Summary: What are you afraid of? God directs us in how to face and overcome fear and opposition to the gospel by tools of faith that Philippians reveals to us.
Jenny and I were listening to public radio in the car recently and the guest being interviewed was Steven King. Does everyone know who he is? I have never read his books but he has written about 49 and has a new one that is just out about the assassination of Kennedy entitled 11/22/63. His forte’ is horror and he has thousands of fans who buy up everything he publishes. Why do so many people enjoy being terrified? It was an interesting interview partly because of one statement that stood out to me. He said of his writing skills, “When God gives you a gift you should do it the best you can.” I thought that was amazing, Steven Kings sees his writing skills as a gift from God. His stories are just imaginary, creating fear with fiction.
The Bible teaches us to point our fear toward a more worthy, real object.
What scares you?
Last week I ended the lesson from Philippians one talking a bit about fears. Paul mentions fear twice in the first chapter; both cases are about overcoming fear. In verse 14 and 28 we see these.
My lesson today is about overcoming opposition. One of the first things we can do to overcome opposition is to refuse to fear it. How? We’ll see what God says about this. I’m convinced that as Christians we need to learn this lesson today and practice it more than ever.
Fear is powerful. It motivates us and controls how we live. Fear can paralyze you or energize you, it can make you run away from God or run to Him. We are designed by God to have this emotion within our makeup and it comes with some unpleasant side effects sometimes. Fear can be like a storm within your heart driving you to take cover and find safety. When misdirected fear can overwhelm good judgment and push you to make choices that damage and destroy the good things in your life. Fear needs to be a tool of the Spirit, rather than of the flesh. Whichever one you feed the most will take over.
As I said last week, nothing silences the Christian witness more than fear… that is, fear of the wrong things!
What are you afraid of?
There’s a little song that my grand-daughter Brisa always wants me to sing called the crayon song.
When I was a little boy no higher than your knee, my mother bought a box of crayons just for me.
I picked them up, I opened them up, I looked way down inside, and the colors there reminded me of Jesus when He died.
O red is the color of the blood that he shed, brown is the crown of thorns that laid upon his head.
O blue is for royalty which in him does dwell, and yellow is the Christian who’s afraid to tell.
The Bible talks about fear and our relationship with God from cover to cover. Jesus said to the disciples, “Don’t be afraid!” When they saw him walking on the water and thought he was a ghost. When they were in the boat about to be swamped by a storm, to Jairus when he got the news his little girl had died, to his disciples after he washed their feet and began to prepare them for his departure. “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid…” Jesus knew that fear was a dangerous distraction to the work he called his disciples to. In Matthew 10, as Jesus is preparing them for a limited mission, he says some pretty scary things, but then he tells them: do not be afraid of them! Listen to his words in verses 17-31.
Jesus’ final words in the gospel of Matthew are words of comfort and assurance for us as we take the gospel to others: Surely, I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.
What does God want you to fear? Him.
What does God want you not to fear? Just about everything else.
How can you overcome your fears? Philippians gives us two tools to overcome misplaced fear.
1. First is 1:14 Following a good example of a mature Christian under persecution handling it with God’s peace and joy and spreading the gospel under difficult circumstances.
Who do you know that walks fearlessly in their faith and confesses their faith? Follow them! We worry way too much about what others will think of us and how we will look or be treated by friends or coworkers. A few years ago I challenged you to carry your Bible around with you and see how something as simple as that draws attention and opens up conversation about God. Some of you did it. Some of you got irritated at me. That’s ok. I’m not afraid of what you think of me. I just don’t want you to be afraid of what others think of you in ways that make you disobey God and hide your faith. It is ok to talk about Jesus to others. In fact, that’s what we are told to do by Jesus himself. If carrying a Bible helps you to have conversations about Jesus with others, go for it. If not, then just do whatever Jesus would have you do, but don’t let fear silence your Christian confession of faith. Satan would love it if we would simply stop confessing our faith in Christ. It would accomplish two things: we would be disobedient and endanger our own souls, as Jesus says, we would be like salt that has lost its flavor and is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men. Second, others would not hear the gospel from you and perhaps be lost because you failed to confess to them your faith in Jesus Christ. Romans 10 is plain about this: Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. How shall they believe in him who they have not heard and how shall they hear without a preacher and how shall they preach unless they are sent. If you are a Christian, you are sent! So go tell. Don’t be afraid of questions you can’t answer. Just tell the answers you know from the scriptures.