A Spiritual Panic Attack
PPT 1 Series Title
PPT 2 Today's Message Title
Experts say that anxiety and panic, to a certain extent, are a necessary part of our survival. But a panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. It is caused by a release of adrenaline with no obvious cause. Adrenaline is the fight or flight hormone.
I want to talk about a different type of panic attack, not a medical disorder, but a life event that if you don't man up and overcome it, it will cause you unnecessary suffering.
You will miss opportunities.
You will live in the land of cannot instead of the land of I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
You will develop an attitude that avoids challenges.
What you feed grows, what you starve dies. Don't nurture your fears.
Many Christians lost their cutting edge when they ran from a risky situation, and then until something happens they become runners. David faced a lion and a bear that attacked his sheep he successfully fought them off, and they prepared him for the day he faced the giant. Most people if a lion attacked a sheep would simply send back a report to dad, "sorry dad, we lost a lamb today." You see there is always an element of danger if you are going to step out in faith.
If we use tithing as an example, there will come a day where you may have to make a choice between paying tithes or some other bill. You may face a spiritual panic attack about the situation. Faith is not the absence of fear, but stepping out despite fear.
When your finances are threatened tithing is the first thing some people stop doing and it should be the last.
Let me tell you why, it creates a cyclical problem, and money is the least of the giants you will face in your life. The real issue is not the money, but how you train yourself to deal with threats, running, and not doing what God wants you to do is not the right answer.
Or you may feel like you are supposed to go on a Missions trip, but you don't have enough money in the bank now to pay for it. That is called stepping out in faith. When Jesus called Peter to get out of the boat and walk on water with him, do you think the water looked like concrete or pavement? No it looked just like water had always looked, every other day of that fisherman's life. He had to trust God that the impossible would happen.
A few minutes later, you know the story, Peter looked at the winds and waves, his faith faltered and he began to sink. What do wind and waves have to do with walking on water? Do you think you can walk any better on water when there is no wind or waves? The point is that Peter began to think it was impossible and that is when he sank. To his credit at least it can be said he got out of the boat, the other 11 did not. It would be a truly sad truth if that example illustrated a principle that only 8.5% of God's people will ever really step out in faith. (1/12 = 8.5%) Living by faith, means taking risks, and trusting God when circumstances strongly suggest otherwise.
Consider the contrasting lives of these two groups of people:
PPT 3 text pic of Lion attacking hippo
Pr 28:1 The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion.
I want to talk for a moment on the power of a threat, then we will look at the life of Abraham, and observe the effects of yielding to a threat, and finally how to get back to the place of overcoming in the place of threats.
PPT 4 text pic of Iraqi abandoned vehicles gulf war
Ps 78:9 The sons of Ephraim were archers equipped with bows, [Yet] they turned back in the day of battle.
They were archers, they were armed, they turned back in the day of battle. The Iraqi's ran and abandoned their vehicles in the first gulf war. The unfortunate truth is that at the first sight of trouble, many Christians also run, and quit and cry. I like the words of the old hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers,"... "Let courage rise with danger, and strength to strength oppose." The idea is that your faith/courage should rise to the level and beyond of the trouble you are facing. We shouldn't be turning tail and running. We shouldn't be intimidated to tell others of Christ. We shouldn't turn back in the day of battle, yet many do.
There are some parts of your journey that you will face enemies fierce and strong, and very intimidating.
Each of us respond to threats differently, don't underestimate the power of a threat to hinder you, or how a threat can hold back those around you.
PPT 5 Pilgrims progress front page
Illus: lions pilgrims progress. Pilgrim meets Timerous and Mistrust running the wrong way. They warned of the lions ahead.
Now before [Christian] had gone far, he entered into a very narrow passage…and looking very narrowly before him as he went, he espied two lions in the way…(the lions were chained, but he saw not the chains). Then he was afraid, and thought…to go back…for he thought nothing but death was before him. But the porter at the lodge, whose name is Watchful…cried unto him saying, 'Is thy strength so small? Fear not the lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith where it is; and for discovery of those that have none: keep in the midst of the path, and no hurt shall come unto thee.'
