Do Not Be Afraid!

Bible Book: Genesis  46 : 1-3
Subject: Fear; Trusting God; Faith

Introduction

Tonight’s message deals with a subject that all of us face from time to time, and one that can cause great harm to us in our Christian lives. The subject is fear, and fear can make us do some strange things. There was a man who walked into a bank to pull off a robbery. He had never done anything like that before, so he was extremely nervous about the whole thing. He walked up to the counter, handed the teller a note and a bag, with the note informing her that she was to place all the money in the bag. She glanced up at him with a questioning look. The thief, in his nervousness, said, “Lady, don’t stick with me, this is a mess up!” Well, to be certain he meant to say, “Don’t mess with me, this is a stick up.” When we are fearful we cannot think clearly, act properly, or speak correctly.

For the Christian, the subject of fear is important, and we know this because we are instructed in the Bible again and again to “fear not.” There is no need for such a repetitive directive from God on this matter unless it is serious and can keep us from living in the freedom which Jesus purchased for us at Calvary.

There are many types of fear. Actually, read any book on psychology and you will find hundreds of fear related conditions. Think about a few of these:

There is Mysophobia, which is the fear of "dirt." Not many little boys have that problem.

Then, there is Nyclophobia, which relates to the fear of "darkness."

Necrophobia is the fear of the "dead."

Taxophobia is fear of being "buried alive."

Triskaidekaphobia is fear of the "number 13." There are many buildings in the world that do not have a thirteenth floor because of the worldwide fear of that number.

Xenophobia is fear of "strangers," while pathophobia is the fear of “germs.”

Ergophobia relates to the fear of “work.” I met some people with that problem.

Phobophobia is actually the fear of “being afraid.”

I think some Baptists must have something called Ecclesiastophobia, which to me means they are afraid of “attending church services.” Actually, I just made that one up on my own!

God says a lot about fear in the Bible – both good and bad fear. It is true that fear can be a good thing, for the Bible tells us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Also, we teach our children to be cautious around strangers, to be wary of snakes and to be careful choosing friends. When we discipline a child we are actually using fear as a tool to help the child learn right from wrong and the consequences of doing that which is not appropriate. So, I don’t want to give fear a bad rap in this message, but there is a fear that is harmful to us and God forbids it in our lives.

I read somewhere about one lady who was afraid to marry. She was so fearful of failure that she remained single her entire life. On her tombstone, when she died, her friends had the following words carved:

“Here lies the bones of Nancy Jones,

She lived an old maid,

She died an old maid,

No hits, no runs, no errors!”

In our text tonight we note that Jacob feared to go down to Egypt. He had everything packed and was ready to leave, but he was still fearful. Waiting for him in Egypt was his own son Joseph, who was prime minister of the entire nation of Egypt, but Jacob was still afraid. He did not know what he might face once he arrived in that foreign land. Falling on his face, he prayed to God and he got his answer. God was with Him and God was already at work in Egypt! Jacob's fear was unfounded and it was robbing him of the peace God had prepared for him.

We must not allow fear to keep us from walking the path God has for us. Like Jacob, we must discover the way to enjoy God’s blessings and that means learning how to rid our lives of fear. You see, fear can keep us from our fullest potential in life and may deny us many wonderful blessings. So let us tonight determine not to live in fear but with love, power and a sound mind. Note three important truths about fear...

I. The Oppression of Fear

Fear is a widespread problem in society and it has been from the beginning when Adam and Eve first sinned against God. After Adam sinned, he tried to hide in the garden from the presence of the Lord. Up until this time, Adam had walked with God in the cool of the day and lived totally free of anxiety.  But, after his sin of eating fruit from the forbidden tree his entire life changed.

