Peninsula Community Church
March 31, 2019
Philippians 4:4-6 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
I wanted to take some time this morning to look at the power of fear. I am sure that we have all experienced overwhelming fear and anxiety at some point in our life. We may have experienced it for different reasons and in different ways, but we have all experienced it at some point. As a child I walked in fear because my step father would come home in a drunken stupor. He was angry at the world and he tended to take that anger out on myself and my mother. I remember that so many times I would cower in my room hoping that he would just leave me alone. Because of my situation at home, I would make up stories about my home life at school and walked in fear that someone would find out the truth. So as a child, I had fear at home and I had a fear that I would be found out and proven not to be the person I said I was.
In my adult years, there are still times where I am driven by fear and anxiety. Paying bills, medical reports, issues that arise in my daily life, and looking into the future can drive me to fear rather than faith. In fact, as I have grown in the Lord most often my fear is a direct result of not trusting God and of not fully understanding His love for me. Conversely, my fear is diminished when I see God for who He is and I trust Him without wavering.
In Scripture one of the most popular phrases and word choices is the phrase “Do not fear.” It does not appear 365 times as some have suggested, but it is a critically important phrase that needs our attention. The reasoning this is critical is that Jesus knew that when we walk in fear, we allow circumstances, events, and/or thoughts to control us. That was never the plan of God. He wanted to help us overcome fear and live a fearless life in Him. Jesus did not want us to be controlled or manipulated by fear, because He recognized that fear holds us back. It will get the best of us. Fear paralyzes us. Fear feeds our doubt. Fear kills the plans of God within us. You see what we fear will control us. It will bind us and it will cause us to do things that we never intended to do. To be honest, sometimes these fears are very real and based in the problems around us. Sometimes our fears are perceived and not based in reality. We are overcome with fear without any reason or basis for that fear.
Now while fear is a powerful force to be reckoned with, we need to consider the antidote to fear. As a noun an antidote is something that counteracts or neutralizes an unpleasant feeling or situation. As a verb an antidote means to counteract or cancel. I propose that there are two antidotes to fear. The first is to trust God. When we trust God fear is counteracted and fear is cancelled. The second antidote is we must walk in His love. We do not deserve His love nor do we work for it. It is a precious gift given to us to cancel and counteract the fear that is in us. For today we will focus primarily on trust.
I love the stories of the disciples in the New Testament. Their stories show us their failures and shortcomings. They also show us how Christ accepted the disciples and loved them in spite of what they had done. When it comes to fear, we have one of those stories in Matthew 8:23-27 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
Notice something in this story. Jesus was with them and yet they still faced anxiety and fear. They were with Jesus. He was in the boat with them. He was right there, and yet they succumbed to the fear of the storm. The problem was that they were more focused on the storm than they were on Jesus. They allowed the storm to control their emotions rather than the One who was in their presence.
Here is the reality for us. When we focus on the storm and the issues in our life more than we do Jesus, we will succumb to fear and anxiety. Notice Jesus’ response when they woke Him up. “Why are you afraid?” In other words, do you not trust me? Do you not know that we are headed to the other side and we will make it. When Jesus is with us and we succumb to fear most often we have failed to trust God to work everything out for His will and purpose in our life. A lack of trust brings fear and anxiety to the forefront of our life. Being in His presence was not enough, they had to acknowledge that Jesus was their protector. They had to trust Him.
I love the words of Jeremiah 17:5-9. Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
How powerful is that? Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength. I would suggest that when we put more faith in anything rather than God fear and anxiety is created. I would also suggest that whatever we fear, we give power to it to control us and manipulate us. Jeremiah goes on to tell us that the man who trusts the Lord will be like a tree planted by the water. Notice the wording here, the one who trusts in the Lord is not immune from problems, but when the heat comes and there is a drought, they will not fear.
In other words, when one trusts God, they do not have to fear when problems come. God will make a way. He will protect and guard them. Notice too that the one who trusts in the Lord will not be anxious in the year of drought. When we feel we lack the daily things we need: money, health, less conflict, less car problems, and so on, we do not have to be anxious. God has it and God is in control.
Now back to our story. Jesus was right there with them and yet they were filled with fear and anxiety. They trusted the storm more than they trusted Jesus. They allowed the storm to dictate how they would respond to the problem. Now before we judge too harshly, we tend to do the same thing. When problems come and trials hit us we tend to allow those things to control us. The question for us is do we trust Jesus with everything in our life or do we get anxious when the storms blow in? Do we allow the storms to overtake us to the point that we miss Jesus, when He is right there with us all along? The disciples were right there with Jesus and yet they missed Him. They should have trusted Him, but instead they became fearful.
But how do we overcome fear? How do we break the power of fear and take the antidote of trust? How do we learn to trust Him more? To overcome fear we must trust His character. We must trust His control. We must trust His care for us. We must realize that God does not fail us. Yes, we will encounter difficulty, but we must remember that God has our best interest in mind. Trusting God is simply believing that He loves you and knowing He is good, He has the power to help you, and He wants to help you.
One way to build trust is to look back to see where God has helped us before. By being reminded of past victories, we are more apt to remember that God is in control and that He is guiding our paths. I love the times in the Old testament where the children of Israel rehearsed and gave testimony to the things that God had done for them. They were reminded of His grace and His mercy. Remembering what He had done increased their faith and encouraged them to continue moving forward.
To overcome fear we must not trust ourselves. To trust ourselves is a dangerous move because as we found in Jeremiah we will not withstand the drought that will come into our life. In Proverbs 3:5-6 we are reminded what this trust means. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
To overcome fear we must be students of God’s Word. As we read God’s word we are encouraged to trust God. Allow His word to penetrate your heart. Memorize His word so that when you feel fear you can counter that fear through the power of His word.
To overcome fear we must be people of prayer. As we pray, trust is built as we give God our problems each and every day. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7). Prayer brings us to that place of humility and allows us to cast all of our anxiety. As a camel rolls the burdens off of his back so we too should roll the burdens we have onto Jesus, because He cares for us.
So we can trust God and that trust will alleviate most of the fear we experience. It does not make it easy but it makes it possible.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.
Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom