Fear is something we all experience but with the current pandemic, it's taking over hearts. And when we fear, we take our eyes off of God. When fear is felt, it is an indicator that we are focusing on the wrong thing—the big waves and mounting trials. Ultimately, it's really a faith issue, and ultimately, a God issue. In this powerful sermon, Tim Dilena reminds us of God's character that warrants our worship and faith.
Father, we thank you that you are our strength. You are our hope. You are, Lord God, everything we need in this time. Though our country is facing an unprecedented time, ground that we've never been on before, I thank you that nothing takes you by surprise, oh God. There is nothing that is, that your arm is too short to extend mercy, kindness, salvation, and even as Ivory sang, amazing grace can be extended to our country and to countries abroad.
We pray, Lord God, that you would begin just to guide us today. May the Holy Spirit just continue to lift up, Lord God, the people that are affected and infected with this, affected with fear and infected with the virus, but most of all let them turn their eyes upon Jesus who is the healer, the sustainer, and is our hope. Holy Spirit, be with us in these next few moments. Let the word of God begin to come and challenge and change us today. Let the word of God begin to go way down deep, that Lord, when things seem to be forgotten in the midst of fear, let us never forget God is with us. God is with us, and we thank you for this in Jesus' name. Amen. Hallelujah.
Well, once again, all the way from Times Square Church right in the heart of Manhattan, we want to welcome you to our live service here. Though the building is empty, these amazing volunteers have come today to encourage and to bring hope by focusing on Jesus today, I've heard for many years in the church that the Bible says these words, "Fear not" 365 times. That means it says I don't have to fear, think about this, one time for every day of the year. Fear not 365 times in the Bible. How awesome is that for us for what we're facing today?
But it's interesting. In 30 years of preaching, I have said this, but I've said it without checking it out. I've said, "Fear not" is their 365 times. And I thought, "What an amazing thought." So I decided to investigate it myself to see if it is actually there 365 time. Well, here's the real story. Really depending upon the kind of version of the Bible that you have, it doesn't say it 365 times. In fact, it's not even close to saying it 365 times. In fact, based upon the version that you may have, it may be even less than a hundred times in the Bible. But it doesn't really matter, and I want you to listen real closely because here's the fact. If it was only in the Bible once, that's all we need to hear it so we would never fear again.
Why? Because with God, once said is enough said. If he says "Fear not" once, I don't need it 365 times. How come? If our God who cannot lie said it once, that's it. Because God says, "Fear not" over a hundred times, boy, what an encouragement to every single one of us. I believe and don't need it 364 times. I just need to know God said it once and that becomes enough for me.
See, our country and even our planet is faced with a pandemic right now with this virus, with the coronavirus. People are afraid. Not only is the MLB and NFL, the NHL, the NBA suspending seasons, colleges are canceling classes and telling students not to come back even to the fall, from Broadway to literally entire countries that are on lockdown today, and many of it being done to be proactive. None of it's being done without fear that's being instilled in many people's hearts.
And here's the fact: people are afraid and are afraid everywhere. Even when I was flying in and coming into New York City yesterday, the person that I sat next to, they scrubbed down that seat, they scrubbed down the armrest, they scrubbed down the tray table, and I thought I was going to be next that they were going to begin to scrub down at that point because of fear. They are doing everything they can to take precautionary measures. See, the disposition of a Christian and everyone else should be different because we have a God who told us at least once, we don't have to fear.
In fact, I love the story of the woman who was on a plane en route from Boston to Los Angeles, and after being airborne and hitting really bad weather for almost the entire trip, everybody on board was panicking because of the tossing and the jostling of the plane, worrying of whether they were actually going to begin to reach Boston. In fact, everyone was concerned for their safety except one old senior citizen who knitted a sweater the entire time on this transcontinental flight.
