Revive Our Hearts Podcast

When You are Battered by Fear

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Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Something very small can become something really big when it spreads one person at a time. We've all been watching that happen as the coronavirus has spread, person to person, region to region, and country to country. But do you know what else is spreading? Fear. Even those who have not been infected by the physical virus have been susceptible to fear in the midst of this crisis.

Today we are going to look at the vaccine to fear—trust in God.

I’m Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and this is Revive Our Hearts for Thursday, March 19, 2020.

All this week we have been studying Psalm 46 together. It’s a powerful passage that reminds us where to turn when the storms of life are raging around us. We are all in need of this truth right now as the world is reeling in uncertainty. We’re calling this series “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

When I recorded this series our audience was getting a first-hand object lesson. A storm rolled in, and you may even hear some thunder in the background. As our world and many of us as individuals are being battered by powerful storms, we need to be reminded of some important truths: God is in control. Heaven rules. Our fear can be replaced by faith in Him. You see, perfect love casts out fear. In this time of worldwide uncertainty is a great opportunity for those who follow Jesus to let our love go viral. As God's love flows to us and through us to others.

If you find yourself being infected by that fear virus as you listen to all the news reports and hear this being the constant topic of conversation, ask the Lord if there might be a way that he'd want to flow His love through you to others so that His love will go viral through us in this time. Let’s return to Psalm 46.

Nancy: Just to reset where we are, let's look at verse 1. We saw here that God is a stable, secure, never-failing refuge. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."

Now, in verses 2 and 3 we're going to see a contrast. We're going to see the instability and the insecurity of every earthly refuge. Let me read those two verses, and then we'll talk about them.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Now we see here a description of unusual, violent natural disasters. Chaos. Catastrophic upheaval of the natural order. Surging waves beating furiously up against the mountains. We see these mountains being uprooted and hurled into the sea. This is not something that happens every day.

The point is that there are things we think are stable and secure that at points we found out are not stable and secure at all. You think of the images you see flooding our screens day after day, week after week over these past months, with these images of natural disasters in the U.S. and around the world—tornados, flooding, earthquakes.

If I could go back a moment to the earthquakes and the tsunami in Japan. The descriptions, as I read some of them, were so vivid and unforgetable. For example, let me read you a couple paragraphs from FoxNews.com of how they described that tsunami in the aftermath of that tragedy. As I read these words, pictures will come to your mind because you've seen the video footage and the photos. They said:

Large fishing boats and other sea vessels road high waves into the cities, slamming against overpasses or scraping under them and snapping power lines along the way. Upturned and partially submerged vehicles were seen bobbing in the water. Ships anchored in ports crashed against each other. Television footage showed mangled debris, uprooted trees, upturned cars, and shattered timber littering streets.The tsunami roared over embankments, washing anything in its path inland, before reversing direction and carrying the cars, homes, and other debris out to sea.

In that great trajedy, as of the most recent report I read, there were more than 15,000 confirmed deaths, many thousands injured or missing. The tsunami, you'll remember, caused a number of nuclear accidents, and over 125,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed. It caused extensive and severe structural damage in Japan, including heavy damage to roads and railways—as well as fire in many areas and a dam collapsed. Four point four million homes were left without electricity, 1.5 million without water.

I read recently that the overall cost could be greater than 300 billion dollars. It would make it the most expensive natural disaster on record.

Now as we come to Psalm 46:2–3, we see this devastation caused by turbulent waters. Those waters and that devastation, it's a metaphor for fierce opponents who are seeking to destroy God's people. We'll see that as we move further into the psalm.

Many commentators think, as we've said earlier, that this is a description of the disturbances of the Assyrian army advancing like a tidal wave against Jerusalem. So in these surging waters that cause mountains to be hurled into the sea, we see a description of turmoil, political revolutions, nations coming against nations, geo-political turmoil, turmoil on every level of every front at every scale imaginable.

Verse 2 talks about the earth giving way. This is a picture of extreme upheaval. We think of the earth as being as solid as it gets, usually. Until it starts shaking. But, that’s not an everyday occurrence. You usually think that if there is anything solid in the world, it's the ground—terra firma, firm ground, the ground you're standing on.

