During the Superbowl a week and a half ago, advertisers spent $7 million dollars to place their 30-second ad in front of the viewers. There was one ad campaign that has generated some talk called “He Gets Us.” They spent $14 million dollars on a 1-minute ad during the Superbowl with a punchline that said, “Jesus didn’t teach hate. He washed feet.” It was met with mixed reviews. Many evangelical Christians, including me, believe it is an insufficient message. While we should want our Christian message that “God loves everyone” to be front and center, this ad seems to lean too heavily on God’s grace and not enough on God’s truth or God’s holiness.
Jesus came full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Grace showed His love. Truth showed His righteousness. This culture seems to only want the Jesus Who is full of grace. However, He doesn’t give us that option.
John 8:1–8:11 (NKJV)
1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.
3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst,
4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.
5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”
6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
Jesus, here, is full of grace (“neither do I condemn you”) and full of truth (“go and sin no more”). He calls what she has been doing “sin”.
The insufficient message that Jesus “gets” us is that He will leave us as we are. I love Psalm 40:2, which says, “He lifted me out of the horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock and established my steps.” He saw us in our pitiful condition – in our sin, and He pulled us out. He doesn’t just “get” us, He “changes” us. He “redeems” us.
Jamie Bambrick felt that this Superbowl ad was insufficient and created a simple spin-off of what the ad could have been. You can watch it below:
This very good video is conveying the power of Jesus to change a life. He doesn’t just point to us in the pit, saying, “I ‘get’ you.” He actually “gets” us out of the pit! He Alone can change us, redeem us, save us. This should be our gospel message to the world.
1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (NKJV)
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,
10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Let’s praise God that He loves us just as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us just as we are. He changes us. Don’t be ashamed of a Jesus Who came full of grace and full of truth.
“Dear God, I remember that I was once in that pit. I was lost. I was drowning in my sin. You came and saved me. You lifted me out of that pit. You cleansed me. You forgave me. Now, I am not perfect, but I am changed. I pray that I share the gospel as You present it in the Bible. May I never be ashamed of You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
We really resent the idea when someone says, “Do as I say, but not as I do.” Our walk should match our talk. I’ve discovered that our beliefs and doctrines are what we say we believe. But our actions are proving what we actually believe. Galatians 2 tells the story of when Paul had to confront Peter because his actions didn’t line up with his stated beliefs.
Galatians 2:11–14 (NLT)
11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong.
12 When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision.
13 As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
14 When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?
Galatians is written very early in the history of the church. It's one of the oldest books in the New Testament. Acts 10 records the story of how God used Peter to get the message of the gospel to Cornelius, a Gentile. Peter has a vision where God lowers a sheet with unclean animals that Jews would not dare eat and tells Peter to eat. Peter responds, "Nothing unclean has touched my mouth." God says, "Don't call unclean what I have cleansed." He leads Cornelius's people to find Peter, and God leads Peter to go talk to Cornelius's household about Jesus. Cornelius is a Gentile, not a Jew.
Before this time, virtually everyone who was a Christian was first Jewish. They thought that in order to be a Christian, you had to be a good Jew first. You had to follow the Jewish Old Testament, the laws, and the commands. For instance, the Sabbath laws, the food dietary laws, and the laws related to the circumcision of males.
Peter was struggling with this. He was supposed to lead this Gentile to faith in Jesus, and then he finds out that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). He realizes that the same gospel is for both Jew and Gentile. The Holy Spirit filled the Gentiles, and Peter said, "We've got to baptize them." They don't have to be Jews, they don't have to be circumcised, and they don't have to follow the laws and the codes and the conduct of the Jewish people.
Ultimately, Peter would recognize that his ministry was primarily to the Jews and Paul's ministry was primarily to the Gentiles. So, Peter already wrestled with this and already received it from the Lord. This is the context in which we find Paul and Peter in Galatians 2. Peter visited Antioch, where he met some of the Gentile believers. He had no problem associating and eating with these Gentiles until some men from the Jerusalem church came.
Galatians 2:12 says, "But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore." James was the half-brother of Jesus and the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, where there were a lot of Jewish-grounded believers. Verse 13 says, “[E]ven Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.” The word "hypocrite" refers to someone putting on a mask. We think of actors who present themselves one way on stage, behind a mask, but are another way off the stage. Peter knew that Jews and Gentiles come to faith in Christ the same way and are saved from their sins in the same way, yet he became a hypocrite. He was afraid of these Jewish Christians who would think that eating together with Gentiles would be a violation of God’s law.
