• Maria Goodwin

It is hard to believe that just eight months ago most of us were preparing to enter a new year and decade filled with exciting goals and ambitions. Social media posts announced that 2020 held promise and hope for everyone who aspired to greatness.

And if you were fortunate enough to maintain momentum in achieving your goals, then by March a global pandemic likely placed a giant obstructive wall before all of your plans. And just as we were starting to see some light at the end of this COVID tunnel (at least, in my state), the racial unrest sparked by the killing of George Floyd was enough to send those of us starting to feel some sense of comfort, back into a state of uncertainty, anxiety and heartbreak.

I must admit that during much of this season my faith was weak and my fear was strong. I battled anxiety, depression, loneliness and a host of other difficult feelings that the normal busyness of life tends to overshadow. But by the grace of God, I learned through His Word that although our circumstances may cause us to worry and retreat, our faith in Him will lead us into His presence with confident assurance.

During this stressful time, I began working on a study of the gospel of Luke for my church’s monthly women’s gathering and Bible study. As part of my preparation, I read the gospel repeatedly and with each reading the Holy Spirit revealed greater and deeper truths tucked inside Luke’s account of the life of Jesus.

One insight I gained is in chapter 8, where Luke tells us of three encounters during which Jesus addresses faith and fear. Starting in verse 22, we read about Jesus getting on a boat with His disciples. During the sail, Jesus fell asleep and some time later a fierce storm came upon them. Luke tells us that the boat was filling up with water and that they all were in great danger.

At some point, the disciples woke Jesus up saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” When Jesus awoke “He rebuked the wind and the seas and they ceased, and there was a calm.”

After this Jesus asked them, “Where is your faith?” 

In this situation, the disciples focused on their circumstances and allowed them to dictate their feelings and override everything they knew about Jesus. Instead of remembering who Jesus was and His displays of power up to that point, they panicked and succumbed to faulty beliefs, such as they were in danger, as they focused on the environment rather than Jesus’ goodness. Instead of waking Jesus and asking Him for help, assured that He would save them, they became afraid and woke Him in a panic proclaiming a lie. In that moment, their behavior demonstrated little faith and abundant fear.

Next we read about Jesus and His disciples sailing to the country of the Gersenes where Jesus cast out a demon from a man who lived in the area. Luke paints a picture of a man who had been possessed for many years by multiple demons and tells us that he wore no clothes and lived among the tombs.

After Jesus exorcised the demons, He commanded them into a herd of pigs which subsequently fell off a cliff and perished. Once freed from the demonic spirits, Luke informs us that the man desired to follow Jesus but the people of the town were afraid and asked Him to leave.

Here we see faith and fear contrasted as Luke recounts the reactions to Jesus’ authority over demons. The man who was freed from demonic possession was found sitting at Jesus’ feet while the people of the town “were afraid” and rejected Him. One desired to follow Jesus while the others sent him away. The man who was liberated by Jesus was willing to leave his life behind and devote himself to the Lord but the people who did not understand and perhaps were skeptical allowed their fear to drive Him away and they remained blind to His power to save. In this story, the man demonstrated faith and the crowd displayed fear.

In the following scene, Luke tells us about Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the issue of blood. Jairus was a ruler of the synagogue who approached Jesus and pleaded with Him to heal his daughter who was home dying. As Jesus was on His way, He was stopped by the awareness that He had been touched by someone in the crowd. Then Luke tells us about a woman who had been battling a discharge of blood for twelve years and no treatment or doctor was able to help her.

As a woman in the first century, she would have been considered a second class citizen, but with a constant flow of blood she was also considered unclean in her Jewish community. This woman knew her unworthiness of Christ’s mercy but she also knew He was the only person who could help her, so she secretly touched the hem of His garment- in faith- knowing that would be enough to heal her. And because nothing is done in secret in the eyes of the Lord, He suddenly stopped and asked the crowd who had touched Him. Luke writes in verse 47,

“And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before Him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched Him, and how she had immediately been healed.”

Unlike the two previous encounters where Luke shows us faith or fear, this woman demonstrates faith and fear. She was bold enough to get so close to Jesus that she was able to touch Him, and yet when He called her forward she did so “trembling.” She had no idea how the crowd or Jesus would react to her bold yet secret attempt to receive healing.