The point is nothing on this earth, including the earth itself, is secure. Everything is unstable and uncertain—everything. There will be earthquakes. There will be troubles. We saw that is a plural word in the first verse. Things that we thought were steady, unshakable, and secure can and will change. They will give way. The will be moved.

If the earth can give way, then anything give can way. Right?

We can read this on a personal level. You think about jobs and income and investments and possessions, friends, marriage, children, your house, the weather. All these things can give way. They can change in a moment. They can collapse. They can be done away with. Fires, lay-offs, economic collapse, natural disasters, terminal illness, prodigal children. Some of you have kids who have gone off the deep end. You cry yourself to bed at night thinking, What happened here? Calamities, chaos. We're talking here pictured by these surging waters any kind of stress or trouble.

Not only on the personal level but more broadly with governments and rulers and politcal parties as they rise and fall—the surging waters! Tha map today of the world looks entirely different in many parts of the world than it did when I was growing up—names of countries that I wouldn't even recognize. The changes in those names is reflective of coups and revolutions and new governments coming into power.

You see the changes in moral values that once were widely held but now are being just abandoned, tossed out. You look at all of this and it is unsettling; it's frightening.  

Any person, any thing that we trust in, is subject to change—only God is unshakable.

Anything can and will change. We all come to points in our lives when the things we thought were most sure and enduring prove not to be so sure and enduring. It's a reminder that we will never find security in any earthly refuge. Any person, any thing that we trust in, is subject to change.

Mountains and earth—we think of these things being solid and unshakable. The fact is, only God is unshakable. Only He is completely reliable, faithfully, and trustworthy. You see, troubles cause our hearts to become detached from this earth, when we realize there is nothing stable here.

Our hearts are attached to this earth until troubles come and shake us up. When they shake us up, our hearts get detached from this earth and more attached to God and heaven and eternal, unshakable realities. That is part of the point of troubles.

God knows that if we didn't have troubles, we would put our tent stakes down really deep here. We would just want to park and stay here forever. This is not what God intends for us forever. Not even close! He wants our hearts to be moving towards heaven. How does He do that? He stirs up trouble. He makes mountains move and waters churn and storms and tempests—literal or metaphorical—so that we realize, “I can't put my trust in this stuff.”

  • Marriage is a great gift, but if your trust is in your husband ultimately, you are going to be disappointed. 
  • Children are a great gift, but if your trust is ultimately in how they turn out, you're going to be disappointed, and you're going to be let down. 

There is nothing, no one, that is reliable.

I've learned that in recent months. I received a piece of news several months ago. Something I thought was so sure, so reliable in my life, and then I found out—poof—it's gone. If you'd asked me before, “Were you putting your trust in that thing?”

I would have said, “I don't think so.” Well, I didn’t know until it shifted.

Then you find out whether you're really secure. If you've been putting your trust in things and people that can be taken away from you and can be moved, then you're insecure. You're not going to be secure.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote a book called, Facing the Death of Someone You Love, which was written out of her own journey. You remember that her first husband, Jim, was martyred by the Auca Indians in the jungles of Ecuador. Her second husband, Add Leitch, died of cancer. In this book she talks about facing the shocking news that your loved one is gone. She said,

Everything that has seemed most dependable has given way. Mountains are falling. Earth is reeling. In such a time it is a profound comfort to know that although all things seem to be shaken, one thing is not: God is not shaken.

I love that verse in Hebrew 12. It's verse 27. Let me paraphrase it for you. We could take time and read it in the whole context, but let me give you the gist of what that verse says. It essentially says the things that can be shaken will be shaken, so that the things that can never be shaken may remain.

Now, the psalm goes on to say that because "God is our refuge, our strength, and a very present help in trouble . . . therefore we will not fear.” Because we have a certain, sure, unshakable reality, even when everything else around us is going nuts, “Therefore we will not fear.”

Now, our lack of fear is not based on what is going on around us, because the things going on around us can be dreadfully fearful. It's based on that unshakable, sure foundation of who God is.

Psalm 27:1 says it this way, “The Lord is the stronghold [or the strength] of my life; of whom or what shall I be afraid?” If your life is anchored in Him, there is no reason for fear.