This fear caused him to slowly back away from his fellowship with the Gentile Christians, and he began to eat only with the Jews. Paul reminded Peter that Jesus had created one family in Christ and tore down the barrier between Jews and Gentiles. There was no separation between them, and yet Peter was drawing a distinction between them. Peter was, in fact, ostracizing an entire group of God's family because he was intimidated by the crowd. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man is a snare,” and Peter had been caught in that trap.
Well, we may not have problems like these, but we can still apply this passage. Today, there are people who say that they are Christians and they know the truth of God's word, and yet then they pull back from those convictions that they once held dear. Parents are vulnerable to this when their child grows up and begins to believe things that are different from what they were taught in the home. The parents were teaching God’s Word, but now the children are “enlightened”. The parents taught right from wrong, but now the child says, “Mom, Dad, I don’t think that’s important anymore. Don’t you know that there are different perspectives on those Bible verses?” Or, they may say, “I went to this church in college, and they taught something very different than what you taught me.” They may go on to quote their professors in psychology, sociology, or world religions.
The parents, though they know their Bibles, are tempted to soften their convictions or try to find a compromise in their own minds because they are afraid of being ostracized by the people that they love. Remember, “the fear of man is a snare.” Instead, their discussions should include, “I love you too much to stay silent about this. The Bible has not changed. God has not changed His mind.” Then they can proceed to quote Bible verses and help their adult children with the questions that their professors have asked. When God’s Word is clear, God’s people should be clear. When thinking about this story, there are three challenges to consider:
First, build your faith and your doctrine on the Word of God. You would think this sounds simple enough, yet most believers can recount a story of someone who claims to be a Christian backing away from plain, easy-to-comprehend doctrinal ideas from God’s Word. This happens simply because it is no longer socially acceptable. It’s not because God’s Word has changed or that it is now difficult to understand. We should not retreat from what we know to be right.
Second, this truth will not make you popular with the world, but it will make you pleasing to God. God’s Word often goes against the grain of this world system (2 Corinthians 4:4), which makes it unpopular with this world, maybe family members, or maybe friends. But staying faithful to God’s Word will make you pleasing to God. Who do we want to please - others or God?
Galatians 1:10, just one chapter earlier from where we’ve been reading, says, "I am no longer trying to please people. I am trying to please God. If I were still pleasing men, then I would not be the servant of God." Paul might have added, “If I were trying to please men, I wouldn't confront Peter to his face over this hypocrisy that he knew better.” The truth will make us unpopular with this world, but it will make us pleasing to God. One verse of scripture to hold on to or pray over yourself and your children is 3 John 1:4, which says, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." God's greatest joy is when his children walk in truth, not when everyone thinks well of us. Jesus says, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:46).
Third, you are not alone when you stand on God's word. In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah was depressed. He was running for his life, when God asked him, “Where are you?” Elijah says, “I've been serving You, but I'm alone. I'm by myself. No one else is standing for you like me.” God’s Word to Elijah is what God wants to tell us as well. God says in 1 Kings 19:18, “I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal.” He’s encouraging Elijah to keep standing. He is telling Elijah about the 7,000 who are faithful to Him. Elijah doesn’t see them. Perhaps they are the silent group in Israel, but they still have a backbone and have not bowed to the prominent pagan idols in the land.
Do you feel alone when you are standing faithful to God at work, at school, or in your everyday lives? The devil wants to isolate you. He wants you to think that if you stand for God's Word, you'll be all by yourself. The devil would love to convince you that you are in the minority and that you are fighting a lost cause, but Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” One day in glory, may God say to us, “Well done, you good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).
Do we want the popularity of the crowd, or do we want to be well pleasing to God? Are you building your faith on God’s Word or the lies of this world? Imagine Paul telling Peter, “It doesn’t matter if people that you love tell you that you shouldn’t be eating with the Gentiles. God showed you that He shows no partiality. He taught you that we are all one big family in Christ. Live your convictions and allow the chips to fall where they may.”
“Dear God, give me the grace to stand in today’s world with Your Word in my heart and Your Spirit directing my steps. I love You. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
1 Peter 4:12–13 (NKJV)
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
These verses were written during a time of persecution for the first-century believer. Peter is in Rome and he decides to write a letter. He writes this letter to Christians who are not in Rome, but who have been dispersed abroad in Asia Minor at that time.
Peter is in Rome, where Nero, the Caesar, had blamed a fire which he started on the Christians. Christians were a minority and an easy target. Nero wanted to build parts of Rome in a way that he desired, so he started the fire. After everyone was upset over the damage, Nero claimed that the Christians started the fire. Some estimates claim that 6 million Christians over that period of time lost their lives either being burned at the stake or being fed to the lions.
