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Fearing and fearless: Portrait of the righteous


After World War I, construction began on the Maginot Line. This line of concrete fortifications and machine gun posts stretching along France’s border was meant to serve as an impenetrable defense against another German invasion. It failed miserably. When war broke out across Europe in 1939, the German army once again invaded France, bypassing the Maginot Line almost entirely.

If we admit it, many of us galvanize our resources to construct our own personal Maginot Line. Because of economic and political news, we’re deeply afraid and uncertain about our future. We want impenetrable defenses. We demand guarantees. And while fear is a normal human response to something terrifying, the Scriptures instruct the people of God not to be ruled by fear.

How does a godly person handle fear? That is a question we will answer throughout the month, and today’s reading provides a snapshot of a person ruled not by fear but by faith. It begins with perspective. What looms largest in the horizon? Do the dangers and threats take on terrifying proportions? Or is God big? When we recognize that God is big, when we believe He is powerful and good, and when we actively trust Him, the dangers around us lose their fierceness.

The psalmist uses many different words and phrases in this psalm to convey a picture of safety and protection. It isn’t as if the person portrayed here is completely invulnerable: he, too, faces darkness and enemies. But faith shapes what he sees: he sees the Lord, and that vision gives him steady feet. There’s a sense that he finds rest and peace in discovering his smallness. The Lord is worthy of praise, and He’s ultimately the one in control.

The psalm catalogs the blessings available to us when we reject fear and trust in the Lord. There are blessings to be shared with our children and our children’s children, a legacy lasting beyond our lifetime. The righteous person is both fearless and fearing: only before One does he tremble.

Apply the Word

Godly people are not immune to suffering. It’s true that sometimes our worst fears come true. Faith doesn’t give us guarantees that what we fear will never happen. But our month’s study will help us to understand how to entrust our fears to the Lord and how to deepen our faith in the Lord, ultimately fearing Him alone. What fears can you already identify in your own life that strangle your joy and peace?

BY Dr. John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

Dr. John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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