Even with the violent, well-armed, Assyrian army threatening Jerusalem—the Assyrians had the power in an earthly manner of speaking—even with that army besieging and surrounding and threatening that city, God's people could remain secure, calm, and free from fear. Why? Because they thought they could overcome the Assyrians? No way! Because God was their refuge and their protector.

The antidote to fear is anchoring our lives on the character of God.

You see, the antidote to fear in a terrifying world is not trying to arrange our lives to be free from trauma and trouble. A lot of people spend a lot of time trying to do that. This husband didn't work out, get another one. You don't like living in this place, go move to another place. We can fix it; we can change it.

Well, the answer to fear is not trying to control our environment, to keep it trouble-free. The antidote to fear is anchoring our lives on the character of God.

Now, when it says that we will not fear, that doesn't mean that we won't ever have fearful feelings. I think what it means is that we will not be overwhelmed or paralyzed by fear. We'll have the strength and the courage to overcome the fear.

I don't want us to think that it is abnormal to fear. If you have a tornado barreling down the road towards your house, there are going to be some natural adrenaline reactions of fear. I believe what it is talking about here is that we won't have this paralyzing fear that keeps you from being able to press on and move on and do what you need to do. You'll have courage to overcome the fear because you know who is in control of it all.

I've been reading over the last several months, just a little bit at a time, a biography of Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission. There is a neat account in that book about how Taylor and his family and fellow missionaries were traveling by ship to China. On one of their voyages, they encountered a fifteen-day storm in the China Sea, where they were faced with one typhoon after another.

The description is that sails were gone, masts gone, everything gone but their steadfast hope in God. Then a Mr. Rudland, who was on that ship and was writing this account, noted that all through the storm, Mr. Taylor was perfectly calm. I love that description. I go, “Lord, could that be me someday?” Sails gone, mast gone, everything gone but their steadfast hope in God. All through the storm, Mr. Taylor, whose life was anchored in God, was perfectly calm.

It's storming outside as we're talking right now. What a reminder that we have a safe place. We're safe in this room. We're not getting wet. We're hearing some rumbling and some noise. The clouds are dark out there, but we can't see them. We are in this room, and we've got a safe place. What a picture of how God wants to be our safe place, our refuge in the midst of the storm.

It doesn't mean the storms don't come. They're coming right now. You can hear that thunder rattling around up there. But we can remain calm in the midst of storms because we have a refuge.

When things are stable around us and in our world, it's easy to thank the Lord and feel all is well with my soul. But when things are not so stable, we tend to feel that all is not well. That is because we are addicted to peace, comfort, and feelings of security. When the waves increase and we're battered about by circumstances, we often become fretful and fearful.

I'm sad to tell you that in some of the storms I’ve faced in the last few years, my default reaction has not been to find refuge in the Lord. My default has been, in numerous situations, to become fearful and anxious. That is why I am pressing into this psalm, and asking Him to press it into me.

You see, God uses events that turn our world upside down to drive us to cling to Him. Sometimes it is just raw, naked faith. I can't see. I can't sense. I don't know how this will end, how He will solve it or fix it. I'm in some troubles right now that I don't know how God is going to resolve. So what do you do? You cling to God, who is our refuge, our strength, and our help.

God uses events that turn our world upside down to drive us to cling to Him.

So, those tsunamis, those floods, those typhoons, those storms—they remind us and drive us to Him, and they remind us that our only true security is found in Him. If you have placed your hope in the things or people of this world, which all of us have to greater or lesser degrees, then you have reason to be fearful. Because when your world gives way, all you have trusted and hoped in and found refuge in will be lost. It will be swept away.

But if you have placed your hope in the eternal God, though all else around you gives way—I'm talking about war, economic disaster, terrorism, natural disasters, your marriage, your children, your home, your jobs, your friends, your health—if you've placed your hope in God, then when it is all said and done, you will still have intact your most precious and necessary Possession. Capital P.

Those who have built their lives on the foundation of this present world will one day suffer irreparable loss as they discover that all they have lived for was temporary, shifting, and vulnerable.

