“Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

What is our response to peril? Fear or faith? We learn in Mark 5:21-43 how to respond.

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
“My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live.”
He went off with him
and a large crowd followed him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”
But his disciples said to him,
“You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, Who touched me?”
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling.
She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

While he was still speaking,
people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said,
“Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”
Disregarding the message that was reported,
Jesus said to the synagogue official,
Do not be afraid; just have faith.
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside
except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official,
he caught sight of a commotion,
people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them,
“Why this commotion and weeping?
The child is not dead but asleep.”
And they ridiculed him.
Then he put them all out.
He took along the child’s father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,
which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this
and said that she should be given something to eat.

When we find ourselves in peril it’s natural to shift into defense mode, to be fearful and try to hide. Sometimes “fight or flight” instead of “In God We Trust.” In this passage from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus shows us we have nothing to fear. “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

You might think, “That’s easier said than done.” It’s true, it’s hard when faced with peril to focus on trust. If our lives don’t have a foundation of faith, it’s especially hard. But if we focus on that faith during times when we aren’t in peril, when things are going relatively well, or even when things aren’t going so well but we aren’t in peril, we can learn to trust God and see that He has our back. Then when something truly horrific happens, the leap of faith isn’t such a stretch for us.

For those of us who haven’t exercised our  faith over time, however, we will eventually be faced with situations that will truly test us. And that’s when we must remember Jesus’ calming words: “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Let His assurance set us at ease. Let His confidence give us confidence in Him. And remember that He has said before, whatever you ask the Father in Jesus’ name, He will give you. We’re not talking baubles and riches, we’re talking about when you really need something.

In this passage from Mark, the father of the sick girl comes to Jesus full of faith. He’s afraid for his daughter’s life, but he is full of faith that Jesus can save her. Likewise, the woman afflicted with hemorrhages comes to Jesus full of faith that if she just touches Jesus’ garment it will heal her. “Your faith has saved you,” He tells her, sending her on her way cured. These weren’t people that Jesus sought out to be examples. In fact, often Jesus tells people that He has helped not to tell anyone. But these are people Jesus rewards for their faith.

When you feel fear, remember: Don’t be afraid. Compose yourself. Look to God. And have faith. He is there listening.

One more thing strikes me. In the Old Testament, the emphasis was on fear of God. In the New Testament, here, Jesus tells us not to fear but to have faith. And in other places, Jesus tells us to love God — no focus on fear. What a wonderful gift to have a loving Father to embrace instead of fear. Praise be to God!

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