For I hear the whispering of many—terror on every side! —as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! Make you face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love! (Psalm 31:13-16)
Relating to Fear
Emotive responses to life situations is a common experience for nearly every person that has ever lived. We all experience them to varying degrees throughout the course of our lives depending on our life situation. People often remember an emotion with a place or an event even after their memory of the event fades. One day, when 2020 fades and the coronavirus is in the past, what emotions will remain from this experience? Will we remember anger, loneliness, confidence, or possibly fear? Fearful anxiety is the emotion many people express during this horrible pandemic. Is this wrong for the Christian? And if it is, then how should we respond?
Fear is a common emotion described throughout the pages of Scripture. Psalm 31 is one of many Psalms attributed to David, and he commonly describes his own battle with fear. His life was surrounded by many dangers to put his life in jeopardy. We often remember his fight with the terrifying giant named Goliath, but when Saul was trying to convince him to not fight David said to him about the danger in his youth, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from his flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.”
Experiencing an emotion is a common human experience but how we respond to it makes the difference. In other words, being fearful is normal, just as it was for David, but it should not cause you to lose faith in God’s love for you and power in your life. David was fearful many times in his life, but he relied on God during those times. When David was preparing to fight Goliath, he said to Saul, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” How was David able to continue when he was surrounded by enemies such as lions, bears, nations, Saul and his army, and Absalom and his army? It was always the Lord! David said in Psalm 31 that he had “terror on every side,” which means he was surrounded, and they wanted to kill him.
I don’t think being afraid is necessarily bad if it causes us to be cautious and not careless, but what of the one who may be gripped in fear? I believe this powerful passage in Psalm 31 shows us what caused David to keep pressing on.
Remembering God’s Providence
Psalm 31:14-15 demonstrates the power of David’s strength was in his confidence of God’s providence. The providence of God is his ability to sustain the world as he directs it to its appropriate end. In other words, God is in in complete control and he will care for us until the end. David understood this principle in this text, and we should often remember and remind others of this theological fact. When our world seems to be out of control as we hear the latest numbers of infection and death in our world and our country every morning on the local news. What will keep us from being gripped in fear? Is it not that God is in control during this time of worldly confusion and chaos?
David announces his first response to fear when he says in verse 14, “but I trust in you.” Think about the strength of this statement. He trusts in God when his world spins out of control and he has nothing but fear as his enemies seek to kill him. He does not accuse God of wrongdoing or being powerless, but his response is trust. We should respond like David! Our prayer to the Lord is obviously for the end of this pandemic, but we should do so while we fully trust in the Lord. There is a danger for the one who loses trust in the Lord during times of great difficulty. If David could trust in the Lord when the Lion approached, Goliath mocked the army of Israel, Saul threw spears at him and pursued him, and Absalom sought his life, then should we not also have faith in God with the spread of this virus?
Our second response should be to remember our identity with Jesus. David says, “You are my God,” and this is powerful for us as well, because sometimes we forget this fact. We are children of God no matter what happens in this life and the Lord has given to us precious promises we should never forget. God has promised heaven to those who belong to him. We should never forget dichotomy between earth and heaven because the things of the earth are temporary while heaven is eternal. Our focus should not be on the things that do not last but should be focused on what lies ahead beyond this life. Romans 8:15-16 gives us a powerful reminder of our identity with the Lord, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
Thirdly, we should remember God’s sustaining power in the universe and in our lives. Nothing is outside the power of God and certainly David remembered this when he said, “My times are in your hand.” We should both understand this fact and live our lives that demonstrate this truth for all the world to see. We should stay at home being careful to not become ill while obeying our leaders, but we don’t fear as the world fears because we know our times are in the hand of God as those who preceded us in this life and those who proceed us. We don’t see it now, but I believe a day is approaching when God will reveal to us in eternity all the times our lives were in his hand. Rejoice as you consider how your life is in God’s control.
Rejoicing in God’s Love
David desired to worship the Lord no matter what he was going through in his life because he knew the infinite worth of God. Worship is less about us and it is about God and his worth. God is not glorified in worship when everything in our life is perfect, but God is glorified in worship when his people praise him in the midst of great affliction, and not we are under great affliction. We are under some affliction in our lives in this present day. We are told to stay in our homes unless we really need to leave, but even if this continues for many months, we are still able to say the Lord is good and worthy of worship.
Worship is being described by David as “make you face shine on your servant.” He does not want less of God during his trouble, but he wants more of God’s presence. He knows his salvation and hope lies in God and he rejoices that he knows the Lord. Christians should be abundantly joyful because they know the Lord. Could you imagine not knowing the Lord during this pandemic crisis? I am reminded of Jonathan Edward’s illustration in his great sermon called, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, in which he describes a spider over a flame with only a single strand of web keeping him from the fire. Those who don’t know the Lord are like this spider today. They are hanging on the hope they won’t get the virus, but what if they perish and enter their eternal abode without Jesus? Oh, how we should pray for our world during these days that God would awaken them to their sins and point them to Jesus.
David uses the term steadfast love which is God’s saving love for his people. It is a description of God’s love for his people. It should remind us of the redemptive promises of God based on his love for us. God’s love has not lessened for us because of this pandemic. God has made us promises and he will fulfil those promises because he is good and because he loves us. Let us be reminded of God’s love for us and its intended purpose from Romans 8:38-39, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God is so good to us and he loves us so much. Pray for me as I pray for you during these days, and one day we shall meet again to worship the Lord as we rejoice in our common salvation. Until then, let us draw close to the Lord as he draws near to us.
To God be the glory.
Pastor Steven Lookabaugh has been our pastor since 2016 and is passionate about proclaiming the gospel of God through the weekly exposition of God’s Word; believing application is possible when one understands the historical/cultural meaning of the text. He leads our church in fulfilling our purpose toward the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, and to the Great Commandment as we seek to love one another. He has a Doctor of Ministry degree in Expository Preaching from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with an emphasis on parabolic exposition. He is married to Jennifer and they have three children, Andrew, Kate and Olivia.