It is laughable to see Adam crouched down behind some shrubs in the Garden of Eden, thinking that the bushes were capable of keeping God from seeing him. How does one hide from the eyes of God? It cannot be done! In 2 Chronicles 16:9a we read, "For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth..." Adam looked a bit foolish squatting down among the shrubs thinking that God was not going to see Him, but then many of us try to do that at times. No, we don't hide among the bushes but we do avoid being honest with God and ourselves about the sin we have committed.

From the moment Adam sinned, fear became a problem for every generation of humans to follow. The Bible teaches us that we were conceived in sin and everyone of us has sinned against God. No one can say that he or she has lived without violating God's Law (Romans 3:23).

I read something interesting in Reader's Digest, though I am not sure about the veracity of the statement or whether it is still true to this day. It seems that the United States Navy decided not launch any new ship on Friday. Why? Apparently, many years ago, the British Navy launched a new ship on a Friday, named Friday with a captain named Friday. It sank soon afterwards and was never heard from again. So, our Naval leaders became fearful, superstitious if you please, about launching ships on Friday. Now think about that for a moment. Do you really think the ship being launched on Friday, with the moniker Friday and a captain named Friday, had anything to do with the ship sinking?

As believers in Jesus Christ we are to live in faith, not fear. Perfect love casts out fear, we are told, and certainly we have perfect love from our Savior Jesus Christ. If we return perfect love to Him, we have no reason to fear. God’s love assures us that we can trust Him.

Why does God tell us repeatedly not to fear? Fear is oppressive because…

A. Fear Harms Your Body

Fear can actually cause us to be weak, sick and incompetent. There are many diseases that are directly and indirectly related to fear and anxiety. Harvard Health Publications report the following:

"Anxiety is a reaction to stress that has both psychological and physical features. The feeling is thought to arise in the amygdala, a brain region that governs many intense emotional responses. As neurotransmitters carry the impulse to the sympathetic nervous system, heart and breathing rates increase, muscles tense, and blood flow is diverted from the abdominal organs to the brain. In the short term, anxiety prepares us to confront a crisis by putting the body on alert. But its physical effects can be counterproductive, causing light-headedness, nausea, diarrhea, and frequent urination. And when it persists, anxiety can take a toll on our mental and physical health." (http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/anxiety_and_physical_illness)

Not only does fear cause illness, it robs us of our energy. Someone once said that fear and anxiety is like a rocking chair – it gives us something to do but it doesn’t get us anywhere. Actually, fear can take your life backwards because it steals the energy you that you and I need to carry out every day duties. Our bodies were not designed to live in a state of fear, but to live in a state of faith by trusting in our Creator.

The two doctors studied fear among people who had experienced physical assaults. In fifteen cases they discovered twelve people who had suffered death, though their injuries alone did not merit their demise. When they studied the autopsies of the deceased, they found that those who died suffered cell death in the heart, which is called myofibrillar degeneration. In other words, they suffered heart failure from fear and not from their injuries.

Dr. George Libman Engel has written a book detailing the deaths of 170 people who died shortly after receiving an intense emotional shock. The most vulnerable appeared to be men in the 45 to 55 age bracket. Nine of the men in the study died after a sudden loss of status or self‑esteem. The women typically died after hearing the news of the unexpected death of their husbands.

S.M. Lockridge, the late African-American preacher, told the story of a man who died. His wife was known to be in a weakened condition, so they chose a man to go break to news to her carefully so as not to over-excite her. He went to the door and asked, "Are you the widow Crawford?" She replied, "I am Mrs. Crawford, but I'm not a widow." The man then said, "That's what you think!" Well, so much for being adept at breaking the news to the deceased man's wife.

An English writer published a book entitled Scared to Death, in which he told about 28 men and 14 women who supposedly died of fright. It has been documented that when facing what is perceived as great personal danger an individual's blood pressure often rises and the muscles around the heart constrict. In some cases, people bitten by a snake have died not from the venom but from cardiac arrest.

In short, to be fearful is to harm your body, which to a Christian is tantamount to damaging the temple of God. Faith improves life and fear can end your life or cause the loss of your usefulness in God’s cause.

