Fear, Anxiety and Jesus (part 1)

This post is from my sermon notes yesterday at Kineo. I am breaking these notes into three separates posts as well due to the amount of notes that I had. Part 1 will unpack fear a little bit, part 2 will help you identify some of your own fears, and part three will help you understand what your fear reveals about you and how Jesus calls us to deal with our fear and anxiety:

A world of fear: Stephen King is quoted saying: “I like to scare people, and people like to be scared.” I find it funny that we are plagued by fear as humans and yet we want to go to scary movies and be scared and then walk out and say…”That didn’t really scare me.” Then we go home and stay up at night and jump at every sound (a cat jumps on your window sill, a tree branch brushes up against your window in the wind, your AC suddenly and loudly kicks on!). You are afraid!

Being scared or afraid is a human thing. Ed Welch, a Christian counselor with the board of Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF) says this in his book, Running Scared regarding children:

“…if they live in an unassailable fortress, protected round the clock by loyalists who ward off all robbers, ghosts, and monsters, with loved ones always within calling distance, video cameras and alarms perpetually set, nightlights on before dusk, shielded from Stephen King, Walt Disney, Sat. mornings cartoons, and all things creepy, they will–guaranteed– be afraid. Somehow, without anyone telling them, they know that they live in a world that isn’t safe.”

We are conditioned from the very beginning of our lives, that if we are not afraid or even living in dread, then we are not or cannot be safe. “I must be afraid to survive.” is the mantra of growing up. “The world is just not safe.” Then we experience the fallenness of the world and our fear, anxiety & pain compound, and we become fearful.

I believe that’s why the commands, “Be strong and courageous. Fear not.” “Do not be afraid.” “Be not afraid.” “Do not fear.” Do not worry”. “Fret not.” “Do not be dismayed.” are uttered more than any other command in the Bible. It is clear that God is getting at a perennial problem and knows our tendency. This is not a new struggle. People have always been controlled by their fears, even children. The Bible is timeless & timely; we should heed its counsel always.

But in the same breath we can read a number of passages that talk about the fear of the Lord, and how it is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). So what is the Bible telling us to do. Fear not, or fear! BOTH! Don’t fear man, fear God. Jesus has this to say about fear in Luke 12:32, “Fear not, little flock.” Fear not. Over and over again the Lord is saying to His people for thousands of years,“Don’t be afraid!”

And you can hear this phrase uttered one of two ways. “Don’t fear!” (with a loud and stern voice); and that can sound pretty religious and not very helpful. Or it can be received as an invitation. “Don’t fear.” (with a calm and assertive voice); “I am with you. It’s gonna be okay. Trust me. I love you and care deeply for you.”

Fear, according to the Apostle John, is the opposite of love. Now some of you guys are saying hold on, you mean to tell me that if I’m afraid, I’m not loving. So I shouldn’t be afraid of my two year stuck in a fiery house? That is not what John’s saying. Fear or being afraid, when talked about in the passages we’ll cover today, are referring to fear that has gripped you. Being afraid/Living in fear/. Life is in danger/always in danger.

It is not “loving” to live in fear. This is why John says in 1 John 4:18-19: 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.

Do you see what John is getting at. Living in fear is living as if you don’t know Jesus, or haven’t even experienced His extravagant love and are fearful of the end results.

What is fear?: Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Fear is a God-given response to physical and emotional danger—to help protect yourself and others. But it’s much more!

Fear is respect or reverence. You reverence a fire taking over your house and you get out. This is why fear is tied to authority. The fire has authority over your life. It’s hot, it will destroy you, you will get out or die. When Scripture tells us to fear God, it’s saying, “Reverence God, not things or man”. Whatever you fear, you give yourself to.

And everyone fears. What do you fear? You fear sickness? You fear death? You fear men? You fear animals? You fear not being able to have children? You fear waking up from a dream and realize you’re naked in public? What do you fear?

Masking fears – The “No Fear” Mantra: Fear signals a threat, so to fear that you feel fearful is not to be a wimp; The problem is, the signal is often unpleasant. Often times its too unpleasant for those who need to feel good most of the time. That’s why your fear is masked. You want to feel good, tough, able, in control….so you stop feeling or pretend not to feel. Hearing a fire alarm is certainly unpleasant, but we don’t want to avoid it at all costs. In fact, we want to use it as a motivation to put out the fire, help others, or get out!

The problem with masking fear, is that healthy fear can carry motivation to be courageous, to heal, to set boundaries, to correct, to improve, to connect, to appreciate. Maybe you were hurt at some point in your life, and because of fear of being hurt in that way again, you made a vow to yourself and said:

“I will never be called a wimp again.” So you work out obsessively.
“I will never be called fat again.” So you control the food you eat.
Maybe you grew up poor and got made fun of how you dressed: “I will never be poor.”
“I will never get a ‘B’ again.” because you were afraid of not being the best in classs
“I will never be humiliated again” So you stop feeling and pretending to be someone else).
“I will never feel that kind of pain again.” So you stop feeling pain.

And all the while, your motivation behind all of these vows are fear. Fear of feeling pain, rejection, loss, humiliation, failure. You have protected yourself to the point where you don’t feel in that area anymore (or at least you think you don’t), and you feel better because you accomplished your vow and inside you are withering away. Jesus can handle you and heal you! Your pain is not foreign to Him!

When you live like this (masking your fears), you often become overly critical. You’re negative. This is a defense mechanism. You’re fearful! All criticalness is rejection turned outward. The problem with this is that you’ll never be a friend, you’ll just be a fan. You are so afraid of being rejected, hurt, failing, etc… so you don’t confront your friends who should be lovingly confronted and your relationships are fan based, not friend based. Here’s some examples:

“I accept you for who you are. I know you’re destroying your life, but I’m your friend.”
“I know you’re cheating on your wife, but who am I to judge you? I’m your friend.”
“I know you have wreck less anger, but I don’t want to break your spirit, I’m your friend.”
“I know you annoy everyone and dominate conversations, but I love myself more than you and I don’t want to feel weird around you, so I dodge you, but I’m your friend.”

In the next post, we will discover various ways that we can identify our fears so we can expose them and allow Jesus to speak to them. If we are ignorant or oblivious to what we fear, then we will never be able to understand who we truly are in Christ, and why we can’t experience the fullness of what He desires for His children.

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