you understand that?

That must be personal. Five times in one verse the personal pronoun is used: my and I. Because faith is personal. It is the work of God in our hearts. It is the work of the Lord within us, uniting us to Him and giving us personally to stand in attachment, knowledge, and dependence upon Him. You see, faith is not theoretical. It is not merely emotional. It is not merely a system of corollaries, postulates, and principles. It is a knowledge of these things, of the truth of God’s Word. But it is a living knowledge. It is a heart-dwelling knowledge. It is the personal knowledge of faith.

Now we are back to where we began, because that is exactly the purpose of God in trial. His purpose is to make the faith that He has planted in us personal through trial. It is the purpose of God to teach us what it means that Jehovah is our light, salvation, and strength. He brings upon us darkness to show us that He is light. He brings to us the misery of this present life and our own sins to show us that He is salvation. He brings us to see our weakness, our folly, in order to show us that He is everlasting strength.

That is why you are on the earth right now, child of God. You are on the earth to learn about God, to learn of God, to walk with God, to know Him in such a way that you repose in Him, you commit all your way to Him, you obey Him, you submit to Him, and you desire to glorify Him in obedience. Then you may be fearless. That is not recklessness. It is not a vain boast. It is truth. It is the confidence of faith. We may say, “Whom shall I fear? Of whom shall I be afraid?” As we make this statement of faith, humility lives in our soul – a distrust of self. But also as we make that statement, we hide ourselves in the living God – light, strength, and salvation in Him. Then I am not afraid.

And to be without fear is to be free, truly free, victorious, more than conqueror, through Him who loved me.

Let us pray.

Lord, we thank Thee for the blessed Word of God. We pray that it may, by the power of the Holy Spirit, be written upon the pages of our heart, that it may also be seen in our lives, and that it may be with us in our mind and soul throughout the week that is before us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.