Jesus said, that to him that hath will more be given. Today's trials are to strengthen your faith, so that tomorrow you can be used for greater things (with greater trials!).
Threat is a word that we constantly hear today. Terrorist threat, threat of economic collapse, threats in the environment, threat of contaminated food, etc.
The definition of a threat is ... "The expression of an intention to inflict evil or injury on another; the declaration of an evil, loss, or pain to come; menace; threatening; denunciation."
Threats can paralyze, or they can arouse great faith. Fight or flight.
So now we are going to look at an example from the life of Abraham, the father of faith, see how he failed, see the consequences, see what God did to fix it, and see the lingering effects, and we will end with Abraham back and doing good in God.
PPT 6 Text
Ge 12:1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
Ge 12:2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
Ge 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
Notice where God told him to go. Somewhere that's where. No place specific. Hebrews 11:8 he went out not knowing where he was going. There are a number of you that would cause a spiritual panic attack. You have to have all your t's crossed and your i's dotted before you step into something. That is not faith, that is calculated obedience. Abraham goes out not knowing where he was going, but he is trusting whatever directions God had given him, and is doing the best he can to follow God. Abraham is doing good.
PPT 7, 8 text
Ge 12:4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram [was] seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.
Ge 12:5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.
Ge 12:6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite [was] then in the land.
Ge 12:7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.
Ge 12:8 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, [having] Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.
Ge 12:9 And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.
Abraham departed as the Lord had spoken to him, in that season of obedience, God speaks to him, and appears to him, and Abraham is building altars everywhere he goes, altars of communion, dedication, intimacy, and sacrifice to the Lord. Abraham is growing in grace
But then something happened.
PPT 9 Text
Ge 12:10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine [was] grievous in the land.
Abraham had flocks and herds that needed food and water, and he had a choice. He could stay where he was supposed to, or he could run in fear.
If you read verse 10 all by itself you would think the writer was simply explaining why Abraham did what he did, and that it made perfect sense in light of his circumstances, there was a famine so he went down to Egypt where the famine wasn't as severe. But the writer of Genesis was Moses, and Moses was well acquainted with one fact of life about God's people, when people shrink back in faith, sin is sure to follow. As we read the narrative of Abraham's life, Moses by the leading of the Holy Spirit points out that as soon as Abraham left the promised land, because it was difficult to stay there sin followed that decision closely on its heels.
You will note, nothing is said about Abraham praying, or going to the altar or seeking God about the trip to Egypt, he simply looked at circumstances and headed out to Egypt, and the proof that he is doing this in error is found in the very next verse
PPT 10 text
Ge 12:11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou [art] a fair woman to look upon:
Ge 12:12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This [is] his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.
Ge 12:13 Say, I pray thee, thou [art] my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.
The first thing he did in Egypt is lie.
When we forsake the will of God, we also end up forfeiting our assurance and trust that God will be with us.
1. Up until this point in his life, Abram was not afraid of the inhabitants of the land. Sarah his wife didn't all of a sudden get pretty, she was pretty in the Promised Land, where all those godless Caananites were, but Abraham wasn't afraid of them because he was trusting God.
As soon as you start down the path of fear, 10 more fears will come after you, the word will spread in hell that you are susceptible to caving in to fear.
Abraham was trusting in God's promises that God would care for him
Now when he wasn't where God wanted him, he didn't have that assurance. He forsook faith, he forsook the altar, he took up running and he took up lying.
Now here is some good news, just because he was walking away from what God wanted for his life doesn't mean that God walked away from him.
PPT 11- 12 text
Ge 12:14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she [was] very fair.
Ge 12:15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.
Ge 12:16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.
Ge 12:17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife.
Ge 12:18 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What [is] this [that] thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she [was] thy wife?
Ge 12:19 Why saidst thou, She [is] my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take [her], and go thy way.
Ge 12:20 And Pharaoh commanded [his] men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.
We are not sure how long Abraham was in Egypt, but I think a year would be a minimum.
