Welcome to Daily Steps!
A weekly devotional message with daily scripture readings and prayer prompts to help you spend time with, and draw closer to, Jesus.
Psalm 42:1,5 (NLT) — How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues. So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord!
Sheltering in the Shadow of the Most High
In our modern culture, we never use the word “fear” in the context of anything good. And especially now, living in the shadow of a global pandemic, the concept of what it means to be fearful has risen to an entirely new level. That’s why this may sound ridiculous to most of us, but there is a right kind of fear...a good kind. A powerful one. A fear that is capable of not only driving your actions, but also transforming your mind and changing your heart forever. Once you discover this kind of fear and allow it to penetrate your heart, it will fuel your trust and help you become more fearless little by little, day by day.
This right kind of fear is mentioned throughout the Bible. Psalm 103:11 tells us “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him.” Psalm 31:19 says that God stores up and delivers great goodness to “those who fear” Him. The promises associated with the right kind of fear also show up in the New Testament. Acts 9:31 says the early church flourished because the followers of Jesus walked in the fear of the Lord and actively dwelled in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. The prophet Isaiah confirms that even Jesus Himself both walked with, and delighted in, the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:2-3).
Because of their Jewish heritage and religious training, the early Christians understood exactly what it meant to have a fear of God and how essential it was to receiving His protection, blessings, and help for coping with daily life. Many first-century believers were Hebrew, or at least, understood the Jewish culture enough to know that the word for fear meant “a deep kind of feeling from the gut” that motivated unwavering reverence and awe. In his 1986 Christianity Today article “Fearing God,” William D. Eisenhower offers one of the best explanations regarding the paradox of fearing God as a path to experiencing a fearless life. He said, “Unfortunately many of us presume that the world is the ultimate threat and that God's function is to offset it. How different this is from the Biblical position that God is far scarier than the world …. When we assume that the world is the ultimate threat, we give it unwarranted power, for, in truth, the world's threats are temporary. When we expect God to balance the stress of the world, we reduce Him to the world's equal …. As I walk with the Lord, I discover that God poses an ominous threat to my ego, but not to me. He rescues me from my delusions so He may reveal the truth that sets me free. He casts me down, only to lift me up again. He sits in judgment of my sin but forgives me nevertheless. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but love from the Lord is its completion.”
When we fear, as the early Christians understood that word, permission to come up under the wing of His love is granted. Psalm 91:1-2 declares boldly: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Shelter, fortress, refuge, hiding place, rock, and so many other strong words are used repeatedly throughout the Psalms to convey God’s desire to offer us protection from the world and anything in it that attacks us. No matter what form the attacks against us take, from malicious people to invisible lethal viruses, we are promised His abiding love, presence, and ultimately eternal life. As theologian J. Alec Motyer said of God’s protection," the promise is not security from [harm] but security in” God Himself. This is exactly what Jesus meant when He assured the disciples that nothing could harm them in Matthew 10:28-30. "Don’t be in fear of those who can kill only the body but not your soul. Fear only God, who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. You can buy two sparrows for only a copper coin, yet not even one sparrow falls from its nest without the knowledge of your Father. Aren’t you worth much more to God than many sparrows? So don’t worry. For your Father cares deeply about even the smallest detail of your life.”
As we enter yet another week of uncertainty, it’s all too easy to let your fears drive a wedge between your heart and God’s. But here’s something to keep in the forefront of your mind. When you let the fear of God rule over you, then there’s nothing else you need to fear. When you listen to the Holy Spirit whisper that He is with you no matter what and you take the leap to believe in that truth, then you're on your way to getting that “deep kind of feeling in your gut” that the Psalmist had as he wrote these words in Psalm 46:1-3: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 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. Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Daily Bible Readings with Prayer Prompts
As you contemplate these passages throughout the week, make time to pray before you read them and then again afterward. In each reading, ask God to show you what the verses mean specifically to you. God’s Word is alive, so even if you’re familiar with these Scriptures, approach them with an expectant heart and an open mind. God wants to converse with you.
Monday - Read Psalm 34:9 and Psalm 103:11. Ask yourself if you believe that these verses are true. It’s okay to be honest with God and bring your doubts to Him. Talk to Him about these verses and ask Him to change your perceptions of Him, your life, and the circumstances you’re facing. Ask Him to reveal to you how you don’t revere Him or yield to Him. Spend a few quiet moments just listening and waiting. Ask Him to help you trade your unhealthy fears for a holy fear that will help you fix your eyes on the majesty of God while saturating you with an all-trusting peace. Praise and thank Him for whatever He brings to your mind.
Tuesday - Read Isaiah 6:1-6 and Ephesians 3:14-21. Our God is both all-powerful and all-loving. Take some time to reflect on your understanding of the fear of the Lord and what it means in daily practice. How has your perception of it changed (either from when you were growing up or when you first started following Jesus)? Spend time asking God to wash away from your heart and mind any negative connotations or perceptions you have about Him. Ask Him to replace your doubts and concerns with an overwhelming understanding of how He longs to be with you and shelter you under His wing.
Wednesday - Read Psalm 27:5 and Colossians 3:1-4. Both of these passages speak of being hidden, or protected, by God’s love and care. Spend some time reading each passage slowly, imagining what it would feel like to be completely concealed in the sacrificial love of Jesus. Select the word or phrase that grabs your attention the most, and turn it back to God in the form of praise or prayer.
Thursday - Read 1 John 4:17-18 in both the ESV and The Message translations of the Bible. The word for perfection in Greek doesn’t mean unblemished as it does in English. Rather the use of the word perfection in this passage means completion or accomplishment. Spend some time reflecting on what Jesus accomplished or completed for you and why His love for you is so powerful, so all-encompassing, that your fears can dissipate in His presence. Ask God to help you release any fears of punishment or judgment that you harbor in your heart and may prevent you from honoring or trusting Him.
Friday - Read Psalm 40:2-4 and go before the Lord with your appreciation and praise for all the ways He has previously lifted you up out of dark places or trying circumstances. Thank Him that you can trust Him to set your feet on a strong foundation once again. Take a walk or go to a quiet place in your home to be still in His presence, envisioning yourself walking, and talking freely with Jesus. Share your heart with Him today and then let go of anything He’s urging you to release your control over.
What Does it Mean for a Christian to Fear God? — If you want to dive deeper into this subject and learn how to trade your unhealthy fears for a helpful and beautiful fear of the Lord, this article by John Piper on the Desiring God website is just for you!
It's Never Too Late to Find Peace and Joy — If you are struggling with anxiety or discouragement during this time of shelter-in-place, you may find this two-part essay especially helpful. It was written by someone prone to anxiety herself, our own Community Team Study Guide Writer, Sara Goetz.
READ PART 1 OF THE ESSAY