Take Courage, It Is I, Do Not Be Afraid
The first day of January 2004 seems like yesterday, but it is already April 25th. It has been twelve years since our church moved from Noryangjin to Oryu-dong. The trees planted here alone are worth over 400 million won. All of these trees were bought from Yeosu and Suncheon in Jeolla province. This church site was originally a military base, so there were a lot of poplar trees which attracted many bugs and blew pollen in the spring. Now, rhododendrons, azaleas, roses of Sharon, magnolias, and maples have been planted. We need to be grateful that we can worship God in such a spring garden with clear air where mountains and streams smile brightly. When I come here after being in the city, my nostrils feel cool from the fresh air.
These are difficult times to live in. Rich people may splurge, but the rest don’t have the means to eat or wear proper clothes; as soon as they open their eyes, they worry about feeding and dressing their children and sending them off to school. Some even end up in the hospital due to tragic accidents. As I was contemplating what to preach today, I suddenly remembered Jesus walking on the water. Matthew 14:22-32, Mark 6:45-51, and John 6:15-21 all record the same incident. Today’s title is quoted directly from the main scripture (NASB95), “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.” The King James Version has it as, “It is I! Be of good cheer! Be not afraid!”
Our life is like a tiny boat sailing on the rough seas of this bitter world and the saints are those who go toward the New Jerusalem, the kingdom of heaven. (Gal 4:28; Rev 21, 22; Isa 65,66) Until we reach the safe port, severe storms often approach during this voyage and these are not some gentle waves. About the end time, Jesus said, “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves.” It’s not the actual waves of the east and west sea that fluster the minds of the people. It is the attitude, thoughts, and words of people that are “the roaring of the sea and the waves.” Careless words hurt other people’s feelings and disturb their minds. All of you are a spiritual boat heading for New Jerusalem. There are no peaceful days before anchoring the boat. However, Jesus came to us and said, “Take courage! It is me. Do not be afraid!” With these Words of Jesus, all is taken care of. However, there are many people who do not believe and accurately understand Jesus even though they have been in the church for decades. An enormous effort and a strong faith are required to anchor safely in a port. When Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water,” Jesus said, “It is I.
Come!” When Peter walked in faith, he didn’t drown. However, when he saw the storm and the waves, he became frightened and began to sink. When he cried out to save him, Jesus immediately stretched out His hand and took hold of him and said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” This is what our life looks like. Are you a man of faith just because you are a pastor or an elder? Are you faithful just because you came to church for decades?
The key to ensuring a safe life is to entrust the helm of the boat to the Lord. When we fail to entrust, we’ll be shaken by a sudden storm just as the disciples were. The disciples were greatly afraid when their boat was battered by the storm. They were engulfed in fear as they were not able to entrust Jesus. In a similar manner, we entrust all things to Jesus when we pray in church, but take everything back on our shoulders when we leave the church. We feel at ease when we pray, but sigh in despair when we leave the prayer site, thinking, “Will God accept such a prayer?” Such a person is one without faith. Faith has no room for even the tip of the needle to rest. How sharp is the tip of a needle? Yet, true faith has no place for it because there is no gap to break in. The faith that pleases God is the faith without gaps (Eph 4:27). A proverb says, “A small leak will sink a great ship.” Faith with a gap is a shipwreck, a broken ship. Thus, we must entrust the key to Jesus as He is the only captain who can steer us toward a peaceful life, whether on calm shores or during a violent storm. Are you all living with Jesus whether you’re at home or work? We may face unexpected storms because of our unfaithfulness. These storms will bring worries and ultimately cause resentful relationships between husband and wife; they will even regret having sons and daughters who were given to them as gifts. This is a sin that defies God.
