Summary: Fear is a self-preservation instinct -- it's designed to protect us from something that may cause us real or imagined harm. But Jesus says in Matthew not to fear death, but to fear God. What's the difference?
Jehovah Shalom - God of Peace
Fear is a constant in our world. It’s so immersed in our culture that sometimes it’s actually considered a psychiatric issue, complete with fancy descriptive terms! I thought it may be interesting to read some of these to you tonight. Some seem normal, but others are simply strange things to fear.
Porphyrophobia: fear of the color purple
Arachnophobia: fear of spiders
Symmetrophobia: fear of things that are symmetrical
Claustrophobia: fear of small spaces
Atychiphobia: fear of failure
Sesquipedaliophobia: fear of long words
Acrophobia: fear of heights
Triskaidekaphobia: fear of the number 13
Ephebiphobia: fear of teenagers
And, my personal favorite:
Phobophobia: fear of phobias
It’s fun to read these fears and think, “How on earth can someone be afraid of things like the color purple‽ It’s just a color!” But when we get afraid -- whether it’s about something others would see as normal or ridiculous -- it’s real. Our blood pressure jumps up. Our pulse races. We start to sweat and hyperventilate. Our blood sugar skyrockets, giving us enough energy to either fight or run away. We feel legitimate fear.
Fear is real, and is usually based on a threat -- either real or imagined -- to oneself. In short, fear is our body’s way of protecting us from dangerous situations where we may die. In that respect, it can seem like a normal, healthy reaction, right? Fear is good!
But, if that’s the case, why does Jesus say what he says in Matthew? Matthew 10:28 in the New Living Translation: “Don't be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Jesus is telling us not to be afraid of death or harm to our body. Why? How? That doesn’t make sense, does it? If fear is a normal, healthy response, then why is Jesus telling us not to be afraid? For that matter, why does the Bible say, “Do not fear” over and over and over again? Add to that the phrase “Fear only God”, and it becomes a pretty confusing verse.
No worries, though; there are answers to those questions! Let’s go to Judges chapter 6 to see how Gideon handled fear. At this point, Israel was occupied by the Midianites, who were so oppressive the Israelites hid in mountain caves. Whenever harvest time came around, the Midianites would steal all of the food, and wouldn’t spare a living thing. It got so bad that the Israelites finally cried out to God for help. God reminded them of what He’s done for them, then He did something interesting. Let’s start reading at verse 11.
“11The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
13“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”