Monday, February 27, 2012

Fear

This is a rather long post, but I got involved the other day with a friend whose life is controlled by fear....and he is a Christian. This just shouldn't be.
Franklin Roosevelt is quoted having said in a famous radio broadcast, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” And although that is a wonderful platitude that is meant to inspire courage and trust in a time that our country was facing a great crisis, it really means nothing.
We all have fear at some point in our lives, and if we don’t we are stupid. There is nothing wrong with having fear, but it is knowing what to do in times of fear that is important. Anyone who tells you that they have never been afraid has spent their entire life in a very sheltered condition, and they are afraid to leave that place of shelter….so they know fear too!
Peter the Apostle was a man who for the most part didn’t have much fear. If he had a pickup truck he probably would have had one of those stickers in the back window that said, “NO FEAR” Peter was a man who also was, to say the least, a bit impetuous. We all remember the story of Jesus walking on the sea;
Mt 14:25-31
25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.
26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear.
27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid."
28 And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."
29 So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!"
31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
Like I said, Peter was an impetuous guy. But let’s look at the entire scene. It was the 4th watch of the night. That means it was somewhere between 3 and 6 AM. It was dark and they were in a wind tossed sea and though it doesn’t show it in these selected verses just before this, it says that the wind was contrary, which means that it was against them.
Verse 30 says that the wind was “boisterous” and the word used here is a word that means very powerful or mighty. So here’s a bunch of guys in a fishing boat in a huge lake in the middle of the night and a very powerful wind is tossing their boat around while they are trying to sail across the big lake (the sea of Galilee) to the other side. It doesn’t say it, but there must have been a moon, for they were able to see Jesus.
And when they did see Him, they became afraid. Imagine that. Here they are in the middle of the night on a lake and someone comes toward you walking on the water. Not something you see every day. Fear struck them and I imagine their skin was crawling and there was nowhere to run. At least if they were on land, they could all take off, but not in the water.
Now Jesus knew that they were afraid, otherwise He wouldn’t have said, “Don’t be afraid.” But the word that is written that is interpreted, “be of good cheer” is a word that implies comfort, like a mother comforting a child. “It’s OK sweetie, everything is alright.” There is another word that is very close to this one that means “to exercise courage” but this one means to have courage, don’t be afraid and is just a word conveying comfort. And then He uses the familiar phrase ego emi, which can mean “I am or I exist or it is I”. Remember, that’s the phrase that Jesus used when the Pharisees all wanted to stone Him.
Anyway, back to the boat. It has always struck me as strange that Peter said, “If it’s you, Lord, just tell me to come and I’ll come.” I know that John was in the boat that night. And He wrote later to “test the spirits, whether they are of God.” (John 4:1) I wonder if this is what Peter was doing. Anyway Peter asked and Jesus invited. This may have been Peter the impetuous or just Peter waiting to exercise his faith. Because when Jesus did say, “Come” and nothing more, Peter got out of the boat. Now we hear much about how he sank, but always remember that Peter was the only one who stepped out of the boat. To have faith like that, to trust in anyone to do what we would normally see as impossible is to overcome fear. Because the best way to remove fear is to have trust in someone who you know will protect you.
Fear can overcome our faith and in so very many situations. We as humans can have so many fears. Fear of being alone, fear of death, fear of rejection, fear of being misunderstood, fear of pain, not having financial security, failure, the unknown, not knowing God’s will or even knowing God’s will, man, or even scarier…woman. And the scariest thing of all…..Relationships.
Some people have one of these fears. Some have many. To have even one would be difficult, but to have a bunch of these and to live within the confines of these kinds of prisons is to say the least, horrible. I can guarantee that God does not want us to live like that.
So how do we overcome fear? Perhaps it would be easier to discuss how we manage to invite fear into our lives. Now please understand that fear is not altogether a bad thing. God built it into our very being so that we would become cautious. If you’re out walking in a dangerous place, it’s a good thing to be cautious. A little fear will contribute to that caution. Be safe. But if your fear makes you curl up in a ball and lie in the ground then your fear has overcome you.
We all have fear in our lives and that's alright. Fear is nothing of which we should be ashamed. It is how we handle that fear that is important.There are so many things in this world that may spawn fear, but it is up to us to discover the truth of who is in control. And that is the key. This key has a few different notches in it that all work together to open the lock that is held together by fear.
The first is truth. Truth is not whatever you think it might be, not what you think it is. Truth is what it is. Jesus was quite clear and spoke with not the slightest trace of ambiguity when He said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” He is the truth and there can only be one truth. We must never lose sight of that.
The second notch is faith. It’s that two edged sword of which I have spoken so often. Not merely believing in that which is not seen but making that unseen believable by your actions and deeds. When people can see Jesus in you they can see Jesus. When you know the truth, your faith is made clear in your life.
And the last notch is trust. We must learn to trust the one who has brought us the truth. And if you truly have faith, if you really own faith in that truth then your trust will be wholeheartedly in Him. It’s really easy to speak this, but to know that the truth is in your heart can only come to light by how that truth is revealed in you. It could be that if you have fear operating in your life, then you really don’t trust in God. Your faith is not where it needs to be because the truth you understand is not the truth that Christ has revealed.
Fear is a tool of the devil. It is used by him to keep you from operating at the fullness in which God desires you to operate. It is meant to keep you from being filled with the Holy Spirit and developing fully your relationship with God. It used by the enemy to make you believe a lie.
God woulld prefer to be involved in helping you overcome your fear, but we have to have a relationship with Him in order to have that happen. Our relationship with God must begin when we wake up and when we have that first cup of coffee and when we are going to work, and when we are doing the most enjoyable things we can do. He wants to share with us those times as well as the times of difficulty and suffering and pain and fear. He wants to be involved in our lives in a way that will give us the fullness of whom He is, in a way that will give us the fullness of who we can become, and it can only happen when we lose our fear due to our relationship with Him.
You have His word on it.

2 comments:

L E Cornett said...

Very good my friend. I love this story about Peter walking on the water. As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus he was okay, but when he looked around at the situation he was in, namely a storm with waves breaking on his feet. He began to sink, he was over taken by Fear. His biggest mistake was to get his eyes off of Jesus and on to his fears.

Unknown said...

Fear can strangle and paralyze. The only way out is to keep looking toward Jesus. Thanks for doing such a great job of reminding me what fear can do to us. I'm sure to refer back to what you have written when I need a little "pep talk." God bless you.

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