Joke: What do you call a baptized Mexican? – Bean dip.
FEAR. We all have the capacity to make it our constant companion. Chronic fear can paralyze us, keeping us stuck in misery and brokenness. This is never more true than in the aftermath of a shattered heart! When the world turns upside down, it can be difficult to figure out how to reconcile fear and faith.
Sometimes, in that place of darkness, even the Bible can seem a bit confusing on the subject of fear. We’re told again and again not to fear, and yet we’re also told TO fear God.
So from down in the depths of despair, it’s pretty easy to think ourselves in circles, and before we know it, fear has taken hold and spun out of control.
What we need to do is look at the whole Bible and compile what it has to say on the subject of fear so we can come away knowing exactly where we should stand
- What kind of things do we fear?
- Why do we fear these things?
- What’s the effect of having this fear in our life?
Most of us know, or have at least noticed that anxiety and depression seem to be on the rise. It’s hard to go anywhere without seeing or hearing something on the subject.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. They say these disorders affect 40 million adults in this country alone! And the statistics don’t change much in the world at large with the World Health Organization reporting 1 in 13 adults suffer from anxiety globally.
I wish I could say this struggle with chronic fear lessens within the church. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, if these numbers from LifeWay’s Facts & Trends research are accurate, the numbers might even be higher in the church.
Being Afraid vs Living in Fear
Discuss – Is there a difference between being afraid and living in fear?
Fear can be the right response to some situations
Fear is defined as an emotional state triggered by real danger that is in front of you, whereas anxiety is created from an image of danger that is not present in that actual moment.
This is a huge distinction. Look at fear as a positive, instinctive emotion that serves you loyally – fear gets you out of danger. It is explained in the body by a general activation of our sympathetic nervous system (the fight-flight-freeze mechanism). Fear flows through us and onwards. It is a powerful and delicate emotion; a multi-layered experience rather than a flatline concept that should be avoided. Fear can actually be exciting – think of your last roller coaster ride or perhaps a parachute jump. Fear is part of our awakened natural animal world.
Living in fear is a negative thing that can cause you to be a shell of yourself
When you live in fear, it’s like living in our own internal TV show that is produced and directed by ourselves. It uses stock images borrowed from many other sources.
According to 2011 statistics released by the US Department of State, you are 35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease than because of a terrorist attack. And of course, anxiety is a major contributing factor to heart disease. Doesn’t it make more sense to focus on overcoming the threats that are more likely to harm you?
Besides, believers are commanded not to live in fear.
2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind
In this study, we’re standing toe to toe with that ugly monster, and reminding it who sits on the Throne of Heaven! He is the same God who has made His temple in our own hearts! And this is what HE tells us about fear:
One the major ways we can overcome Chronic fear is to remember tho is with you!
John 14:26-27 – But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative – that is, the Holy Spirit – He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. 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.
1. Thank God for his love
Psalm 138 1 – 8
I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
2 I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
that it surpasses your fame.
3 When I called, you answered me;
you greatly emboldened me.
4 May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord,
when they hear what you have decreed.
5 May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
for the glory of the Lord is great.
6 Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
though lofty, he sees them from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
with your right hand you save me.
8 The Lord will vindicate me;
your love, Lord, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.
2. Live in the love of God – 1 John 4:7–21
‘God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us’ (v.17).
The words ‘love’, ‘loves’ and ‘loved’ appear twenty-seven times in this short passage. Here is the heart of the New Testament. Here is the heart of the Bible. Here is God’s heart.
Love is the antidote to fear: ‘Perfect love drives out fear’ (v.18). Or, ‘perfect love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror’ (v.18, AMP). Love is the opposite of fear. They are like oil and water. Love is something everyone wants. Fear is something everybody wants to get rid of. We see in this passage four keys to overcome unhealthy fear in your life.
- Understand God’s Love
‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins… so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment… there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love’ (vv.10,17–18).
Unhealthy fear entered the world when Adam and Eve sinned. They hid from God. When God asked, ‘Where are you?’ Adam replied, ‘I was afraid… so I hid’ (Genesis 3:10). Adam was afraid that God would punish him.
The deepest root of fear is condemnation – the feeling that God is cross with you. But God ‘sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins’ (1 John 4:10). Jesus took your condemnation. God wants you to have confidence before him.
- Experience God’s Love
‘We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his spirit… we know and rely on the love God has for us’ (vv.13,16).
You truly start living when you know you are unconditionally loved by God. The Holy Spirit gives us the experience of God’s love for us. When Pippa was a little girl, whenever she was frightened, her father would pick her up in his arms and sing, ‘Daddy’s got you now’. This is the work of the Holy Spirit – God picks us up in his arms and reassures us of his love for us.
- Believe God’s Love
‘We know and rely on the love God has for us’ (v.16). The Greek word used for ‘rely’ is the same word as for believe. Even when we know and have experienced God’s love, we need to keep on believing.
Object permanence is an expression used by psychologists of a child’s ability to understand that objects still exist even if they are no longer visible.
Up to about four months old, babies don’t have the capacity to believe something exists if they can’t see it. If you hide a toy it no longer exists as far as they are concerned. They reach a stage where if you hide a toy, they will keep on looking for it. They realise that objects exist even when you don’t see them.
This is a sign of Christian maturity: when we continue to believe in God’s love even when we don’t see it or feel it. We remember and recall. As we believe in the sun even when it is not shining, we continue to believe in God’s love even in times of darkness when we don’t feel his love.
- Perfect God’s Love
‘No-one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us’ (v.12). ‘Perfect love drives out all fear’ (v.18).
The more you love him and demonstrate that reality by loving one another – the less you are prey to fear. Develop a culture of love – giving and receiving love. This is the opposite of competition and gossip. The more love you give to others – the more fear disappears.
3. Stand firm in the love of God – Daniel 11:2–35
People who know their God (v.32) are people of love. Love is not weak. The people who really know God resist evil leaders. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a man who knew God and firmly resisted Adolf Hitler whilst praying, ‘Give me such love for God and men, as will blot out all hatred and bitterness.’ Over the centuries many people who have known their God have stood firm and resisted evil.
Once again this prophecy has different levels of fulfilment. The immediate historical fulfilment concerns the various kings and rulers who reigned between 530–150 bc, many of whom were evil and ungodly in their actions.
However, there is also a long-term fulfilment. As we saw yesterday, Jesus referred to the abomination that causes destruction (9:27; 11:31; Matthew 24:15). He was probably referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in ad 70, which was a foreshadowing of the end times.
In the midst of all this evil ‘the people who know their God will firmly resist [the evil one]’ (Daniel 11:32b). As the RSV puts it, they will ‘stand firm and take action’. Or as The Bible puts it, ‘those who stay courageously loyal to their God will take a strong stand’ (v.32b). It goes on, ‘those who keep their heads on straight will teach the crowds right from wrong by their example… The testing will refine, cleanse, and purify those who keep their heads on straight and stay true’ (vv.33,35).
Today, thank God for his love, live in the love of God, overcome your fears, stand firm and resist evil.