People would yell at the number of drops from the turbulence, but she just kept on knitting. And one of the passengers noticed that it seemed never to bother this old lady. So finally somebody when it hit just a little bit of a moment of some clean and clear air, someone went over to this old woman who was knitting again at the time and said, "Why aren't you bothered? Why don't you seem to be fearful while all of us are fearful of this plane and hoping we're going to make it in safety?" Here's were her words. "Young man, I am on my way to visit my son in Boston, but I used to have another son who was a Christian and died not too long ago and went to heaven. So before this day is done, one thing I know. I will see one of them and it doesn't matter which one of them I will begin to visit." That means that woman does not fear and if there's ever a disposition we need as the body of Christ and as Christians, it's really not to have that kind of fear.
I'm so grateful for our President and I'm so grateful for Washington, DC that called a National Day of Prayer. I'm grateful that our nation and churches all around the country are beginning to pray. That first National Day of Prayer was called by our 16th President Abraham Lincoln, and he said these words when he called the very first National Day of Prayer. Listen to what he said. He said, "I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go." That's exactly what's happening today. We are under a conviction that we have nowhere else to go, but to God himself.
So that's why we're believing today that through the worship, through the word, and through our service and the services that are being simulcasted all over the country and all over the world, that you're going to be inspired to realize, there's nowhere else to go, but to our knees and calling upon God. Not only are colleges and Broadway and sporting events shutting down, but churches all over America and around the world have had to shut down because of rules that says no more than 250, no more than 500 could meet. But here's the question. Can we with an empty theater right here on Broadway with many of you having not even being able to go to church today, are we still able to worship with fear even all around us?
I want to teach you something today at the end of these few words on how to worship when fear tries to come and take over our hearts. I want to teach you, in fact, we're going to close worshiping with this brand new way that is going to inspire and challenge your heart today. Let me just say a few things I want you to write down because I want to challenge you as we begin to weather the storm through this that I think it will be important for us.
Number one I began to realize is this. Fear is a revelation. What do you mean? When we are afraid, it's showing something about us. See, fear makes us focus on the wrong thing. Let me read to you a passage from Matthew 8 where there is fear but there is and there is focus but there is focus on the wrong thing. This is Jesus and his disciples that are about to hit a storm, and their focus is forgetting who is with them and seeing the situation on the outside. Listen to this from Matthew 8:23. "When he," Jesus, "got into the boat, his disciples followed him, and behold there arose a great storm on the sea so that the boat was being covered with the waves, but Jesus himself was asleep." In fact, one version says that a storm came up, that the waves were higher than even the boat itself, which we many of us feel like today.
It goes on to say in verse 25, "And they came to him and woke him, saying, 'Save us, Lord. We are perishing.' And he said to them," listen to these words, "'Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?' Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm, and the men were amazed and said, 'What kind of man is this that even the winds and the sea obey him?'" One version says the storm came without warning.
It almost seemed like these disciples who were with Jesus, going with Jesus comes without warning, comes up suddenly almost like a pop quiz for them, those pop quizzes that many of us experienced even when we were in school were really revelations about us. Not the teacher, not the material, but about us. If we knew the material, if we knew the stuff, and if we were keeping up with what we were being told and what we were being taught from pulpits and from lecterns and from even from professors all around the country. Think about this. I hated pop quizzes growing up. I was one of those guys if I knew there was a midterm and a final, I could prepare for that, but when it was a pop quiz, it meant that I needed to keep up. I needed to know what was happening.
See, Christianity doesn't work on a midterm and on a final, but usually it's pop quizzes that seem to show up suddenly during lots of suddenlies that begin to come from without and without warning because stuff happens and these disciples were not prepared for this storm just like many Christians who are walking in fear today. But here comes the revelation. It's in verse 26 because the revelation is this. Jesus was telling them this is not a fear issue, but it's a faith issue. It's not the thing that's the problem that's causing the fear, the waves, but it's the little faith in the midst of the waves that is beginning to affect you. Listen to this closely. Let me say this again. It wasn't big waves, but little faith that caused the fear. It wasn't big waves, but little faith that begin to put fear inside of the people that shouldn't have been fearful.
