IN the eighth chapter of Matthew, Jesus says to the alarmed disciples who have wakened Him in the storm at sea: “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” They had cried out in alarm, “Lord, save us! We perish!” according to Matthew; according to Mark: “Master, carest thou not that we perish?”
How true to human nature is that fearfulness of His disciples! After all the mighty works which they had seen Him do, here they could see only the immediate danger. Some have used the sleeping presence of Christ in the boat to indicate that Christ is in every believer and “needs only to be called into action by stirring up the gift of God within us.” But such an interpretation beclouds the matter. It was fear rather than faith that called upon Him here; a stronger faith would have let Him sleep. There is more faith in a quiet dependence upon the indwelling Christ than in an excitable anxiousness that would awaken Him in every storm, as though any real harm could come to us when He is within.
Many believers need to learn that faith delivers from fear. Theoretically, we believe in the Christ within, but when the crisis comes we grow panicky and cry, “Master, we perish!” But faith and fear are contradictory. In proportion as we have one we do not have the other. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Since love is the outward working of faith, it follows that faith, working by love, drives out fear.
How the Master would cry to us timid and alarmed disciples as He did to these: “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” “How is it that ye have no faith?” “Where is your faith?” No Christian need fear anything, “for God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). We fear misfortune; we fear criticism; we fear others; we fear to undertake things, to speak for Christ; we fear for financial security; we fear sickness; we cross bridges before we reach them; we fear the future. But for every fear, “faith is the victory.”
We are not thinking of fear merely as a feeling, but as an attitude that paralyzes the will and restrains and cramps the life until one becomes a cowering slave. Neither is faith merely a feeling, but the attitude which steps forth in dependence upon God even though feelings and circumstances may point the other way. The conquest of fear is not wrought in a day. The Christian who sets out to live by faith will find many nervous qualms and inhibitions trying to choke his courage, but as he exercises faith the faith grows stronger and the fear weaker until it no longer becomes a serious problem. Here as everywhere else, the practice of His presence plays its part.
Some believers make the mistake of waiting until they feel all fear disappear before they venture forth by faith. But they never reach the high hills that way. Faith sets out in the very teeth of adverse circumstances and contrary feelings and makes fear disappear by continually assuming, asserting and practicing the attitude of faith until it becomes real and fear has been broken. Of course, it is all done through the indwelling Spirit, but still there must be practice and persistence. God will empower and sustain, but the decision of the will is our part, and all the prayers and devotional readings on earth will not make up for our definite stepping out upon the promises.