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Fear to Faith

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 7/21/2019

External Fears

This morning I want to talk about fear. We all have ordinary, everyday fears. I sort of have a fear of heights. Roller coasters, Airplanes, Skyscrapers, St. Louis Arch are all fine. I can handle ziplining, I could probably handle a parachute and bungee jumping. Just don’t put me on the edge of a roof. Don’t make me climb a tall ladder. Don’t make me walk a plank, suspended 30 feet in the air, between two, ladders and make me nail visqueen over my head, to the ceiling of a house. That high school job scarred me for life!

Maybe you have the an everyday fear of creepy crawling insects, rappelling insects, swarming… flying… attacking… insects? A few years ago, I was mowing in my backyard on a riding mower. We have this small ornamental tree by our patio, and as I literally mowed around it (my shoulder disturbing its branches), there within inches of my face. . . at shoulder height. . . was a football sized wasp nest bustling with life!

By the time I noticed it, I was committed to my path. No way that red Honda mower was going to outrun those wasps. No way was I going to be able to get this fat body off that mower fast enough to run. No way were these legs going to carry 250lbs of mass to safety. I just closed my eyes and prayed, “Dear Jesus. . .” Look at that beastly thing! I actually think I died, and all of this is just a dream. Larry Roth (our resident Bee expert) told me the vibration from the mower was probably enough to disorient the wasps. Screaming like a little girl did not save my life that day.

A lot of our fears grow out of childhood. Every family has a dominant emotion. One family might be marked by sadness. Another by anger, another by shame, still another joy. But for many people their childhood is characterized by fear. We’ve all had bullies who seemed larger than life. But if that bully was a parent, or family member, or sibling… and you were subject to abuse day after day… that’s not something you can ignore. Growing up, the factory where my dad worked changed ownership four times. Factories were closing left/right. Even when dad was working, there were some extremely difficult seasons of financial insecurity. Sometimes my parents used my paper route money to buy groceries! Once our family got hit by train, my sister lay in a coma for days, dad was hospitalized weeks, mom spent months recovering her ability to walk. Us boys were sent off to grandmas, our lives were completely turned upside down. As a young guy I wasn’t sure our family would ever be the same. And it wasn’t. *Once those childhood emotions get set, their extremely difficult to change.

A lot of our fears grow out of current events. When Magic Johnson got AIDS, everyone was afraid they would get it! After 911, we became fearful of anyone wearing a turban. After Columbine, we’ve had all these mass school shootings, and workplace shootings, and then movie/concert massacres. There is so much fear of guns today. Do you see how there can be so many layers of fear? Personal. Family. Life Experiences. Current Events. . .

A lot of fears grow out of global hysteria. You can laugh, but as a teenager I worried daily about the Cold War, the U.S.S.R., Russia! Anyone remember movies like Red Dawn? How about Top Gun? A Top Gun sequel is due out next year! But Red Dawn… what a hit, we were just waiting for those Russians to invade! The threat of Nuclear war. I used to look at the calendar over my bed and wonder when (not if) the world would end! Then Reagan spoke those words that changed the world, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Suddenly the cold war wasn’t such a big thing!

But isn’t it amazing how one fear gives way to the next? After the Cold War came the dire threat posed by Global Warming and Greenhouse emissions. Do you realize Politicians, Scientists, and Experts behind the Green Curtain have been boldly predicting the end of life as we know it for 3-4 decades? It was all supposed to be over in 1980, then 1990, then 2000, then 2010, then 2020, now their saying 2030. Somebodies genius calculations have been grossly wrong. How many sequels of Inconvenient Truth will there be? They keep kicking out that timeline. Who really knows?

Then after Global Warming it was talk of Armageddon. Remember how the airwaves and pulpits were filled with doomsday predictions? “88 Reasons Jesus is coming in 88.” Remember Tim LaHaye? Nobody wanted to be “Left Behind!” Jesus said, “Not even the Son of Man knows the day/time of the end…” yet all these provocateurs made outrageous forecasts. They wrote books, shot movies, quoted Scriptures, made millions. . . somebodies hermeneutics were pretty whack, but we didn’t stop to notice. Remember the Millennial Bug that was going to cause worldwide calamity? Now it’s Straws. Microplastics. Fear gives way to fear.

In college, I would listen to the radio and cable news, and would get worked into a frenzy. We live in a day when every little thing is sensationalized and catastrophized to the nth degree. Let’s see, there was Bill Clinton… George Bush… Barack Obama… now Donald Trump. We’re to believe one sold America to China, another to the Saudis, another Islam, another Russia. It’s the same old trope, recycled again and again. If everything is catastrophic, nothing is catastrophic. If everything is superlative, nothing is superlative. There is no trusted name in news today. All the hysterics have left us feeling exhausted and numb.

In general, few things are as debilitating as fear. Fear is so subjective, yet so powerful. It can paralyze us. It can rob us of life, and especially the enjoyment of life. Most all of the fears I’ve mentioned are “external” fears. Before we click and send our fears to others, we would do well to step back and take a breath. Someone said, “Your fear is 100% dependent on you for its survival.” Rudyard Kipling said, “Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.” Some of our greatest fears are nothing more than well-intentioned lies. Lie or not, fear enslaves, disables, and robs us.

Internal Fears

Among the most detrimental of fears are “internal” fears—psychological fears. You can find all sorts of lists of internal fears. One list is as good as the next. Psychological fears include a fear of inadequacy… a fear of uncertainty, of failure, of rejection… a fear of missing out (FOMO)… a fear of change, of losing control, of being judged, of bad things happening, of getting hurt. These internal fears can be the most debilitating of all.