Here's a note. When you have big waves and little faith, you're going to have a fear problem, but if you have big waves and big faith, then you know God's got this for all of us, and that's where God wants to begin to come and help us. So when we're in a turbulent moment, whether it's on a plane or a boat in Matthew 8, it could even be a cruise ship that can't even find a place to dock around the world, don't bind fear. We just need to get faith increased inside of our hearts. That's what God is beginning to ask us to do.
Think of the perplexity, think of the fear that came on the faces of those disciples not knowing what's going to happen in the next few moments. I have a friend that even faced that. His fear began to bring this look upon him that he didn't know what was going to happen with his job, with ministry, with everything that was getting ready to take place in his life, and he wrote to me this and said these words. He says, "My wife and I were meeting in a meeting here right here in New York City, and I was hoping," these are his words, "that the meeting would go differently. After while my wife and I were walking to Whole Foods right in midtown Manhattan," he said, "there was fear all over us.
"And as we're walking, there was a lady begging for money, and I guess my face said it all and said a lot of the fear and I was thinking about the scary future because of what would happen to me just in the meeting, just literally minutes before, and this woman who is homeless begging for money with a cardboard sign literally looked at me and yelled, 'Fix your face. God is good.' I knew at that point I was just rebuked by a homeless woman and realized I can fix my face because God is good, and because God is good, not only should our faces be fixed, but our faith should be full that God can help us through every storm and wave that we begin to affect."
Fear is a revelation. It makes, it reminds us that are we focusing on the right thing? But here's the second thing. Fear is not from God. Second Timothy 1:7 says this: "God has not given you and me a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind." Think of that again. When fear comes, it removes those three elements that are so important that we need every single day. We need power, we need love, and we need a sound mind to walk every day, to walk through this crisis that's happening, to walk through this pandemic. I need power, I need love, and I need a sound mind. But what's interesting is when fear comes, it removes those three things. It removes power, removes love, and sound mind.
Think what's the opposite that happens because I believe fear when it infects us, it takes those three things away. Think about it. What's the opposite of power? But it would be weakness. What's the opposite of love? Listen. Not hatred. It's selfishness. That's the opposite of love. When I'm fearful, I'm weak. When I'm fearful, I'm selfish. And think about this. What's the opposite of a sound mind? But it's crazy thoughts, crazy narratives that begin to come and begin to infect us. That's the opposite of power, love, and a sound mind that we're always facing and we're always dealing with.
I had somebody a few years ago that was coming to our church that was located in a very, very dangerous area of Detroit, and as they were coming for the very first time, invited them to come, they were looking for a place to park, and because the area was dangerous where the church was, they said fear started to strike them. They saw people on the streets and places that they knew that they'd have to walk a long way, and thought to themselves this fear that was there and the fear that came over them, they literally kept their car going and took off and went back home.
And then they asked me this question. They said, "Do you think God was telling me and warning me that it was too dangerous for me to park and walk those two blocks to the church?" Think about what you just said. Was fear, was the fear and the concern that I had, was that God warning through fear, through fear that I wasn't supposed to go to church and I wasn't supposed to park there and I wasn't supposed to walk those blocks? And my words to her were this: "Fear is never the language that God communicates with." God does not communicate in fear. If fear is not of God, 2 Timothy 1:7, then why would God choose a method of communication to begin to bring warning to our life?
God will speak to us from this pulpit through Pastor Carter, Pastor Patrick, Pastor David. He will speak through wisdom of people, the elders. He will speak through the Holy Spirit. He'll speak through a sermon. He'll speak through the word of God, but listen to me close, beloved, he will never speak through fear. That is not a language of God. God begins to communicate with his people as a father begins to communicate. Fear is a good indication that what is being spoken to you is not true. In fact, many times it's the complete opposite of what God is trying to communicate and reminds us that this is not even God.
Jesus, went after the root of the issue, the root of fear was not the impossible situation needed to be fixed, but it was their faith. It was something internal, not external that God was going after. That's what Jesus always rebukes. As people were trying to, as people could try to fix waves and fix a virus, to try to fix an economy, and to try to fix Wall Street, God goes, "I want to fix your faith. I want to fix your focus on me. I want to fix what's happening in you."
