OVERCOMING THE FOUR “F”s: FEAR
I want to begin this morning by asking a question. Does anyone among us struggle with fear (if so, please raise your hand)? . . . Ah, I see that we even have some who are afraid of admitting that they get afraid!
Let’s face it, we all have fears. Some are real and some are imagined. Some are very serious and some are quite silly. Some may simply cause us to hesitate, while others may literally paralyze us or even control our lives. What are you afraid of? (SLIDESHOW) Shots? Flying? Getting caught in some mischief? Lightning storms? Losing your hair? Snakes or spiders? Heights? Enclosed spaces? Commitment? Losing your job? Bad hair? Rejection? Loneliness? Death? The unknown or uncertain? Telling people about Jesus? Or, are you just afraid of being afraid?
Just the other day my son, Isaiah, was asking me if I was really afraid of anything and what. You better believe it! I fear harm coming to my family, failing my family in some way, not having what it takes, rejection, and losing my physical independence, just to name a few. Or, as DC Talk famously put it: “What if I stumble, what if I fall?”
Are all fears equal? How much do our fears really impact our lives – who we are, what we do, how we interact with others, and even our relationship with the Lord? How, as Christians, are we to understand, face, deal with, and even overcome our fears?
I.TYPES OF FEAR
NOT all fears are equal. Not only does their intensity and affect differ, but also their purpose and nature. Essentially, there are only two kinds of fears.
A.) Good - Good fears are those that are necessary to keep us. . .
Safe. For example, fear of fire, driving too fast, harmful addictions, abuse.
Physically Healthy. i.e.: Eating too much junk food, eating unknown plants or substances, pushing oneself too far, cliff diving.
In the early 80s it became the rage for wayward teens to spray certain cleaning aerosols into a bag, then breath it in for a high. Of course, this was very unhealthy and even deadly. The manufacturers wanted to stop this, but feared that a larger warning label would just make it more attractive to these teens. Victor E. Schwartz, the consulting lawyer, asked his clients “What do kids worry about more than death or injury?” He explained: “How they look, of course. So we wrote the warning to say that sniffing the stuff could cause hair loss or facial disfigurement. It doesn’t, but it scared the target audience and we haven’t had a liability claim since them.”
Spiritually Healthy. i.e.: Fear of God, sin, temptation, false teaching, ignorance.
B.) Bad – Bad fears are those that, either directly or indirectly cause us harm, physically, mentally or spiritually.
Of course, even a normally good fear taken to an unreasonable extreme can become dangerous!
For instance, at 36-yrs-old I still have an unconscious fear of swallowing anything that is not food or drink. Now, at times this is not such a bad thing. However, when I am sick and need to swallow a pill it can be a bad fear that inhibits my health.
Jesus taught us to choose our fears carefully. Mt. 10:28
For the rest of our message this morning, we will examine what Scripture reveals about first the effects of fear, and then how we may overcome fear. In fact, fear is one of the most addressed topics in Scripture. We couldn’t possibly explore all the verses that speak to this subject, but we will summarize what Scripture teaches us using select verses – mostly from the Psalms.
To help us all better digest and remember these important points, I’m going to ask you to do something a little different. All of our Scripture texts will appear on the screen and, as I lead, I am going to ask you all to read each passage aloud with me. Yes, I know that for many of us, this can be uncomfortable and even fearful. But, then, isn’t that the point this morning?
II. THE EFFECTS OF FEAR
A.) Turn to Higher Power – Ps. 37:1-3
Of course, this can be either a benefit or a danger!
It is a great benefit, if our fear lead us to faithfully turn to Jesus.
Or, it can be a grave danger if t lead us instead to turn to someone or something else: a fallible human, narcotics, false gods or idols, money, or other sources of human power.
B.) Sin & Isolation – Ps. 37:7-8
Sometimes, we respond to our fears rashly and impulsively. This can easily lead to sin and/or seeking to outrun our fears by isolating ourselves – even from friends and the Lord Himself!
C.) Doubt – Ps. 37:9
Fear creates uncertainty and insecurity, which – if left unchecked – will inevitably lead to doubt: doubt of ourselves, family and friends, authorities, and even God.