B. Fear Hampers Your Growth

You cannot grow in the Lord while being fearful, and that is one reason fear is forbidden in the life of a child of God. The scripture clearly teaches that we are to grow in Christ, and fear will hinder or stop our growth. After all, how can I grow in my trust of God if I am living in dreadful fear? The Bible informs us that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 6), and faith defeats fear! Faith is necessary for us to grow into an effective Christian, and fear keep us from developing that faith.

C. Fear Halts Your Testimony

One cannot give testimony to the power of God while living in fear. We must be willing to step out in faith in order to show others that our God is real and that He is trustworthy in all the issues of life. In fact, the late Adrian Rogers said on more than one occasion that fear can be described as:

F - False

E - Evidence

A - Appearing

R - Real.

On the other hand, faith can be described as:

F - Forsaking

A - All

I - I

T - Trust

H - Him.

So, when we are acting in faith, we can and will trust God. This allows us to share a testimony with others who do not have the faith in God that we possess. Numerous times people have been led to faith in Christ by observing a Christian who reveals great faith in the midst of horrible circumstances.

There are other issues related to fear that are harmful to our lives, but I want to share with you another thought related to fear…

II. The Origin of Fear

Where does fear come from? How did fear enter the human equation?

A. Fear Developed because of Sin in the Place of Faithfulness

You go only a few verses into the Bible when you discover the first occurrence of fear. Adam feared because he had sinned against God, as I mentioned earlier in this message. Because we are sinners, deep inside our being we feel that we deserve the bad things to happen to us, so we are always waiting for the ax to fall. We know in our hearts that we don’t deserve to be blessed, so we are expecting to get what we deserve.

Actually, once we are redeemed, it is a sin not to trust fully in the God who has redeemed us through His Son, Jesus. In Romans 8:32 we read, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Since God has given us His Son as Lord and Savior, do you think He will withhold other blessings from you? Of course this doesn’t mean that we will walk through life without facing problems, nor are we expected to live without concerns in our lives. We do need to realize that the hardships we face are a means of proving our faith and allowing us to show others that our trust in God is not based merely on the pleasant circumstances in which we live.

B. Fear Developed because of Sight in the Place of Faith

In our story tonight, you will note at the end of chapter 45 that Jacob was not convinced to begin his journey to Egypt till he saw the wagons that had been sent to him from Joseph. After he saw the wagons, he began his journey, but he stopped to worship. Why did he stop at all? It is plain to the reader of scripture that Jacob stopped to worship because he was fearful of continuing the journey. Fear had stopped him in his tracks. There is a great lesson here for us to consider. Sight will always leave you empty, for things do not give us assurance of peace in the deep of night when we sense the enemy is near. The appearance of the wagons gave Jacob and immediate sense of peace about the journey, but that didn't last long. Sight may give you and sudden burst of faith in what you see, but it will not suffice in the dark of night. Your faith must rest in God and not what you have or what you can see. Jacob had trusted his own artful approach to controlling the affairs of his life for a long time. He connived his way through one situation after another, but at last he ran out of confidence in himself. He threw himself down before God, which is what he should have done from the beginning. “O what peace we often forfeit … because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” As God spoke, Jacob discovered faith and he was ready to go, not based on the wagons sent from Joseph, but rather because he knew at last that he had the presence of God with him. With God’s assurance, he was ready to journey on!

Someone here tonight is trusting what you possess, the friends you know, a position you occupy, the education you have received, or your experience in life. If that is your foundation, you have a right to be afraid. There is nothing wrong with having money, connecting with people who can help you, getting the best education you can achieve, or learning through experience how to accomplish a task; however, to put any or all of these issues above the power of God is to fail! Fear will eventually overtake you. Don’t trust what you can see, but trust the One who told you to live by faith! The old saying goes, "Seeing is believing," but with God's people, "believing is seeing!"