Those who have placed their confidence in Christ, the Solid Rock, have nothing to fear, for that rock will never be moved, but will support them surely and steadfastly forever.

Don't you love that hymn, "The Solid Rock"? By the way, I learned recently that it was written in 1834 by a British pastor and first sung for a dying woman. Think about that scene as you ponder these words.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

I want to remind us that the storms, the quaking that we experience in our day, dramatic as they may be, terrifying as they may seem (as we watch those images and as in the cases of some of our dear brothers and sisters who have experienced those images) . . . All those storms and quakes and disasters give us a faint glimpse of a coming day when the entire earth will be shaken and dissolved—of cataclysmic judgment that is coming to this world.

I have been reading in my quiet time over the last little bit here through the book of Revelation. I'm just finishing another journey through the Bible. Let me read to you a description in Revelation 6. It's a picture of this coming cataclysmic judgment—talk about natural disasters.

When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand.” (vv. 12–17)

It reminds me of those pictures in Japan of people just trying in vain to outrun those surging waves to get to higher ground. I think of that old spiritual, “O sinner man, where you going to run to on that day?”

Scripture describes the ultimate undoing of this earth as we know it. It will disintegrate. It will be no more. Then, praise God, it will be replaced by a New Heaven and a New Earth, centered around that one unchanging reality of God. 

Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. (Ps. 102:25–28)

Those who put their trust in Him for their eternal salvation are secure. They need not fear. They will have an eternal refuge—but only those who trust in Him.

We see both of those kinds of people in Nahum 1, that says on the one hand that,

The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. [But on the other hand], but with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness (vv. 7–8).

Listen, it makes all the difference for time and eternity where you place your trust. Can you say that Christ is your only hope, the Solid Rock on which you have based your life? Are you trusting in Him, not only for time but for eternity; not only for body but more importantly for soul? Men kill the body, but the soul lives on forever.

When the day comes for that cataclysmic judgment of God to destroy this old, sinful earth, will you be overwhelmed in that flood, sent into eternal darkness and perdition and judgment? Or will you be safe and secure because you have taken refuge in Christ, the Solid Rock?

Lord, I pray that You would do a deep work in hearts, and that those who need to be terrified would be terrified, those who should be fearful because they are placing their trust in things and people of this world—maybe in themselves, maybe in religion, maybe in church—but they don't have any sure foundation. May their terror press them to find safety and refuge in You.

Lord, for those who have run to You for refuge, who are trusting in Christ and His righteousness, may we exhibit that freedom from fear, that calm untroubled spirit that knows whatever around us may go awry, whatever may be out of kilter, whatever may be vulnerable and shaking and quaking, our lives are anchored to Christ, the Solid Rock.

Nancy: We’ve been focusing our hearts on the truth of God’s Word—something we desperately need as our world is swept up in fear. Maybe your own heart has been tempted to fear, not just because of the coronavirus, but perhaps because of other circumstances that you are facing during this time.

The message we just heard is from Psalm 46, and you can hear the whole series at ReviveOurHearts.com. The series is called “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Again, you can listen, read the transcript or share it with a friend. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

And also there on our website, you’ll find a variety of resources that our team has put together to help you choose faith over fear. The landing page is called Deeply Rooted. It includes articles, archived programs, and videos to help you fill your mind of truth of God’s Word when you’re tempted to worry. Go to ReviveOurHearts.com and follow the link to the Deeply Rooted page.

I want to thank you for your prayers, for your financial support and partnership that make this ministry possible and that are enabling us to speak into the hearts of women in this very difficult time. Thank you so much for your continued support.

This is a time where our response to troubles and trials are going to make the gospel believable to the world around us. It's a time for the world to be able to see the peace that only Christ can give. It's a time to let our love go viral as we care for hurting people all around us.

Tomorrow we will continue looking together at Psalm 46. I hope you are soaking in that passage as you have opportunity across the course of each day this week. Together we will continue choosing faith over fear. I'm Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, I hope you’ll join us again for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

"The Solid Rock (My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less)." Eric Wyse. Instrumental Worship Lifestyle: The Solid Rock  ℗  2012 Classic Fox Records/Martingale Music.