Bill Bouknight a retired Baptist Minister writes:
Many years ago when I was a young preacher, I noticed one day that a new family had moved into a neighborhood not far from my church.
So, I dropped by late one afternoon. I noticed that one car was parked in the carport. I went to the side door, the one opening onto the carport.
I rang the doorbell only once when I heard a deep, bass growl that sounded like the rolling of thunder. It was coming from the back of the carport and it made the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up.
I glanced to my left and there, about 20 feet away in a crouched position, was a huge German Shepherd with glowing, malignant eyes and pearly-white teeth. I could tell he wanted some of me.
I began backing slowly away from that door, in the direction of my car, all the while speaking words of pastoral comfort to the dog. The dog eased in my direction, keeping that same 20 feet between me and him.
It must have been a Baptist dog; I never saw a dog in my life have such a problem with a Methodist preacher.
Finally I reached my car, jumped in quickly and slammed the door, and offered a quick prayer of thanks for heavenly protection.
I wasn’t worth much good at work the rest of that day.
Fear had stolen my energy. I went home.
I did make one more phone call. I called my friend, the local Baptist preacher, and told him about this new family that had moved in, and that I was pretty sure they were Baptists.
Basil King, in his book The Conquest of Fear, points out that fear causes more misery than all the sin and sickness of our lives combined.
He writes, “We are not sick all the time. We are not sinning all the time. But most people are afraid of something or somebody all the time.”
Ann Landers, the syndicated advice columnist, was at one time receiving 10,000 letters a month from people with all kinds of problems.
Someone asked her if there was one common denominator among all her correspondents.
She replied that the great overriding theme of all the letters she read was fear – fear of nearly everything imaginable until the problem became,
for countless readers a fear of life itself.
Yet fear is simply a part of the fabric of living. God equipped us with it so we would be wise enough to protect ourselves from the unexpected. Fear provides us with sudden bursts of strength and speed just when we need it. It’s basic survival instinct, a good thing – as long as it’s rational.
But there’s also that brand of fear known as phobia. A phobia is what results when fear and reason don’t keep in touch.
There was a young truck driver whose route takes him across the Chesapeake Bay bridge every day. The thought entered his mind that he just might feel compelled to stop the truck, climb out, and leap from the bridge to his death. There was no rational reason to hold such a belief, but that fear took complete hold of him. He finally asked his wife to handcuff him to the steering wheel so he could be fully assured that his deepest fear wouldn’t come true.
That’s exactly what fear does when it builds its power over us; it shackles our hands and keeps us from doing the routine things in life – working, playing, living, and serving God. We give in to the slavery of terror.
One in ten people suffer from some sort of phobia.
Most of us might not suffer from some irrational fear, but we all wrestle with a garden variety of terror – those awful moments when life seems to come undone. We all have faced times of an uncertain future.
- Sitting in a waiting room in the hospital
- Facing divorce
- Death of a livelihood
- Death of a family member
Fear has been described as a small trickle of doubt that flows through the mind until it wears such a great channel that all your thoughts drain into it. Tiny fears, almost unperceived can build up day by day until we find ourselves paralyzed and unable to function.
Craig Massey details six general categories that most of us face:
- Loss of love
- Old age
WHERE FAITH AND FEAR MEET
But what about Christians?
The Bible does not paint a picture of a fear-free-life. God’s people seem to be tormented by the same fear as everyone else.
Mark Twain once said, Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.
It’s the place where fear and faith meet.
Perhaps the most notable of all stories regarding fear is about the delegation of spies who were sent into Canaan. Remember the story? They were commissioned to go on a fact finding expedition into the unknown territory that lay ahead. Out of the 12 men that were sent, 10 of them were scared to death.
Briefly I want to look at this story this morning and point out
Five principles that we can learn from the tyranny of fear and the freedom of fear.
Scouts Explore the Land
19 “Then, just as the Lord our God commanded us, we left Mount Sinai and traveled through the great and terrifying wilderness, as you yourselves remember, and headed toward the hill country of the Amorites. When we arrived at Kadesh-barnea, 20 I said to you, ‘You have now reached the hill country of the Amorites that the Lord our God is giving us. 21 Look! He has placed the land in front of you. Go and occupy it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged!’
- Fear Disregards God’s Plan
God’s mandate was clear.
Here is your land. Here is My gift to you. Now go grab it!
This was like a beautiful present wrapped under a Christmas tree, they should have surged forward with joy. This is the moment they had been waiting for.
They had come so far, having made it through the desert with its dusty despair, its hunger and thirst, they come to the point they had been waiting for and they couldn’t cross the line.
They prevailed over Pharaoh’s army, over the high tide of the Red Sea, over the challenges of the journey, but they fell apart at the most crucial moment. Why? Fear
You may stand at the threshold of God’s greatest promise for you, but you’ll never claim His blessings if you let fear dominate your life.
It’s because of our shortsighted fear that holds us back from receiving God’s best for our lives.
II Timothy 1:7, God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Power does not shrink back in uncertainty. A sound mind doesn’t deal in irrational speculation.
- Fear Distorts God’s purposes
Fear does one very predictable thing. It distorts our view. Fear robs us of our perspective. Listen to Moses as he summarizes the attitudes of his people.
27 You complained in your tents and said, ‘The Lord must hate us. That’s why he has brought us here from Egypt—to hand us over to the Amorites to be slaughtered. 28 Where can we go? Our brothers have demoralized us with their report. They tell us, “The people of the land are taller and more powerful than we are, and their towns are large, with walls rising high into the sky! We even saw giants there—the descendants of Anak!”’
Fear brings out the worst in us.
It ushers in complaining, distrust, finger pointing, and despair.