Now, let’s move on to how we can actually overcome fear…

III. The Overcoming of Fear

A. Get in Touch with the One above it all

I don’t know what you are going through in your life right now and I will in no way make light of the difficult problems that individuals face, but I tell you this evening that though it might be as dark as the night where you are, it is as light as the noonday where God is! We do not walk in the darkness, but in the light when we walk with the Lord. We get overcome fear when we get in touch with the One who is above all the stuff we are dealing with in our lives.

All of us who have flown in airplanes have had the experience of taking off from an airport when nothing but heavy dark clouds are overhead. Yet, once the plane elevates far enough into the sky, the clouds are below and the bright sun is shinning overhead. That is exactly how the Christian is to live. We may dwell at times below the clouds of trouble, but we have an anchor in heaven far above the clouds. We are not trusting what we can can see, but the God who is above it all!

In 1 Peter 5:7 we read, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” Again we read in Hebrew 4:5, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” In Psalm 27:14, “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” To be of good courage means to trust Him and to have the courage that faith creates. We cannot overcome fear if we do not get in touch with the One who loves us and assures us of His peace and grace in our lives.

B. Get in Touch with the One before it all

God knows how to use fear because He has seen it in people through the generations. Martin Luther began his journey of faith in a thunder storm that created great fear in him, but God used it to start him along the path that led eventually to the Protestant Reformation. Newton began the path to salvation in a storm at sea and it prompted him in a movement that led to the abolition of the slave trade in Great Britain. When fear overtakes you, you are to ask what God wants to do with it. Let Him use it to strengthen your faith and perhaps to use you in ways yet unknown. Get in touch with the One who knows how to turn your doubts into deliverance.

If we do not act in faith, we do ridiculous things. Let me relate a story I read some years ago about a religious leader from the nineteenth century. In 1875, a fall fractured both of Bishop Trench's knees, after which he never fully recovered his health, living in fear of paralysis in the years that followed. A lady sitting next to him at a dinner noticed that the elderly cleric was agitated and muttering to himself, “It's come at last; I can't feel a thing; I'm paralyzed.” She asked Trench what was wrong. “I've been pinching my leg for the last five minutes and I can't feel a thing,” he replied. “I must be paralyzed.” The lady, who had not wanted to say anything, finally spoke and said, “It's all right, your grace, it's my leg you've been pinching.” Well, that must have been quite an embarrassing moment for the Bishop!

Fear will either make you stand out as a person of faith or it will make you stand out as a person of failure. Get in touch with the One who is before all the troubles you will ever face and knows how to take you through them!

C. Get in Touch with the One who will go through it all

Someone once asked, “What it is the most surprising, a child afraid of the dark, or a man afraid of the light?” My friends, do not be afraid to trust God in any and every situation. Do not be afraid to let Him lead you along the path that seems dreadful! Fear is mentioned in the Bible over 700 times, and we can say that it is always good when we are in awe of God, but we must admit that it is always bad when we live in fear. We cannot trust God and fear at the same time!

Jesus said, “Fear not!” Indeed, that is what we should do. Jacob got before God and he received assurance that all was well. That is what someone needs to do here tonight. You need a new peace that assures you of God's love and that means you need to renew your faith and realize that God is leading you as you step through the problems you are facing. He will not forsake you.

Conclusion

Perhaps there is someone here who needs to come to Christ, repenting of your sin and trusting Him as your Savior. Maybe you’ve been close to that decision before, but you were afraid to respond. Why, oh why, do you fear coming to Him? He loves you. His Son died for you. Jesus rose from the dead to give you the assurance of eternal life. If you have any fear tonight, it ought to be that you are afraid not to come to Christ.

Yes, and many Christians need to renew a deep faith in God’s goodness. You can come and bow here in prayer, renewing your trust in the loving Savior.

Come to Him, and let His love cast out fear this very night!