In a 1736 journal entry, John Wesley tells a story about an encounter with some Moravian, German Christians during a voyage to America before he became a believer. The Moravians were just beginning a worship service on the ship when a storm struck:
The stark contrast between the English and the Moravian reactions was not due to nationality, but to their faith. Each person alike was facing death, but some did so with quiet peace, while others were crippled by fear.
I wonder what Psalm began their service just before the storm? Perhaps Psalm 46 which says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though … though [the sea’s] waters roar and foam.”
We have seen the world dissolve into fear these past few months. The coronavirus has brought a whole new mode of life. People who previously lived lives of distraction have been forced to consider that they may die. And, to say the least, many are not ready. We’ve seen a contrast much like Wesley saw on his voyage. The encouraging thing about that story is the demonstration of living faith in the Moravians, who sang through the storm. They lived out Jesus’s message about fear.
In Matthew 10, just after Jesus warned his disciples that he was sending them into danger, persecution, and death (vv. 16, 21, 23), he said “have no fear… Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Jesus is echoing Proverbs 1, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” His point is that the higher our view of God, the lesser will be our fear of everything else. There is something that is much more terrible than physical death. Everyone will die someday. But, the more fearful thing is to face God, the judge, having feared everything else more than him. For those who do fear the Lord, who know their verdict of “innocent” has already been rendered, there is a peace that passes understanding. Perfect love drives out lesser fears.
What does your state of mind and heart during this time of fear tell you about your faith? Has your reaction been more like the fearful English or the faithful Moravians?
May the Lord grant all his children the peace of God that comes through knowing that no kind of earthly trouble can, ultimately, harm us because we fear the Lord. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.