So desperate was she, that she risked societal backlash, rebuke and shame in order to experience the healing power of Jesus. But instead of being harsh, Jesus showed her tender mercy when He said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” In this encounter, the unnamed woman demonstrates faith despite fear.

In each of these stories, Luke teaches us much about how we can respond to Jesus. We can respond like the disciples by focusing on our circumstances and live a life filled with anxiety over everything that is beyond our control.

We can also react like the crowd who didn’t appreciate the impact Jesus had on their community and livelihood and reject him without taking any time to get to know him. Or we can see, desire and welcome Jesus’ power in our lives and respond in gratitude with willingness to abandon everything we know in order to follow him, even if doing so is scary.

Christians today don’t need to fear their circumstances, or a global pandemic, or the future of their nation, or the disapproval of others.

Perhaps Jesus summed it up best when someone from Jairus’ house approached them and told them that his daughter had died. Jesus reassuringly answered by saying,

“Do not fear; only believe.”

And why should we believe, especially when our eyes tell us everything is definitely NOT okay? Because Jesus shows us He has authority over storms, demons and death. Quite frankly, there is nothing that can truly harm His followers. That doesn’t mean life will always be easy and enjoyable but it does mean that He has overcome our worst enemies and when we place our faith in Him there is no place for fear. As followers of Christ, then, may our lives demonstrate faith instead of fear.

Maria Goodwin is a native New Yorker and has lived in various parts of NYC during her life. Presently, she resides in Staten Island, NY where she was born and raised. Maria works full-time as a Social Worker and has a Master’s degree from Columbia University. She has been married to Phillip for eight years and has two grown stepdaughters, one niece, three nephews, and one nephew in heaven. Currently, Maria is enrolled at the New York Institute for Biblical Studies which is located on the grounds of Calvary Chapel in Mariners Harbor, Staten Island.

"She is strong and is respected by the people. She looks forward to the future with joy. She speaks wise words and teaches others to be kind." Proverbs 31:25-26

These are some difficult days. I've been speaking to many women that feel overwhelmed by it all. Many feel as if they can hardly keep their head above water. Balancing the duties of wife, mother, career, friend...it is all much more difficult to balance with the added chaos of the times we are living in.

The NLT version of the above verse is that "She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future." I wonder what type of woman that is that can have joy within the trials of life.

I read an article recently that spoke of God's promises. It said, "No matter how hard you lean on them – they will never break!" The Bible reveals God's character as One who cannot lie and He also remains constant, steady.

"Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise." Hebrews 10:23

The truth that God is trust-worthy in these tough times is the foundation that enables us to stand strong.

I believe the key to being "clothed with strength and honor" is directly related to our mindset. The believer spoken of in Isaiah's day speaks loudly, "(I) will enable the virgin, the daughter of Zion, to despise the rage of her enemies and laugh them to scorn." Isaiah 37:22

Matthew Henry's Commentary states it like this: "Those who receive messages of terror from men with patience, and send messages of faith to God by prayer, may expect messages of grace and peace from God for their comfort, even when they are most cast down."

When we turn to God in prayer through every circumstance we face, He assures us that not only will He comfort us but He will act on our behalf.

Matthew Henry's Commentary goes on to say that for all the impotent malice and menace we face at the hand of the enemy (Satan); she (God's people) knows that, while He preserves her integrity, she can be sure of God's divine protection, and that though the enemy may bark he cannot bite. All his threats are a joke in the light of God's great and precious promises.

1 Corinthians 15:55:57 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

I take great comfort in knowing that no matter what we face, God is there to walk beside us, even carry us when we feel we cannot continue. Jesus has won the victory over the enemy and ultimately, in the end...we win.

Psalms 37:13 says, "The Lord laughs at him, For He sees his day is coming."

It's interesting how many ways the Bible describes how we laugh at situations. We, as His daughters can laugh at the days to come, knowing that God is in control. God laughs at His enemies because He knows that He has already won the victory.

At first, when God told Abraham that Sarah would indeed bear a child in her old age, scripture says she laughed. She actually thought, "Really? This old body is going to finally have the long-awaited promise?" (Genesis 18:12-15) But in Hebrews, Sarah is described as holding fast to her faith that God would do what He said He would do:

"It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise." Hebrews 11:11

So, my prayer is that God would reveal how to look beyond our circumstances because nothing is impossible with Him. That we learn to live in anticipation of what He is doing through every circumstance. Knowing He is fully in control and has our best in mind is a great comfort.

