Be Of Good Cheer part 3 [1-17-21]


One of my favorite, singular, most encouraging passages of Scripture is from the Gospel of John, chapter 16, verse 33 in the King James Version:

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

What does it mean to be courageous? What does it mean to be of good cheer as we begin a new year still stuck in the lockdowns, shutdowns, and slowdowns of a pandemic?


For a lot of people, a new adventure; a change in life direction; a challenge to the status quo; a disruption; a loss; things that bring a dust-up to the smooth, steady, calm way you think life should go; is accompanied by some sense of fear and trepidation. Are you with me on that?


So, what do we have to say about courage and fearlessness and risk-

taking? Isaiah 41:1-13 is a great place to start.

First, let's begin with Isaiah 41:1-13 to get the big picture…


Now, let's draw our focus on Isaiah 41:10:

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.


In that one verse, there are two commands to not fear and five foundations of fearlessness.


First, the commands. When the Bible commands something, it's not a suggestion or an option. The verse opens with "fear not." Command. Next, is "be not dismayed." An alternate translation is "do not anxiously look about you." Command.


As always with the Bible, there are reasons for commands. Commands aren't just floating around out there in the ether. There's a reason and a purpose for them. Commands are rooted in reality. In other words, if God commands us to do something, then there are good reasons to do it. And we discover the power in those commands when we understand and believe those reasons.


I think an appropriate side note is this observation by R.C. Sproul:

The greatest weakness in the church today is that almost no one believes that God invests His power in the Bible. Everyone is looking for power in a program, in a methodology, in a technique, in anything and everything but that in which God has placed it - His Word.

We don't need gimmicks or packaged programs to show us the way. All we need is the Word of God.


So here are the five reasons for the foundations:

  1. "For I am with you" - "Do not be afraid, for I am with you."

  2. "I am your God." - "Do not be dismayed, for I am your God."

  3. "I will strengthen you."

  4. "Surely I will help you."

  5. "Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."


And now, here are the five foundations for fearlessness:

  1. God is with me.

  2. God is my God.

  3. God will strengthen me.

  4. God will help me.

  5. God will uphold me.


When God calls you to be free from fear, He calls you to be free from fear. It means what it means. Free from fear when you have to take a test. Free from fear when you sit down for an interview. Free form fear when you speak out against abortion…when you have to deal with the sin in your life…when you strike out on a risky new venture…when faced with an operation or illness…when you lose a spouse or a friend…when God commands you to be free from fear, He does not leave the command hanging. He puts a foundation under the command. Five foundations. Remember, Biblical commands always come with foundational support.

  1. Fear not, God is with you;

  2. Fear not, God is your God;

  3. Fear not, God will strengthen you;

  4. Fear not, God will help you;

  5. Fear not, God will uphold you.


Those foundations from Isaiah 41 are keys for overcoming our fears. Verse 9 is the preamble for these foundations in verse 10:

you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”;

What do you hear there? We hear that fearlessness flows from believing that God is your God and He is with you and will strengthen you and help you and uphold you, and when you know this - when you see this promised in Scripture, it will build your faith and intensify your fearlessness. Are you with me on that? Do you want to be fearless?


To that end - building your faith and intensifying your fearlessness - let's now gather four glimpses of God's greatness.


Glimpse #1: THE JUDGE OF ALL THE EARTH

Isaiah 41:1 says:

Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength; let them approach, then let them speak; let us together draw near for judgment.

Isaiah gives us a picture of God calling all the coastlands, which indicates far-away places, as well as near-by, to gird their strength and come before Him for judgment. In other words, the God who says fear not is the Judge of all the earth. He calls all nations to give account for the lives they've lived and the gods they've worshiped and the ideas they've dreamed up. God is not on trial. The people are. People come into His courtroom. God is the Judge who will pass sentence. That's the God who is with you to strengthen and help.


Glimpse #2: THE RULER OF ALL RULERS


Isaiah 41:2-3 asks:

Who stirred up one from the east whom victory meets at every step? He gives up nations before him, so that he tramples kings underfoot; he makes them like dust with his sword, like driven stubble with his bow. He pursues them and passes on safely, by paths his feet have not trod.

Here Isaiah conjures an image of God rousing a king and leading him in conquest and giving him nations to overtake. So the God who says fear not is King of kings. He directs world events for His purposes. God was King of kings during George Bush's two terms…during Barak Obama's two terms…during Donald Trump's one term...and He'll be King of kings during however many terms He allots Joe Biden. That's who is our foundation for fearlessness.


Glimpse #3: THE UNCREATED FIRST, YAHWEH


Isaiah 41:4 asks:

Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he.