You will notice that during this time Abraham continued to walk in fear, continued to live a lie, never is recorded as building an altar in Egypt, and yet God was still with him.
God plagued Pharaoh, and when Abraham wouldn't listen to God, God used Pharaoh to get Abraham out of Egypt. Even when we are not being a true friend to God, He will still be a true friend to us.
But there is something very important you need to understand that happens when you surrender to a spiritual panic attack.
You will always bring back mementos of your sojourn in Egypt. Not only you, but your family will also bring mementos back with them.
His nephew Lot brought back a memento that it is Ok to hang out with the world.
Perhaps it was in the Egypt that Lot developed a fondness for city life, the next portion of the biblical record begins with Lot pitching his tent towards Sodom. Abraham brought his kin to a place that exposed them to temptations they would later struggle with. What family isn't here that had a television program on that instilled bad values, or glamorized sin, and today you wonder what kind of impact that has had on your kids. Your foray into Egypt left them with mementos of that journey.
Sarah his wife brought back several mementos. First she brought back a memento that said her husband cared more about himself than he did her. He let another man take her from him! Abraham said lie Sarah, so that I will be safe. He was supposed to protect her, not the other way around. A woman will be very hurt by a husband who lets it be know that he cares more about protecting himself than he does her. In a similar vein are the husbands who will spend all the family money on their fishing boat, or hunting trip, and cheap out on his wife. That was the memento Sarah brought back, she just wasn't that important to Abraham.
Can you imagine the scene when they came to take Sarah to Pharaoh's house.
She looks at Abraham fear and uncertainty in her eyes, and says, "Abraham, don't you have anything to say?" Pleading that he will man up and protect her. His response, "I'll be sure to write." You see the cowardice he allowed to make him move from the promised land was now spreading like a cancer.
Sarah also brought back a memento that sometimes God needs help with His plan, so she says have a child with my maid Hagar. Her faith faltered, and Ishmael and all the ensuing problems through out many generations were the result of that memento.
Abraham also brought back a very special memento - Hagar the Egyptian! Did you read where Pharaoh gave Abraham gifts of menservants and maidservants. Hagar was probably given to him at this time, and that memento brought Abraham and his family much grief.
But on the other side he also brought back some very good mementos, just because you forsake God, doesn't mean He will forsake you.
Secondly he learned that he would rather live in Israel under a famine with God, than in Egypt with plenty without God.
Ge 13:1 And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.
Ge 13:2 And Abram [was] very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.
Ge 13:3 And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai;
Ge 13:4 Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.
So we have looked at the power of a threat, the effects of surrendering to a threat, now we notice how Abraham overcomes the power of a threat.
He does it by returning to the altar.
Abraham makes a bee line from Egypt straight back to Bethel where he build his altar to the Lord.
Something very interesting can be observed by the names and history of the place where Abraham built his altar. He pitched his tent between Bethel and Hai, also called Ai in other places in the bible.
Bethel means house of God, and Hai means heap of ruins.
Bethel is the place of meeting God and seeking God, later Abraham's grandson Jacob would have a vision of a ladder angels ascending and descending to heaven at this very spot, and God repeating the promise made to Abraham to him. So it is a place that speaks of meeting and seeking God.
Ai is the place that later in Jewish history, just after the conquest of Jericho, the Jews were feeling very cocky, and without prayer or guidance they sent a small squadron to attack and defeat it, but they were instead defeated by a yet smaller army.
So Abraham pitches his tent between the place of seeking God and blessing, and the place of not seeking God and a heap of ruins.
What a word picture of Abraham's life! If I go this way it is the house of God, but if I go that way I am headed to a heap of ruins.
We always live in between two worlds. Keep that picture in your mind. If you keep that picture in your mind, that surrendering to fear is more painful that suffering in faith, it will keep you at Bethel, and keep you from Egypt.
Close: Have you made a mistake and surrendered to fear. Get back to the place of consecration. Leave the place of the heap of ruins. Let me encourage you that God is still loving you and reaching out to you even if you falter and head to Egypt. 2Ti 2:13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.