Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fear Not

"Good morning," Brad said as he welcomed us. "Last week we talked about disappointment. Today I would like to talk about fear... and Psalm 46. God is greater than our fears."

Sunlight filled the sanctuary as we began our service with announcements that included the following.
1) Harvest Fest is just around the corner and will be held on September 11. We need your help and would like volunteers to sign up on the sheets downstairs after the service. Our aim with Harvest Fest is to extend a hand of friendship to our community.
2) Those interested in more details on the Women's Ministry Retreat at Covenant Park should contact Brooke.
3) There will be a very special guest speaker at the Women's Tea on October 8. Please mark your calendars.
4) We are again coordinating donations of school supplies for needy students as the new school year begins.

The quartet led worship this morning, beginning with a rousing medley of old country Gospel tunes followed by one of this blog writer's favorites, The Lighthouse. The congregation joined in several choruses, which was followed by the offering, a reading from Scripture (Matt 16:13-20) and a time of prayer. Brad then commenced his sermon.

Fear Not

Brad began by reading Psalm 46.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

8 Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

"What is the most common command in all Scripture?" Brad asked. A few guessed and a few remembered from the last time he asked us this... "Fear not." This is the most frequently stated command from God to the human race. "Don't be afraid. You can trust Me," God says.

Fear is a universal issue. Almost everyone wrestles with it in one way or another and at one time or another. Dave Barry put it like this: “All of us are born with a set of instinctive fears - of falling, of the dark, of lobsters, of falling on lobsters in the dark, or speaking before a Rotary Club, and of the words 'Some Assembly Required.'"

Some fear is good, like when we see children playing in the middle of the highway. It also can keep kids from touching hot stoves. But there are bad fears as well, fears that paralyze us or keep us from doing what we ought to do.

Scripture provides many examples where the circumstances are the same but people react differently, some motivated by fear and others by faith. One example is when Jesus is asleep in the boat while the disciples are utterly terrified of imminent disaster. The story of the twelve spies who went into Canaan to give a report on the land is another example. Ten came back with a bad report that all was hopeless. Two had eyes of faith and saw a land of milk and honey.

Young David was another who saw Goliath as nothing more than an insolent giant who needed to be taught a lesson, whereas the armies of Israel under Saul quaked in their boots and hid behind rocks.

How will we respond when God calls us to step up? Will we panic or move with peace in our hearts and confidence that if God be for us, who can be against us?

The most important thing is to keep you sense of proportion. Unhealthy fear distorts our ability to maintain perspective and is the number one factor that keeps people from living in risky obedience.

Brad then elaborated on what it costs us to allow fear to hold us back.

1) Eats away our sense of self-worth. Take action gives us strength. Wimping out when we know what to do but don't do it will erode our self-confidence. A display of courage and taking initiative will make you feel great, while failing to act causes us to die a little more inside.

2) Stagnation instead of growth. We were never meant to spend our whole life waiting in a waiting room. Life is more than that.

3) It will cost you your joy. Worriers have a high capacity for imagination. It is easy for them to fall into the habit of catastrophizing. Joy and fear are incompatible.

4) End result: a mountain of regret at life's end. We must learn now to trust God. No one who ever trusted God ever regretted it. We do, however, have the power to say "no" to God. The rich young ruler said no and one wonders how things turned out for him when he became a rich old ruler. Who wants to leave this life regretting what might have been?

5) Mindset of fear is contagious. If we hold onto it, we will pass it on to our kids. It's unhealthy for all of us.

"I am with you," God says. And if that is really true then you have nothing to be afraid of. When people in Biblical times and people in our times grasp this truth it revolutionizes their lives. Take the risk. We have a big God.

Top Right: Picture by Ed Newman titled, Little Guy Faces His Fears.

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