What Jesus Said About Fear
So, what are you afraid of? What it is that sends Goosebumps up and down your spine, brings your heart to your throat and makes you want to throw up just thinking about it? Snakes, heights, spiders, enclosed spaces?
Back in the day one of my favourite shows was “Fear Factor”. I had to watch it alone because Angela didn’t like it, but I loved it, probably a character flaw. The show tried to make a comeback this past year but didn’t seem to connect this time and to be honest I didn’t watch it the second time around, maybe it lost its appeal or maybe those of us who watched it just grew up.
Was anyone else here a “Fear Factor” fan? If you never saw the show, it would normally begin with six contestants, three male and three female. And it would appear that these contestants had to pass through a whole series of interviews to assure that ugly people didn’t get on the show.
And then for an hour these people would compete to see who would win the $50,000.00 prize that was given away each week. During the time I watched the show the contestants were covered in tarantulas, jumped from helicopters, leapt into space and were covered with snakes.. Add to that they’ve eaten eyes, brains, bugs and body parts we don’t discuss in polite company. When Franklin D. Roosevelt said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He obviously hadn’t watched this show.
I would last about 27 seconds on the show. I am terrified of heights, scared to death of snakes and really my idea of exotic foods is putting onions on my hamburger. So what are you afraid of? Now don’t tell me “nothing”; an article in one Medical Journal stated “The man who knows no fear is not only a gross exaggeration, he is a biological impossibility.” You know that’s the truth with “Fear Factor” All you have to do is watch their faces to understand that in many cases it’s not a matter of not being afraid as much as it is a matter of conquering your fear. And sometimes it’s fear that does the conquering.
Fear will always be with us, it’s one of the base emotions along with hunger, love and hate, and it’s not just limited to the human animal but is instinctive and crosses throughout the animal kingdom. You might even say that fear is a gift from God, it keeps us alive. Leonardo Da Vinci made this comment, “Just as courage imperils life; fear protects it.”
It is fear that keeps you from driving 200 km/h on a back road, or stepping off a twelve story building. This is not an unnatural or unhealthy fear. Of course you can overcome this, jumping out of an airplane with nothing between you and the ground but a square of silk and a bunch of strings should inspire fear, but skydivers overcome that. Race car drivers have learned to overcome their fear of speed. On fear factor contestants regularly are able to overcome their natural fears.
We’ve all met people who are afraid of something and yet they have risen above their fear. Those in the know tell us that 30% of the population are afraid of flying, and yet many of those people will fly when they have to.
Flying does not bother me in the least bit. I used to say that I had never been afraid in a plane that I have been flying or that anyone else has been flying. And then I flew in Africa. I forget what the official name of the airline was but I will never forget that one national told me that it was known unofficially as “Coffin Air”. But even with that experience I still find it difficult to understand the fear of flying. On the other hand Angela hates to fly, if it was up to her we would drive everywhere we go, regardless of the distance. Luckily there was an Ocean between here and Australia. Every year we fly south, she doesn’t like it but she does it. She is able to overcome her fear in order to do something she wants to do.
But friends I have a confession to make, I don’t like snakes. Which is not surprising because my father is terrified of snakes. In one article I read about fears and phobias states: “Many people suffering from a specific phobia have at least one phobic parent.” I would agree, Dad passed that on to me and when it comes to snakes I am a coward, and I don’t mean a little bit afraid I am terrified of snakes.
25 years ago Angela and I went to Florida on a vacation, during a trip we visited a place called Gator Land, I wanted to Go because that’s where part of the Bond Movie, “Live and Let Die” with Roger Moore was filmed. Angela wanted to go because in the brochure it said that you could have your picture taken with a four foot boa constrictor and that type of thing shakes Angela’s tree. I mean she could hardly wait to hold that monster. Well I laid awake most of the night before struggling with my fear of snakes, I had been preaching about conquering your fear back in Truro and it was time for me to put my money where my mouth was, so to speak.
