Summary: It’s so tempting to believe that God will somehow protect us from such catastrophic trials if only our faith is strong enough, our convictions deep enough, our conduct good enough. God’s plans, however, are frequently confusing and mysterious.

Before I can begin, I have a confession to make. Personally, I find it very hard to “glory in tribulation.” I’m not talking about flat-tire tribulations or ants-in-the-kitchen tribulations. I mean the tribulations of Job that rock us to the very core of our faith. It’s so tempting to believe that God will somehow protect us from such catastrophic trials if only our faith is strong enough, our convictions deep enough, our conduct good enough. God’s plans, however, are frequently confusing and mysterious. Just when we think we are following God’s directions, tragedy strikes, and we falter in confusion. We tell ourselves that it’s just an obstacle to overcome . . . and then another and another trial comes, like so many boulders in an avalanche, until we sound like Job:

"Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant? If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target?" (Job 7:19-20a, NIV)

Or when David cried out,

“The sorrows of Shoel surrounded me;

The snares of death confronted me;

In my distress, I called upon the Lord,

And cried out to my God.”

It’s times like those when we learn how very little we actually understand about God’s plans. It’s times like those when the word, “FAITH” takes on a whole new meaning and “FEAR FOR LIFE” seems more real than fear of the IRS. You reach into your bag of acquired resources time and again for answers and solutions. Time and again they’re not enough until we finally ask, “How much longer is this going to last?”

Sometimes we underestimate how much courage it takes for some people to simply get out of bed in the morning. Courage and faith have a great deal in common. For most of us, neither comes easily.

A student of philosophy was taking his final written exam at a university. The students were given five hours to expound on a single topic, "What is courage?" The young man sat thoughtfully at his desk for a brief time. Finally, he scribbled something on his paper, got up, and handed it to the professor while the others were frantically writing volumes. Later, when the grades were posted, the other students were amazed that he had received an “A”. The professor shared the student’s paper with the class. It said simply, “This is.”

If the mountain tops represent the joy of living and rejoicing with God, then surely the valleys are where we experience the trials and tribulations that are such a part of this world.

Everyone knows what it is like to be afraid. Some fear heights; others bugs or snakes. Some are afraid of loosing control. There are also hidden fears that may motivate us. Fear of failure may cause some to never start or try anything that is not completely safe. Fear of rejection or disapproval makes many people afraid to act. They spend their time bemoaning their short-comings instead of counting their strengths. And some even take delight in reminding others of their inadequacies – as though tearing others down will somehow build themselves up. Sadly enough, they ultimately build nothing . . neither in others nor in themselves.

Essentially, there are two kinds of fear: HEALTHY FEAR – that keeps us from leaping into volcanoes, and UNHEALTHY FEAR – that paralyzes us; the fear of what others might think as opposed to what God wants us to do.

Satan is a master puppeteer of fears. At every turn, he tries to pull our strings to keep us from being effective Christians. He lies to disguise the truth. We walk in the beautiful forests and mountains, and he tells us to worship that beauty instead of worshipping the Creator who made it.

When God gives us blessings, Satan steals the joy by threatening us with the fear of loosing them. He uses the "spirit of fear" to make our lives miserable through worry. From the “spirit of fear”, we not only doubt ourselves, but we also doubt God and His plans for us.

There was a lady who died in 1916 named Hetty Green. She was called America’s greatest miser. When she died in 1916, she left an estate valued at $100 million. But she was so miserly that she ate cold oatmeal in order to save the expense of heating the water. When her son had a severe leg injury, she took so long trying to find a free clinic to treat him that his leg had to be amputated because of advanced infection. She was so worried about losing her wealth, that she didn’t even enjoy her life!

We can be so afraid of losing our wealth or job that we never enjoy our life. Or we can lose our jobs and drown in the fear that it’s all over. The job, instead of our faith in Christ, becomes our identity. Without the job, we fear that we have no more value or worth in this world. Generally, it seems to be us men, more than the women, who stumble into that one. Some people are so afraid that something is going to happen to their marriage, that they never get really close to their spouse or have the intimacy that God intends for them.

Fear can also make us ineffective Christians – afraid to share our faith for fear of what others might say.

Some are afraid of getting involved or speaking out . . . even when they know that they’re right.

