Scripture: Isaiah 41:10 KJV Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
After deciding that “Fear Not” would be my topic for today’s message, I seemed to recall that I’ve heard this short phrase more than a few times before. Upon doing a little research I found a reference that listed each verse where it specifically says “fear not” or “be not afraid” in verses that could be applied to any reader. The verses are found throughout the Bible all the way from Genesis to Revelation and total more than 110 verses.
Why do you think God’s word, would need to tell us that many times to not be afraid? Probably because when we are born, we know nothing about our world and we must learn it day by day as we live. Some of the things we encounter are much bigger or louder than us and so their sheer size or the volume of their voice may frighten or alarm us.
When I think about scary stuff, it makes me think about a comedy routine by Jim Gaffigan. What do you find scary? For me it’s camping. Some of my friends love to camp. I guess I’m what you might call “indoorsey”. Actually, I think it’s because as I get older, I’ve recognized that I’m not invincible .
When a toddler falls, they immediately start to cry. Then Mommy runs to the child and gives them that magical healing kiss to make it all better and within minutes the child is laughing and playing again.
As we grow into children we often run, jump and play and simultaneously get bumped, bruised, cut, and scraped. As children we often don’t let these little inconveniences slow us down and we heal quickly.
Then there are teenagers . . . and you never know what might happen in the teen years. One of my boys as a teen was into skateboarding was constantly trying to ollie and grind his way down any street or handrail available. He and some of his friends were also into jumping out of windows into bushes for awhile. If it’s not this stuff, then there are sports they play and sports injuries that go along with them. Again, teens seemed to be pretty resilient and don’t let problems slow them down much and they certainly don’t keep them from getting right back out there to do it again.
I did lots of such things as a kid to and have the scars to prove it.
However, now that I’m getting older things are different. I must be getting older because I’ve found myself from time to time getting excited about tea. And I’ve come to realize that if I fall, I’m probably going to break something and it will take a long time to heal. And then my insurance premiums are going to go up and what if my prescription coverage doesn’t cover all of the cost of the pain reliever while I heal. It’s just not worth it. So I’m “indoorsey” now and camping just sounds too scary.
I’m surprised that you can still get people to go camping anymore. I’m not talking about camping in those luxury buses that some people go in. I’m talking about what they call “primitive camping” Do people still do that?
“Hey, you wanna burn a couple of vacation days and go sleep on the ground?” Uhh, Nooo.
“What if I told you can go to the bathroom in the woods standing up?” Uhh, I still don’t wanna go.
“You wake up freezing cold with a rash all over your body.” Alright, I’ll go.
I’ve heard people say that camping was a tradition in their family. It was a tradition in everybody’s family until we came up with THE HOUSE. My parents NEVER took me camping. You know why? Because they loved me.
Many places you have to pay to camp. So essentially, you have to pay to sleep outside. I can see paying to sleep in a hotel. They gotta pay for the heat and the lights and the phone and the TV and those little chocolates they put on your pillow. But why do I have to pay to sleep on the ground?
I probably wouldn’t be so scared of camping if I wasn’t sleeping in a bag. Yeah let’s prepackage ourselves for the serial killer. I can’t get away, can you? I can hop for a little but I’d never be able to get away from someone.
It’s not just serial killers, there are bears out there. I got a pamphlet last time I went that said if a bear approaches you, you’re supposed to play dead. Really? We’re going to rely on my acting skills? Play dead? Who came up with that? Maybe the bears?
“Play dead, cover yourself in honey, place yourself on a large plate, don’t try to run away from us (laugh) . . . I mean the bears.”
I don’t know why we wanna camp where there’s wild animals. That wouldn’t be a selling point for anything else. “Oh yes it’s a beautiful golf course PLUS around the 9th hole there’s a pack of wolves. If they start charging at you, just play through. “
Sorry for that diversion. Let’s get back to my earlier question. Why do you think the Bible which is God’s message to us, would need to tell us that many times to not be afraid?
Being scared and fearful is very common. One reference I found stated that there are two types of fears. One is natural, as humans we are born with the ability to feel fear and we need this in order to identify everyday threats. As we learn about our world, we learn what can harm us and so we might learn to fear something that we believe can harm us. Many of these things may be legitimate things we should fear. For example, it makes sense that we learn that a big, barking dog that is baring it’s teeth, it may harm us.
The second type of fear occurs when we’re exposed to other people or certain overwhelming experiences in our lives that may inflate or exaggerate our sense of fear. This type of fear is irrational fear and are sometimes called phobias. This type of fear can vary widely from person to person. Some people will always be more fearful than others.