Interestingly, years after Peter wrote his letter to persecuted Christians, he and his wife would ultimately lose their lives as martyrs proclaiming Jesus is the Messiah, Whom God raised from the dead.
History tells us  that before Peter died by crucifixion, he had to watch the crucifixion of his own wife. It is said that as he watched her being led to her death, Peter called to his wife by name and said, “Remember the Lord”! When it was his turn, he pleaded to be crucified upside down because he wasn’t worthy to die as his Lord had died. And so he was nailed to a cross head-downward.
Christians living in America today do not experience that level of persecution. Some believers in our world certainly still face grave consequences for being Christians in a hostile country, but America continues to have religious liberty. However, persecution still exists. A believer may not get that promotion because of their faith. They may be looked over for a scholarship. They may face ostracism at work because of their faith. Family members may shun them. Ridicule and slander are aspects of persecution. Fines and prison are threats which can even be pursued by godless forces bent on transforming America in a totally pagan nation. So, Americans should still listen to Peter about how to live in a hostile country.
I was reading this past week that former Vice President Mike Pence, himself a devoted Christian, once delivered a message to the graduates at Liberty University and said,
"You know, throughout most of American history, it's been pretty easy to call yourself a Christian. It didn't even occur to people that you might be shunned or ridiculed for defending the teaching of the Bible. But things are different now. Some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs. So as you go about your daily life, just be ready. Because you're going to be asked not just to tolerate things that violate your faith; you're going to be asked to endorse them. You're going to be asked to bow down to the idols of the popular culture.”
Pence references 1 Peter 1:13 as he continues: "So you need to prepare your minds for action… You need to show that we can love God and love our neighbor at the same time through words and deeds. And you need to be prepared to meet opposition. As the founder of this university often said, 'No one ever achieved greatness without experiencing opposition'. So… as you strive for greatness, know that you'll face challenges, you'll face opposition. But just know this: If, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you end up in the fire, there'll be another in the fire." 
Persecution exists all over the world for the Christian who will stand up for his or her beliefs. It has looked different over the years, but it exists nonetheless. We should find strength from God’s Word as we live out our Christian faith in a world that is growing increasingly secular with each passing day. God’s Word is our guide. We have the Holy Spirit in our hearts. We have the faithful testimony of God’s people throughout centuries to encourage us. Stand strong for Him, and don’t think it strange when you experience persecution for your faith.
Dear Lord, I pray for the believers all over the world today who suffer simply because they are trusting You and standing for You. I pray that you would give me courage to stand for You today in my life, at my work, in my school and among my friends, families and coworkers. May I never be ashamed of You. I love you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3:1, 30.
 As quoted in Robert Jeffress, Courageous (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2020), 56,57.
I read about the love story of Daniel Webster and Grace Fletcher. At the time, he was a poor lawyer who fell in love with Grace and began dating her. Grace's father was a clergyman and he allowed Daniel to visit only when he was present. So, they started dating in Grace's home, where she worked. Her job was to untangle knots in silk yarn, which was a time-consuming process. Daniel would sit with her for hours, holding one end of the yarn, while they both fell in love with each other. One day, when Grace's father left the room, Daniel proposed to her. He pulled out a red ribbon that he had tied into an intricate knot and said, "Grace, you and I have been untangling knots for a long time. What if we could tie a knot together that would last our entire lifetime?" Grace also tied up several intricate knots, tying them together. This knotted ribbon became very special to both of them, symbolizing their love for each other.
They were married for about 21 years until Grace passed away. After Grace's death, Daniel got married to someone else, but he kept the mementos from his time with Grace in a box entitled “Precious Documents”. The box contained personal items, including letters from him and Grace. The letters were smudged because he had read them so many times. Daniel had pulled those letters out throughout his life to read back over Grace’s love letters to him during their courtship and even after they were married. A red knotted piece of yarn was also found in the box, which symbolized the knot they tied together. Even though Grace had passed away, Daniel never forgot his first love.
So often, what happens is that we start our dating or married lives with a honeymoon phase. However, over time, our priorities may change. It's not that we stop loving each other, but we may start to cool off. When football season begins, some are more excited than others. I heard about a woman who was talking to her husband and he asked if there was anything she needed to tell him before the football season started. She thought about it and said, “I think you love football more than you love me.” He replied, “Yeah, but I love you more than I love basketball.”
Just as married relationships can cool off, our relationship with God can, too. Before we know it, what began as a passionate walk with God, can cool off. Our quiet times, if they exist at all, can become dull and more like going through a routine. Revelation 2 describes the church at Ephesus as just going through the motions.
