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What is Fear?
February 7th 2016 - Benjamin Robinson
Good Morning Welcome to Valley View Community Church, my name is Ben Robinson, and my wife and I run a prayer ministry school here at the church, we are continuing our series called Fear not, here this morning.
Last week we looked at Psalms 23, and Bruce talked about how we do not have to be afraid because Jesus is with us even through the most difficult circumstances that we go through in life.
One of the thinks that stood out to me that Bruce was explaining last week was the fact that sheep can not lay down and sleep unless they are free from Fear.
That really sent me back to a story that happened one night when I was in college. You see I had this roommate, and for our purposes here today we will call him Hermmy Noodles. We did not know each other very well when we first started to room together, and up until this point I thought I was a very tough guy, who would be brave under any circumstances but about two weeks into rooming with Hermmy Noodles that I learn something important about fear!
One Night My oversized view, of my extreme bravery, and courage came crashing back to earth, when Hermmy and I where sleeping in our dorm room. You see, Hermmy had sleep apnea but did not know it, and when he would go to sleep, he would stop breathing. His body would begin to wake its self up, and then he would begin to breathe again. But on occasion, he would not wake up right away, and his mind would to try and wake him up through a dream, where a person was strangling him in his bed!
So, it was the second week that we were rooming together, and it was about three in the morning and suddenly, breaking the silence of our dorm room, came this blood curdling scream, that just made ever hair on my entire body stand straight up!
Instead of jumping up and running to rescue my roommate from his fictitious attacker, I pulled the covers over my head and thought, “Oh, no!”, “Hermmy, is being killed and I am next!” and I began shaking like a leaf because I was scared out of my mind! Finally, Hermmy, stopped screaming and turned on the lights and was like, “Oh, sorry, I do that every once and a while!” I was like, “Oh, no big deal. You know, if someone was really attacking you, I would have totally stopped them, right?”
Of course that was a total lie! I was so scared I just laid in bed all night staring at the sealing thinking about how big of a coward I had just been and what would happen if someone did try and strangle my roommate in his sleep. But Isn’t that exactly what fear can do to us?! It robs us of sleep while we worry about things that may never actually happen! As if Life its self was one big accident and no one was in change of the chaos!
Over the course of my life there have been so many times were I have felt like fear has almost been observing me, learning my weaknesses and uses them against me! Fear is almost diabolical in its efficiency in how it has taken me from some of my best moments in life straight into some of my worst. Which for me begs the question, what is it! What is Fear? And why does it have such a crippling effect on my life? And how do I overcome it? Those are the questions that I would like us to begin to wrestle with this morning, so that we can start to see clearly what we are dealing with when it comes to fear!
Let dive in with the first question, what is Fear? In order to answer that question, we must look at the first time fear is mentioned in the Bible, which is in Genesis 3:1. Let’s turn there and read it together. In the bibles we pass out it is on page 2!
1 Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. 3 But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “In fact, God knows that when] you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
10 And he said, “I heard You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”
It was not until Adam and Eve sinned that fear entered into the world. That is why fear is so very closely related to sin! There was no fear before sin entered into the equation. One of the main problems when it comes to dealing with fear that it is not very well understood. People have a tendency to think that it as, “just an emotion”, when in reality it is a lot more than that.
It is a lot like love in the way that our culture has really robbed it of it’s true meaning. Our world has taken Fear and tried to make it just a feeling or an emotion that can be dealt with through denial, or blaming someone else or just focusing our selves overcoming the problem. All of that is the equivalent of Adam and Eve fashioning leaves in order to cover up the real issue. It is never going to work!
The reason it is never going to work is that fear, simply put, is a symptom of the disease of sin that exists within us. It is connected to sin that exists in our hearts and it draws strength from the shame that results from that same sin.
That is why right after sin enters into the world, and into the hearts of Adam and Eve, the fruit of that sin, was fear. In other words, fear is the aroma of the rot that exists in our hearts because of sin. I really like the imagery of that second definition because it really helps me picture what is really going on in my life when I am experiencing fear!
The second question I want to touch on is: Why does fear have such a crippling effect on my life? There are a lot of reasons for this! When I was thinking about this question and reading through the different passages of scripture that have to do with fear. I wrote down a list of eleven reasons before is stopped and I’m sure there are more. And I am fully aware that we could not discuss all of them here this morning, Although I want to! Believe me! but I have picked three that we are going to briefly discuss, which can be seen in our picture of Genesis here this morning.
The first reason is that Fear at it root, is an issue of trust! God created us with needs, and that makes relationships with Him and other people essential to our lives, and it is in the context of those relationship that love is expressed. First John 4:8 tells us “God is Love”; which means that we have a built in capacity to relate to him because He has always intended to be the one to meet our needs! But being born into a world that is drowning in sin, our needs are over looked by those closest to us, and our hearts begin to struggle to trust others and especially God. So in order to protect ourselves, we tell ourselves that, “I cannot trust what God says”, “I must provide for my own needs.” In an attempt to do just that, we grab at habit and behaviors that only lead to regret and shame which then feeds our fear!
We see a picture of this happening in the garden, where the serpent is planting a seed of doubt in Adam and Eve, tempting them to call into question whether or not they can trust God! And as soon they sin, it hides Gods true character from them causing them to fear Him.
It is this fear, derived from doubt in God’s true character, where we see the second reason that fear has a crippling effect on our lives! And it is because fear drives us from the presence of God. We see this in the Garden, when God came to walk with his Adam and Eve and they ran from his presence and hid. This is a major problem because again, they were created for relationship with Him, just as we have been! He made us as vessels of His love and when we run from his presence and from His purpose for which we were created we begin to die. Because Fear to our spirit acts like hunger pains do, to our body. It grows, the longer our spirits do not have the one thing that it needs to survive, which is the presence of God!
This is why it is true that the measure of fear you have in your life is a measurement of the distance that exists in the relationship between you and God. This is true, because it is in relationship with Him that, our spirits are truly satisfied and feel safe and fulfilled instead of slowly dying at a distance from our God.
It really struck me the other day when I was reading Matthew 19 which describes Jesus’ rebuke of His disciples for keeping the children from running to Him. Jesus said "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Those children must have really ministered to Jesus heart who must have been feeling the pain of the first time His children did not come running to him in the Garden of Eden but instead hide themselves because they were afraid of what his response was going to be to their sin! It must be the same pain He feels when we run from his presence today, instead of repenting and turning to him and receiving the forgiveness that His son purchased for us on the cross!
The third reason fear has such a crippling effect on our lives is that it prevents us from stepping into our God given identities! Sin instantly causes us to question our worth or our value, and causes us to believe that we no longer deserve the identities that God gave us! In the fall we talked a lot about identity and the fact that at the core of our identities is the fact that we are children of God! Adam and Eve were children of God! Some people, because of sin, out right reject their God given identity and go off and try and find it elsewhere.
Other people, fear that they must now earn back their identity that was stolen by the enemy through sin. People feel like they have to figure it out on their own, before God comes to walk with them in the Garden. So they fashion leaves together like clothes to try and cover their own sin and make themselves right before God to cover their shame!
The reality is that fear is the foundation of all the different world religions. It’s almost as if I can hear the serpent saying, “Oh, did those leaves not work? Let’s try the 8-fold path of the Buddha, or the five pillars of Islam, or maybe all the rules and traditions of the church, or any other of the works based religion! Let’s try anything! Anything, but a relationship with Jesus, who died and rose again so that you would not have to earn back your God given identity’s but rather have it restored in relationship with Jesus!”
