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Posts Tagged ‘courage’

Fear or Faith?

Today I want us to think about fear and faith. Now usually we would say that the real enemy of faith is doubt, right? And maybe that’s correct, if we are talking about what goes on in our heads.

But, in terms of our hearts, I believe the real enemy of faith is fear. And this is our focus today. And what I want to say is that when it comes to being faithful to God, we have to choose between these two things.

Fear

– is an emotional response caused by a sense of impending threat or danger. Can you remember a time when you were truly afraid?

I remember almost drowning as a kid. I remember one night hearing what I thought was a voice in an old abandoned barn, which literally made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I also remember being so afraid before giving a sermon in college, that my legs were shaking. I was sitting in front of the congregation and I had to put my hands on my legs to make them stop.

Fear is a powerful force. In Psalm 55 David describes his fear concerning his enemies’ plots against him: “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.” – Psalm 55:4-5. It affects every part of him. In his heart he feels anguish, terror, fear and horror. And his body is trembling. Fear is a powerful force.

And there are lots of things to be afraid of in the world today. You just have to listen to the news. And as they say, ‘its not paranoia when someone is actually trying to get you.’ Our fears are not all misplaced. There is much evil and suffering in the world.

The question is how will we respond to these dangers: with fear or with faith in God?

In Scripture we see that –

Jesus confronts our fears

And he does so because they keep us from doing God’s will. A part of fear is that it causes us to seek to escape from or avoid what we are afraid of. And so if we don’t trust God and give way to fear we will avoid doing God’s will in our lives – at least those things that God wants us to do which cause us fear. Fear will cause us not to do God’s will. We end up making our own choices to soothe our fears.

Here are a couple of examples of Jesus confronting our fears:

Fear of lack. We often fear that we will not have enough to provide for our material needs. And this leads us to do wrong things like gear our lives toward seeking material things and putting our faith in our stockpile of material things, to take care of us.

But Jesus said, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on” – Matthew 6:25. Instead of fear about your finances, beyond whatever practical steps you need to take, at the core, you must trust in God’s provision.

And then there is the fear of death. This is perhaps the ultimate fear. We saw recently how Peter’s fear of death led him to make wrong choices. He denied he knew Jesus – to save his skin.

Jesus tells us, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. . .” – Matthew 10:28, talking about persecutors. Instead of fearing for your life, you need to trust that God is watching over you and your life is in his hands.

There are many other fears we have:

  • fear of giving our lives over completely into Gods hands
  • fear of following a call to ministry
  • fear of stepping out of your comfort zone to serve God
  • fear of standing up for what is right before your peers
  • fear of witnessing to others about your faith in Jesus

The list could go on and on.

So let’s look now at –

How to overcome fear and trust God

1. You need to recognize the futility of your fear. It doesn’t actually help you. Jesus said, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” – Matthew 6:27. And then he goes on to say, “If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, (add an hour to your life) why are you anxious about the rest?” – Luke 12:26.

Fear as a response isn’t constructive. It doesn’t get us anywhere. In fact, it keeps us from being able to respond to the very real problems that face us.

2. Choose to trust in God. In our flesh we are weak and insecure. So, we will feel fear. But we can choose to trust in God nevertheless. What is important is not what we fell, but what we choose to do.

And God is worthy of our trust. After Jesus told us not to be afraid of death – he said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:29-31.

God loves us and watches over us.  Yes, we will go through hard times and we will experience fear. But we can choose trust in God anyway, because he will bring us through it all.

3. Fight your fear. This is a matter of spiritual warfare. Satan will tell you to fear, so that you don’t do God’s will. And so you must tell him to leave in the name of Jesus. And as I said, the flesh will cause you to fear. And so you must receive strength from the Spirit to do God’s will.

We have to rely on the authority of our Lord Jesus and the power of the Spirit to fight off our fears.

4. Nourish your faith in God. Jude 1:20 says, “But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith.” There are things we can do to strengthen our faith:

  • Read and meditate on Scriptures that speak of God’s faithfulness
  • Remember past answers to prayer where God has come through for you
  • Keep your relationship with God strong through prayer and worship
  • Fellowship with other believers who can support and encourage you.

In all these ways we build up our faith in God, and thus overcome our fears.

And when we choose faith over fear –

We are free to serve God

We all remember the example of the disciples. When Jesus was arrested and killed they fled and hid in a room. John 20:19 says – “the doors . . . [were] locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews.” They thought they may be caught and killed like Jesus was.

But later, empowered by the Spirit, they were courageous to stand up for Jesus. Acts 4:13 tells us that the Jewish leaders “saw the boldness of Peter and John” as they preached the gospel.

They chose faith in God over fear and were transformed. And we can do this too. We don’t have to hold back or waiver or cower in the corner. We can choose faith and be bold to do God’s will.

Finally, when we choose faith over fear –

We can have peace in our lives

– even in troubled times. I want to end with three Scriptures that speak to this:

Psalm 23:4 – “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” He is going through the “valley of the shadow of death” but he still is at peace because he knows God is watching over him.

John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” We will have troubles in the world, but Jesus gives us a peace that allows us not to be troubled in our hearts.

Philippians 4:6-7 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (That is, give it all into God’s hands). And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Instead of fear, we can have peace knowing that God will take care of our needs.

William Higgins

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