So then, we can clearly see that being led on these paths of righteousness is not always going to be easy. We will have plenty of opportunities even during this good life to exercise our faith. We will certainly be tempted time and time again to ask the questions like, “Why did this happen? Where was God during this? Did I miss it somewhere?” But as we learned last week, it is imperative that we stay on God’s side when these times happen. And it is important for us to realize what David went on to say in verse 4…
He says, in Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and staff, they comfort me.”
So, will this good life that God has planned for us to live contain trials, tribulation and persecution? The Holy Spirit, through David, foreseeing this says, “Yea” (or, YES!) Yes, our faith will be tried at times. Yes, some of our journey will take us through these dark valleys. But, as I will get into today, the good life does not involve pitching camp in these valleys; David said we are walking through these dark valleys. Amen?
Now let’s begin looking at Psalm 23:4 by noticing the transition we see in this Psalm here: What we see now is not the sheep making their boast in what their shepherd does for them; we see the sheep actually addressing the shepherd himself.
Notice the terminology used here and you will see this: After saying, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” He says to the Lord his Shepherd, “For you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
This teaches me that there is a time and a place for proclaiming who He is to you to others or just in general; but it also teaches me that there is a time and a place for addressing Him personally and telling Him who is to you. Amen? Both are evidently important to do.
SO WE MAY BOLDLY SAY
But what we need to take away from this is - the obvious importance for us, as the Lord’s sheep, is to make proclamations, declarations and confessions of our faith - whether that be in general or directly to the Lord Himself. Yes, what we say is important.
You see, over in Hebrews 13:5-6, the writer of this letter recalls that the Lord Himself said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” at the end of verse 5. But then he goes on to say in verse 6, “So we may boldly say…” Now don’t miss this point right here: Because the Lord Himself said that He would never leave us nor forsake us, now we may boldly say something in response! In other words, because He said this, we can boldly say that. Amen! This, my friends, is the power of confession: When the Lord has promised us something, we can with all boldness, declare things pertaining to what He has already said! And here the writer of Hebrews said that we can boldly say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Amen! And we need to remember that His Word in our mouth is just as powerful as His Word in His mouth. When we say what God has said, we can expect to receive it. Whether you feel it or not, if His word says it, it's true.
But in my experience, I don’t hear too many Christians talking like this. They either think this is prideful or presumptuous. But, again, the Bible has a LOT to say about us boldly declaring the truth, and we also see many different examples in the Scriptures where this is echoed as well. However, I for one decide to go with the Bible and not with the philosophies and traditions of men. I will confidently say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in Him I will trust!” (Psalm 91:2). I will boldly say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear! What can man do to me?” Amen.
Over in Romans chapter 8, we have a powerful truth that echoes this: In the first 30 verses of this chapter, we have the Apostle Paul giving us many of the wonderful promises of our covenant - everything from the fact that there is no condemnation for us (verse 1), we have the law of the Spirit of Life (verse 2), the Holy Spirit quickens our mortal bodies (verses 9-11), we are joint heirs with Jesus Christ (verse 12), the Holy Spirit intercedes through us (verses 26-27), God works all things together for our good (verse 28). And the list could go on and on.
Then, in Romans 8:31, Paul asks a question: “What then shall we say to these things?” In other words, with all of these exceedingly great and precious promises, what should our response be? We should say! Yes, again, our reasonable service is to verbally proclaim something. And what is it here that Paul said we shall say to these things? “If God is for us, who can be against us!?!”
You see, when you add up all of the things that God has promised us and said are ours, then the only conclusion we should come to is - God is for us! Yes, He is on our side! He has done so much for us that it is an indisputable fact that He is for us! Amen! Therefore, if He is for us and on our side, then why on God’s green earth would we ever be afraid of anything? As one commentary said, if the Lord Almighty is obviously resolved and engaged to bring us through, all our enemies must be His. Amen!
NO FEAR HERE!
So, what we say is obviously important - specifically when it comes to the many different fears that come up against us as we are walking through these valleys of the shadow of death. Amen?
You see, in these Scriptures, fear is the thing being countered with our words. For example, in Hebrews 13:6, we see one of the author’s bold proclamations was, “I will not fear!” Now ironically enough, the writer of Hebrews included in this declaration that he would not fear, because this is the subject matter of Psalm 23:4. In it, David also declares “I will fear no evil!”
You see, there is an important truth found in this - and that is that the best way to counter fear-filled thoughts is with faith-filled words. Yes, when fear tries to grip our hearts, we can replace it by speaking words of faith. Amen.
And when I say “words of faith,” I am referring to words that are concrete and positively declare the truth. For example, notice in Hebrews 13:6 that he said, “I will not fear.” This was what the writer had made the decision to do! He was essentially saying, “Nope, I will not fear - not gonna do it! No fear here!” Amen! And church, we must see how important it is to violently reject those fear-filled thoughts and vehemently war against yielding to them.
For example, we see over in Psalm 91 how a big part of receiving and walking in God’s protection is not being afraid of the things that seem capable of harming us. In Psalm 91:5-6, the Psalmist says, “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.”
Now that sounds pretty much like we are to not fear anything, doesn’t it? On top of that, it sounds like we are not to be afraid at any point of the day too. He says that we shouldn’t be afraid at night nor during the day; at the darkest point of the night, not at the brightest part of the day. We are not to fear - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! 365 days a year, we should not fear!
