Faith Over Fear

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I am always interested when I see contrasts in the Bible. Things like:

  • Live this way, not that way
  • These people are blessed, these people have trouble 
  • If you do this, you won’t have this 

So an interesting contrast caught my eye in the story where Jesus calms the storm (Matthew 8:23–27). Jesus is sleeping peacefully in the middle of a storm that is described as “furious [where] the waves swept over the boat.” The disciples were anything but peaceful—they thought they were going to drown—so they yelled for Jesus to wake up. 

Before Jesus calmed the storm, He says, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” 

That’s the phrase that caught my attention. Notice the contrast between “little faith” and “so afraid.” In other words, small faith means big fear! 

Strong’s Greek dictionary defines “little faith” as “dread (by implication) faithless.” So it appears there is an inverse proportion between faith and fear. 

The word that Jesus used for “afraid” is only used here and in the same story in Mark 4:40, and in Revelation 21:8 which lists people who will be excluded from entrance into heaven.

The phrase “so afraid” (or “O ye of little faith” in the King James Version) is just one word in Greek: olgiopistos. The root word pistos is faith, but I find the prefix oligos very descriptive. It means: 

  • small in quantity 
  • short in time 
  • slight in intensity 

In other words, it is faith that is immature, or hasn’t been used much, or hasn’t been applied to a particular circumstance. This word olgiopistos is used five times in the New Testament, and only used by Jesus. 

In addition to this story, it is used in Matthew 6:30 and Luke 12:28 when Jesus tells us not to worry about the things that God will provide for us—things like food, clothing, and shelter. Jesus uses this word for Peter when he began to sink in the water after walking a few steps toward Jesus. And Jesus uses it in Matthew 16:8 when He warns His disciples about the “yeast” of the Pharisees and Sadducees that can creep into their hearts and spoil their faith. (Check out all of these verses here.)

In mathematical circles, this relationship between faith and fear is one that would be called inversely proportional. When our faith is high, our fear is low; when our fear is high, our faith is low. I also think it is very eye-opening that the mathematical symbol for inverse proportionality (∝) is the same symbol called ichthus that the early church used to represent Jesus.

Faith and fear cannot coexist in the same heart. Sometimes our faith is small in quantity because we haven’t fed our faith with God’s promises. Sometimes our faith is short in time because we want things done on our time schedule. And sometimes our faith is slight in intensity because we are unsure if God can “come through” in this particular situation. 

Whatever the case, when we feel any fear, we need to ask for faith. We need to return to God’s Word and be assured that His promises are applicable regardless of the situation we are in. As our faith grows, our fear has to diminish! 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Delightful Judgments

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Delightful Judgments

My soul is consumed with longing for Your laws at all times. (Psalm 119:20) 

     Search God’s Word and you will have before your eyes the ultimate judgment of unerring truth, the last decree from the supreme authority from which there is no appeal! The Bible contains the verdict of the Judge of all the earth, the judgments of God who cannot lie and cannot err.

     Thus, God’s Word is rightly called His ‘judgments.’ It is a Book not to be judged by us, but to be our judge—not a word of it may be altered or questioned. But to it we may constantly refer as to a court of appeal whose sentence is decisive. … 

     Our judgments must be daily more and more conformed to the judgments of God that are laid down in Scripture. And there must be in our spirit a longing after holiness until we delight in the Law of the Lord and meditate therein both day and night. We will grow to the likeness of that which we feed upon, heavenly food will make us heavenly minded! The Word of God received into the heart changes us into its own nature and, by rejoicing in the decisions of the Lord, we learn to judge after His judgment and to delight ourselves in that which pleases Him. 

From Holy Longings

The 119th Psalm is an amazing chapter—176 verses arranged as a love letter to both God’s Word and the God who gave us His Word. Every one of these verses extol the value and beauty of God’s commands, decrees, precepts, statues, law, and judgments. 

As Spurgeon pointed out, “judgment” does not mean a sentence of guilt pronounced against us, but a standard for determining the rightness or lawlessness of something. God’s Word is the final judgment on sin and righteousness. 

The psalmist who penned this beautiful prose more than likely had only the first five books of our Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—and yet he finds such delight in these words because of the awesome God they reveal. Look at his delight…

  • I delight in Your decrees (v. 16) 
  • Your statues are my delight (v. 24) 
  • I delight in Your commands (v. 47) 
  • I delight in Your law (v. 70)
  • Your commands give me delight (v. 143) 

As Spurgeon said, the more we delight in God’s Word, the more we will meditate on it; the more we meditate on it, the more it will change our hearts to make lifestyle judgments that are pleasing to God. 

No matter whether you’ve never really studied the Bible, or you are an “old pro” with a well-worn Bible close at hand, may we all continue to grow in our delight of God’s Word and our reverence of the God revealed to us in the Word. 

If you would like some Bible studies to help get you started, check out:

And you can also check out a previous post were I shared three steps to better Bible studies.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—This Bible Is God’s Bible

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

This Bible Is God’s Bible

     Here lies my Bible—who wrote it? I open it, and I find it consists of a series of tracts. The first five tracts were written by a man called Moses. I turn on and I find others. Sometimes I see David is the penman, at other times, Solomon. Here I read Micah, then Amos, then Hosea. As I turn further on, to the more luminous pages of the New Testament, I see Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Paul, Peter, James and others. But when I shut up the Book, I ask myself who is the author of it? 

     Do these men jointly claim the authorship? Are they the compositors of this massive volume? Do they between themselves divide the honor? Our holy religion answers, ‘No!’ This volume is the writing of the living God. Each letter was penned with an Almighty finger. Each word in it dropped from the everlasting lips; each sentence was dictated by the Holy Spirit. Albeit that Moses was employed to write his histories with his fiery pen, God guided that pen. It may be that David touched his harp and let sweet Psalms of melody drop from his fingers, but God moved his hands over the living strings of his golden harp. It may be that Solomon sang canticles of love, or gave forth words of consummate wisdom, but God directed his lips, and made the Preacher eloquent. If I follow the thundering Nahum when his horses plow the waters, or Habakkuk when he sees the tents of Cushan in affliction, if I read Malachi, when the earth is burning like an oven, if I turn to the smooth page of John, who tells of love, or the rugged, fiery chapters of Peter, who speaks of the fire devouring God’s enemies; if I turn to Jude, who launches forth anathemas upon the foes of God, everywhere I find God speaking. It is God’s voice, not man’s. The words are God’s words, the words of the Eternal, the Invisible, the Almighty, the Jehovah of this earth. This Bible is God’s Bible.

From The Bible

I love God’s Book! I hope you love it and love is Author more and more. 

One final word from Charles Spurgeon: “Be Bible readers. Be Bible searchers.” 

To that, I can only say, “Amen!”

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—God Means What He Says

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

God Means What He Says

…For the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 1:20).

     You talk about God as being ‘love,’ and if you mean by this that He is not severe in the punishment of sin, I ask you what you make of the destruction of Jerusalem? Remember that the Jews were His chosen nation and that the city of Jerusalem was the place where His temple had been glorified with His presence. Brethren, if you roam from Edom to Zion and from Zion to Sidon and from Sidon to Moab, you will find, amid ruined cities, the tokens that God’s words of judgment are sure. Depend on it, then, when Jesus says, ‘These will go away into everlasting punishment’ (Matthew 25:46), it will be so. When He says, ‘If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins’ (John 8:24), it will be so. … 

     It is of no avail to sit down and draw inferences from the nature of God and to argue, ‘God is love, and therefore He will not execute the sentence upon the impenitent.’ He knows what He will do better than you can infer. He has not left us to inferences, for He has spoken pointedly and plainly. He says, ‘He that believes not shall be damned’ (Mark 16:16), and it will be so, ‘for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ Infer what you like from His nature. But if you draw an inference contrary to what He has spoken, you have inferred a lie and you will find it so. …

     I know why you do not believe in the terrible threats. It is because you want to be easy in your sins. … Yet if you do not believe its loving warnings nor regard its just sentences, they are true all the same. If you dare its thunders, if you trample on its promises, and even if you burn it in your rage, the Holy Book still stands unaltered and unalterable. ‘The mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ Therefore, I pray you, treat the sacred Scriptures with respect and remember that ‘these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life through His name’ (John 20:31).