D.) Paralysis – Mt. 25:24-25
Fear freezes us and can keep us from that which is genuinely best for us, or required of us. The servant who failed his master and was thus called “wicked and lazy” in Jesus’ parable was motivated by fear. It is not that he did not want to do well by his master with what was entrusted him. His problem – and sin – is that he chose to embrace his fear more than his desire to please his master. How often have you failed Jesus likewise? To my shame, I know I have. But, I am resolved to do so no longer! Amen?!
E.) Failure – Pr. 29:25
Let’s face it: most of the time when we choose to be controlled by our fears, we just end up causing our own failure. In fact, more often than not, by obsessing our fears we create that which we most fear. For example, there are times when I am so afraid of not doing something as well as I desire that I end up over-doing it. Perhaps it is preparing a sermon (not that this has ever actually happened), and I’m so afraid of leaving our something important that I put in too much and lose focus and effectiveness. Or, in college, when I was so worried about an upcoming final I’d stay up most of the night studying. But, by the time I took the test, my brain was too tired to remember anything.
My fear led to my failure.
F.) Ruins Relationships - Gen. 3:9-10; 1 Sam. 18:6-8
As a pastor, I see and counsel many broken relationships. Fear is always one of the core problems.
G.) Silences Witness – Jn. 7:13
The ONLY thing apart from unrepentant sin that hinders our witness and life for Christ is fear!
COMPARE TO: 2 Timothy 1:7-8
III. OVERCOMING FEAR
) Seek the Lord – Ps. 34:4; Mt. 6:33-34
As mentioned earlier, Jesus is the ONLY “Higher Power” that can or will overcome any fear!
) Confession – Ps. 32:3-5
Note contrast: Hiding from or keeping in our fears is agonizing misery. Confessing them to God is great relief!
) Faith – Ps. 27:14; Heb. 11:1
He is faithful and true!
Bottom line: Fear is the opposite of faith. To harbor fear is to lack or reject faith.
For those in Christ, all our fears are built upon at least some degree of falsehood, deception or exaggeration. Regardless of the fear, strength is found in understanding the following three foundational truths:
1. Position – Ps. 46:1-2; 31:19-24
2. Protector – Ps. 32:6-7; 55:22
Illus: Little boy, afraid of dark, told by father to go out onto the unlit back porch and get the broom. Told dad he couldn’t, too dark. Dad encouraged: “Son, don’t be afraid, Jesus is out there.” So boy goes to back porch, opens door, reaches out hand and said, “Jesus, would you please hand me the broom?”
3. Power - Ps. 27:1-2; 2 Co. 12:9
Hudson Taylor: “It does not matter how great the pressure is, or how powerful the fear. What really matters is where the pressure and fear lies – whether it comes between you and God, or whether it presses you nearer His heart.”
1. God – 1 John 4:18-19
2. Others – 2 Co. 1:3-4
) Praise – Ps. 30:1-2,11-12
) Change Perspective - 2 Co. 4:16-18; Phil. 4:6-8;
Ill: Whenever John Wesley felt afraid, he would just pause to pray and praise God for the fact that He was still on the throne of heaven ruling all things well. Wesley himself wrote: “I have never known more than fifteen minutes of anxiety or fear. Whenever I feel fearful emotions overtaking me I just close my eyes and thank God that he is still on the throne reigning over everything and I take comfort in His control over all the affairs of my life.”
) Fear the LORD – Ps. 115:11; Acts 9:27; Dt. 10:12-14
For the same reasons we are to fear God, we can trust Him to lead us through all other fears: because He is perfectly Holy & Righteous, All-Knowing and All-Powerful!
We must live lives of faith, not fear. When we don’t trust the Lord, we will inevitably turn to a false or malevolent power, sin and isolation, and/or doubt and experience paralysis, failure, ruined relationships and a failed witness. In short, a life of unending misery! But, if we will respond to our fears by seeking the Lord, with confession, faith, truth, love, an eternal perspective and a respectful fear of the LORD, THEN we will find relief, strength and even joy!
An unknown genius once wrote: “Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there.”