Fear is powerful. It can prevent us from doing what we otherwise would want to do. It can keep us from doing what we know we should do. The fear of nature, the fear of men, the fear of the unknown, all can paralyze us.
But what are the things that compel our fear? How are they formed? Where does their power come from?
The answer is in Colossians 1:17:
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (ESV)
Christ, we are reminded, is before all things. The Greek actually says (in present-tense indicative, if that matters) that He “is in existence prior to all things.” That is, He both now exists and existed before anything else existed. No power or force existed before Christ. No earthquake, no hurricane, no tidal wave, no storm was unleashed prior to Him.
What is more, we are told that in Him all things hold together. That is, they are combined together as they are and continue to be what they are, by Him. They are put together by Christ and do what they do because of Christ. The power or force that any thing exerts is put there by Christ. Every earthquake, each hurricane, every tidal wave, each storm is placed where it is (and does what it does) by Him.
Our understanding of that is crucial. It means that the things we might fear are not powerful in themselves. Our fears are misplaced if our fears are directed against nature, men, or the unknown. They may have power, but all their strength really comes from and through Christ, who exists now as He did before they did, and who continues to hold and distribute their power as He sees fit.
Our fear and awe should be not of the things around us, but of Him.
The disciples of Jesus were frightened on several occasions. One of them is reported in Luke 8:22-25, (also Mark 4:35-41 and Matthew 8:23-27). One evening, near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus got into a boat with the disciples and told them to go to the other side of the sea. Jesus fell asleep, and a tremendous storm came up, causing the boat to fill with water. At this point, the disciples, many of whom were skilled at navigating these very waters in all kinds of weather, became alarmed that they were going to die. They woke Jesus up with the words “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Jesus then rebuked the wind and the waves, bringing calm to the sea. After rebuking nature, Jesus rebuked the disciples, asking, “Where is your faith?” The response of the disciples to this is interesting. Luke 8:25 says that THEN the disciples were afraid!
Even though they thought they knew Jesus, they learned then that He was utterly and completely in control. That frightened them.
The Man who fell asleep in that tiny boat that evening existed before the Sea they floated upon was formed. He formed that Sea, and the power of its waves was the power that He imparted to them. He existed before the wind that blew so fiercely that evening, and the force in the wind was the force that He imparted to it.
The other men in that tiny boat on that vast Sea learned that truth that evening, when the things that He had commanded into existence obeyed Him again. At that moment, those men understood that the things they might have feared were under the command of Christ. Now He, rather than those things, became the object of their fear, awe, and wonderment.
We must learn that lesson. The things we fear did not exist before Christ, and He exists and will exist even after they have spent all their force and power. The things we fear have no existence and no strength outside of Christ, and His power and strength will continue even after He stops sustaining those things.
Whether we fear storms or disasters or men, the things we fear only exist and do what they do by His authority and His design. Let us not fear what they can do, but what He can do.
The same Christ who commanded the sea and wind said “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” in Luke 12:4-5 (ESV).
But, He also offered comfort to all those who, like the disciples, call out to Him, “Master, we are perishing!” He said, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God.”-Luke 12:6-8 (ESV)
He is still “before all things.” All things still “hold together in Him.” He still calms the Sea when He is called upon. And, after He has done so, He still asks, “Where is your faith?”