The incident in today’s main scripture took place in mid-April. It was during the time of Passover. The Jewish day begins at 6 p.m. The book of Genesis records, “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Therefore, the first watch of the night is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the second watch of the night is from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m., the third watch of the night is from 12 a.m. to 3 a.m., and the fourth watch of the night, which is when the disciples encountered the storm, is from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. (Mark 6:48; Matt 14:25). The disciples were not some ordinary people, but they were well experienced fishermen. However, it was such a terrifying storm that they were all bewildered and frightened out of their senses. Because of the stormy gusts, the ship, which was already miles away from the land, swayed up and down. The disciples were terrified. Jesus who was up on the mountain saw this while praying. Dear saints, even the animals adore their cubs. Parents shed tears of love for their children even if they may not be lovable in the sight of others. Jesus loves His people, and He loves them to the end (John 13:1). How heartbroken must Jesus have been when He saw His disciples while praying on the mountain? He would’ve gone through more pain than the disciples suffering on the boat. Look at Jesus ceasing His prayer in the middle and going to His disciples.
You may wonder why I am giving this sermon now. There are people who think that it would be better to commit suicide when in debt or guaranteeing someone else’s debt but unable to settle the liability. Will you be able to sleep at home when you hear your relatives and neighbors accusing and condemning you? When you look around everywhere, there are not many families who live in comfort. Some parents are hospitalized, some children are worrisome, some are too poor to eat well or buy clothes, and things do not work out the way we want them to. Everyone says that it’s more difficult now than ever. But, is it okay to resent the world and be in despair? That is why I am proclaiming this Word today. When you suffer too much, not only your saliva, but your blood will also dry out. In the most difficult times, when the blood dries out, if the Lord says, “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid,” and if only this Word is with you, your family, your business, and our church, I believe that you will receive the blessing of Immanuel’s grace. Immanuel means, “God with us” (Matt 1:23). At the birth of Jesus, an angel said to His mother, “He is God and the source of life. You shall call His name Immanuel.” Please believe that when you are in trouble, if the Lord visits your house and says even just once, “Take courage! It is me. Do not be afraid!” the trouble will all be over.
The disciples were facing a fatal crisis after encountering a storm on the Sea of Galilee! They thought that Jesus was not there, but in the mountains. They did not realize that Jesus was the Son of God, Messiah, Savior, and Creator. However, they were taught many times before, just as we have been. When they were struggling through so much on the sea, not one of the twelve disciples said, “Hey, why are you so anxious? He is God. He is the real Son of God!” If anyone had said this, he would have been able to calm other disciples. Because they thought that Jesus was one of them, they were wary and fearful. We have a lot to learn. We say, “Lord! I believe,” but do we actually believe when we are in trouble?
If your business partner takes all the money and runs away, you are facing a big storm. It is your turn to be promoted, but you are slandered and someone else gets promoted. This is also encountering a violent storm. It’s also encountering a strong wind when your spouse is causing trouble or your children are not studying as they should. The Bible says, “The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing (John 6:18),” and “the wind was against them (Mark 6:48).” A strong wind strikes individuals, families, workplaces, businesses, churches, countries, and peoples. Storms that occur in the dark of night make the sea waves more turbulent. The waves become uncontrollable. No thoughts come to mind. But Jesus clearly told His disciples, “Know who I am. I am the true Son of God. Before the creation of the universe, I was with God (John 1:1-4).” But they did not believe it. They thought He was just one of them. They just thought, “Does the Lord who is on that mountain know that we are going through all these?” Let’s say any one of them had said, “Although Jesus is on that mountain, He is watching us. Don’t you know? Let’s pray toward the Lord on the mountain!” Would they have met such a storm? Tens of thousands of people gather at the church, but do they all work? Only a few people are working. The whole church is run by a few faithful saints.
The incident that occurred just before the main text was the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish. Tens of thousands of people gathered in the field, but they did not eat for several days. In fear of people fainting and dying of exhaustion, Jesus placed two dried fish and five barley loaves that a boy had given and offered a thanksgiving prayer to God. A miracle happened when He prayed with thanksgiving. Jesus did not say, “I am God” and a miracle did not happen like magic. The miracle of feeding more than 5,000 men, and 20,000 women and children, and collecting twelve baskets of leftover food happened only a few minutes ago. Then, Jesus sent His disciples by boat before Him. If the disciples had remembered this, they would have said, “Didn’t you see Jesus performing miracles with five barley loaves and two fish? Is He not the Son of God? He is watching us now. Let’s stop worrying and pray.” But was there anyone who thought this way? When families and churches are in trouble, one should ask, “Why are you all acting this way? Is there no God? To whom were the words of Matthew 14:22 spoken?