Revelation 2:1a, 2-5 (NKJV)
1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, …
2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;
3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.
4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.”
The church in Ephesus was founded by the apostle Paul himself. This church has an incredible heritage and pedigree. Paul wrote a letter to the church in Ephesus, which is now known as the Book of Ephesians. Paul wrote two letters to his protégé in ministry, Timothy, who was the pastor of the church in Ephesus. Church history tells us that the Apostle John, who wrote the Book of Revelation, the Gospel of John, and three letters that bear his name (First, Second and Third John), was the pastor of the church in Ephesus. This church had an incredible pedigree, but Jesus' words to them were, "I have something against you. You have left your first love."
If it can happen to such a great church, it is a temptation for us, too. He shares three different steps to return to that flame that you once had.
First, He says, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen." In Greek, that's a word that means to keep on remembering - it's a present imperative that describes continually remembering. You are constantly remembering. Have you forgotten about what happened when you gave your life to Jesus? Have you forgotten about being lost? Have you forgotten about that time when you did not know Jesus, and you were living for yourself? You were destined for hell, separated from God, and yet God, in His love and mercy, reached out to you and loved you into the kingdom. Every single day when I'm praying in my prayer journal, I say, "Thank you, God, for allowing me to be Your child. Thank You, God, for bringing me into the kingdom. Thank You for loving me through the cross." Never get over the fact that Jesus reached out, opened your spiritual eyes, and helped you see your lost condition and the beauty of the Gospel that could save you and make you right with Him. He says, "Keep on remembering from where you have fallen."
Second: "Repent." This is not a popular word today, but Jesus uses that word to rebuke five out of the seven churches, from Revelation 2-3. He says, "Repent or else." Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of action. It's something internal. You are saying, "I choose to no longer live for myself, but I'm living for Jesus. I choose to no longer live in this direction, but instead be Jesus-centered.” Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of action.
Third: “Return” or "Do the first works." He says, "Do the first works or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place.” What do you do with a bulb that's out? You throw it away. It no longer has its usefulness.
Do you remember when you first gave your life to Jesus? I can't forget this comment that my dad, who gave his life to Christ at 33, told me. Since I was born when he was 40, this was many years after I was born, but I remember him telling me, even as a teenager, he would say, "Josh, I remember when I first gave my life to Christ. I just had so much love in my heart. I could not help it. All I wanted to do was go and hug a tree. I had so much love." Where does that come from? From God. He is love, and He's filling our life. We love Him, and we love others, and we love the lost, and we love His church. All that love just bubbles out. Don't allow that to cool off in your relationship. Do the first works.
Was there ever a time when you loved Jesus more than you do right now? What were you doing during that time? You might reflect on that time and say, "I came to church every time the doors were open. Every morning I'd wake up an hour early just to spend time with Jesus. Every time I would go on my lunch break, I would stick my Bible on my dashboard, I would pull it out, and I would read for a chapter. I would eat my lunch, but then I would read. I would tell people about Jesus. I would carry little pocket cards in my pocket that would have a scripture verse that I would memorize." I'm telling you all of these things that we probably did when we were on fire for Jesus. The question is, why did we ever stop? That's what Jesus' question to Ephesus was, "Why'd you stop?" Go back and return to what you did before. Go back and be around the family of God. Be involved in that Bible study group. Jesus says, "Go back. Do the first works."
The sad truth is Ephesus did not do that. Today, there's no church there. The church continued to go in the direction that it was going in and it did not heed the words of Jesus. If that can happen to a church that was founded by the apostle Paul, that was pastored by John, Timothy, and Paul, it can happen to any church. If it can happen to a church that's sound doctrinally, that's steadfast, that's successful, that's sacrificial, then it can happen to any church.
A woman was riding in a truck with her husband. He was driving the truck and they were sitting on the front bench. She said to him, "Honey, do you remember those times when we were dating and there was no space between us? I was sitting in the middle of that bench, right beside you, and you were driving. There was just no space between us. Don't you remember those good old days? And why don't we do that?" He looked at her and replied, "I never moved."
Sometimes we feel distant from God and wonder why we don't feel the same fire and passion for Him as we once did. But just like the husband in the truck who never moved, God never moves away from us. We can always slide closer to Him and rekindle our love for Him. Remember, repent, return to those first works, and you will soon find the fire rekindled with your relationship with the Lord.