This is the third of the amazing affirmations from Isaiah. God judges the nations. God is Ruler among the rulers of the earth. And here, God calls all the nations of the earth into being…calling the generations from the beginning. God is the Alpha and God is the Omega. He is the first and last. God is the absolute reality before all other reality. In fact, all other reality is fully and completely dependent on God. To put in another way, God is the Uncreated First. And God will be there at the end, when all is accomplished according to His eternal purpose.


There is no roll of the dice with God. There is nothing left to chance. There is no such thing as luck…good or bad. Isaiah is talking about the eternal purpose of God.


When God answers the question of the first part of verse 4 - "I, the Lord, the first, and the last; I am he" - the Hebrew word used is YHWH,

translated Yahweh or Jehovah. That is the sacred name of God. That is the name God gave to Moses when Moses asked God who he should tell the people has sent him. YHWH - "I am who I am." The sacred name of God. By the way, it's in the answer Jesus gave when asked by the Jewish authorities who he was. The sacred name of God. Fully and completely, the absolutely singular and only Divine Being. YHWH, the One who is outside and inside the history of the universe, and also above history, not tied down by or beholden to history. YHWH, the One who is Lord of His own absolute being. YHWH, the One who is purely satisfied in His own being and is perfect in all He does. Here's something you might want to write down:

God is the Unconditionally Free and Unchangeably Eternal Personality Who is Ruler of All.


That is the God of Isaiah 41:10 who strengthens and helps and upholds.


Glimpse #4: THE GOD WHO CHOSE HIS OWN PEOPLE


In verses 5-7, Isaiah shows how desperate nations try to persuade themselves that they and their gods are strong:

The coastlands have seen and are afraid; the ends of the earth tremble; they have drawn near and come. Everyone helps his neighbor and says to his brother, “Be strong!” The craftsman strengthens the goldsmith, and he who smooths with the hammer him who strikes the anvil, saying of the soldering, “It is good”; and they strengthen it with nails so that it cannot be moved.

Can you hear it? The stubbornly unrepentant nations try to convince themselves that all is well. The metal workers are those who make the idols. The craftsmen are those who nail them on walls and doorways and in village squares. They are all trying to convince themselves that these hand-made gods will meet their needs.


In how many ways and in how many places do people do that today!


Over against such desperate, constant, fear-driven clamoring for idolatrous self-reliance, God says to His people in verses 8-9:

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”;


What, then, do we have in verses 1-9? We have a picture of the God who judges the nations, and rules the rulers of the nations, and calls the nations into being, choosing His people for Himself, calling them from their hopeless separation from Him, and claiming them to be His servant. How's that for a foundation for fearlessness?


Here's the gospel. That's what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. He chose us before the foundation of the world. He called us out of darkness and death. And God took us for Himself to belong to Him. God has done all

that to make Him our God.


So, what now do we have in verse 10? We have an intensification of fearlessness:

  • The God who judges all the earth and calls the coastlands to

give account and

  • The God who rules the rulers of history and

  • The God who calls the nations of earth into being because He is the first and the last and

  • The God who calls His own people and makes Himself their God freely and graciously…

THAT GOD SAYS TO US TO WHOM HE HAS GIVEN HEARTS TO BELIEVE:

  • I am your God.

  • I am with you.

  • I will strengthen you.

  • I will help you.

  • I will uphold you.


Now check out what happens next. Remember the statement of Biblical truth we started with…God commands fearlessness. And God builds that command on something real and tangible. So the command rests on these pillars:

  • Therefore - Because I am the judge of the nations,

  • Therefore - because I rule the rulers of history,

  • Therefore - because I call nations into being,

  • Therefore - because I choose freely my own,

  • Therefore - because I - this great and sovereign God -

  • Am your God, and

  • Am with you, and

  • Will help you, and

  • Will uphold you,

{now here it is}

THEREFORE, DO NOT FEAR.


Why on earth would we ever be afraid?


If you're still not completely sold, flip the image for a moment. Not five

foundations. But five different relationship expressions from five different

positions from God. It plays out like this…He is God over you. He is God by

your side. He is your internal strength. He encircles you to help you from all enemies. And He is underneath you, holding you up.


Here's something else you might want to write down:

THROUGH GOD'S GRACE AND MERCY, HE IS OVER ME, BY ME, INSIDE ME, AROUND ME, AND UNDERNEATH ME.


THEREFORE I WILL NOT FEAR.


As we move into the new year, let us all determine to stop defining and limiting our future in terms of our past. Let our God, not our fears, define our future. Amen?


As you move into the new year, recognize that God is greater than your personality. God is greater than your triumphs. God is greater than your past experiences of timidity. God is greater than your family or nation or ethnic heritage. And this great God calls you to joyful fearlessness. Your fearlessness has absolutely nothing to do with you or what you bring to the table. It has everything to do with God. Amen?

As you move into the new year, remember the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also."

- John 14:1-3

Believe in God…trust in God…let God be your help and your strength. God will hold you up with His righteous right hand.

AMEN!






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