Monday, September 30, 2013

7 Fears

Fear of Death and Disease by Robert Rothwell

"I see a spot we need to keep an eye on."  Cancer.  The author found out that he had a spot of cancer.  It's 95% treatable, but not 100%.  "There were no words in the immediate aftermath."  His chances were good, but he still worried about his finances, his wife, and if he would die.  Sometimes things don't turn out alright - at least in the short term.
  • People die every day.
All people will die.  It doesn't matter the age.  You are going to die whether now or in old age.  Why do we fear death so much?
  • Non-Christians: they can't escape their God-given awareness that they've broken his law and deserve hell.
  • Christians also fear death and disease.  We all know God is sovereign and believe in heaven and the end of suffering, but we still fear death.
  • Believers don't fear death and disease for the same reasons as non-Christians because we know Christ has a home for us in heaven.  Instead, we fear losing control and we also fear suffering.
Rothwell assures us that in many ways, it is right to fear death and suffering.  God created a "very good" universe.  Death is not natural, so we are right to mourn and fear it.  Rothwell doesn't have all the answers, but hopes to offer help.

1. We should know why we fear death and disease.  Either you fear it because you are not reconciled with God through Christ's blood.  If that is the case, then please get to know God and his inescapable love.

2. Admit your fears to God and others.  He knows what you go through.  He is leading your pain to conform you to Christ who suffered the ultimate punishment for all believers in his mercy.

3. Help make your church a place where people can admit their fears honestly. People do not like talk about death and suffering in public: especially at times when they feel like talking about it a lot.  This needs to change as church should be the only safe place to vent your emotions.  You don't have to reveal all you think, and you always have God who already knows and who wants you to talk to him.

4. Trust God's sovereignty. Death and disease don't surprise him.  He knows the end of the story and we know that he does all things for his glory and because he loves his children.

5. Meditate on God's promises until they become part of your very soul.  Psalm 23:4, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."  Romans 8:18, "The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us."  2 Corinthians 4:17, "This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."

Robert Rothwell has been cancer-free for four years as of this article and has two children.  He will still die some day, but like all believers, he lives in courage because of his hope in Christ that never fails.

Fear of Job Loss by Jonathan Leeman

"Sometimes I worry about losing my job."  I have learned in recent days to never take for granted that you have a job.  In Georgia, employees can fire you for any reason or no reason, and you can't sue unless you had a contract.  Even that is loosely defined.

"Or even -- I'm embarrassed to admit this -- we'll face societal breakdown, like in one of those "day-after" movies, where the square-jawed hero has to defend himself and his two precious children with nothing but his wits and a shotgun as marauders patrol burned-out streets in pickup trucks with tough-guy rollbars."  Leeman exaggerates, but his scenario isn't too far from what I see in the future ruled by Big Brother.

"More realistically, foreign governments could call in our debts, tanking the dollar and collapsing the economy...It's easy to think about job loss when you're balancing the checkbook or watching shower tiles fall in your twenty-five-year-old bathroom."

The good news, is that Leeman goes to church, and the Word of God keeps his mind from wondering.  Here are the good thoughts he has learned.

1. Jesus came to save us from sin.
John 4 shows the outcast Samaritan woman at the well that Jesus befriends.  Even her own hated Samaritan friends don't like her and she lives in sin.  Jesus cares about hunger and thirst and loneliness, but his ultimate goal is to have all the symptoms of the fall point to our sin.  We may lose our job, but it reminds us of the sin-cursed world and how we actually deserve worse than that.

2. God displays his glory through trials.
Again, in John 9, the man was not blind because anybody sinned.  He was blind so that Jesus could display his glory in healing him.  This is one of the miracles that really shows that he is the Christ.

3. Jesus will preserve us.
Then in John 10, Jesus assures his sheep that no one can snatch them out of his hand.  We may go through lost jobs, but God preserves us.

4. Perfect timing and love.
In John 11, Jesus hears that his friend Lazarus is sick.  He loves Lazarus and his two sisters.  Yet, he lets Lazarus be dead for 4 days.  But he also showed that he is the resurrection and the life.

Fear of Men by Nicholas Batzig

Batzig starts with how he grew up reading the Fear of God by John Bunyan.  The one work that nobody had heard of.
  • As we work our way through the Scriptures, we are repeatedly met with the importance of the fear of the Lord and learn that it "is wisdom" (Job 28:28), "the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7), "hatred of evil" (8:13), "a fountain of life" (14:27), and "the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
  • We do not come to an experiential realization of the fear of God until we first see our predisposition to what the Bible calls the fear of man.
Matthew 10:28, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."  Other people cannot do anything to your soul.  Your body may perish, but that is all they can do to you.  However, God can destroy both your soul and body.
  • The fear of man is not simply the fear of the harm that men may do to us.
Here is where John Bunyan comes in: "the fear of losing man's favor, love, goodwill, help, and friendship" is what people really fear.  It is an "idol of approval."  Sadly, this is also mankind's default setting.  From birth, we are set on fearing what people think of us.
  • Is the fear of man something that ensnares only a few?  The Apostle Paul says that by nature, men outside of Christ have "no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:18)
Christ has to save us before we can ignore mortal people and pay attention to the Almighty God who decides where your soul will live in eternity.  Fear of man caused Peter to deny Christ because of what a servant girl would think.  It muted his witness to Christ and kept him from living for His glory.  Praise the Lord that he gracefully rehabilitated him to be the bold leader of the church in Acts.

So what are we to do?  The prophet Isaiah gives us the gospel remedy: "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,... the Spirit of the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord." (11:1-2).  What are we to do?  We can't.  Only Christ lived in complete devotion to God the Father, and he is the only reason that we can do the same.

Fear of Self by Kris Lundgaard

"Myself, arch-traitor to myself; My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe, My clog whatever road I go."

This is a poem by Christina Rosetti: "Who Shall Deliver Me."  There, she struggles to save herself from her worst enemy: herself.
  • Perhaps with less drama- yet perhaps sometimes with even more- each of us feels betrayed by our self.  1 John 3:20 proclaims that our heart condemns us.
  • The beauty of the Bible is that it never leaves us to think we are alone in our fears.
Rosetti's question is asked and answered by Paul in Romans 7:24.  Who shall deliver me?  Paul preached to himself, reminding himself of Christ's grace in verse 25.  He coached himself from self-accusation and self-condemnation to self-proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.

David and the Psalm writers also had to constantly remind themselves through preaching.  The sons of Korah wrote Psalms 42 and 43.  They consist of three stanza of woe: thirst for God, feeling forgotten by God, feeling rejected by God.  All three stanzas are followed by the chorus:

"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God."  Notice the turn from the self (O my soul) to God (Hope in God).

We must preach the Gospel to ourselves.  Although our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and he knows everything.  He knows that we are actually worse than we ever imagined.
  • But in spit of this, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8).
Fear of Failure by Richard Pratt

Pratt recalls a friend of his who was so afraid of failure that it caused a rift between him and his family and caused him to stop working.  "Even if we don't go to extremes like my friend, the possibility of failure is not something we enjoy."

Why do we fear failure?
  • All of us have our personal reasons for being afraid of failure, but the Bible takes us to the root of the problem.
Genesis 1:26 reminds us that God created man in his image.  He created us to succeed in populating the earth.  We were not made for failure.  Like death and disease, failure is not natural, and we must be angry about it.  We fall short because of sin.

How can failure be turned into hope?
  • The Scriptures do not leave us longing for redemption from failure and fear.  They tell us that Christ took on flesh and fulfilled every command of God to reverse the effects of Adam's sin.
1 Corinthians 15:21, "For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead."
  • How can all that Christ has done help us turn our failures into hope? 
1. His victory turns us away from every false hope we have.
2. When we acknowledge that only Christ has succeeded in fulfilling human service to God, we receive the sure hope that we will one day overcome all of our failures.

Fear of Loss by Thomas Schreiner

Schreiner shares the story of when his wife was nearly killed in a bike accident.  Praise God, the Lord restored her both and her mind.  The accident personalized for him a real fear that all we experience, namely, the fear of losing our spouses or our children to death.  I had no idea about this fear until two months ago when I married.  If anything happened to Tim, I would break down.

1. Immerse Yourself in the Love of God
  • We deserve God's wrath, for we worship ourselves rather than our creator and refuse to give him thanks and glory (Romans 1:18-25).
  • Our God is rich in mercy and poured out his love on us by making us alive when we were dead in transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:4-5).
  • If God loves us so, if he has forgiven us of our sins and rebellion, if he has cleansed us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), then we have nothing to fear
2. Be Rooted in the Sovereignty of God
  •  It is not only the case that Gd loves us.  He also rules and reigns over all things.  The Lord declares the end from the beginning, and his purposes and counsel will stand (Isaiah 46:9-10).
  • Jesus teaches that not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from God's will (Matthew 10:29).  If sparrows don't fall to the ground apart from God, then neither do bicycle riders.  He loves our spouses and children far more than we ever could.
3. Trust in the Promises of God
  • He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
  • When we fear loss, we are like David who feared that the darkness would engulf him.  Darkness may come but God turns on the light in the darkness, for "even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you." (Psalm 139:11-12)
Fear of the Future by Ed Welch

"All fears are prophecies about the future."  Welch grew up during a time that helped supply fear.  He lived through the Red Scare, The Late Great Planet Earth, news broadcasts, and today is no different.  "Then I grew up and realized that every era is, indeed, the worst of times."

Two Popular Lines of Defense
1. Some try to be rational, to let data and facts assuage the fears.
2. Some imagine the worse and get prepared.
These defenses of course, are but temporary comforts.  We cannot trust in data, the odds being in our favor, or our personal preparation.  We trust in a Person.

We Will Receive Grace
"I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)
Included in this promise is that he will give us the daily grace we need.
  • That grace will empower us to rest in God and stand firm in the face of whatever suffering or temptation the world can muster, in the face of whatever fear that has come true.
  • Promised grace renders our fearful forecasts obsolete.
Retell the Story
Consider Psalm 23.  Jesus is our shepherd.  He leads us through troubled waters and through green pastures alike.  He always leads us to a feast prepared before our enemies.

Fear and the Sovereignty of God by Kim Riddlebarger

"God is in control."  These words both comfort and concern Riddlebarger as he notes that there are times when the words "God is in control" might make matters worse.

1. First, consider those biblical passages which tell us what it means for God to be "in control."
  • For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.  Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth. (Psalm 135:5-6)
  • God knows when a sparrow falls from the sky, and if he cares for them, how much more does he care for us?
This short list of biblical passages reminds us that any fear we may be facing can bring God glory, be turned by God to our ultimate good, and grant us needed reassurance when we are afraid.

2. Consider that if anyone believed in God's absolute sovereignty, it was Jesus.
  • Jesus went to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray." (Matthew 26:36-38).
  • Fear and anxiety are not necessarily sin - that Jesus was anxious before his suffering upon the cross proves this to be the case.
  • Even better, we have a great high priest, who never sleeps nor slumbers, and who knows what it is like for us to experience fear and anxiety  It is Jesus to whom we pray when we are afraid, and it is Jesus who prays for us, even as we pray to him (Hebrews 4:14-16)

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