On the screen you will see a picture of Denn with a four foot boa constrictor wrapped around my neck. Yes I know the collar is up on my leather jacket, but the snake is still there. I am still terrified of snakes, scared to death, but I have conquered the fear, it will no longer rule my life. If you were to bring a snake up to me I could touch it, I could even hold it, but I ain’t ever gonna like it. Which worked out well because if I hadn’t gotten that fear under control I might never have moved to Australia where they have 7 of the 10 most poisonous snakes in the world. Which by the way if you haven’t heard our big snake story, on one of our trips we ran over a snake on the road. I know that’s not all that unusual, however the reason we ran over this snake was because it was stretched across both lanes of the road. Not a word of a lie.
We are told that the four greatest impelling motives in life are fear, hope, love and faith and we are also told that the greatest is fear, that it’s first in order, first in force and first in fruit. Not in everyone of course, but in the majority of people. And the Bible talks about fear, the word fear is mentioned 266 times and the word afraid is mentioned 223 times. The first time fear is mentioned is in Genesis 3:10 and the last time it’s seen is Revelation 19:5.
So what did Jesus say about fear? Well if you read through the Gospels you discover that 15 times Jesus tells people to not be afraid. Now he doesn’t tell people to be foolishly fearless, but he does tell them to not be afraid of certain things.
Luke 12:7 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. And so Jesus begins by telling us Don’t Be Afraid to Live I’m sure that you understand by now that you can become so busy making a living that you never actually take time to make a life. We can become so caught up in the minutia that we miss out on the bigger picture.
At some point we have to come to the place that we realize that we matter to God, that God loves us and wants the very best for us. We can choose to trust God with our lives or we can choose to worry about everything in our lives, but we can’t do both.
And all too often the things we worry about only exist in our minds and often take on a life of their own. And so we don’t do the things that we want to do because we are so consumed with the consequences. We don’t go places because we are afraid to fly or take a boat, we don’t do things because there might be consequences, we don’t enjoy the today because we are so consumed with what might happen tomorrow.
I love the story of the Bishop who had this irrational fear that his legs were going to become paralysed. One night while he was at a dinner party he reached down and pinched his leg, when he couldn't feel anything he exclaimed out loud, “Just as I feared, total insensitivity below the waist.” The lady sitting next to him responded by saying, “If it's any comfort your grace, the leg you pinched was mine.” I mean face it people the very least we can do is make sure that we are pinching our own leg.
Don’t be afraid to live.
Mark 5:36 But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” Don’t Be Afraid to Believe This is one of the great stories in the New Testament. Jairus is a leader in the local synagogue and when he hears that Jesus has come to his community he tracks down the teacher and falls at his feet, we can pick up the story in Mark 5:22-23 Then a leader of the local synagogue, whose name was Jairus, arrived. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet, pleading fervently with him. “My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.”
And as Jesus makes his way to Jairus’ home he encounters and heals a women who has been sick for twelve years. I’m sure that as Jesus interacts with the ill woman that Jairus is shifting from one foot to the other, bouncing up and down and muttering under his breath, “come on Jesus, come on, she’s been sick for twelve years another few hours won’t make a difference, you can come back, my little girl is really sick.”
And then a message came for Jairus, “It’s too late, your little girl is dead.” “Dead, how could she be dead, she was just sick.” That’s not the way it’s supposed to be, children are supposed to bury parents, parents aren’t supposed to bury children. And yet it happens. I have buried far too many children in my ministry, and from my perspective one would be far too many. But it happens, and Jairus must have been absolutely devastated when it happened to his child. And then Jesus looks at him and says “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” This man had faith enough to track down Jesus, this man had faith enough to ask Jesus to heal his daughter. Now Jesus was asking him to simply have a little more faith.
And if you don’t know the story Jesus arrives at the home and sure enough the little girl has died he sends everyone out of the house and with the girl’s parents and Peter James and John he stands at the edge of the bed and calls out to the child, and she opens her eyes and lives and Jesus gives her back to her parents.
“Don’t be afraid to believe Jairus. The worst has already happened, your little girl has died, what will it cost you to believe?” What is there in your life that God is calling you to believe him for? What miracle do you need? Don’t be afraid, only believe.
Too often we are like the boy who read in the bible that if you have enough faith to believe that you can say to the mountain “be moved” and it would be moved. So he looked out a pile of dirt in the back yard that his parents had asked him to move and he closed his eyes and prayed, “Pile of dirt be moved.” And he waited and then opened his eyes and there the pile was, still there. And the little boy said “Just like I thought, it’s still there.”