Satan wants us trapped, trying to earn what God has freely given us, it makes us less effective in this world has his Children. There is a huge difference between a child of God serving because he knows he is loved, and a servant of God trying to earn the love of God so he can one day become a child! It might not sound like a big difference between those two but there it is, because the first one serves from the favor of God, while the second serves for the favor of God! Which one do you think feels tired and burned out, and struggles to see what the Lord is doing in their life and in their community? And which one doesn’t struggle with those things? Which one struggles to modify behavior and which one lives out of a heart transformed by the power of grace and truth?
The last question I want to address this morning is this how do we overcome fear? I am not going to be able to fully answer this question here this morning and we have already started to address it in this series, and will continue to do so over the next couple of weeks but, I do want to leave you with one thought about over coming fear here this morning, and that thought comes from 2 Timothy 1:7, which is written on the wall over there somewhere. It reads like this,
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.
Fear entered the world through sin, a sin that was the result of the temptation of Satan, and as such, fear is the fruit of a spirit that is hostile to God and wants death for God’s children. But Timothy indicates in this verse that God has given us a very different Spirit, that works in our lives, and that Spirit has very different fruit, other than fear, that should be being produced in our lives, and that is the Holy Spirit! Who lives inside of our hearts and transforms our lives and is the fulfillment of the promise that God made to us, to never leave us nor forsake us! And that he would be with us through the difficult times in life as Bruce talked about last week, in Psalm 23. It is his presence and power in our lives that is foundational to us overcoming fear. And any answer or solution to fear in our lives must starts with the Holy Spirit!
When we are struggling with fear, that is the fruit of a very different spirit at work with our hearts! That being said I don’t want anyone to feel shame for the fact that they might struggle with fear! Because I know I do! At times in my life I have struggled immensely with fear. Like this past summer when I lost my job, and I had three children and a wife whom I love deeply, and I could not help but throw my hands up and say, “Why! Don’t you love them as much as I do?” The truth is I did not sleep well through that circumstance in my life! I shook like a leaf through it! I really don’t want to ever go through that again! But I will tell you that it revealed areas of my heart that were not fully turned over to Jesus!
Areas where I was still relying on my own strength because I had never gone through anything like that before. The fear that I experienced truly was the aroma of the rot that existed in my heart! One night, I had been doing odd jobs here and there, while at the same time, watching your credit card bill sky rocket! My wife and I were in the car and I was tired and frustrated, and began to tell Charity how I was feeling! Which was alone! Scared! And Ashamed! And I really wanted that to be anyone else’s fault but mine! Charity looked at me and said, “You know nothing you can do will help our hopeless situation!” I was stunned and kind of hurt. I mean very hurt! But she was right. And I was hurt because it cut straight to the heart of the problem! I did not trust God to take care of my family.
When the truth was the Lord had already been working and had laid it on the heart of someone we barely knew, at that point, to call me that same night, and offer me a job! It wasn’t until a couple of months later when I was praying and I just felt like the Lord was saying to my heart, “Ben, I love you more than you know!” and I just sat there thinking about that for a few minutes and then suddenly it felt like he was saying, “And I love them more than you know also!” meaning my family! And I just started to cry because I know my heart needed to hear that from Him! and I knew I needed to repent for my attitude toward Him through that whole situation!
Now looking back, I would not trade the experience for anything because it brought me into a deeper more intimate relationship with my savior! And I would not trade that for anything in the world. But what I needed to see was that the measure of fear that existed in my life last summer was a measurement of the distance that existed between me and my savior, and that is not ok! It’s not ok to Him, and it cannot be ok for us! The only way for that distance to close, is for the things that stand between us and Him to be removed! I know I am not capable of doing it! I need the grace and forgiveness of Jesus to remove the barriers between me and my father! That can only happen when we repent and bring all the hurt and pain that we have been holding onto and lay it at His feet.
We are about to go into a time of communion! This is a wonderful time to enter into prayer and repent of what is standing between you and God. Also when the gathering is over the prayer team will be up here ready to pray with you and help you unburden yourself, at Jesus feet, of all the pain that your heart is holding onto! Please do not leave with those burdens.
-let’s close in prayer!