- God had provided victory over the Egyptian oppressors
- Give deliverance through the wilderness
- He is now offering prime real estate
- Opportunity to start a New nation.
Where are they?
They are in tent saying,
The Lord must hate us. That’s why he has brought us here from Egypt—to hand us over to the Amorites to be slaughtered. The people of the land are taller and more powerful than we are, and their towns are large, with walls rising high into the sky!
Fear does that. When you talk to a terrified friend or family member you find yourself wanting to say, But that is silly.
It’s easy for us to see the irrationality and absence of clear thinking in other people.
Illustration: Thursday phone call from Lewiston Police Midnight to 7:00 in morning. Man fear, several guns locked himself in home threatening to kill his girlfriend and himself.
Fear cause the absence of clear thinking.
The spies brought back a distorted picture and they infected the whole nation with it.
There’s giants in the land.
In the Book of Numbers they said, We were like grasshoppers in our own sight.
Fear is an army of giants. We lose sight of the promise that we can do “All things through Him who strengthens us”
We lose the ability to see anything in its true perspective.
Fear, not the object of the fear, devours its inhabitants.
In the imaginations of the spies there were massive, fortified cities teeming with giants. So great was their distorted perspective that they even made an evil giant out of God.
Why, He brought us all this way to make us food for the heathen”
Haven’t we said such things.
God is out to get me. He’s brought me all this way to make me miserable.
The greater the fear, the weaker our reasoning.
Fear distorts our perception of God’s purposes.
It shows life through a fun house mirror without the fun.
- Fear Discourages God’s People
The third effect of fear is that it reaches it tendrils out to everyone around them. Discouragement is contagious. When you give in to your fears, you make the world around you an environment of discouragement.
That word, discourage, means to take away courage. Fear causes us to drain away the vitality of people we care for.
Ten men out of 12 came back with what the Bible calls a breeds of hysteria. Those 10 men infected an entire nation, not just for a week, or a month, but for a generation.
When the spies came home they brought a giant with them – one much more terrible than the mere man they and seen.
The giant of fear prowled through their camp and devoured the faith and courage of a nation.
If you don’t think fear is contagious, stand in the hallway and shout fire. You’ll be successful in changing the moods and plans of many people in an instant. You’ll also endanger everyone around you.
Fear is more infectious than any disease you can name. It roams the landscape and discourages God’s people.
- Fear Disbelieves God’s Promises
29 “But I said to you, ‘Don’t be shocked or afraid of them! 30 The Lord your God is going ahead of you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt. 31 And you saw how the Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now he has brought you to this place.’
32 “But even after all he did, you refused to trust the Lord your God,33 who goes before you looking for the best places to camp, guiding you with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day.
The challenge before the Israelites wasn’t something that came out of nowhere and demanded that they trust some mysterious untested providence.
- This was the invitation of the God who had gone with them throughout their journey
- This was a loving Father who had remained so steadfast by their sides and had provided every need
- This is the One worthy of the same trust a tiny child would place in his loving parents.
God called them the children of Israel and carried them along as you would carry an infant.
- He carried them along as you would carry an infant
- He had led their steps provide their food, and done everything possible to nurture a loving and fully trusting relationship.
They had everything possible to pass this test. They had a past that they could have built on. The Israelites were able to look back and say, God has brought us this far; He will bring us home.
When the time came to enter the Promise Land they froze like a deer in headlights. There were giants in their headlights. And those giants seemed so fantastically massive that they blocked out what God had done in the past.
FEAR DISBELIEVES GOD’S PROMISES.
- Fear Disobeys God’s Principles
26 “But you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God and refused to go in.
It’s a harsh truth but the reality is fear is disobedience, plain and simple.
There’s a little phrase in the Bible. It goes like this,
Fear Not. That phrase, if you’ll notice is stated in the imperative tense which simply means it is a command.
How many times must God command us not to fear? The next time you find yourself overcome by fear, remember – along with all of God’s other promises to dwell in fear is to live in disobedience to God.
But you might say, I can’t help it! I don’t want to be fearful, it’s out of my control.
God has given you everything you need to deal with you fear. He has given you principles of faith to help you live courageously. Disobedience is costly. For the nation of Israel, it meant a lost generation. The adult group of that time was forbidden to enter the Promise Land at the end of their journey.
For 40 years they were sentenced to a restless, nomadic life of wandering homeless in the desert, waiting for the last of that forsaken group to finally die.
Only two of them were permitted entry into Canaan:
Joshua and Caleb who had stood firm in their faith. Imagine that wandering in the desert for 40 years, attending funeral services of their friends.
When the last person was laid to rest, the nation could finally claim it true home.
A large percentage of the things which we dread never happen. Probably, if a man could keep a register of his fears through
twenty-five or fifty years of life, it would show that a very small percentage of the things which he dreaded came to pass.
Thomas Carlyle (4 December 1795 – 5 February 1881) was a Scottish philosopher, satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher. Considered one of the most important social commentators of his time
In his house in Chelsea in London they show you the sound-proof chamber, a sort of vaulted apartment, which Carlyle had built in his house so that all the noise of the street would be shut out and he could do his work in unbroken silence.
One of his neighbors, however, kept a rooster that several times in the night and in the early morning gave way to vigorous self-expression.
When Carlyle protested to the owner of the cock, the man pointed out to him that the rooster crowed only three times in the night, and that after all that could not be such a terrible annoyance.
“But,” Carlyle said to him, “if you only knew what I suffer waiting for that rooster to crow!”
There are a lot of people like that in life—harassed and suffering because they are waiting for something disastrous and unpleasant to happen.
Slaying the Giants in Your Life, David Jeremiah
Facing Your Giants, Max Lucado
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