Unhealthy Fear can keep us from serving God. Such fear is the child of Satan and the mother of despair. Whatever keeps us from doing what we know is right - is not of God. Whatever keeps us from a joyous relationship with God - is not of God.

When Peter told Jesus that He must not surrender himself to be killed, Jesus replied, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” And that is exactly what we must do when the author of fear and confusion threatens us. We must command him by the authority of Christ to “Get behind us!” He no longer has any authority in our lives.

Someone once said, “Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables us to recognize our mistakes when we make them again.” When we respond to God’s calling out of fear, instead of faith, we always make mistakes.

Depression, fear, worry, sorrow and pain are things we all experience in the valleys of our lives. It would be wonderful if we could always live on the mountain tops in clear view of God’s wonder and always feeling His love. How wonderful it would be to always have the courage to stand up for our convictions. What a blessing if we never felt pain or disappointment. These things, however, are unavoidable in the valleys. They are there as lessons for us to learn and to make us stronger in our faith. And sometimes they are there simply to keep us humble. Whether we learn it or reject it is really up to us.

There is a part of each of us that must experience fear and disappointment in order for us to grow. That part is called our “character”. There are a lot of things in our life that we have no control over – We don’t get to pick our parents, our upbringing, our talents, our IQ. But we do choose our character. In fact, we create it – every time we make choices. Our character is like a dull knife blade. Unless it is pressed against the whet stone and feels the pressure and friction, it never becomes sharp and useful. If we always avoid the frictions in this life, we never hone our skills in dealing with them. We become dull and useless to ourselves and to others. Knowing this, God created the valleys to press us into the form and character that can make us successful in this world.

In the 23rd Psalm David said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

David’s conscious choice was that, HE CHOSE NOT TO FEAR. You don’t think David was ever afraid? For years, he was a homeless outlaw sought everywhere by King Saul’s army. To stop for even a day might mean capture and death. No camp nor cave was truly safe, yet, David declared that he would not fear. I believe that he actually wrote those words in defiance of the very fear he felt. He was making a declaration in the face of impending disaster. He was making a conscious choice.

Satan is a master at using our fears and disappointments to stop us, to bind us, and to rob us! His methods of imposing these are varied.

1. He uses our past sins to convince us that we’re worthless and beyond help or forgiveness. This is the lie that would negate the sacrifice of Christ.

2. Satan uses the uncertainties of the future and our fear of the unknown to steal our faith in God’s plans for us. But God has promised us, In Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Sometimes we can be so convinced that we’re walking in God’s perfect plan that any deviations in the road ahead causes us to totally panic and even to despair. God wants us to walk each day with such faith that, no matter what surprises lie ahead, we can rest assured that it’s God’s perfect plan that’s unfolding, and it might well be nothing like we expect.

There’s the true story of a young married man who was accepted as an African Missionary. It was the great ambition of his young life. He reported to New York harbor with his wife and soon arrived in Africa. It wasn’t long, however, that he found his wife could not physically tolerate the climate. It was killing her. Broken-hearted, he returned home.

His father was a dentist, but the young man felt no inclination to become a dentist. His father had, however, a small business on the side making an unfermented wine for use in churches for the Lord’s Supper. The young man began to dabble in this business until he finally took over its management. What a waste of time he must have thought as he labored at making grape juice. The business, however, prospered, and the man eventually gave millions to missions around the world. His company is known today as Welch’s Grape Juice.

It’s not important that we know HOW God’s plan will unfold. It’s only important that we know IT WILL unfold to His glory and our eternal happiness. We don’t have to be perfect or do all the right things for this to happen. God’s plan will not fail if we make mistakes, if we disappoint others or ourselves, or if we are besieged by an avalanche of trials and tribulations. God’s plan is going to unfold whether we choose to believe it or not. One’s personal beliefs are not going to alter one iota of God’s divine plan. What will be altered, however, is the believer’s opportunity to rejoice and celebrate in that plan.

The purpose of keeping our faith each day is so that we can be celebrating - - - each day.

God declares in Jeremiah 17:7-8

Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.

They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream.

It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green;

in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

In the valleys, we face the trials of this world. ( and we must embrace our trials and grow from them) Those trials are an inherent part of the human condition.

In John 16, Jesus told His disciples, “In this world, you will have tribulation, but fear not for I have overcome this world.”

