NASHVILLE (BP) -- This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, LifeWay publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week's Bible study is adapted from the MasterWork curriculum.

Bible Passage: Matthew 8:23-27

Discussion Questions: How many different phobias can you name and define? What is your normal response to fear? How would your life be different if all your fears were erased?

Food for Thought:

Fear is dreadful. Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors. Wouldn't it be great to walk out?

According to Jesus, this is possible. If quantity is any indicator, He takes our fears seriously. The Gospels list some 125 Christ-issued imperatives. Of these, 21 urge us to "not be afraid" or "not fear" or "have courage" or "take heart" or "be of good cheer." The one statement Jesus made more than any other was "Don't be afraid."

Consider, for example, the incident recorded in Matthew 8. As Jesus "got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. Suddenly, a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves" (Matt. 8:23-24, HCSB).

The term Matthew used for "storm" was the word "seismos" -- a quake, a trembling eruption of sea and sky. "A great seismos arose on the lake." Jesus' followers felt a seismos that shook them to the core. Matthew used the word on only two other occasions: at Jesus' death when Calvary shook (Matt. 27:51-54) and again at Jesus' resurrection when the graveyard tremored (28:2).

Getting on board with Christ can mean getting soaked with Christ. Disciples can expect rough seas and stout winds. Christ-followers contract malaria, bury children, battle addictions and, as a result, face fears. It's not the absence of storms that sets us apart. It's whom we discover in the storm: an unstirred Christ.

"But He was sleeping" (v. 24). Now there's a scene. The disciples scream; Jesus dreams. Thunder roars; Jesus snores. He doesn't doze, catnap, or rest. He slumbers. His snooze troubles the disciples. Matthew and Mark record their responses as three staccato Greek pronouncements and one question. The pronouncements: "Lord! Save! Dying!" (Matt. 8:25). The question: "Teacher! Don't you care that we're going to die?" (Mark 4:38).

They do not ask about Jesus' strength: "Can You still the storm?" His knowledge: "Are You aware of the storm?" or His know-how: "Do You have any experience with storms?" But rather, they raise doubts about Jesus' character: "Do You not care?"

Fear does this. Fear corrodes our confidence in God's goodness. If God can sleep in our storms, if His eyes stay shut when our eyes grow wide, if He permits storms after we get on His boat, does He care? Fear unleashes a swarm of doubts, anger-stirring doubts.

Fear will always knock on the door. Just don't invite it in for dinner, and for heaven's sake don't offer it a bed for the night. Jesus handles the great quaking with a great calming, and the disciples are left wondering, "What kind of man is this? -- even the winds and the sea obey Him!" (Matt. 8:27). What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats?

MasterWork

MasterWork is an ongoing Bible study curriculum based on works from a variety of renowned authors and offers pertinent, practical messages that adults will find uplifting and enriching. The list of authors and their books to be studied in upcoming months can be found at www.lifeway.com/masterwork.

Other ongoing Bible study options offered by LifeWay for all ages can be found at LifeWay.com/SundaySchool.

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