What Jesus said about. . . Fear

May 27, 2012

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.”