Why do you consider this story of the disciples only as a past? Such a storm is coming in the fourth watch of the night. Let us hear the voice of our Lord. The Lord is watching us now.” How can it be that the wife is chattering away, and the child is slamming the door? I’ve witnessed this a lot so I am telling you not to do so. At least our Pyungkang Cheil Church must believe that there will be a blessing of prosperity in all things when hearing, “Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid,” in times of trouble. It is said, “Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them (Mark 6:48).” Where did He see this? It was from the mountains. Even now, God is looking at all of our mindset. He is with us now as the Word. You must know this. Do you think God is far away? He fills the heavens and the earth. It shall be done to you according to your faith.
Now, unspeakable headwinds and storms are blowing toward individuals, families, workplaces, churches, countries, and peoples. However, how many times did the ten to twelve million believers in Jesus Christ pray before God, for their country, people, businesses, families, and church? The disciples were engaged in a life or death struggle, gasping for breath. As their boat was rocking hard, they couldn’t come to their senses. It was dark all around and the wind and waves were rocking the boat up and down. To whom do you turn for help in such a situation? How can you even row? It is recorded in the Bible that the world will become such a night of adversity in the end days.
But this night of adversity is also the night of Immanuel. God is with us. It is a time of blessing to experience the great Immanuel in the midst of great winds and adversity. It is time to meet the Lord. The Lord stopped His prayer on the mountain and walked toward the sea. Peter saw Him first. But when the disciples saw Him, they said, “Hey! It is a ghost!” (Matt 14:26). How ridiculous it is to see Jesus, God the Creator, and think that He is a ghost. These were the disciples who were sent to see the sick in Capernaum less than an hour after He performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. How could they have forgotten all those miracles and see Jesus as a ghost! They should have thought, “God is coming to dwell with us!” and realized that this is the blessing of Immanuel’s grace, but they did not. The word “ghost” is recorded in the original language as “illusion, apparition.” Is Jesus an apparition? Don’t think of this as some event in the past; examine your faith. “Am I not believing like an apparition?” We must all repent. We must not call out to the Lord only when we are in good situations.
Take a look at Job’s faith. His twelve children died overnight, but he confessed, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job had boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head and had to take a potsherd to scrape himself. His wife told him, “Curse God and die!” but he replied, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” There will be some meaning in God’s providence of salvation, so we must wait for the right time. That is Job’s faith. What use is it if you do not know this and simply pray, “Lord, give me the grace like the faith of Job”? This happened when I was in my 3rd year of middle school in Sariwon, Hwanghae province. The child of the church leader, who lived in poverty, died. The child died on Saturday, but he went to church the next day to worship. Everyone was amazed. That act was truly an unspoken sermon and a fruit of his belief. Where else could we find someone like him? He said, “My children are also God’s children. God told us to keep the Lord’s day holy, so how can I skip the Lord’s day and grieve when I am a leader of the church? Now that my child has entered the dominion of God, why should I mourn in this world? He must have gone to heaven because he believed in Jesus, and I keep the Lord’s day holy with a grateful heart.” Dear saints, this is faith. If you were asked to come to church in such a situation, you would probably protest. You would be like the disciples.
