Summary: Fear can destroy us. It makes us weak and undermines our faith. One of the most repeated commands in Scripture is "Do Not Fear." But how do I do that?
OPEN: Years ago, a mother of 8 children from Darlington, Maryland came home from shopping to find that the house was quieter than usual. As we all know, when children are quiet, that can be a BAD sign. Well, she looked into the middle of the living room and saw 5 of her children sitting around in a circle - very quiet and doing something with something. It seemed innocent enough, so she put down the sacks of groceries and walked over to kids and looked and saw that they were playing with 5 of the cutest skunks you've ever seen. Terrified, she began to scream: "Run children, run!” So each child grabbed a skunk and ran… in 5 different directions. Now, mom’s panicked, and she screamed even louder. This, in turn, scared the children and - as a result - each one of them squeezed their skunk! I’ve been told that skunks don't like to be squeezed! And these skunks were no exception.
APPLY: Before their mother came home, the children were playing quietly. They were still. There’d been no danger, because they hadn’t frightened the skunks… yet. But once the mom came home and panicked, life got unpleasant really quick.
In our text today, the Psalmist is explaining a similar setting. Israel is surrounded by danger. The nation is right in between some of the most powerful nations of the day and they have enemies on every side. If they gave way to fear now life could unpleasant very quickly. You see, if they ever gave way to fear, they’d begin to despair and that would make weak and easy prey for their enemies.
WE WILL NOT FEAR!!! That’s good Theology. In fact, it’s great theology, but there’s times when this “No Fear” thing is hard to do. Back in the day of that Psalmist there was lots of things to fear. Injury, disease, death, storms and earthquakes, droughts and famines, and – of course – the occasionally army that would invade nation.
In many ways, we have it wayyyy better than they did. We have doctors and nurses and hospitals - Insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid, Retirement benefits, Food stamps, Housing for the poor, Policemen, Firemen, a strong military. And I could go on and on about the advantages we have that they didn’t.
And yet, fear is STILL a powerful thing, even for us. There are studies that point out that, even today, Americans are amongst the most stressed and fear-ridden people in the world.
But why? Because fear is a natural response to the unknown. There are things we can’t control… and it makes us afraid. And when life get hard - when there’s danger, and when there’s a threat to our livelihood, or we face disease or injury, or even death - even the most spiritual amongst us can be afraid.
Fear is a reality of life (all of us have experienced it). And when fear grabs hold of us we can become anxious and desperate and powerless. When fear controls us - our lives can get really miserable. But God tells us DON’T let that happen!! “Do Not Be Afraid.” God says that over and over and over in the Bible. It’s one of the most repeated commands in Scripture. Don’t be afraid.
(PAUSE…) But how do we do we do that? How do we “not be afraid?” How deal with that fear when it comes knocking on our door?
As I looked at this text, the first thing that occurred to me is: we need to recognize that what we fear may be very real. There’s times when what we fear is not imaginary. And God knows that. God is not indifferent to what we struggle with. God tells us we WILL face real troubles in our lives. Jesus said: “In this world you will have trouble…” John 16:33
There’s an old Gospel song that says (sing it with me) “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through. My treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door. And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
This world is not our home. If we were home with God, we’d be in heaven and there wouldn’t be any trouble anymore. Revelation 21:4 tells us “(In heaven) God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” That’s what heaven will be like! No troubles, no sorrows, no crying, no pain. But in THIS WORLD, we will face trouble… just like everybody else. But though we may experience troubles like everyone else does, the difference for us is that we won’t face those troubles alone.