How often do we pray, not believing? Don’t be afraid, only believe. Because faith will never ask more than that you believe.
Matthew 8:26 Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly all was calm. Don’t be Afraid to Trust This is another one of my favorite stories from the Gospels. To put things into perspective here, it has been a full day, Jesus has taught the Sermon on the Mount, heals Peter’s mother in law as well as the centurion’s servant. People are still gathering around to hear from the one who is being touted as the Messiah, God’s chosen one and so Jesus commands Peter and the boys to get the boat ready and they set sail across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus fall asleep in the boat and half way across Galilee a sudden storm blows up. Now understand these guys aren’t in a large enclosed vessel, it was probably a small open sail boat that was overloaded with the thirteen of them on board. A description of what is happening is found in Matthew 8:24-25 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
And that’s where are scripture comes in Matthew 8:26 Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly all was calm. You understand that they were confident that Jesus could do what had to be done, they woke him up so he could save them. But they were still terrified. They didn’t just say “We’re going to drown” they started by saying “Lord, save us!”
Jesus was with them when they started out and the sea was flat, Jesus was with them when the wind started to blow up and Jesus was with them in the midst of the storm. And there are all kinds of lessons we could learn here, but the one that fits with this message is that even in the midst of the storms we can trust Jesus. There are no promises in the scriptures that the Christian life will be without storm, but there are all kinds of places where we are promised the presence of God.
One of my favorite promises in the bible is found in the Old Testament Isaiah 43:1-2 But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”
It’s easy to trust in God when the sun is shining and all is well in the world, but what about when it isn’t? If you know the rest of the story after Jesus calms the sea we are told that the Apostles were amazed because even the wind and waves obeyed him. A lesson they could never have learned on a beautiful serene day.
Don’t be afraid to trust him.
Luke 5:10-11 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.
Don’t be Afraid to Follow I would suspect that there are people here today who Jesus has called to follow him but there is something holding them back. In the spring of 1979 my best friend decided that I should become a Christ Follower. He had taken that step nine months before and now he decided that I should. He put into play everything he had learned at Bible College, told me the difference that Jesus had made in his life, led me through the plan of salvation, asked me if I was ready to accept Christ as saviour and Lord of my life and I said “Nope.”
I’m sure that wasn’t the answer that Reg was looking for, he had shown me all the scriptures the book had said to show me, he had asked all the questions the book had said to ask me, and now all that remained was to lead me through the prayer that was spelled out in the book, but I had said no. And in his frustration Reg deviated from his script and blurted out “What are you so afraid of?” And I said nothing, it’s just that. . . and I listed out a whole list of reasons why I couldn’t or wouldn’t become a Christ Follower at that particular point in my life.
And over the next several months we would revisit that conversation, and I would say no and Reg would ask “What are you so afraid of?” And I would insist that I wasn’t afraid of anything, but . . . And then one night Reg convinced me to go to church with him, and so I did, what could it hurt. And I reached down and picked up the bible that was in the back of the pew and flipped it open randomly, I didn’t know that there were different types of bibles and I certainly didn’t know that some bibles had the words of Christ in red, all I knew was when I opened that bible that night in Red letters in the middle of the page was Matthew 8:26 And he saith unto them, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” And for the rest of that service I struggled with that question. “Why are ye fearful?” I was afraid I wasn’t good enough and wouldn’t be able to fulfill the expectations I had of what a Christian should do and shouldn’t do. I was afraid of losing control. I was afraid that I wouldn’t have any more fun.
And that night I realized that part of following was trusting. And so I did. On September 2, 1979 at First Wesleyan Church in Saint John I decided to follow Jesus, and I’ve never regretted it. He has taken me places I would never have gone, he has allowed me to meet people I would never have met and has allowed me to do things I would never have done. And in the end he has promised me an eternity with him. Do you remember that old Toyota advertisment, “Who could ask for anything more?”
So, where are you at this morning? What is it that Jesus is asking you to trust him with? What is it that Jesus is saying to you: Do not be afraid to. . .
Let me leave you with the words of Jesus, his promise to you for today, May 27th 2012, John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
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