“Immanuel! God is with us. Now we are saved!” We need to have this kind of faith. Jesus was watching His disciples while praying. Imagine that your kids went abroad to study. Parents’ hearts are with their children wherever they are. Then, wouldn’t God be the same and be watching over us? Now, have a little bit of faith. Have peace in your mind. If you believe, believe truly. Please let go of human thoughts. The mind set on the flesh is death and destruction, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace (Rom 8:5-7). How difficult is it to live these days? Sometimes, it is so hard that we complain, shed tears, stay secluded, and have aged faces. We lose the will to do anything. If someone asks, “Why don’t you come to church?”, you answer, “ Don’t say that. How can I attend church in this situation?” If you have that kind of heart, neither the church, country, nor family will do well. As of today, I hope that you will put it all away and believe in the blessing of “Immanuel” that Jesus, who is walking through the storm, is with us. How great it is! If you can solve the problem by worrying, worry about it. However, worrying does not resolve anything.
Jesus sent His disciples on a boat and went up to the mountain to accomplish God’s will (Mark 6:46). It was to strengthen the faith of His beloved disciples through adversity, hardship, and storm. It was to train them. But the disciples did not know this. Parents save money for their children discreetly. They save money to marry their children off and buy them a house. So does God. He said that He “so loved” the world. So loved! There is nothing more nor less needed. The supreme, the greatest happiness is contained in it. Jesus saw the disciples rowing in agony amidst the storm! Finally, He stopped praying, and walked down to the sea. The disciples were completely unaware. As the Son of God, He walked on the sea with supernatural powers. Jesus is the one who can enter even without a door. All walls are open for Him. After His resurrection, all His disciples witnessed it. All of creation bow their heads to greet Jesus. Waves are nothing. When Jesus stepped on the waves and got into the boat with His disciples, the dreadful sea became calm. Live with Jesus. Please believe that He will give you victory in life by giving you a stable heart and life. God who keeps those who believe Him, neither slumbers nor sleep (Ps 121:3-6). Even now, Jesus watches over our lives in His prayer (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25-26). Will the wife and children fall asleep when they hear the news that their father, who had no news for ten years, is coming home with great wealth? Wouldn’t they clean the house, put on new clothes and wait earnestly that day? Even after ten years of blood and tears of suffering, the moment they meet, they will be so joyful that ten years of suffering have flown away. How would the wife feel when the husband puts out a bag and says, “Honey, buy a house and do whatever you want with this money. Now, you will not have to suffer for the rest of your life”? How more assuring are these three phrases, “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid”? I hope that our Pyungkang saints could live like that. There is no need to be discouraged.
Jesus walked on the sea during the fourth watch of the night to come to His disciples. The purpose was clear: to meet the disciples. When parents visit their son who is in the army, don’t they come only to see their son? Jesus saw His disciples in trouble. And He moved into a time of action. He walked on the sea to rescue them. In His heart were only His suffering disciples. The image of Jesus walking on the sea of wrath! The Lord is the one who has the authority as the prince who rules over nature, as the Son of God, and to create. It is a supernatural kingship. This is the inescapable nature and essence of Jesus Himself. The messianic nature of Jesus, who came into the world to save sinners, is now walking on the water. Please believe that He is coming to us right now.
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
God forgave us and loved us by even putting His Son to death as a propitiation sacrifice (Rom 5:8). Hence, St. Augustine said, “Jesus came walking on the waves of the sea.” As Jesus walks towards us, trampling all the overflowing chaos of life under His feet, He is asking us, “What is there to fear?” I pray in the name of the Lord that everyone will now welcome Jesus, who is coming to your families with the blessings of peaceful prosperity. May we be His good servants.
Let me conclude. Jesus walked dignifiedly on the waves of the sea with a burning passion for His beloved disciples (Mark 6:50). However, His disciples were not in the same manner and rather regarded Him as a ghost, illusion, and evil spirit. (Mark 6:49-50; Matt 14:26) It was such an absurd disbelief and superstitious conduct. Yet, Jesus paid no heed to their disbelief. Jesus is truly magnificent. If it was an ordinary man, he would’ve said, “You just treated me as a ghost? Figure out your troubles yourselves!” Nevertheless, Jesus did not pay attention to it nor take it to heart. He came to them and first said, “Take courage!” It means be bold and never be afraid. “Be courageous, as I am here before you!” These are truly awesome words of comfort and life-giving grace. Second, He said, “It is I!” Not a ghost, but it is I, the Son of God, your Teacher, your Lord. Jesus is reminding them, “Don’t you remember all the miraculous things I’ve done in the past?” It was then that the disciples fell on their faces and confessed, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” Jesus has instilled in His disciples that He is the self-existent God, I am that I am. Third, He said, “Do not be afraid!” Even to Timothy, who was frightened like a mouse, God told him not to be afraid (2 Tim 1:7).