From The Infallibility Of Scripture

Spurgeon delivered this sermon on March 11, 1888. Nearly 2000 years earlier, Asaph delivered a similar message from God—

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you? When you saw a thief, you consented with him, and have been a partaker with adulterers. You give your mouth to evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done, and I kept silent; you thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes. Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver: Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:15-23) 

Commenting on this passage from Psalm 50, T.M. Moore wrote, “Surely, this is the most fundamental error of thinking humans ever make: To think of God, spiritual things, worship, human life, the world, and everything else from our vantage point rather than His. … Asaph could see what was happening. And even though the nation was safe, strong, and surfeited with wealth, he knew that, spiritually, things were going awry. The people had persuaded themselves that God was just like them, that He thought like they did, and so was agreeable to their doing things their own way, indulging all their base desires, and pursuing their schemes for success—all the while continuing an outward show of faith.”

Let us take the Bible as what it truly is: Words the mouth of God has spoken. Let us not play games with them, changing the message to words we like. But if the Word of the Lord makes us uncomfortable, let us repent and return to Him. It is those who accept God’s Word as His Word, and obey it, that will see the salvation of God.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Accepting It For What It Is

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Accepting It For What It Is

…For the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 1:20).

     In the Word of God the teaching has unique dignity. This Book is inspired as no other book is inspired, and it is time that all Christians avowed this conviction. …  

     Where are we if our Bibles are gone? Where are we if we are taught to distrust them? If we are left in doubt as to which part is inspired and what is not, we are as badly off as if we had no Bible at all. I hold no theory of inspiration. I accept the inspiration of the Scriptures as a fact.

From The Infallibility Of Scripture

I, too, accept the inspiration of the Scriptures as a fact. Every single word is perfectly inspired by the Holy Spirit. Even the order in which the words are spoken.

During the summer months, I like to lead my congregation through a study of the Book of Psalms. Currently, we are looking at the psalms that contain the word Selah. 

It is distressing to me to see how many “modern” translations of the Bible either relegate the word Selah to a footnote (like the NIV which says, “The Hebrew has Selah [a word of uncertain meaning] here”), or completely disregard this word (e.g. The Message, The Contemporary English Version, and The Living Bible, to name a few). 

Why? Do we think we are so much smarter now that we know which words the Holy Spirit truly inspired, and which ones we can leave out?

Once we start down this path, what is to stop us from modifying any word in the Bible? Many liberal-minded people want to tell us “what God really meant” in some passages, or to water down the inspiration so much to try to make it “culturally relevant” that they end up destroying its very meaning. This is not only a slippery slope, but it is something that God has already warned us against doing: 

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. (Revelation 22:18-19)

Let us accept the Word of God for what it is: Words that the mouth of Almighty God has spoken, not words that we think can be modified, improved, or eliminated. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Top Priority

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Top Priority

…For the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 1:20).

