This last week we had about 70 children come through our VBS program, which was called “Weird Animals… where Jesus’ love is one-of-a-kind.” They learned that no matter what happens, Jesus loves them. They might feel left out, or feel different from others, or they may not understand things that happen, or they might have done something wrong. But Jesus loves us even in the hardest times.
The VBS material is actually for 5 days, but we only did 4. So, this morning, you get to join in on the final Bible point of the Weird Animals VBS, which is, “Even when you’re afraid… Jesus Loves You!”
The Bible verse for this lesson is found in Matthew 14:27, where Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid… I am here!” Jesus said this because the disciples were afraid of him when he was walking out to them on the water.
Now, I know we have covered the story of Jesus walking on the water already in John. However, in Matthew, there is part of the story that is not told in John. Let’s read the entire story before we continue.
Read John 14:22-33
The message this morning is about who Jesus is, and why we can trust him with our fears.
Ask yourself, what are the main sources of fear in your life? What causes you to be afraid? What are you afraid of most?
There are many things we are afraid of. Death, injury, loneliness, sickness, poverty, rejection, missing a deadline, sleeping in, spiders, snakes. The list could go on.
Fear is a very common theme in Scripture. God has a whole lot to say about it.
Fear is the first emotion we read about following the first sin committed by Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:10 says, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked and I hid myself.”
Adam was afraid of confrontation with God. For the first time in his life he experienced fear and the reason was that he did something which caused division between him and God. Fear was the direct result of sin.
Once sin entered the world, people experienced fear all the time. Fear motivated Abram to lie about Sarai being his wife, but God said, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield.”
Fear motivated Isaac to lie about Rebekah being his wife, and God said, “Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you.”
Fear motivated Moses to flee Egypt after he killed an Egyptian, and it gripped him when God told him he would be sent to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God saw that Moses was afraid, and so he said, “I will be with you.”
As the Israelites faced the Promised Land, with Joshua at commanding them into battle, God said, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
When God called Gideon to save Israel from the Midianites, he was afraid. But God said, “I will be with you and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”
One of the most central aspects of faith in God is that we need not fear because God is with us. Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
When we read the Bible, we see that there are many, many good reasons to be afraid. Because of sin, we have a very good reason to have fears. Sin causes sickness, death, violence, poverty, hatred, anger, jealousy, and so many other bad things.
God knows that we have many fears. This is why he told people over and over again, “fear not.” Why did God tell people they don’t need to be afraid? What helps us when we are afraid?
It is the presence of God that can settle our fears. God says, “Fear not, I am with you.”
In Matthew 14, we read that the disciples were afraid because when Jesus was walking toward them on the water, they thought he was a ghost!
But, what did Jesus say? He said, “Do not be afraid, I am here!” Jesus told the disciples the same thing God told his people over and over again all throughout history. He said, “Because I, the Lord your God, am with you, you do not need to be afraid.”
There are many things we are afraid of. Think for a moment. What do you do when you’re afraid? What helps to calm your fears?
It often depends on the fear. If it is darkness, we try to find light. If there is a frightening sound, we try to get to a safe place.
Greater fears include a fear of losing our jobs and not having money. We are afraid of being injured, or our children being injured. We are afraid of people being mad at us, or being rejected.
One of the underlying beliefs in our society is that we all have a right to live without fear. Many of the laws we have are created because we are afraid of things. Laws are meant to protect us from harm and keep us safe.
Sometimes fear prompts us to action and helps us make wise decisions. We have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. We have plans for evacuation and natural disasters. We have insurance to help cover the costs of unexpected damage to our possessions or injuries that prevent us from working. Having these safety measures in place help to alleviate our fears.
Fear is a major part of who we are as humans, and we can’t really get away from it.
It is a common belief that religion is born out of fear. We are afraid of death, afraid of hell or some version of hell, and so we create a way to calm our fears. We create a system of beliefs and ways to live that reassures us that we are safe from eternal suffering.
This way of thinking is as old as sin itself. As long as people have been aware of sin, we have tried to come up with a way of dealing with the guilt and the fear of consequence. But when Jesus came, he said, do not be afraid, for I am here. Why does this change things? How does it make a difference?
I want you to think about this question, it’s a question we should be asking because at this point I haven’t really given you a good reason to see why we can find comfort in the fact that Jesus loves us.
I haven’t said anything about why that helps us with our fears. We tell the children, “Even when you’re afraid, Jesus loves you,” but we need to ask, how does this actually help me?
I can see it on the faces of the children when I tell them that Jesus loves them. They just look at me like, so what? I like it when they do that. It makes me dig deeper and explain to them why it matters.