Dear God, my heart has grown cold. I’m not prioritizing my walk with You. Please forgive me. Remind me of the activities that I used to do, and I commit to returning to them. I never want to leave You, my First Love. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Psalm 91 is truly one of the most remarkable chapters in the entire Bible. For many, it's a favorite Psalm, and it provides believers with a profound sense of God's comforting care, security, and refuge. William MacDonald shared a story associated with this psalm in his one-volume commentary on the Bible, known as the Believer's Bible Commentary:
"In 1922, in the Western Hebrides, a five-year-old lad was dying of diphtheria. A mucous membrane was forming across his throat, and breathing was becoming increasingly difficult. His Christian mother turned her back so she would not see him take his last breath. At that very moment there was a knock at the door. It was her brother-in-law from an adjoining village. He said, “I’ve just come to tell you that you don’t have to worry about the child. He is going to recover, and one day God is going to save his soul.” She was distracted and incredulous: “Whatever makes you say that?” Then he explained he had been sitting at his fire reading Psalm 91 when God distinctly spoke to him through the last three verses:
"Because on me he set his love,
I’ll save and set him free;
Because my great name he hath known,
I will set him on high.
He’ll call on me, I’ll answer him;
I will be with him still,
In trouble to deliver him,
And honour him I will.
With length of days unto his mind
I will him satisfy;
I also my salvation
Will cause his eyes to see.
—from The Scottish Psalms In Metre.
"I was that boy. God delivered me from death that night; He saved my soul thirteen years later, and He has satisfied me with long life. So you will understand why I refer to Psalm 91 as my Psalm. I usually add, with tongue in cheek, that I am willing to share it with others—but it is definitely my Psalm!"
This Psalm holds a special place in my heart as well, mainly because of the last verse, which states, "With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation." For many years, my dad would hold onto this verse, quoting it often, as he walked through physically declining years. His faith would be strengthened as he would remind me that he was holding on to this verse. So, I can say with William MacDonald that this is “my psalm” as well.
Psalm 91:1–16 (NKJV)
1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.
8 Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.”
We are currently living in a time where fear has a stronghold on many people's hearts. We need to distinguish between three types of fear: 1) a form of respect, which is healthy; 2) reverence for God, which is healthy; and 3) fear that God warns us to avoid.
First, there is a healthy fear that God has instilled in us to protect us from danger. This healthy fear should be viewed as a form of respect. For example, we should respect a hot stove, as it can burn us. We respect the danger of a rattlesnake or playing in traffic. These are examples of healthy fears or forms of respect.
Second, there is a healthy fear of God. According to Proverbs 1:7, this type of fear is the beginning of wisdom. It is not a fear of punishment but rather a healthy reverence for God. Hebrews 10:31 reads, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Similarly, Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” This kind of fear demonstrates a deep reverence for God.
Living fearlessly does not mean living recklessly. Living fearlessly doesn’t mean you no longer fear God, because that is actually positive. Healthy reverence for God actually builds courage as you trust Him and see Him in all His might and power.
There is a third kind of fear which this psalm can help you avoid. It is a kind of fear that God does not want you to experience. It paralyzes you as you think so much about the problems and challenges that you are facing. Do you have financial challenges? Are you lonely? Is sickness causing you to fear tomorrow? These kinds of fears focus on your difficulties more than on God, Who has promised to help you meet those challenges.
Someone has discovered that the Bible uses the phrase "Fear not" 365 times, once for each day of the year. We may hear this phrase “fear not” and think He is just trying to get us to “stop it.” We may respond, “I would stop it if I could!”
There's a hilarious video skit featuring Bob Newhart where he is essentially counseling someone by telling them to "stop it." I was shown this video during my counseling classes in seminary as an example of what not to do in counseling. You can find it on YouTube. In the skit, a woman comes in saying she's afraid of being buried alive in a box. His response is to counsel her by repeatedly telling her to "stop it." When she explains that she can't stop thinking about it and that it's controlling her, he just continues saying, "Stop it." Finally, in exasperation, he says, “Stop it… or I’ll bury you in a box!” Of course, just saying “stop it” doesn’t give anyone the strength to actually stop.
Now, this is not the approach God takes when He tells us to "fear not." He doesn’t just want us to stop feeling fear. He wants us to be full of faith. Faith comes by hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17). If you are feeling fear today, take time to meditate on Psalm 91, which provides an antidote to fear. It will strengthen your faith and help you live fearlessly, no matter what you are going through.
Lord, I praise You that You are everything I need to walk through the difficulties I am facing. I thank You for Your promises. I ask You to remind me of Your strength and care when my heart is overwhelmed with anxiety. I look to You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
 William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 689–690.