     Every word that God has given us in the Bible claims our attention because of the infinite majesty of Him who spoke it. … See that you refuse not Him who speaks. O my hearer, let it not be said of you that you went through this life, God speaking to you in His book, and you refusing to hear! It matters very little whether you listen to me or not. But it matters a very great deal whether you listen to God or not. It is He who made you. In His hands is your breath. And if He speaks, I implore you, open your ears and be not rebellious. There is an infinite majesty about every line of Scripture, but especially about that part of Scripture in which the Lord reveals Himself and His glorious plan of saving grace in the Person of His dear Son Jesus Christ. …  

     For what He has spoken He still speaks to us, as freshly as if He spoke it for the first time. … 

     God’s Word has a claim, then, upon your attention because of its majesty and its condescension. But, further, it should win your ear because of its intrinsic importance. ‘The mouth of the Lord has spoken,’ so it is no trifle. God never speaks vanity. No line of His writing treats of the frivolous themes of the day. That which may be forgotten in an hour is for mortal man and not for the eternal God. When the Lord speaks, His speech is Godlike, and its themes are worthy of one who is dwelling in infinity and eternity. … 

     He speaks to you of great things that have to do with your soul and its destiny. It is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life. Your eternal existence, your happiness or your misery, hang on your treatment of that which the mouth of the Lord has spoken. … Treat not the Word of the Lord as a secondary thing that might wait your leisure and receive attention when no other work is before you. Put all else aside and hearken to your God.

From The Infallibility Of Scripture

Charles Spurgeon is so on-target with these words. Believe it or not, this sermon was actually delivered to his fellow pastors. But the words are true for all of us—we must make listening to God’s Word our first priority. 

Every single word of Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit. And I do mean every single word. Even the order in which the words are listed is inspired. So when you read your Bible, ask the Holy Spirit—the Author of the text—to illuminate the words to you. Ask questions like:

  • What did that mean then? 
  • What does it mean now? 
  • What does it mean for me? 
  • Does something in my life need to change? 

If you make your time with God a priority, He will reveal more of Himself to you each time you open your Bible.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Encouragement For Preachers

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Encouragement For Preachers

…For the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 1:20).

     We preach because ‘the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ It would not be worth our while to speak what Isaiah had spoken if in it there was nothing more than Isaiah’s thought—neither should we care to meditate hour after hour upon the writings of Paul, if there was nothing more than Paul in them. … The true preacher, the man whom God has commissioned, delivers his message with awe and trembling because ‘the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ … 

     Woe unto us if we dare to speak the Word of the Lord with less than our whole heart and soul and strength! Woe unto us if we handle the Word as if it were an occasion for display! If it were our own word, we might be studious of the graces of oratory. But if it is God’s Word, we cannot afford to think of ourselves. … Because the mouth of the Lord has spoken the truth of God, we therefore endeavor to preach it with absolute fidelity. …  

     Believing that ‘the mouth of the Lord has spoken,’ it is my duty to repeat God’s Word to you as correctly as I can after having heard it and felt it in my own soul. It is not mine to amend or adapt the gospel. …  Again, dear friends, as ‘the mouth of the Lord has spoken,’ we speak the divine truth with courage and full assurance. Modesty is a virtue, but hesitancy when we are speaking for the Lord is a great fault. …  

     We preach not the gospel by your leave. We do not ask tolerance nor court applause. We preach Christ crucified, and we preach boldly as we ought to speak because it is God’s Word not our own. … We cannot use ‘ifs’ and ‘buts,’ for we are dealing with God’s ‘shalls’ and ‘wills.’ If He says it is so, it is so. And there is the end of it. Controversy ceases when Jehovah speaks [Jeremiah 1:17-19].

From The Infallibility Of Scripture

Preaching God’s Word is not for the faint of heart. It takes one who is confidently humbled—confident that God has spoken and humbled that He would choose someone like me to speak His Word to His people. 

In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter I wrote: 

Check this out: “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Who wrote the book of Numbers? If you answered “Moses,” you are correct. Doesn’t that sound a bit brash to declare that you are more humble than anyone else on the earth? Yet, God allowed Moses to pen those words, making that a Holy Spirit-inspired statement of fact. Humility is a double-edged sword: it can serve a leader well when it is balanced with appropriate confidence, but it is a detriment to an organization’s health if it is self-de-basing humility that undercuts a leader’s credibility. 