This world, with all its glitz, glamour and calamity is temporal. If you place your life’s savings in the bank of Here-and-Now, then you’ll arise one day to total bankruptcy. Only God’s bank has absolute security.

God has not given us the "spirit of fear" but He has given us TWO things that will help us overcome fear: the gifts of POWER, , and LOVE.

The gift of Power (Phil 4:13): “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”

Power to be saved - (John 1:12) “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God,”

Power to be a witness for Him - (Acts 1:8) “But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you will be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

Power to be Joyful - (Rom 15:13) “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

Power to endure trials - (2 Cor 12:9) “And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

If you are trusting in, relying on, and believing in the one who has the power, He will give you the power you need! We have learned of this power through His Word and by His Spirit. We’re supposed to use it.


Robert Moffatt, a Scottish missionary to Africa, returned to England to recruit young men for the missionary field. He was greeted by the fury of a cold British winter. Arriving at the church where he was to speak, he noted only a small group had braved the elements to hear his appeal. What disturbed him even more was that he had prepared his sermon on Proverbs 8:4, "Unto you, O men, I call," and there he was with an audience of women only. I’m sure that Dr. Moffatt felt like his preparation was senseless in light of the fact that few women could be expected to undergo the rigorous experiences of the African Mission field. But God had a different plan in mind. Quite unknown to Reverend Moffatt, a young boy was pumping the organ out of sight in the organ loft. That boy heard Reverend Moffatt’s challenge. Deciding to follow in the footsteps of the veteran missionary, the young lad went to school, became a doctor, and spent the rest of his life ministering to the un-reached tribes of Africa.

His name was Doctor David Livingstone!

It’s not important that we know what the plan is. It’s only important that we know it’s there.

B. The Gift of Love

At first glance, it doesn’t seem that Love could be effective in conquering fear.

But we see in (1 John 4:18) “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.”

Here is how this works:

1. The more we love God, the less fear we have. It’s a matter of trust. The necessary commitment is PRAYER; the on-going conversation between us and our Father. It’s the master’s prescription to overcome fear, disappointment, pain and sorrow; . . . daily prayer; group prayer; tearful prayer and joyous prayer. Prayer is the conversation that makes your relationship with God come alive. You cannot build a relationship of love with someone you don’t know.

Romans 8:28 says (Rom 8:28) “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

2. The more we love others the less fear we have. Love of others takes our minds off ourselves. When we’re busy praying and loving others, we don’t have time to wallow in ourselves. It’s our love for others, made possible by our love for God that gives us hope and overcomes fear.

The valleys build our character. Just as steel is made from iron mixed with alloys, so our character is made from experience mixed with love. The greater our love for others, the stronger our character becomes. Character is the inward quality that enables us to endure the outward trials.

The valleys of our lives are both obstacles and opportunities.

There’s a popular poem that’s been circulating on the Internet for some time. It’s by Jane Eggleston. Titled: “It’s in the Valleys I Grow”. In one line she writes, “Lord, I rejoice on your mountain tops, but it’s in the valleys I grow.” It’s the same with each of us. In fact (and sadly enough), a great many of history’s greatest inventions and discoveries were the result of warfare and conflict. Like the old saying, “Necessity breeds invention.” So it often seems that, without the valleys of tribulations in our lives, we don’t feel the necessity to change and grow. Conflicts in our lives pressure us to think outside the box and especially outside ourselves. When we confront the insurmountable, we begin to understand just how much we truly need God.

A man took his daughter to the carnival, and she immediately ran over to a booth and asked for cotton candy. As the attendant handed her a huge ball of it, the father asked, “Sweetheart, are you sure you can eat all of that?” “Don’t worry, Dad,” she answered, “I’m a lot bigger on the inside than on the outside.”

Through faith in Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we do, indeed, become bigger on the inside. In Christ, all things become possible.

Please join with me in prayer:

Father, thank you for cleansing us through the sacrifice and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for seeing our worth – even when we feel worthless. And thank you, Lord Jesus, for opening the door that we might be free of fear by the knowledge that you are always with us . . . even in the darkest valleys. May our lives today, and everyday, more closely resemble the perfection and love you have given us by your grace. In the name of our Savior Jesus, we pray. Amen.