Isaiah 41:10 ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look 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.’
I pray in the name of the Lord, that these Words will not be erased from your families, individuals, churches, nations, and people but be engraved and inscribed on our hearts until we reach His kingdom, and that the blessings in the name of Jesus will not depart from generation to generation through the living work of God.
Isaiah 41:13 “For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’
The three Words of Jesus are the voice of comfort and a promise of life that sets us free from fear. He is not a ghost, but a fully-feeling, speaking Lord God and Creator. Immanuel God never leaves us astray like orphans. Please see God who is with us in our adversity. Imagine and see the scene inside the boat. As the disciples were rowing in agony in a storm, the God of love and comfort came to the scene of death and planted a voice of comfort and hope in their hearts; Despair and fear are all gone and they are at peace and reassured, full of joy glorifying God. When one of the disciples asked, “Lord, how did you know?” He answered, “I saw while praying.” How grateful are we to have Jesus! We meet the blessing of Immanuel in the midst of adversity. Mark 6:51 states that “He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped.” Thus, when a storm occurs in the house, all we need is the Lord to open the door and step into our house. It is the same for our work and church. Look at Peter’s mistake. He followed the Words of Jesus and walked on the water but when he saw the waves, he became frightened and began to sink. Jesus took hold of his hand and said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” There is not a single wind at the place where Jesus is. It’s always peaceful. There is no severe coldness, heat, nor harm. All is done according to your wishes. God the Father knows what is in my heart even before I seek Him (Rev 7:16-17). He is the one who counts all of our hairs. Those who have not experienced the immediate prayer answers do not believe this. When the Lord is with us, all is clear. In the military, when the soldier reports, “all is clear” to the commander who enters the office, the commander feels relieved in his heart, doesn’t he?
Psalm 107:28-30 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet, so He guided them to their desired haven.
Please believe that such works of God exist. All the hardships we face are under the administration of the Lord. When we take a look at all things that happened to us, we learn that all beginning, progress, and conclusion are the processes made under the providence of God’s salvation to awaken us. Please believe that He has come as the Word in our church. When He is among us, the storm calms down and it will ultimately end. The storm changes to the state of peace. He makes the impossible, possible. Things that were difficult to bear turn into something that is easy to bear. How joyful is this?
For the while, the saints of the Korean church have misused abundance. All have lived lives without gratitude before God, thinking that they’ve earned their abundance after sleepless nights being unable to wear or eat properly. However, we must realize that it was the work of God’s Word and grace. May we repent for our wrong thoughts. When God restores our financial circumstances, we must first recognize that all was done by Him and all belongs to the Lord. May we have the resolute heart to make good use of them for His good work of gospel. All kinds of waves are rising even at this time as a means of God’s administration to save His chosen ones. The adversity during the fourth watch of the night was also one of the waves. Please remember that all storms which life encounters come from the Lord and return to the Lord (Rom 11:36). Please believe that the adversity we have encountered tonight during the fourth watch of the night is a blessing of grace. What would be the definite sign for this? It is the Word of the blessing of peace. The Lord came to us tonight and said, “Republic of Korea! All households! Pyungkang Church! Take courage! It is I, do not be afraid!” Please believe that these Words will come true in our lives. I believe that the gates of heaven will be opened because of the congregation of Pyungkang Church and the faithful believers in Korea. Please believe that we will all become the heavenly saints chosen in the Lord.
2nd Lord’s Day service sermon by Rev. Abraham Park on April 25, 2004
*This post can also be read in 'Champyungan'. (http://champyungan.com/en/)