Do not let your situation dictate whether or not you keep your peace and joy in the Lord. Resolve today that you will stay hopeful for what God is about to do for you and that He will get you through it.

  • Alycia Bini

Lately I’ve become more and more intrigued by studying the closing chapters to books in the Bible, especially the letters of the New Testament. The Holy Spirit is leading and guiding these authors to put to paper the living words of our God. There is so much depth to it all, but what’s been striking me about these closing words is that these are often places filled with the most challenge and encouragement.

As I get to the end of a book of the Bible I sometimes picture God saying “Okay, I just said a lot and here’s what I’m going to leave you with. Pay attention till the end. Here’s my challenge for you. Here are my last words for this letter/book. You don’t want to miss this!”

I had this thought in mind as I approached chapter thirteen of Hebrews. I made it four verses in before I was caught on a passage that I couldn’t move past without studying deeper.

"Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you."

Hebrews 13:5-6 says, “be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?’”

Reading this spoke deeply to my heart in this season. Our world seems to be turned upside-down in so many ways over the past five months. We never could have imagined any of this, but God is still with us. We can be content even when things don’t go the way we planned, but being content is never about what we do or don’t have, but about the God who promises to always be with us and always provide for us.

Within Hebrews 13:5-6 there are two quotes from the Old Testament. The first is “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” which comes from Deuteronomy 31:6. The second is a quote from Psalm 118:6-7: “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

Jumping back to Deuteronomy 31, leads us into the middle of the account of Moses telling the people of Israel what they will soon be coming against in their journey to enter the Promised Land.

“Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: ‘I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’ The Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the Lord said. And the Lord will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. The Lord will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

The Israelites were wandering in the wilderness and Moses was telling them that they were going to have to fight to get to the land the Lord had promised them. They would need to fight and God would bring deliverance.

There are so many things we could focus on from this passage, but the main thing that kept sticking out to me as I studied Hebrews 13 and Deuteronomy 31 was where the focus is placed in the midst of uncertainty.

Moses could have said “My time as your leader is coming to an end and the Lord told me that you’re all going to have to defeat some of your enemies soon to get to where God is bringing you, but don’t be afraid. Remember all the training you had. Remember how strong you are and how you can do this.”

The reality is that Moses doesn’t address the people’s abilities at all. The focus in this passage is fully on God. Moses speaks of times in the past when God delivered them. He reminds them of how powerful God is. Moses tells them to be strong and courageous not because they are good enough to defeat their enemies, but because God is going to be with them.

Similarly in Hebrews the author doesn’t tell the people to be content because they have enough or because they will always be able to provide for themselves. They are encouraged to be content because God will never leave them or forsake them.

This has been speaking to me powerfully over this past week and I pray that it can shift your perspective as well. Taking our eyes off of our abilities and what we think we can or can’t do and placing it all on God.

We are in the middle of unprecedented times. Many of us feel "in over our head". Fear is continually trying to take us down. Uncertainty can feel suffocating. The more we look at our situations and the world around us, the worse we will feel. But God. If in those moments we choose to look to God and remember that He is our Helper, Provider, and Healer who will never leave us nor forsake us, that changes everything.

As I look to the coming months there are multiple things I’m facing that seem daunting and overwhelming. Telling myself “I can do it” leads to me trying to think of what qualifies me to be able to complete it. In the middle of a global pandemic, most of us aren’t feeling very equipped or qualified for what we are facing. If instead we chose to look to God and say “God can do it” we are able to confidently approach the challenges ahead, knowing that it’s not about us, but it’s about our sovereign, omnipotent God who will never leave us and never forsake us.

Alycia Bini was born and raised on Staten Island but now lives in Erie, Pennsylvania where she is starting her fourth year of being a Campus Missionary with Chi Alpha Campus Ministries. After graduating from college with a Biology degree in 2017, Alycia followed the Lord’s leading away from a career in the medical field and into ministry. Since then she has worked with Chi Alpha on two campuses: Edinboro University & Penn State Behrend.

Camille has known Alycia since she was a little girl and is (as well as her mom and dad) so proud of the woman she has become. It's been a blessing watching her journey with Christ and we cheer her on as she ministers here at home (missions) as well as abroad.

© 2018 camille mcintyre.com