Let me read just a few of these verses from a paraphrase of this passage. Listen to verse 25 of Matthew eight. "The disciples woke him up saying, 'Save us, Lord. We're going to die.' But Jesus reprimanded him. 'Why are you gripped with fear?' He says, 'Where is your faith?' Then he stood up, rebuked the storm and the sea. 'Be still,' and instantly became perfectly calm." And then listen to verse 27. "The disciples were astonished by this miracle and said to one another, 'Who is this man?'" It seemed that Jesus was trying to fix them before he fixed the sea. Jesus was trying to fix the "Who is this man" inside of them. The disciples who have traveled with Jesus, seeing the miracles of Jesus, heard Jesus, are still asking the question, "Who is this man?" Could we actually be sitting in the sanctuary singing the songs off a screen in our churches across this country and still asking the question, "Who is this man that we're singing about?" Think about that.
Because when fear strikes us, then usually we're not understanding who the person that we're actually singing about and worshiping. Who is this man and they're speaking to the man that's right in front of them. See, faith that God was going after, that Jesus was going after in this passage, faith doesn't rest simply upon promises and the words that are spoken, but rests upon the character of the one making the promises. See, big promises with low character really causes us to have no faith. If we don't know the character of the one that is speaking, then really our faith begins to get lower and lower and lower.
A promise is never better—think about this—a promise from a person is never better or worse than the character of the one who's making it. A believer's faith can never rise higher, and listen, listen to me close, a believer's faith can never rise higher than who he sees God to be. And if we're sitting here singing songs that we're going to see a victory, then the blood shall never lose its power. And if these are songs that we actually believe, that these are words we actually believe, because we believe in the character of God, then our faith begins to rise up with that. An inadequate view of God has to result in weak faith because faith depends upon the character of God, and that's why this is so important.
So listen to me close. Listen to me close. If I have a fear issue, remember, fear is a revelation, it reveals to me that I'm focusing in on the wrong thing. I'm seeing waves, that I'm not seeing the man that's in my boat, which is Jesus, and if I know fear is not from God, this is so important, if I have a fear issue, fear of flying, fear of a virus, fear of death, fear that begins to just, that I'm going to be single, fear of failure, whatever that may be. If I have a fear issue, then according to Jesus I have a faith issue. This is what Jesus is saying. "Why are you fearful, you of little faith?" He's connecting those two. Let me say this again. If I have a fear issue, then I have a faith issue.
And here it is. And if I have a faith issue, then I have a God issue. This is what's so important because my faith is connected to how great I see God, and if my belief that God is great, it not only begins to increase my faith, it begins to dissolve my fear. This, listen to me close. If I have a fear issue, Jesus says, Matthew 8, it's because I have a faith issue, and if I have a faith issue, the disciples kind of revealed what it's there for and they said it's because I don't even know who this man is that's on our boat, if I have a fear issue, I have a faith issue. If I have a faith issue, I have a God issue.
But if I see God for who He actually is, my faith begins to rise with how I see God, and then my fears begin to dissolve at the same time. As faith begins to rise, fear begins to start dissolving. See, the goal is not to fix our situation because we can't. There is no one in this place. There's not a church in America that can fix what is happening around this pandemic around the world, but we can keep our focus on God at this moment and say, "God, we trust you in the midst of this." So how great is your God? How great is your God? And that's really the question.
So let me close with this because I want to teach you. I want to teach you a new way to worship. I want to teach you a way to remind you how great God is. Because if there's fear, then there's a faith issue, and if it's a faith issue, then I've missed how great God is. And I want to remind us. I want to go all the way to the beginning that says, let me show you how great God is. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet tells us that fear was beginning to fill the land. And Isaiah the prophet, knowing that the kings, that the men that were stepping into power, that so many of them were corrupt, the people didn't know what to do, backsliding was taking place in their nation. They were being faced with even outside enemies from the Assyrians and the Babylonians coming in and the people were starting to fear.
