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.”
14The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
15“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
16The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
17Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”
And the Lord said, “I will wait until you return.”
19Gideon went inside, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak.
20The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And Gideon did so. 21Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the Lord disappeared. 22When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”