Psalm 46:1-11 How God Helps You Overcome Fear
History of this Psalm
This hymn (A Mighty Fortress is Our God) is one of the most significant in church history. It was written by Martin Luther on his way to the Diet of Worms. He was invited to this meeting by the Holy Roman Emperor and the pope under the guise that they were interested in hearing his views that conflicted with the objectives of the religious establishment of his day. Actually, the council was set up as a trap. First, it was their intention to humiliate Luther and then murder him on his way home.
Luther knew his life and reputation were at risk, but he went nonetheless. On the way, he was comforted by the words of Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1-3) It was then that Luther penned this famous hymn.
As it turned out, Luther was craftier than his adversaries and defended his cause in the meeting with authority and eloquence. On the way home, as he was traveling in his carriage in the forest, friendly Prince Philip “kidnapped” Luther and kept him in his castle, protecting him from imminent harm.
THEME #1 – God is my strength. I must have courage.
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling.Selah
(Psalms 46:1-3 NKJV)
God is my strength, or more precisely my source of strength. He is where I can find strength when things are hard. Even though:
Circumstances trouble me.
Some things or people are removed from me.
Some things have cast away from me.
Problems and people shake me up.
Have you ever felt bothered and scared by someone or something. Were you ever in a situation where you felt that your life was at risk? Did you fear someone else or something else in your life?
God wants you to know that He is your strength. He will give you the courage that you need. You need the courage to face the fears in your life.
Mark Twain once said: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.”
Eddie Rickenbacker once said: “Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.”
During the time of the exodus, the people of Israel were moving around in the desert. Moses asked 12 spies to go out and check the Promised Land. You remember the story. Ten came back and said that the place was too scary. Two came back and said that we should have the courage to take the challenge. Notice what one of them said:
Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”
(Numbers 13:30 NKJV)
There was another spy. His name was Joshua. Look at what God says to Joshua before the people of Israel actually do enter the land. The people entered the land 40 years after they should have conquered it. Caleb was ready to go. But when Joshua actually does lead the people, God tells him three times to have courage. Why?
Because Joshua still has some fears. Even after all this time, Joshua has some fear. Of what exactly we don’t know. But God says: Have courage. I am with you.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:9 NKJV)
Just as Joshua had to learn, and just as Martin Luther had to learn, we have to learn. We have to learn to hold on to God as our strength and have courage.
But courage will come from the strength of God, only after we have placed our trust in Him. We must trust Him as the only place of security.
THEME #2 – God is my security. I must trust Him.
God is not only your strength, He is also your source.
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.Selah
(Psalms 46:4-7 NKJV)
PERSONAL ILLUSTRATION: We visited the place where Martin Luther was taken by Prince Phillip right after the trail of the Diet of Worms. Heike and I visited the cathedral in Wittenberg, where Martin Luther nailed the 95 Thesis on the door. The door actually has the 95 Thesis inscribed in metal. Inside the cathedral, you will find the gravestones of Luther and his associate Philip Melancthon. The first line of the hymn is inscribed on Luther’s tomb.
The river flows through the city. This is a picture of goodness and graciousness of God. These verses speak about the contrast between the insecurities of the world and the securities in God. While the world may be raging, the kingdoms are moving and shuffling, it can make us feel insecure. This past week was the 20th anniversary of the nuclear explosion in Chernobyl – a very timely reminder of how insecure our world may seem. This past week, we have seen countries boast of nuclear power and its use, and the world seems to be an insecure place. The financial markets change so often that it may seem that we can never truly be financially secure.
I can not place trust in governments. I cannot place my trust in systems. I cannot place my trust in someone else’s power. I can only place my trust in God.
Martin Luther said in a letter to his collegue Philip Melancthon:
“God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.”
But courage will come from the strength of God, only after we have placed our trust in Him. We must trust Him as the only place of security. But trust will come from the security we place in God only after we have discovered God. God wants us to come to Him and discover Him.
THEME #3 – God is my sanctuary. I must let go, relax and discover Him.
Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.Selah
(Psalms 46:8-11 NKJV)
The only way that I can learn to overcome the fears that I have about myself, about this world, about my troubles – the only way is to discover God. Many times you and I strive to make things happen and to make things go right. We defend ourselves against what we fear. We work either by worrying or by acting out our fears. The Psalm tells us here that when I encounter a fear, my first response should be to come to God and know Him. What does that mean?
You know as well as I do that we try in our own strength to make everything happen. We see problems, we see things that scare us, and we start to find the solutions. We see wars and we start consulting politicians and military leaders. We see national problems and we start to consult experts. We see problems in our own families, and we consult everyone else. We consult idols. We consult mediums. We consult astrologers. We consult other people. We consult what everyone is saying on the Internet. We talk to everyone else first. Why?
Because God has not become my sanctuary. I don’t know God well enough. If I knew God well enough, I would consult Him first. But I don’t. That has to change. If I really want to see myself overcome the fears, the trials, the troubles, then I will really need to start getting to know God.
How many in here don’t know God very well? How many of you would say: No I don’t consult God first. I don’t think about Him when I get into trouble. Let’s be honest. Even as Christians, we don’t ask God for help. Why?
Because we have not taken the time to get to know God when there is trouble in our path.
How am I going to get to know God better when the trouble comes? Two ways:
- Worship Him more.
- Pray to Him more.
This is what we need to do. We need to pray to God and ask Him to help me when I run into trouble. We need to worship Him more when we are in the midst of the trouble.