One of the greatest fears across all societies is public speaking (glossophobia). The fear of public speaking is considered a form a social anxiety. Remember Moses in Exodus 4:10? “Pardon your servant, LORD. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” Remember Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:6? “Alas, Sovereign LORD, I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” Remember timid Timothy in 1-2 Timothy? 1 Timothy 1:3, “Stay in Ephesus and command certain people not to teach false doctrine...” 1 Timothy 4:12, “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

Everyone struggles with self-consciousness. Everyone has a degree of social anxiety. The reason speaking is so terrifying is because you’re engaging in a form of self-presentation, self-revelation. And our fear is, “What will people think, how will they judge me, will the love me, will they accept me, will they reject me, what if I fail, what if I lose control, what if I trip and fall off the stage like George Bush? What if my bladder fails? {I saw a few times where performer’s bladders failed on stage.} What if my iPad fails? Once Brad’s iPad failed while conducting a wedding here at Lakeside and he had to go retrieve his notes—he was such a pro about it though! Brad instantly recovered and was able to laugh about it. I would have stayed in my office and hid and quietly resigned the next day never to be seen again!

On a serious note, I’ve seen how in my own life these interior fears have held me back. I’ve seen how these fears that often take root early in life, bear fruit later in life, and completely rob people of making the contribution God planned for them to make. I teach an online adult class to equip leaders to have greater interpersonal effectiveness. Both men and women are savaged by these self-induced fears. It’s a monumental task just to name these fears, let alone unpack them, let alone rewire someone’s self-concept. A lot of counseling, a lot of therapy, a lot of coaching, a lot of parenting, a lot of pastoral ministry, is unraveling fear and setting people free.

Proverbs 29:25, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” What are the fears that bind you? What are the fears that trip you up? What are the fears that kill your potential? Your contribution?

The Biblical antitheses to “Fear” is “Faith.”

By faith, God invites us to face our fears… not alone… but with God at our side. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.” What would it look like for us, if instead of running from fear, we would face them with faith? This fall I’m going to preach a series called “BRAVE” that is based on the book of Daniel.

At every turn Daniel put his confidence in God. When they tried to erase his spiritual identity… when he faced impossible circumstances… when he was bullied to bow to idols… when he needed to speak truth to power… when his friends were thrown in a fiery furnace… when he was thrown in a den of lions… Daniel never ran, he always faced down his fears with a heart of faith. Emma Donoghue said, “Scared is what you're feeling. Brave is what you're doing.”

Let me share some practical actions we can take...

First, Name Your Fears. I love that verse where Paul talks about taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ. How do we take a fear captive? We name it. We take inventory. In coaching hundreds of leaders, so many of them have “generalized fears and anxiety.” An enemy unknown, undefined, is powerful indeed. No, name your fears. Enumerate your fears. Dissect your fears. Take inventory of them.

Second, Educate Your Fears. Somebody said ignorance is the father of fear. I was afraid of those wasps because, I didn’t know the vibration of the mower would confuse the wasps and render them powerless. Armed with this new knowledge, I trust that I can call upon any one of you sitting here to mow around any wasp nests I find in future! But it’s such great advice… educate your fears. Many fears have no rational basis. They are myth, superstitions, borrowed.

Third, Seek God’s Wisdom. What should we do in light of these fears? I learned Proverbs 3:5-6 as a child. I’ve never forgotten it. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 4:5-6 isn’t bad either! “Get wisdom, get understanding; don’t forget or turn away from the words from my mouth. Don’t abandon wisdom, and she will watch over you; love her, and she will guard you.” Where do we get this wisdom? James 1:5, “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.”

Fourth, Cast Your Fear Away. Psalm 55:22, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” 1 Peter 5:6-7, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you.” Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Fifth, Act in Faith. I’m convinced that many times, the Holy Spirit has already convicted you and me, of the next right thing we’re to do. I like something Eleonor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.” I kind of like what Paul says in Galatians 5:16, “I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Every time you exercise faith, that flabby fleshly fear gives way to a little more courage. Faithful with little faithful with much. If you can face the smaller things with obedience, you’ll be able to slay the larger dragons of fear.

Last, Practice Good Theology. Theology is all about taking on God’s Perspective. In 2 Kings 6:16-17, when Elisha and his servant were surrounded a massive army, the servant asked Elisha, “What should we do?” Elisha says, “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us outnumber those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed, “Lord, please open his eyes and let him see.” So, the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw that the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

What would come of our fears if we saw things from God’s perspective? What would come of our fears if we knew God’s track record of faithfulness? What comes come of our fears if we knew God’s character? His goodness? His power? His purpose and plan? His will?

Read Psalm 56, this passage is a portrait of courage. 

Scripture Verses

Psalm 56, Psalm 55:22, 1 Peter 5:6-7, Philippians 4:6-7, 2 Kings 6:16-17

Worship Playlist

  • Faithful to the End 
  • Stand in Your Love
  • Give Me Faith
  • Christ is Risen 

Study Questions

Psalm:

"1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.2 This I declare about the Lord:He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.4 He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day.6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name.15 When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them."- Ps. 91: 1-6; 14-15

Proverb:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."- Pr. 3:5

Apply It!

Prayer:

"O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of your presence, your love, and your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us. For, living close to you, we shall see your hand, your purpose, your will through all things."- St. Ignatius of Loyola

"God, your perfect love- drives out all fear."

Practice:

Fear is a painful expectation of some impending danger. What alarms you or makes you feel unprotected? In those areas of fear, find a scripture to encourage your faith. Write it out. Carry it with you. Pray it back to God throughout each day. Determine to walk in faith.

Resources

  • Book: Finding Quiet, by J.P. Moreland
Downloads & Resources