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Summary: Sermon for fearful christians

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August 22, 2004 12th Sunday after Pentecost Genesis 15:1-6 God Calms all Our Fears "What are you afraid of?" says your father as you try to muster up the courage to put that leech on your fish hook for the first time. "What are you afraid of?" says your date as he tries to coax you into the back seat with him. "What are you afraid of?" says your co-worker when you refuse to stay out all night with the guys. Oftentimes, those words, "What are you afraid of?" are nothing more than a putdown, a way to make someone feel bad for not living up or down to someone else’s standards. And yet, if you think about it, that question, is still a valid one. What are you afraid of, I mean besides spiders, snakes and big, black leeches? Deep down, what are you afraid of? Maybe what you’re afraid of is that you won’t be able to handle the workload this school year, or wont’ live up to people’s expectations. Maybe you’re afraid that this years harvest will not be as plentiful as you first thought, or the price of beans and corn will be so low that you will loose money. Maybe the fear that grips your heart is the dread of hearing the doctor say "You have cancer." Or the fear of losing a loved one. Maybe you’re afraid that the relationship that you’ve really tried to cultivate, really hoped would bear fruit, instead will wither on the vine and become a thorn in your flesh, sapping your energy, leaving you lying awake at night. And finally maybe your greatest fear in life, the one that is always there in the back of your mind is the idea that on the Day you stand before the Lord on his throne, God will say to you, "You hypocrite. You thought you were a Christian. But I know you’re not. You talked the talk, but you never walked the walk. Away from me, you evil-doer." Chances are, you and I all have certain things we’re afraid of. We all have to deal with a certain amount of doubts and uncertainty. Even the strongest Christian still struggles with his or her private fears. And yet, God know that and God helps us deal with that. In fact, here in our text for today we have an excellent example of who God helped his servant Abram deal with his fears. This morning we want to put ourselves in Abram’s sandals as we consider that God Calms all Our Fears. First, Abram’s fears were natural. Our text begins with the words, "After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield and your very great reward." The Lord begins by saying, "Do not be afraid." Now why would the Lord say that? What was Abram afraid of? Maybe he was afraid because of the vision he was receiving from God. I mean, down through the centuries, there have been a lot of people who have been frightened by the sudden appearance of God. God often has to quiet their fears with the words, "Don’t be afraid." Or maybe Abram’s fears stemmed from what had happened immediately prior to this vision from God. Abram had just returned from routing the armies of four different kings. Maybe Abram was afraid that those kings were now planning a retaliatory attack. Maybe that’s what he was afraid of. Or maybe Abram was afraid of something much less violent, much less dramatic. Maybe Abram’s fear was not the kind that had his knees knocking and his teeth chattering. Maybe Abram’s fear was that kind of sick feeling that just sits in the pit of your stomach, the fear that God was somehow going to let him down. Or more specifically, the fear that God was not going to keep his promise to give him a son. In fact, we know that’s what Abram was concerned about because he says to God, "O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus? You have given me no children; so a servant of my household will be my heir." My friends, can you put yourself in Abram’s situation? Imagine, when you were 75 years old, God promised that you would have a son. In fact, God promised that your descendents would form a great

nation and would someday inherit the land of Canaan. But those promises were made a long time ago, and every year that goes by you and your wife move that much further beyond the age of child bearing. And still you remain childless. For that reason, it’s easy to see why Abram was maybe starting to wonder, "What’s going on here? Maybe I did something to make God mad. Maybe I was a fool to believe that I was really going to have a child at my age. Or maybe God was expected me to do something to make this promise come true. Maybe I’m supposed to adopt my servant Eliezer as my son." Now, before you go on to look at God’s reaction to Abram’s little plan, let’s consider why Abram might have been thinking the way he was. What was it that prompted him to question whether God could and would keep his promises. What prompted Abram to doubt God? We’ll I think you already know the answer to that question-Satan was the one tempted Abram to doubt God-just as Satan tempted our first parents to do in the Garden of Eden. Remember what the Serpent said? "Did God really say, ’don’t eat from any of the trees in the garden?’ You aren’t going to believe that, are you? You can’t believe God. You can’t trust him." Even today, there is a little voice inside each one of us saying, "You can’t trust God. Why should you believe in God? If there really is a god up there, if he really loves you, then why are there so many bad things happening to you? If God is all powerful, why is your life so hard?" My friends, these are the questions, the doubts, the fears that arise in our minds because we all have a sinful nature. When we say that Abram’s fears were natural, we don’t mean that they were good, or God-pleasing, but rather, that they were to be expected, given the fact that Abram had a sinful nature just like you and I do. And because we have a sinful nature, there will always be times when we find ourselves wrestling with our internal doubts and fears. There will be times when we don’t trust God as we should. Times when our hearts are filled with fear and trepidation. Think of all those who have gone before us who found themselves filled with fear. Peter and the disciples were afraid they were going to drown on the Sea of Galilee. Mary Magdelene was afraid that someone had stolen the body of her Lord. Abram was afraid that God had forgotten about his promises. And yet, in each of those cases, how did God calm the believer’s fears? He calms them with his Word. In his inspired Word God reminds believers what he has done for them in the past and what he promises to do for them in the future. In his Word, God makes us personal promises which cannot be broken, promises we can hang on to, promises we can believe. That’s why we can say that God calms the believer’s fears by offering promises which are Faith-sustaining. Look at the promises which God made to Abram. God begins by telling Abram, "I am your shield, your very great reward." Notice that God doesn’t say, "I’m going to dress you in a coat of armor, or install a nuclear defense system." No, God goes one step better than that. He says, "I’ll be your shield. I’ll protect you from harm." And notice, that God does not say, "I’ll make sure you’ll win the Powerball. No, God says, "I am your reward. If you have me, you’ll lack nothing." My friends, you realize that those promises apply to more than just Abram. Think of the promises God makes you in his word. In Isaiah 41, v. 13, God says, "I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, "Do not fear; I will help you." Or Isaiah 43, 1-3, "Fear not, for I have redeemed you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you." Or Jesus’ simple promise in Matthew 28, "Surely, I will be with you always to the very end of the age." These are all promises you can hang on to, promises you can build your faith on. And yet, as we consider the faith-strengthening promises God made to us and to Abram, let’s not lose sight of the most important one. And that’s the promise that one of Abram’s offspring would in fact be

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