“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
“Having a friend is like sitting at night in a lighted house. Those outside can watch you if they want, but you need not see them. You simply say, “Here are the perimeters of our attention. If you prowl around under the windows till the crickets go silent, we will pull the shades. If you wish us to suffer your envious curiosity, you must permit us not to notice it.” Anyone with one solid human bond is that smug, and it is the smugness as much as the comfort and safety that lonely people covet and admire.”
That’s from Marilynne Robinson’s book Housekeeping. I so appreciate and affirm the phrase “one solid human bond,” simply because I have found it so in my own life.
And this is also the level of safety and calm security that God offers us, given through the prophetic insight of Isaiah, writing nearly three thousand years ago. So “do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.”
But isn’t that different from the “one solid human bond” of which Marilynne Robinson speaks? Not at all, it is the essence of it, the substance of which earthly friendship is only a shadow. And God became flesh to make it both reality and possibility. He “became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. And we beheld his glory.” And He bids us come close, into a dynamic and fruitful friendship.
“Where does your security lie? Is God your refuge, your hiding place, your stronghold, your shepherd, your counselor, your friend, your redeemer, your saviour, your guide? If He is, you don’t need to search any further for security.”- Elisabeth Elliot
He is the “one solid human bond” above all others.
And this has an important consequence. Once you experience the security of that relationship, then you discover a new courage in the way you live.
Isaiah 41 gives us a number of indicators of why you suddenly get brave! The Lord says: “Do not fear, for I am with you.” “Do not look anxiously about you, for I am your God.” “I will strengthen you.” “Surely I will help you.” “Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Your courage rests on five aspects of your relationship.
- God is with me;
- God is my God;
- God will strengthen me;
- God will help me;
- God will uphold me.
When you face a new challenge or change, or when you are threatened by an unexpected circumstance, in health, in finance, or in family life, God calls you to be free from fear. He calls you to face the storm with peace, just as Jesus did.
- Fear not . . . God is with you;
- Fear not . . . God is your God;
- Fear not . . . God will strengthen you;
- Fear not . . . God will help you;
- Fear not . . . God will uphold you.
If the key to fearlessness is believing that God is your God and is with you and will strengthen you and help you and uphold you, then knowing the greatness of this God will intensify your courage.
In Isaiah 41:1 God says, “Coastlands, listen to Me in silence, and let the peoples gain new strength; let them come forward, then let them speak; let us come together for judgment.”
Who is He? He’s the judge.
In Isaiah 41:2–3 Isaiah asks, “Who has aroused one from the east [probably Cyrus the Persian king that God stirred up to come against Babylon] whom He [God] calls in righteousness to His feet? He delivers up nations before him, and subdues kings. He makes them like dust with his sword, as the wind-driven chaff with his bow.”
Who is He? He’s the ruler of rulers.
In Isaiah 41:4 Isaiah asks, “Who has performed and accomplished it, calling forth the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the Lord, am the first, and with the last. I am He.’”
Who is He? He is Alpha and Omega. He has the past and the future in hand.
In verses 5–7 there is a picture of the unrepentant nations desperately trying to convince themselves that their self-wrought gods, made with soldering and nails, are really adequate for their needs.
Over against this desperation of self-reliance and idolatry God says to his people in verses 8–9, “But you [are] Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham My friend, you whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts, and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.’“
In verses 1–9 there is 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 distance from him, and taking them to be his servant.
- I am your God.
- I am with you.
- I will strengthen you.
- I will help you.
- I will uphold you.
I call you this morning to stop defining and limiting your future in terms of your past and start defining it in terms of your God.
I call you to recognize that God is greater than your personality. God is greater than your past experiences of timidity. God is greater than your “family of origin.” And God calls you to joyful fearlessness.
The crucial factor in your fearless living is not your family but your God.
“Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God.” Believe in God! Trust God! Let God be your God! Your help. Your strength. He will uphold you with his righteous right hand.
(Partly drawn from John Piper sermon)