Fear is a common human emotion or experience. Many fear the unknown. Many fear death. Yet God calls believers not to live in fear. Rather, we are to fear God (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 19:23; Matthew 10:28). In Mark 5:36, Jesus responds to Jairus’ fear and says, “Do not fear; only believe” (NKJV).
Jairus, a synagogue leader, had come to Jesus because his young daughter was dying (Mark 5:22). He pleaded that Jesus come to his house to heal her so she would live (verse 23). As they were walking, some people came from Jairus’ house to inform him that his daughter had died. Seeing no hope, they told Jairus, “Why bother the teacher anymore?” (verse 35). Jesus overhead them and told Jairus, “Do not fear; only believe” (Mark 5:46). They continued to Jairus’ home. There, Jesus took the girl by the hand and said to her, “‘Talitha koum!’ (which means ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’)” (verse 41). At that, she immediately stood up and began to walk around (verse 42). Jesus had raised the girl from the dead.
Up until this point, Jesus had revealed His authority over disaster, demons, and disease. He had calmed a raging storm (Mark 4:35–41). He expelled a legion of demons (Mark 5:1–13), and He healed many people with diseases including a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years (Mark 5:25–29). With Jairus’ daughter, Jesus showed His power and authority over death. Jesus waited until the girl was identified as dead before telling Jairus, “Do not fear; only believe,” and before raising her from the dead.
The Bible often says things like “Do not fear,” “Do not be afraid,” and “Fear not.” Jesus’ words “Do not fear; only believe” meant that Jairus was not to allow anxiety or worry to take root in his heart. Jesus’ command indicates that fear and faith cannot peaceably coexist. Believers do not need to live in fear because God has given us “a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV). We are to be people of faith, not fear.
The command “Do not fear; only believe” does not contradict the command to fear God. In fact, it is in fearing God that we are able to believe in Him and live without fear. The one who fears God is able to say, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:1–2). Those who trust in God can live fearlessly: “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you” (Psalm 91:5–7). Jesus commands believers to fear the Lord, not our circumstances.
Faith allows us to live out what Jesus instructed: “Do not fear; only believe.” To believe in God is to have assurance in who God is and what He has done. He who gave Himself for us (Titus 2:14) is trustworthy and worthy of our faith. Our faith does not have to be big (Matthew 17:20; Luke 17:6). It just needs to be placed in the right person (Hebrews 11:6), be persistent (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and have the right intent (James 4:2–3). Jairus trusted in Jesus and witnessed the miracle of Jesus bringing his daughter back to life.
This does not mean that everything we pray for will be answered the way we want. When Jesus told Jairus, “Do not fear; only believe,” He did not promise Jairus that He would raise his daughter from the dead. He did not even tell Jairus whether the outcome would be favorable. When we pray, we must pray according to God’s will: we must be open to whatever time and whatever way the Lord chooses to answer our prayer. First John 5:14–15 tells us, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” In the case of Jairus, it was God’s will for Jesus to heal his daughter.
Believers need not fear, only believe that God will work all things “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). God is right, faithful, and true (Psalm 33:4), and we can trust in Him. We need not fear anything that comes our way, including death, because our hope ultimately rests in Him (1 Peter 1:3).