And then in Isaiah chapter 40 he teaches us how to deal with this fear issue. Remember, if it's a fear issue, it's a faith issue, and if it's a faith issue, it is a God issue that we're not seeing God for who he is. And what Isaiah 40 does, he begins to deal with this fear issue. Let me read this to you. This is Isaiah 40:9. He says, "Lift up your voice with a shout. Lift it up." Here are the words. "And don't be afraid or fear not, Oh Israel and say to Judah," listen to this, "Here is your God." Did you see what just happened? He says, "I want you to say this loudly. For those that fear, here is your God." This is who he is. This is what he looks like, and what Isaiah does, friend, in the next 20 to 25 verses is he begins to unpack the greatness of God.
He says, "Are you afraid? Here's your God. Are you in trouble? Here's your God. You don't know what tomorrow holds? Here is your God." What he was saying is if you don't know what the future holds, what the next weeks holds for you, businessman, for you, pastor, for you, church, for whoever you are, if we don't know what happens with our job at a college university because it seems to be shutting down, I want to just give you some hope today. Here is your God.
And this is what Isaiah does. Listen to what he unpacks and we'll just do one of these and find a way to worship when fear wants to begin to control us. Listen to this. That was verse nine. Let me read just a couple verses. "See the sovereign Lord comes with power. He rules with a mighty arm. See his reward is with him and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart. He gently leads those that have young," verse 12, "who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand or the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens, who is held the dust of the earth in a basket and weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in the balance." And then from verse 13 down, he goes through constantly, over and over again, how great God is, how great God is, how impressive God is. Remember what he says in verse nine. "Do not fear. Here is your God. Do not be afraid. Here is your God."
In fact, can I just show you one of those phrases or two of those phrases to show how impressive your God is and why you don't have to fear for what's ahead for us? In Isaiah 40:12, listen to these words again. "He has measured the waters in the hollow of his hands and marked off the heavens by the span of his hand." Listen to those words again, verse 12. It says, "He has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens by the span of his hand."
I want to close by giving you a reminder in worship on how impressive your God is today and why you don't have to fear. Let's just take the first one. He says, "He has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand." Okay. Listen for just a moment. Do you know two thirds of this planet that is facing this pandemic? Two thirds of this planet is covered with water. Two thirds. Some places, the water goes eight miles deep. The total volume of water on planet Earth according to scientists listen, is incalculable. Incalculable. Even if you can compute it in gallons, they say that the number is too large to even express.
So let's realize how impressive God is, and this is what it says. Listen to these words. He says your God has measured that water, you ready for this, in the hollow of his hands? Do you know what to the Jew the hollow was? It's when you put your hand like this. That little crevice in your hand is called the hollow of your hand. You know how big God is? He takes the incalculable number of water on planet Earth and your God says, "I hold it like this. I hold it here." So the next time you lift your hands up and you look and see that little hollow in your hand, you go, "I've got a big God. He holds all of this together. This is the God that I ... so the next time Greg Thomas or Ivory are leading us in worship and you lift those hands up and you open up your eyes and see those little hollows, you go, "My little hollow means nothing, but God can begin to take numbers that doesn't even exist. He can hold it all together. That's how impressive God is.
Hey, let's do one more. You ready for this? New way to worship. That means when I'm lifting those hands, I'm reminded. It says this. "And with the breadth of his hands," stay with the hands, "And with the breadth of his hands, he has marked off the universe." Okay, get ready, now. There is no instrument that can calculate the distance across our present universe. There is none. We try to send a Hubble telescope, we'll try to send all. We can't even calculate from the distance of our universe, from one end to the other. The nearest, listen to this now, the nearest star, the nearest star other than the sun is four and a half light years away. How far is that? If light travels at 186,000 miles per second, that means the nearest star, get ready for this, is 26 trillion miles away.
Get ready, now. When a Jew talks about the span of his hand, he is talking about from the top of the pinky to the tip of his thumb. That's the span of his hand. Get ready, now. He holds all the water on planet earth in the hollow. He says, but when I'm about to measure your universe that you can't even calculate, that your nearest star is 26 trillion miles away, you have a God that says, "I measure. I'm so big, I measure the universe from the tip of my pinky to the tip of my thumb," and we actually think that God is that big. I'm telling you, he is that big. He is a God that goes, "I hold it here. I've got it here." Which means that as Greg and the team come back to those instruments right now, when they lead us as we're getting ready to close in a song and you lift your hands up, you go, the span of his hand says the universe is small. The hollow of his hand says that the water of our planet can even fit into the hollow of his hand.
So when the enemy comes in like a flood, Christians, do the hollow and the span. When the enemy comes in like a flood with fear, maybe you need to do both. Maybe you need to just worship like this once in a while and realize he's got it all together. When I lift my hands and fear comes in, the span and the hollow, say what am I afraid of? God is bigger than anything thrown at me. What if someone coughs on the plane? Hollow and the span. What if someone wants to shake my hand and not do the foot kick? The hollow and the span. What if I have a fever today? The hollow and the span. Our God is greater. Our God is greater, and my word to you is if someone has flu symptoms, even if you test positive for the coronavirus, I want you to listen to me close. God is bigger than a virus. God is bigger than a pandemic.
If he's bigger than the oceans, if he's bigger than the universe, corona ... let me just tell you something. They're talking about the crown that goes on this protein and all that stuff. There is a crown that says he is the King of Kings, he is the Lord of Lords, and he is able to overcome every single one of these things.
We're going to get ready to close in worship as Greg Thomas and Ivory get ready to come. I want us to go back to this song. We're going to see a victory. We're going to see a victory, and I just want to encourage you today as we get ready to close, as we get ready to believe that no matter what happens, no matter what begins to take place, we don't know what tomorrow holds. We don't know what the next few weeks hold. We don't know what the next month holds. Some of you students are out of college. There's some students listening around the country that are out of high school, right now out of elementary school. Parents and thinking, "What am I going to do? I have a job. What am I going to do? I'm going to have kids at home. I can't even afford daycare. What am I going to do?" There's a hollow and there's a span.
God is able. Because the fear wants to come in, that fear wants to come, and we want to believe today that as we sing this last song, maybe you're at home, maybe you're sitting in your car, maybe you're outside, wherever you're at, you're watching on a phone or on a laptop or on a TV, as we sing this song, would you lift your hands and just go, "The span of the hand. You've got the universe. You've got this, God, and you've got me, God." Lord, we're going to see a victory. And maybe you're going to worship with the hollow of the hand today. Your hands are up and you're going to go, "If you have all the water on this planet, trust me, God, I know you've got me. You've got me protected here."
I want to pray for you. I want to ask God's protection upon you. I want to ask no more fear. No more fear. Fear is a revelation. It tells me that I'm focusing in on the wrong thing, so today we're going to focus on the right thing. Fear doesn't come from God. It's not a language he communicates with. And when we realize that when I have a fear issue, it's a faith issue and when I have a faith issue, it's a God issue. And Isaiah chapter 40 tells us, "Here is your God." You don't have to fear anymore. And that's just one verse. There's over 20 more verses that talk to you about how big your God is.
Would you close your eyes and bow your head just before we sing and let me pray for you? Father, I thank you that you are a father. You need to reveal that to some that are listening today. Show people the greatness of God today, the span and the hollow, that God, you have it all together. Father, I'm grateful that you're going to give our leadership wisdom, from Washington, DC to New York City and around the globe and around the country. But I'm also thankful, Lord God, that we can't do this without you. We need you, Lord.
God, if our hope is in man, we're going to have fear, but if our hope and trust is in God, then we are going to see a victory. We are going to see a victory. Our hope is in God, and we say as we sing this song, we say along with Isaiah, shout it, shout it, "Here is your God." We do what Isaiah 49 says. "Do not be afraid. Here is your God." And so, Father, today as we get ready just to sing and worship, I pray let God become bigger. As God becomes bigger, increase our faith and let the fear begin to leave us today.