The God-honoring preacher gets his message from the mouth of the Lord, and then confidently endeavors “to preach it with absolute fidelity.” Whether others praise of criticize, the humble leader says, “I am only God’s servant speaking God’s Word.” 

Preachers, let’s make sure that everything we confidently and humbly share from our pulpits is the whole counsel of what has been spoken by the mouth of the Lord.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Final, Authoritative Word

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

The Final, Authoritative Word

…For the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 1:20).

     It would not be worth our while to speak what Isaiah had spoken if in it there was nothing more than Isaiah’s thought—neither should we care to meditate hour after hour upon the writings of Paul, if there was nothing more than Paul in them. … 

     It is not mine to amend or adapt the gospel. What? Shall we attempt to improve upon what God has revealed? The Infinitely Wise to be corrected by creatures of a day? Is the infallible revelation of the infallible Jehovah to be shaped, moderated, and toned down to the fashions and fancies of the hour? God forgive us if we have ever altered His Word unwittingly. … 

     One Word of God is worth more than libraries of human lore. ‘It is written’ is the great gun which silences all the batteries of man’s thought.

From The Infallibility Of Scripture

As Solomon neared the end of his writings in the Book of Ecclesiastes, he made this observation, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body” (12:12). How true that is. Have you walked through a bookstore lately?! There is no end to the opinions that people want to share with you. 

But there is one thing that all of the books in all of the bookstores and all of the libraries have in common: not one of them is given to us by “the mouth of the Lord.” 

There are certainly many, many books that are saturated in Scripture, but they are still the opinions of man. We need to make sure that everything we read, or every wise person that we listen to, or even every conversation that we have with ourselves are all proven to be true or false based on what God has spoken.

Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit would remind us of everything God’s mouth had spoken to us (John 14:26), and that He would guide us into all truth (John 16:13). 

So go ahead and search out wise, godly books and wise, godly counselors. But remember that their word is not the final word—only the words that come from the mouth of the Lord are the authoritative words you should apply to your life.

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A Leader’s Daily Guide

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Sometimes it’s best just to let the Bible speak for itself. 

As Moses was preparing the Israelites for life in the land God has promised them, he had these words for them about their leaders—

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. … When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left…. (Deuteronomy 17:14-15, 18-20) 

A mark of a godly leader is one who uses God’s Word as his daily guide.

This is part 64 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here. 

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Poetry Saturday—For Fear Of Feeble Man

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Shall I, for fear of feeble man,
The Spirit’s course in me restrain?
Or, undismayed, in deed and word
Be a true witness for my Lord?

Awed by a mortal’s frown, shall I
Conceal the Word of God Most High?
How then before Thee shall I dare
To stand, or how Thine anger bear?

Shall I, to soothe the unholy throng,
Soften Thy truths, and smooth my tongue,
To gain earth’s gilded toys, or flee
The Cross, endured, my God, by Thee?

What then is he whose scorn I dread,
Whose wrath or hate makes me afraid?
A man! an heir of death! a slave
To sin! a bubble on the wave!

Yea, let men rage, since Thou wilt spread
Thy shadowing wings around my head;
Since in all pain Thy tender love
Will still my sure refreshment prove.

Savior of men, Thy searching eye
Doth all my inmost thoughts descry;
Doth aught on earth my wishes raise,
Or the world’s pleasures, or its praise?

The love of Christ doth me constrain
To seek the wandering souls of men;
With cries, entreaties, tears, to save,
To snatch them from the gaping grave.

For this let men revile my name.
No cross I shun, I fear no shame,
All hail, reproach, and welcome, pain!
Only Thy terrors, Lord, restrain.

My life, my blood, I here present,
If for Thy truth they may be spent,
Fulfill Thy sovereign counsel, Lord!
Thy will be done, Thy Name adored!

Give me Thy strength, O God of power;
Then let winds blow, or thunders roar,
Thy faithful witness will I be:
’Tis fixed; I can do all through Thee! —Johann Joseph Winckler (translated by John Wesley)

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