John 20:19 “Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut…Jesus came and stood in the midst.”
Fear is a relentlessly vicious master; it pushes you to uncharacteristic behaviours. Fear’s twin, doubt, travels with fear since fear can’t operate without doubt. Doubt in God’s power, God’s plan and His love for us. Once we have gone through a few valleys in life, when optimism gives way to pessimism and our faith takes a back seat to reason, we are imprisoned by the evil twins of doubt and fear.
The disciples were in deep fear after Jesus’ death. They were sure that they would be pursued and killed just like Jesus. They doubted His power, that He would rise again, so much so that they had shut themselves into a house, they were in hiding. They did this “for fear of the Jews.” (John 20:20) Fear of what might happen or what seemed to be inevitable caused them to shut the doors of the house. Reading this passage I wonder what their plans, at that time they were shut in, were for the future? Since Jesus wasn’t part of their lives, would they steal out of the city? Resume living as they had before? Would the rest of their lives be lived in fear? What would they say to their families?
Just when they thought all was lost and no hope was to be found, Jesus miraculously appeared among them. He spoke with them, encouraging them, and even gave them a future assignment. God, in His great mercy knowing the frailty of humanity, met the disciples in a way that would drive fear and doubt away in the blink of an eye.
Life’s blows can cause us to lose our focus and faith: finances are tight, family members may be sick, trouble on the job, and trouble at home. It may seem that all the doors of escape have been shut and there is nothing that can bring us the relief that we are longing for – as the disciples felt so do we, all seems lost.
These struggles with doubt and fear often come at the end of a great season. Jesus’ death came after He had spent 3 years ministering to people: thousands were drawn to His meetings, He healed countless sick people, raised the dead, and forgave sin. His was a ministry that took His world literally by storm and turned things around so much that it put the religious leaders of the day in fear of their positions of prominence. The stage was set: Jesus was condemned to death and a seemingly horrible defeat came on the heels of a wonderful season of victory.
Elijah, who seemed by all accounts to be a fearless Prophet, even struggled with doubt and fear. He lived from victory to victory, never fearing what the next day would bring: he predicted drought and rain, saved a widow and her son from starvation, raised another widow’s son from the dead. He was fearless until an amazing victory God worked through him at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-40). At Mount Carmel all false prophets were put to shame openly and executed when God demonstrated His power. Immediately after this event, the King’s wife Jezebel heard what had happened and she made it known that she would kill Elijah. Elijah fled for his life into the wilderness. What happened in that brief time period to make this mighty, fearless man of God whimper away into the wilderness, fearful for his life?
God, in His mercy, did for Elijah as He did for the disciples when they were shut away. He spoke to Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-18), strengthening him and giving him a new assignment. He stepped into Elijah’s room, as it were, and met Elijah in a way that would make all his doubt and fear evaporate.
What room have you shut yourself into? How has life made you lose your focus? When was the last time fear and doubt were far and you lived life in fearless faith? Faith gives us the focus we need to get through those times when we’d rather sit indoors and blitz our lives away on Netflix reruns.
The doors of your room may be shut but I assure you that Jesus Himself is standing there with you, ready to speak a word that will wash all your fears away. Where can you find His word to you? In His book, the Bible, there are countless words waiting to be discovered so you can, in faith, stand up from where doubt and fear have trapped you and open the door to find a new adventure waiting on the other side.
Today is Day 5! We’ve made it this far, there’s no turning back now. This year we have had quite a trial come in the middle of our fast: a strong storm came and blew down our tent where the new church in Blantyre, Malawi is meeting. No one was hurt thankfully, but the damage to the tent is extreme. We are working hard to fix the issue – but there are more storms on the horizon both spiritually and physically. No matter, we will get through them and keep pursuing the will of God for us. This is no time to shut ourselves away. Please pray with us for safety and security of the tent.