A certain amount of fear has always been ingrained in our everyday lives. As children, we’re told not to let the bed bugs bite, or to check under the bed for the boogie man. As adults, we grow up with horror legends like Jason, Freddy Krueger, Jack the Ripper, and Bloody Mary. So any time you see a dark basement, or a moving shadow in an alley, that’s when our fears remind us of legends and movies and shows that have reinforced this feeling of unpredictable threats that may come to get you when you least expect it.
Sometimes people also develop phobias that may seem strange to others who don’t share the same fear. Here’s a list of some common phobias:
Arachnophobia – fear of spiders
Acrophobia – Fear of heights
Social phobia – fear of being misjudged or misunderstood in social situations
Claustrophobia – the fear being enclosed in small spaces.
Aerophobia – The fear of flying
Agoraphobia: the fear of leaving home or being in a public place where you may not be able to escape
Brontophobia: the fear of thunderstorms
Necrophobia: the fear of death
Mysophobia: the fear of germs
Ophidiophobia: the fear of snakes. I think I have this one. I grew up in a very rural area next to a mountain and a creek so we always saw a lot of snakes around. I hate snakes. Snakes are slithery and sneaky. They hide on the ground and then they sneak up and bite you.
It’s always weird to me that some people wanna have a pet snake when there’s all those fluffy options. “Hey do you want this puppy? It’s a rescue. It wants to be your best friend, or do you want the cold blooded reptile . . . that’s banging its head against the glass. I think it’s looking at you! It’s great at playing hide and seek because as long as you have body heat, it’ll find you. Oh and one other thing, it’s been the symbol for evil since the beginning of time. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a bit of a red flag.
And there are lots more including some that seem very strange to me but represent legitimate fears to others. Here are a few that I found:
Fear of the color yellow
Fear of cheese
Fear of falling asleep
Fear of clowns
Fear of the naval or bellybutton
Fear of being without mobile phone coverage
Fear of rain
Fear of the Pope
Fear of the number 13
Irrational fears such as these are things that we probably shouldn’t fear and yet sometimes we fear them anyway. Please understand that I am in no way making light of such fears. For an individual who has a fear, it is as real to that person as is anything else in their life.
Sometimes we fear other things. Do any of these things ever cause you to be afraid or cause you to worry?
Loss of a job, death, aging parents, economy, retirement, terrorism, making mistakes in raising your kids, having enough money to pay the bills, fear of kids getting involved with drugs or alcohol or getting involved with the wrong crowd or dating the wrong person, fear of love, fear of commitment, fear of cancer or other serious diseases, etc.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, there are people whose physical makeup predisposes them to chronic anxiety, unrelated to threat. They worry about everything, no matter how unreal the perceived threat seems to be. They may have what is known as a Generalized Anxiety Disorder. A generalized anxiety disorder causes significant distress and impairment in your daily life. You continually anticipate bad things happening to you that can range from small things liked missing a deadline at work to big things like losing everyone you love.
Whenever we fear or worry about something, whether it poses a real threat, whether it is completely irrational, or whether it is due to a generalized anxiety disorder, it triggers certain physical and psychological defense mechanisms that occur in our body. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the “fight or flight response”. Fight or flight describes the behavior of someone when they are threatened–either hanging around and fighting, or taking off in order to escape danger. There may also be other physical/psychological reactions to fear ranging from simple anxiety to sweating and shaking all the way up to panic attacks and a paralyzing fear where a person can be so afraid that they are immobilized and freeze and can’t seem to do anything.
With all of these fears, both real and irrational, both legitimate physical threats, and those that are worries about some possible future circumstance, fear can make our lives very difficult. So how do we keep it together to deal with fear in this complex world in which we live?
In some cases, counseling can help us understand our fears and face them. In some cases, such as in generalized anxiety disorder, medication may help. However, in all cases I believe that God can help. So let’s take a look at what we can learn about fear and how to deal with it from what the Bible says about it.
Some of the Biblical references when humans were told to “fear not” came during a time when there was interaction between humans and heavenly beings.
Luke 1:30 KJV – And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God.
Matthew 1:20 KJV – But while he thought on these things, behold , the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying , Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
Luke 2:10 KJV – And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold , I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
Matthew 28:5 KJV – And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
I’ve never personally seen an angel. I can only imagine what it must have been like for those mentioned in these four verses. These were humble people who lived in a time when they knew nothing that could fly other than the birds. To go from that basic view of the world to seeing something not of this world must have been frightening.
