Summary: We have a choice in our lives as believers. We can live a life based on fear or live a life of faith in God. The consequences of each are powerful.
May 25, 2003
"Living Without Fear" 1 Peter 3:8-17
Pastor Jon MacKinney
We have added to the menagerie of pets at the MacKinney home. These pets, they don’t take a lot of care. They’re fish. I’m a terrible garage-saler. I mean terrible in the sense that I love to do it and I was looking for an aquarium and finally saw a small one. So, we got it and this time I listened to people instead of just dumping water in and dumping fish in and hoping they live. Got some nice fish. Got the water right. Got some nice fish. And it’s interesting to notice as Tom and I, we kind of sit on the floor there and watch the fish swimming around, it’s interesting how different their personalities are from the kind of fish you get. We got the little zebras, which are really the garbage fish you put in to bring the bacteria level up. They’re kind of like a band of wild dogs. They swim around the tank in a pack and everybody’s afraid of them. They’re also good when it’s time to feed them, they just rush to the surface and eat it all before anybody else gets a chance. Then there’s the little neons. The neon tetras that have a little kind of a glow light in them. And they also like to stay together, those two.
One of the fish that I really like is a gourami. I think it must be Japanese, or maytbe Indian. And there’s a little red dwarf gourami that’s got red, kind of orangish-red stripes on it. He was my favorite fish until I got a little blue dwarf gourami just to keep him company and that caused the red guy to go into some kind of a funk. And all he does, basically, is float near the bottom of the aquarium (which is a lot better than floating at the top of the aquarium). And even when the food comes out, he just kind of hides there behind the rock. And all the other fish are eating, and he’s just kind of hovering there. Once in a while he’ll come out and do a lap or two around the aquarium and then go back. But, I had to conclude that he’s just afraid. He’s afraid of me, perhaps. Or maybe he’s afraid of the other fish. But, for some reason he’s become afraid and so he just does this hovering thing all the time.
Well, you know, fear makes us do funny things, don’t you? Fear causes people to do strange things. I heard of a man who, every morning before he went to work, got out and rotated the tires on his car. Every morning. I made up a name for this. It’s called "uneven treadwear phobia." Every day. Now, he’s afraid of something, or he’s just really compulsive. He does it every day. Fear, of course, can be a really paralyzing force in our lives, can’t it? It forces us sometimes to retreat into a solitary world without dreams and without hope, without relationships. We’re so afraid of people, perhaps, that we just pull back. We don’t want to be hurt. We don’t believe the little pithy saying, "It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." Really, a fearful person will say, "I don’t want to take the chance of being hurt." Sometimes we will remain in touch with society, but fear causes us to be constantly on the look out for people attacking us, for people ready to hurt us, for people who are going to do something bad to us; so we’re constantly on the defensive, constantly looking for people who are going to hurt us and try to hurt them before they hurt us or defend ourselves against their attack. Zig Ziglar writes this particular story. He says that his brother, the late Judd Ziglar, loved to tell the story of the fellow who went next door to borrow his neighbor’s lawnmower. The neighbor explained that he could not let him use the mower because all the flights had been canceled between New York and California. Well, the borrower asked him what canceled flights between New York and California had to do with borrowing his lawnmower. To which the man responded, "It doesn’t have anything to do with it. But, if I don’t want to let you use my lawnmower, one excuse is as good as another." I have set this pattern up to protect my lawnmower and I’m going to hide behind any excuse that’s possible. We do this.
Now, fear, as I read the Scripture over and over again, I find that fear is exactly the opposite of what God is seeking to do in our lives. Now, I’m not talking about the fear of the Lord, which is a lot different than the fear I’m talking about here. The fear of the Lord is an awesome response to God’s majesty. That’s the fear of the Lord. But, we’re talking here about human fear, a response of faithlessness. Saying, "I can’t do that because I’m afraid of what it might cost me." And so we run our lives that way. But look at what Peter is calling us to do in verses 8 and 9 here of chapter 3, "Finally, all of you live in harmony with one another, being sympathetic, love as brothers. Be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil for evil, or insult with insult, but with blessing because to this you were called, so that you may inherit a blessing." Brothers and sisters, it is impossible to obey those commandments if you’re afraid. Amen? Because a person who is afraid will never be, will never be so other oriented because, "Who’s gonna take care of me?" A person like that would never say, "I can’t respond to an insult with a blessing, because pretty soon people would walk all over me." Fear is the enemy of the consistent Christian life, because it is a self-preserving emotion, attitude. It says, "If I don’t take care of myself, nobody will. So I’d better look out for number 1 and number 1 is me." And if you have a group full of numbers 1s or a church full of number 1s, a neighborhood full of number 1s, a family full of number 1s, you’ve got a mess.