In fact, it has been said that the Bible tells us not to fear 365 times. Isn’t that an interesting and convenient number? This should prove to us beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are not to ever allow ourselves to fear - no, not one day out of the year. Fear has been described as False Expectations Appearing Real.
Another way to counter fear is through praise. Our emotions are based on what we think, and the fear cannot stay when you praise God. Praising God is done best when telling God and others about all the great things He has done. On the other hand, continually talking about how big your problems are, or how afraid you may be, essentially boil down to praising the devil.
It is important to understand why fear is so bad. Most do not put worry and anxiety - all of which are products of fear - in the same category as lying, stealing, etc. I mean, some Christians would never dream of committing any of these “big sins”, but the truth is, fear is just as much sin as these other things.
The Apostle Paul said that whatever is not of faith is sin. So fear, which is the exact opposite of faith, is sin. I do not bring this up to condemn anyone who struggles with this, but rather to let you know just how intolerant you should be to fear. So, we should shun and resist fear like we would shun and resist adultery because, really, it is just as bad in many ways.
You see, allowing fear in our lives is like telling God we don’t trust Him. It is a direct violation of one of God’s greatest desires - that we believe Him. And this is why fear is such a big deal to God that He would charge us to not fear 365 times in His Word! It is because faith is such a big deal to Him! The Bible teaches us without faith it is impossible to please Him. It says that we are saved by faith. It says that we now walk by faith and not by sight. The Bible repeatedly shows us just how important it is that the child of God operates in faith.
Well, fear is the opposite of faith. You cannot be in fear and in faith at the same time. They are complete opposites. Fear is nothing but faith in the devil, or in what he is telling us, rather than in what God has told us. And just as faith is the currency that we use to obtain things in the kingdom of light, fear is the currency that we use to obtain things in the kingdom of darkness. In other words, you open yourselves up to receive whatever you allow yourselves to be afraid of. Job acted in fear (Job 1:5) by continually offering sacrifices for his sons in case they had sinned and cursed God. Then, in Job: 3:25, he says that the thing he had greatly feared had come to pass. So, can you see how yielding to fear then will lead us away from the good life God has for us? Therefore, we should resist fear like the plague it is! We must grab ourselves by the ear and reject the temptation to fear. Amen?
Now let’s look back over at Psalm 23:4 and take a look at what else David said in this powerful verse because it will help us to further understand why we shouldn’t fear…
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH
Again, he said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” Notice that David said here that we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Pay special attention to the words “through” and “shadow.”
First of all, let’s look at how David said we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, not that we are to stay there. This is important because this is exactly what so many Christians do - they pitch camp right slap dab in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death. Like the children of Israel, the majority of Christians today like to wander around in the wilderness, in the valleys around the same mountains. Some do this because they like the sympathy they receive. Some do this because they like the attention it gives them.
Saints, our testimony should not be that of having pitched camp in these valleys. As Christ’s disciples, we are called to “go to the other side!” And that is exactly why we need not fear these unavoidable valleys that we will travel through as long as we are in this world. Jesus said that in this world we will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, He overcame the world!
So, yes, even though we will have valleys and tribulations that will touch us all, we are passing through them. Therefore, we ought to know that if we just don’t quit and if we just keep the faith, we will get to the other side. Amen!?!
Secondly, notice that this valley is called “the valley of the shadow of death.” It is not death itself; it is the shadow of death. Now a shadow of a dog never bit anyone, right? A shadow holds no power. Therefore, death holds no power over our lives. It is only the fear of death that we deal with.
Let me ask you a question: What is it that is the root of all fears? What is it that people ultimately fear? Now we have all kinds of things that we specifically are afraid of such as the fear of heights, the fear of snakes, claustrophobia, arachnophobia, etc. But what are all of these “phobias” rooted in? I can tell you: they are all ultimately rooted in the fear of death.
Hebrews 2:14-15 reveals this to us when it says that before we came to Christ, we were all subject to the fear of death and, therefore, were living all of our life subject to the bondage of this root of all fears. But the key phrase here is “were.” We were all of our lifetime subject to bondage through the fear of death. Therefore, living in fear should not be the case for a Christian! We should not fear death or anything else for that matter because, saints, even if the worst happens and we die, we still win! We are still going to heaven, glory to God! Therefore, we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus who loved us!
But this fear of evil, death, etc. has a remedy. And David goes on to share this with us in the rest of this verse. He goes on to say, “for You are with me.”
FOR YOU ARE WITH ME
Now the word “for” here could also be translated “because.” So, the reason that David was saying that he would fear no evil is because he knew that His God was with Him.
What an awesome truth that we seem to throw aside sometimes, saints - that our God is with us! It doesn’t matter where we go or what we are going through. Our God is with us!
It was said of Jesus at His birth that His Name would be called “Immanuel,” God with us! (Matthew 1:23) And then, at His departure, He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). So, if Jesus is said to be “God with us” all the way from His birth to His Resurrection, then don’t you reckon He is with us everywhere in between? Amen!
Let’s look at a few Old Testament Scriptures where God promised to be with His chosen people:
Now here we have three witnesses where God has promised to be with His covenant people, and do you also see another reoccurring theme through these verses? In essence, He said in all three of them, “Do not fear because I am with you!” Amen! Therefore, what we should learn from this is that the key to eliminating fear from our hearts is by the truth that God is with us, entering into our hearts. Amen!
So, based on these truths and the truths of our new and better covenant, we have three awesome promises that should dispel all fear from our hearts: