A Study on Fear
April 15, 2020
What are you afraid of that makes you jump back when you see it. Or maybe you go hysterical and scream and do something uncontrollable. My Mom is scared to death of spiders. As a teenager I would place a plastic black spider on top of my chest-0f-drawers. I never worried about Mom rummaging through my drawers because I hid plastic spiders in them also. (Not that I had anything to hide.)
Well, I learned my lesson really well one afternoon. I was probably about 13 or 14 years old and Mom had made a poncho for a girl that lived in our neighborhood. She was the same age as I was and we knew her parents. Her Mom ask my Mom if she could make this poncho. Mom was very handy with those types of things and Mom agreed. As Mom was finishing up the poncho, I was in her room and we were talking and I was playing around. She had trimmed the edges off of the string tassels that hung at the bottom of the poncho. I picked up three strands of this string and tied them together with a knot in the middle of the three strings. It actually looked like a spider. Mom had laid the poncho down and was now taking some dry-cleaned laundry out of the plastic packaging and putting it in her closet. I walked up to her and she took the plastic and playfully put the plastic over my face. As she did this I slipped my hand up and place the “string created spider” on her right shoulder. As I did it I pointed to the spider on her shoulder and in a fright she drew back the plastic and slapped me so hard I landed on the bed. It scarred her and me. As soon as she slapped me she realized what she had done and began to cry out, “Oh baby, Mommy is so sorry. I never meant to do that.” She began to cry and so did I. After a few minutes of her holding me we both got alright. I apologized for placing the fake spider on her shoulder and promised never to do it again. She apologized for slapping me and told me over and over it was unintentional. I know she would never do that on purpose. The incident was over and I learned a valuable lesson, “Never play with spiders around Mom.”
That incident that day reminds me how scarred people can get over something they have really no control over. Our son Caleb grew up scarred to death of balloons. We could not take him to a children’s party where there were balloons. We never really figured out why he was so scared of them. As a little boy I can remember him trying to convince himself, “Balloons want hurt you Mommy, Balloons want hurt you.” But whenever there was a balloon around he was scared to death.
Fear in the New Testament is from the Greek word “phobos.” Of course that is where we get the word phobia from. The Greek work actually means to withdraw from something. Or in other words to get away from it. Fear is the action of removing oneself from something or someone who may cause danger to the person. To be “afraid” is to actually “withdraw” from the person or thing that frightens you.
Fear is a funny thing. It grips us when we do not realize it. It will cause us to respond in ways we never thought of. It will cause us to react in ways that may be completely out of our character. I want to take a few minutes in this study to remind us all that fear is not always a bad thing. God gave us the emotion of fear, but we have to use it the right way. I want to explore the word today in the New Testament and show us where is was to be avoided and where it is to be used to our advantage. So let’s get to it:
1. The Fear of the Unknown Luke 1:12-13; 1:30; 2:10
In these passages we find Zachariah, Mary and the shepherds being afraid of something they have never experienced before.
Zachariah is gripped with fear when the Angel of the Lord appears to him to tell him of the birth of John the Baptist. The Bible says in Luke 1 that as Zachariah was chosen to burn the incense to the Lord the angel appeared to him to tell him the good news of John the Baptist. When Zachariah saw the angel he was afraid. Never haven seen an angel before and not really understanding its purpose Zachariah began to withdraw from the angel, but the angel calms Zachariah’s fears. “Do not be afraid, Zachariah; your prayer has been heard.” Wow! How would you react if one of God’s angels appeared to you and just said, “Don’t be afraid, God heard your prayer and is going to answer it.” You would probably fall on your face and withdraw also.
It happens again with the angel appears to Mary in Luke 1:30. The Bible says, “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid.”
Mary don’t be scared. God is going to do something great with you. Yet we can understand why Mary was troubled. Maybe you have heard the voice of God before. Maybe you heard and were not afraid, but for most people to hear the voice of God causes a reaction.
I know that when I was first diagnosed with cancer and Peggy and I were in the hospital. I had the vision of the man standing over my bed and I heard him say, “Boy, you haven’t seen nothing yet.” I bolted up in bed and screamed Peggy’s name and asked her if she heard him. I know it shook me to the bones and I was shaken for hours afterwards. You can believe me or not, but I know what I saw and heard. Since that night in 2013, I have truly seen a great deal and experienced more than I could have ever imagined. And the truth of that statement is still being lived today.
On the night Jesus was born, the angel came to a group of shepherds in a field. In Luke 2 it says the shepherds were terrified. A bunch of no-count shepherds keeping watch over their flock at night. Right there among the stars a bright light, an angel, that begins speaking in what I can only imagine as a booming voice and the first thing out of its mouth is, “So not be afraid.” Yeah, right! Can you imagine these shepherds flat on the ground thinking that there life is over and peering very sheepishly up to the sky and hearing, “Do Not Be Afraid!” Yet as they listened to the one angel and then seeing the multitude of angels singing and praising God their spirits must have been lifted. Their fear subsided and they rushed to see the baby that the angels proclaimed. They went out and told everyone they found about the birth of Jesus the Savior.
If I am to learn one thing about this type of fear is that we never need to fear when God reveals Himself to us in any way. When God reveals Himself to us He does it to share a story or a truth. He in no way wants us to be afraid. He wants us to listen and grasp the wonderful truth of His words sent to us. We do not need to be afraid to reveal what it is He is saying to us. Sure some people may think you are crazy, but when God really speaks to you, He is probably doing it for a purpose and all of us need to know what He says. So find that relationship with God which allows Him to speak so that we do not fear Him by withdrawing. As the writer of Hebrews says, in Hebrews 10:22, “…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with full assurance that faith brings…” Do Not Be Afraid!
2. Fear of Death Mark 4:35-41; Luke 5:10; Luke 8:50; John 14:27
It is probably the most feared concept in the world. We fear something we know nothing about. No one that we actually know on the earth today has died and come back to tell us what it is like. I realize we have many who say they have had near death experiences. They have written books about hell and heaven. Maybe you believe them or maybe you don’t, but the truth is we still have a great deal of unknown about death.
In the days of Jesus death was a huge unknown. People believe that you went to sheol. It was the place of the dead. They were not sure what happen to you there. Jesus tells the story in Luke about the rich man and Lazarus so we know some people believed in the resurrection and some did not. There were a great many misunderstanding about death in the 1st century. Yet whenever an individual was threatened with their own death or the death of a family member fear was an overwhelming reaction. Let’s take a few examples:
Jesus and the disciples get in the boat to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus goes down to the hull of the boat and falls asleep. The other disciples are gathered on the deck probably discussing the many parables that Jesus has explained that day. The parable of the sower and several other new and fresh ideas. While they are discussing all of a sudden as was characteristic on the sea, a strong storm comes up. It is night and it is hard to see and almost impossible to steer the boat. The lightening is flashing, the wind is blowing, and waves are pounding against the hull of the boat. The disciples, some experienced boatmen, become terrified. I can just hear them, “Get the master, tell him what’s about to happen. We are all going to die in this storm.” A few disciples race to the bottom of the boat and wake Jesus up. He wipes his weary eyes and lazily climbs the steps to the deck of the ship. He is not afraid and He is not worried. He steps on the deck very calm. The disciples are furiously running around trying to hold things together. Someone finally shouts, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Jesus very calmly says, “Peace, Be Still!” And all of a sudden the wind stops blowing, the lightening ceases and the waves disappear. And then Jesus says something we all need to hear, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” If we fear the things of this world, and that includes death by any means including COVID-19, you have no faith!
Very early in Jesus’ ministry He is walking by the sea. He steps up and ask a fisherman if He can use his boat for a few minutes. Jesus steps into Peter’s boat and pushing out from the shore and using the water as an amplifier teaches a group of people that have gathered. When He finishes teaching He ask Peter to go into deeper water and put down his nets. Peter balks and tells Jesus that they have been fishing all night and they have caught nothing. But to appease Jesus Peter does what Jesus ask him to do. When Peter follows Jesus request, all of a sudden the nets are overflowing with fish. Their partners had to come from shore with the other boat and help with the catch. Peter realizes that he is with someone mightier than anyone he has ever met before. Peter falls down and proclaims that he is a sinner and needs Jesus to get away from him. Deep down Peter is afraid of Jesus. He is not sure about Him and fears for his life. Jesus calms Peter’s fear. He says, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” They get the boats back to the shore and Peter and his friends leave everything and follow Jesus.
If you are a Christian today, you have been called. Every believer must have a conversation with Jesus through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit calls every believer to repentance just as Peter repented that day in the boat. And we must be ready to do as Peter and his companions did that day. We must be ready to leave everything to follow Jesus. One of the reasons we struggle with faith and fear is because we hold on to the things of this world to tightly. Fear grips us. During these uncertain times we fear the loss of money or jobs. We fear the loss of friends and essentials. We are scared and wonder when this will ever be over. I can’t tell you how often lately I have been asked if I have an idea when things might turn back to normal. No one knows. Yet we can be assured that when Jesus calls you He will carry you through every situation. He will provide for you and take care of you. When we put our full faith and trust in Jesus we do not fear the unknown. We do not fear death or uncertainty. We just live smart and trust.
Sometimes when we read these stories in the Bible I’m afraid we think it was easy for Peter, James, John and the other disciples to just follow. I am sure it was not easy. I’m sure it was tough. Yet they didn’t hesitate to follow Jesus wherever He led them. They continued to follow Him even to their own deaths. I wonder how much we fear things above God.
I love the story of Jairus’ daughter. In Luke 8:40-56, we have the story recorded of Jesus returning to the area of Galilee. As soon as they arrive on shore a crowd is waiting on Him. As He gets out of the boat a man named Jairus was waiting for Him. He fell at Jesus’ feet and pleaded with Him to come to his house and heal his 12 year old daughter who was sick. Along the way a huge crowd is pressing on Him. The woman with the issue of blood touches His garment and is made well because of her faith. Jesus pauses in His journey to recognize her. Then as they continue on to Jairus’ house a group meets them and tells them to not hurry because Jairus’ daughter is already dead. Can you imagine the fright on Jairus’ face? I can see him beginning to sob into his hands. He probably falls to his knees thinking that he is too late and he is devastated.
Yet Jesus calmly and quietly probably reaches down and places his hand on Jairus and says, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” Now think about what Jairus is thinking. Is she dead? Is she going to live? He has heard about Jesus. He has heard what everyone says about Him being able to heal the sick, but what if my daughter is dead. Can anyone bring life back to the dead? Jairus must have been in a state of shock as they continue the journey back to his house. When Jesus arrives and sees the mourners He rebukes them and tells them she is not dead just asleep. They laugh at Him because they know what dead is. He goes in with the parents and takes the little girl by the hand and says, “My child, get up.” The Bible says, “Her spirit returned, and she got up at once.” The Bible states that the parents were astonished and were told not to tell what had happened. Yeah right. Could you keep it silent? Or would you tell the world that your child was dead, but Jesus brought her back to life.
We have no fear of death if we believe in Jesus. Jesus has promised us that if we die in the Lord we will be raised to an everlasting life. An eternal life in heaven with Him. He said in John 14 that He is going to prepare a place for us so that we can be where He is and that He is coming back to get us and take us there. If we have the faith that what Jesus said is true we do not need to fear death.
I leave you her with one final work on death. Jesus said it in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Jesus promises us peace today. Not later or next week or after this pandemic is over, but now. We do not have to fear death or any other problem this world offers. Jesus living in our lives through His Holy Spirit give peace and joy that are unexplainable to the common person. Yet it is something that we need to share especially in these times we are living in today.
3. What You Should Fear Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4-5
If fear is an emotion we were given to help us in life, what does the Bible say we should fear. Jesus is recorded in the book of Matthew and Luke telling us what we should fear. Let’s listen to both passages, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28. “I tell you my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you who you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” Luke 12:4-5. I would say that is good and useful words from Jesus.
Does Jesus mean we should walk around worried about Satan and live in fear of what He can do to us? No, I don’t believe that is His meaning. What I believe He means is that if we do not believe and seek to live righteous lives then the Devil will steal our bodies and soul and send them to hell. If we fail to listen to Jesus and give our lives to Him then we are setting ourselves us for damnation and hell. I wonder if we really believe this. We say we do, but how much do we share Jesus seeking to keep those we love, our neighbors and acquaintances from experiencing hell. If we are truly happy to be freed from the place of hell are we not willing for everyone to be free from hell?
We live is a day where people need hope and security. Many are afraid to go out of their homes because of a virus. We need to remind them that there is something much scarier than a virus. If they die and do not know Jesus their world will be worse than getting COVID-19. Jesus said we should fear, withdraw from the one who can send us to hell and gravitate to the one who gives life. Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy, but I came to give you life and give it more abundantly.”
Do not allow the thief, Satan, to steal anyone’s life that you know. Share with the immediate need they have to believe in and accept Jesus to forgive them of their sin. Let’s use our fear appropriately and fear what Jesus tells us to fear. The influence where we lose our soul.
I hope this has helped you in some way today. If you are hearing from God do not be afraid. Allow Him to speak to you and spur you to new and greater things as you leave behind your worldly goods and follow Him.
If you are afraid of dying, place your complete trust in the one who gives you peace that passes understanding. Learn and grow your faith so that you may have a firm and lasting relationship with the God who loves you and gave up everything for you.
And if you want to be afraid of anything, be afraid of what Satan can do to you if you do not trust and do not believe in Jesus. Make it a point today to find that one person in your life that you need to witness to and impress with the good news of Jesus Christ. Don’t allow a virus or anything else to cause you to fear. Find the peace in Jesus.
I love you all and am praying for each of you.
Love God! Love People!!