When Jesus came, his solution to fear was completely different than any religion. Every other religion has been created by people as a way to get to God. We humans know deep down that we need to be justified for the things we have done wrong. We fear what will happen if we don’t have some way to escape the judgment of our sins.
Unlike every other religion, and contrary to popular belief, Jesus did not come to be the designer of a new way out of hell. He did not come to give us another step-by-step process for eliminating our guilt.
He came to bring that which will ultimately calm our greatest fears and give us hope and peace that we cannot give ourselves. He came to bring God himself to us. He came to bring us the presence of the one who has said, “fear not, for I am with you.”
The only true way out of fear is an experience with God himself. Let’s explore this through the VBS Bible point. “Even when you’re afraid, Jesus loves you.”
According to this point, the love of Jesus is supposed to somehow make us feel better. Be honest with yourself… do you feel better knowing that Jesus loves you? This is important, because for many of us, we have been told that Jesus loves us, and we’ve never really given much thought to why that should matter.
Yet, the statement is true, that Jesus loves us even when we are afraid. Not only that, but the love of Jesus really does make a difference.
Think about someone in your life who has made a life-changing positive difference for you. Besides my parents, I can think of at least three without spending a lot of time thinking about it. Now, how did those people make a difference in your life?
One person I think about is my wife. As of August 10, Lynn and I have been married twelve years. I can say without a doubt that I am a better person because of her. Why is that?
It should be no surprise that Lynn is a wonderful wife. However, she does not love me perfectly. Not even close. And I don’t love her perfectly. Although we want what is best for each other, we fail all the time. Yet, my life has been completely changed for the better because of her love for me.
When you have been loved by someone who wants what is best for you, and you receive that love in a healthy relationship, you will be changed for the better.
Love, even imperfect love, in the biblical sense, is actively desiring what’s best for others. I’ve talked about this before. The love of Jesus was demonstrated through his obedience to the Father by offering himself as payment for our sins. Jesus’ love is perfect, and it is powerful.
Let’s go back to Matthew 14, and see how the love of Jesus makes a difference for our fears.
What happened in this story? Jesus walks up to the boat on top of the water, and the disciples are frightened. Jesus said, “don’t be afraid, it’s me, Jesus.” Peter isn’t sure, so he calls out to Jesus, “hey, if it’s you, tell me to come out to you. Enable me to walk on the water like you.” So Jesus says, “yes, come.”
Peter steps out, and begins to walk. He’s doing it! What a miracle! No human has ever done this apart from Jesus. But, Peter notices the powerful wind. Fear grips him and he begins to sink.
What does Jesus do?
Just a second. When I was preparing for this message, I asked Lynn a question. You see, I know that Lynn used to be a lifeguard. I know this because we started dating when she was the lifeguard at the camp we both worked at.
I asked her, when she would jump in the water and rescue a drowning child, how did people usually respond? Were people amazed at your love and compassion? Were their lives changed forever? It’s kind of funny to think of that.
People rescue others all the time in the world. We praise the people for their courage, but really, most people would rescue someone in trouble if they were able to.
Now, back to Jesus and Peter. Peter is sinking, and he cries out, “Save me, Lord!” What did Jesus do? He saved him of course! Wow! What amazing love and compassion! He saved someone who was drowning!
Wait a second… why does Jesus get such special treatment for saving someone? anyone would have done that in his situation.
The love of Jesus in this story is not demonstrated by the fact that Jesus rescued Peter from drowning. The love of Jesus is demonstrated by HIS VERY PRESENCE!!! Where was Jesus when he rescued Peter? He was standing on top of the water!
The love of Jesus stills our fears not because he is willing to rescue us. Our fears are stilled because the love of Jesus has power to overcome even the most destructive forces on earth.
Wind, water, sickness, sin, death. Jesus has power over all of it. And his love is backed by all that power.
So, when we tell these children, and when I tell you, that even when you’re afraid, Jesus loves you, your fears are calmed because you know that the love of Jesus is powerful and has overcome all things that seek to do us harm.
A relationship with Jesus, a relationship that involves receiving his love means that whatever we are experiencing, whatever fears we have, are subject to his love. It doesn’t mean fears won’t come. Peter stepped out in faith toward Jesus, and he became afraid and started sinking. But, Jesus was there to pull him up.
We will never be out of the reach and power of Jesus. That is what calms our fears. That is why we can walk confidently on this earth, even when storms rage around us.
Whatever you are afraid of this morning, tell Jesus about it. He’s listening. Maybe you’re afraid of rejection, or sickness, or injury. Maybe you are afraid of facing God because you know you have done wrong.
I invite you to trust Jesus this morning. Trust him with your fears.