So what do angels look like and what names are they given? Most angels have the appearance and form of a man. Most of them have wings. Some are larger than life. Others have multiple faces that look different from different angles. Some angels are invisible, yet their presence is felt and their voice is heard. Some angels are called cherubim. I’d like to read you a description found in Ezekiel. You will discover that these angels look nothing at all like cute, chubby babies with wings as they are sometimes depicted in Art.
4 I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north—an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal,5 and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human, 6 but each of them had four faces and four wings. 7 Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. 8 Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. All four of them had faces and wings, 9 and the wings of one touched the wings of another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved.
10 Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a human being, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. 11 Such were their faces. They each had two wingsspreading out upward, each wing touching that of the creature on either side; and each had two other wings covering its body. 12 Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went. 13 The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. 14 The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning.
Still another type of angel is the arcangel. Archangels are thought to be the highest degree of the angelic realm. Archangels are the chief angels, and you have probably heard of some of them such as Michael and Gabriel. There is a hierarchy in the angelic realm, and the archangels are at the top, the generals over the ranks. And among these, Michael is thought to be the top gun, the chief of chiefs. Michael is the great warrior and defender of the good. Gabriel appears in many places in scripture and is the announcing angel. Gabriel is the one commissioned to announce major historical events. The most well known of these is Gabriel’s role in revealing to Mary of Nazareth that she will become pregnant and bear the son of God.
If this is what angels are like, it’s no wonder Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, and the women at the tomb were told to “fear not”. Having never experienced anything like this in our world, it would undoubtedly have been frightening to see such a being. Additionally, in the case of Mary at least, when you think about a young woman of perhaps 12 or 13 being told that she was going to be with child, the words spoken by the Angels could also have been cause for fear. Yet in these situations, these people were told to “fear not.”
In some of the Biblical references when people were told to “fear not” it came in a time when there was something big going on.
Genesis 46:3 KJV – And he said , I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:
Deuteronomy 1:21 KJV – Behold , the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged .
There was something big going on and it was a legitimate threat, and yet God said, “fear not” and provided reassurance that He was there.
Finally, some of the Biblical references provide accounts of one person saying to others “fear not” or “be not afraid” or God talking through the prophets.
Psalm 23:4 KJV – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Psalm 27:1 KJV – The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear ? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid ?
Isaiah 41:10 KJV – Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed ; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
Over and over and over again, God tells us not to be afraid. Fear not. He means it, and yet, we assume it’s ok to live with fear. Maybe that’s because we call it by another name such as stress, worry, anxiety, embarrassment, etc. We think it’s ok to worry because we think it shows how much we care about something or someone. Afterall, what kind of parent would not worry about their kids? This is still fear no matter what we call it.
But God says “fear not”. He wants us to trust in Him completely, even for our kids. Even for our jobs, our plans, our walk home in the dark. There is no situation that we can justify NOT trusting in God. He says to “fear not” PERIOD, exclamation mark!
In return for our complete trust, God promises to take care of us. According to Psalm 91 we live under His loving protection. This chapter tells us:
You will live under the shadow of the Almighty.
He will be a fortress to you.
He will deliver you from traps set before you.
He will deliver you from death.
He will protect you like a mother bird covering you with His wings.
His truth will be your armor.
You will not be afraid of anything in the night or anything that can happen in the day.
People may fall all around you, but you will be safe.
He will give His angels charge over you.
No plague of sickness will come into your house.
You could step on a lion or cobra and not be harmed.
He will be with you in times of trouble and help you through.
What a wonderful promise. Do you want to continue to live in fear or would you rather claim God’s promise? You’ve heard God’s word before so you must know in your heart that God is true and that He will do what He says. If you could learn to live with complete trust AND a complete lack of fear, IMAGINE what your life would be like. Imagine being unafraid to do anything the Lord leads you to do, unafraid to speak up, unafraid to face any situation. If God is literally your shield, nothing can harm you.
Maybe it is time for you to let go of your fear, your stress, and your worry. Maybe it’s time to stop believing the lies that make you afraid of so many things so that you can begin to live in relaxed peace. You ARE completely safe in God! Trust Him! He will not let you down. Let us pray.
Musings of a Minister’s Wife, http://musingsofaministerswife.com/2012/08/so-how-many-times-is-fear-not-actually-in-the-bible/
What Does the Bible Say About Angels? http://christianity.about.com/od/whatdoesthebiblesay/a/angelsbible_4.htm
Common Phobias: Why Do People Get Scared? http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/10/31/common-phobias-why-are-people-scared_n_2045627.html
Are You Living With Chronic Worry and Fear? http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/get-hardy/201208/are-you-living-chronic-worry-and-fear
Imagine Your Life If You Were Not Afraid Of Anything–Anything! http://dianasymons.com/faith-2/imagine-life-afraid-anything-anything/