Fear

* Definition of fear

Fear is to have reverential awe of God; to have a tender conscience.

* Two reasons not to fear

Why would Abram be afraid?  Perhaps he feared revenge from the kings he had just defeated.  God gave him two good reasons for courage and not to fear: (1) He promised to protect Abram, and (2) he promised a great reward to Abram.  When you fear what lies ahead, remember that God will stay with you through fear, difficult times, and that he has promised you great blessings. (NLT)

Genesis 15:1 – Afterward the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.”

* What it means to fear the Lord

“The fear of the Lord” is a key theme in the wisdom literature of the Bible (Job through Song of Songs).  It means to have respect and reverence for God and to be in awe of his majesty and power.  This is the starting point to finding real wisdom. (NLT)

Job 28:28 – And this is what he says to all humanity: “The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.”

* – To fear the Lord is to recognize God’s attributes: He is holy, almighty, righteous, pure, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-wise.  When we regard God correctly, we gain a clearer picture of ourselves: sinful, weak, frail, and needy.  When we recognize who God is and who we are, we will fall at his feet in humble respect.   Only then will he show us how to choose his way. (NLT)

Psalm 25:12 – Who are those who fear the Lord?  He will show them the path they should choose.

* Fear should not keep us from God

After repeated promises, a visit by two angels, and the appearance of the Lord himself, Sarah finally cried out with surprise and joy at the birth of her son.  Because of her doubt, worry and fear, she had forfeited the peace she could have felt in God’s wonderful promise to her.  The way to bring peace to a troubled heart is to focus on God’s promises.  Trust him to do what he says. (NLT)

Genesis 21:7 – “For who would have dreamed that I would ever have a baby?  Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!”

*Running from fear vs. praying about fear

When we face a difficult conflict, we can run about frantically in fear or we can pause to pray.  How would you feel if you knew you were to meet the person you had cheated out of his most precious possession?  Jacob had taken Esau’s birthright and his blessing.  Now he was about to meet this brother for the first time in 20 years, and he was frantic with fear.  He collected his thoughts, however, and decided to pray.   Which approach will be more effective, running from fear or pray about fear?  (NLT)

Genesis 32:9-12– Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my grandfather Abraham and my father, Isaac–O Lord, you told me to return to my land and to my relatives, and you promised to treat me kindly.  I am not worthy of all the faithfulness and unfailing love you have shown to me, your servant.  When I left home, I owned nothing except a walking stick, and now my household fills two camps!  O Lord, please rescue me from my brother, Esau.  I am afraid that he is coming to kill me, along with my wives and children.  But you promised to treat me kindly and to multiply my descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore–too many to count.”

* Fear is normal but shouldn’t paralyze us

God told Jacob to leave his home and travel to a strange and faraway land.  But God reassured him by promising to go with him and take care of him.  When new situations or surroundings frighten you, recognize that experiencing fear is normal.  To be paralyzed by fear, however, is an indication that you question God’s ability to take care of you. (NLT)

Genesis 46:3-4 – “I am God,” the voice said, “the God of your father.  Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will see to it that you become a great nation there.  I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring your descendants back again.  But you will die in Egypt with Joseph at your side.”

 * Fear can keep us from opportunities

Special opportunities may come our way unexpectedly.  Don’t let the fear of what might happen cause you to miss an opportunity.  Be alert for the opportunities God gives you, and take full advantage of them.  (NLT)

Exodus 2:7-8 – Then the baby’s sister approached the princess.  “Should I go and find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” she asked.

“Yes, do!”  the princess replied.  So the girl rushed home and called the baby’s mother.

* Fear is sometimes caused by over-anticipation

Moses’ reluctance and fear were caused by over-anticipation.  He was worried about how the people might respond to him.  We often build up events in our minds and then panic over what might go wrong.  God does not ask us to go where he has not provided the means to help.  Go where he leads, trusting him to supply courage, confidence, and resources at the right moment. (NLT)

Exodus 4:1 – But Moses protested again, “Look, they won’t believe me!  They won’t do what I tell them.  They’ll just say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you.'”

 * Don’t respond to crisis with fear

Trapped against the sea, the Israelites faced the Egyptian army sweeping in for the kill.  The Israelites thought they were doomed.  After watching God’s powerful hand deliver them from Egypt, their only response was fear, whining, and despair.  Where was their trust in God?  Israel had to learn from repeated experience that God was able to provide for them.  God has preserved these examples in the Bible so that we can learn to trust him the first time.  By focusing on God’s faithfulness in the past, we can face crises with confidence rather than with fear and complaining.  (NLT)

Exodus 14:10-11 – As Pharaoh and his army approached, the people of Israel could see them in the distance, marching toward them.  The people began to panic, and they cried out to the Lord for help.

Then they turned against Moses and complained, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness?  Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt?  Why did you make us leave?

* Why God said “Don’t be afraid” – * Relationship between fear & love

Throughout the Bible we find this phrase: “Don’t be afraid.”  God wasn’t trying to scare the people.  He was showing his mighty power so the Israelites would know he was the true God and would therefore obey him.  If they would do this, he would make his power available to them.  God wants us to follow him out of love rather than fear.  To overcome fear, we must think more about his love.  First John 4:18 says, “Perfect love expels all fear.” (NLT)

Exodus 20:20 – “Don’t be afraid,” Moses said, “for God has come in this way to show you his awesome power.  From now on, let your fear of him keep you from sinning!”

 * Fear keeps us from utilizing God’s power

The scouts were sent into the land to determine not whether they should enter, but where they should enter.  Upon returning, however, most of the scouts concluded that the land was not worth the obstacles.  God would give the Israelites the power to conquer the land, but they were afraid of the risk and decided not to enter.  God gives us the power to overcome our obstacles, but like the Israelites filled with fear and skepticism, we often let difficulties control our lives.  Following God regardless of the difficulties is the way to have courageous, overcoming faith. (NLT)

Deuteronomy 1:22 – “But you responded, ‘First, let’s send out scouts to explore the land for us.  They will advise us on the best route to take and decide which towns we should capture.'”

* God can cause your enemies to fear you

God told Moses he would make the enemy nations afraid of Israel.  By worldly standards, Israel’s army was not intimidating, but Israel had God on its side.  Moses no longer had to worry about his enemies because his enemies were worried about him.  God often goes before us in our daily battles, preparing the way and overcoming barriers  We need to follow him wholeheartedly and be alert to his leading. (NLT)

Deuteronomy 2:25 – Beginning today I will make all people throughout the earth terrified of you.  When they hear reports about you, they will tremble with dread and fear.

* Fear comes when we leave out God

Joshua’s new job consisted of leading more than two million people into a strange new land and conquering it.  What a challenge–even for a man of Joshua’s caliber!  Every new job is a challenge.  Without God it can be frightening.  With God it can be a great adventure.  Just as God was with Joshua, he is with us as we face our new challenges.  We may not conquer nations, but every day we face tough situations, difficult people, and temptations.  However, God promises that he will never abandon us or fail to help us.  By asking God to direct us we can conquer many of life’s challenges. (NLT)

Joshua 1:5 – “No one will be able to stand their ground against you as long as you live.  For I will be with you as I was with Moses.  I will not fail you or abandon you.”

* Fear doesn’t excuse us from God’s work

Facing overwhelming odds, Gideon was afraid.  God understood his fear, but he didn’t excuse Gideon from his task.  Instead, he allowed Gideon to slip into the enemy camp and overhear a conversation that would give him courage.  Are you facing a battle?  God can give you the strength you need for any situation.  And don’t be startled by the way he helps you.  Like Gideon, you must listen to God and be ready to take the first step.  Only after you begin to obey God will you find the courage to move ahead. (NLT)

Judges 7:10-11 – But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah.  Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged.  Then you will be eager to attack.

Fear evaporates when we trust God

Jonathan and his armor bearer weren’t much of a force to attack the huge Philistine army.  But while everyone else was afraid, they trusted God, knowing that the size of the enemy army would not restrict God’s ability to help them.  God honored the faith and brave action of these two men with a tremendous victory.

Have you ever felt surrounded by the “enemy” or faced overwhelming odds?  God is never intimidated by the size of the enemy or the complexity of a problem.  With Him, there are always enough resources to resist the pressures and win the battle.  If God has called you to action, then bravely commit what resources you have to God, and rely upon Him to lead you to victory.  (NLT)

1 Samuel 14:6 – “Let’s go across to see those pagans,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer.  “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord.  He can win a battle whether He has many warriors or only a few!”

* Becoming preoccupied with fear

Eleazar’s action changed the course of a battle.  When everyone around him ran, he held his ground and was saved by the Lord.  In any struggle, fear can keep us from taking a stand for God and form participating in God’s victories.  Face your fear head-on.  If you are grounded in God, victory will come when you hold that ground. (NLT)

1 Chronicles 11:12-14 – Next in rank among the Three was Eleazar son of Dodai, a descendant of Ahoah.  He was with David in the battle against the Philistines at Pas-dammim.  The battle took place in a field full of barley, and the Israelite army fled.  But Eleazar and David held their ground in the middle of the field and beat back the Philistines.  So the Lord saved them by giving them a great victory.

* Fear can immobilize you

David advised Solomon not to be frightened about the size of his task as king and builder of the Temple.  Fear can immobilize us.  The size of a job, its risks, or the pressure of the situation can cause us to freeze and do nothing.  One remedy for fear is found here: Don’t focus on the fear; instead, get to work.  Getting started is often the most difficult and frightening part of a job. (NLT)

1 Chronicles 28:20 – Then David continued, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work.  Don’t be afraid or discouraged by the size of the task, for the Lord God, my God, is with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.  He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly.

* How to resist fear

Nehemiah wasn’t ashamed to admit his fear, but he refused to allow fear to stop him from doing what God had called him to do.  When we allow fear to rule us, we make fear more powerful than God.  Is there a task God wants you to do, but fear is holding you back?  God is greater than all your fears.  Recognizing why you are afraid is the first step in committing your fear to God.  Realize that if God has called you to a task, he will help you accomplish it. (NLT)

Nehemiah 2:2-3 – So the king asked me, “Why are you sad?  You aren’t sick, are you?  You look like a man with deep troubles.”

Then I was badly frightened, but I replied, “Long live the king!  Why shouldn’t I be sad?  For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been burned down.”

* Fear is a dark shadow that envelops us and ultimately imprisons us within ourselves.  Each of us has been a prisoner of fear at one time or another–fear of rejection, misunderstanding, uncertainty, sickness, or even death.  But we can conquer fear by using the bright liberating light of the Lord who brings salvation.  If we want to dispel the darkness of fear, let us remember with the psalmist that “the Lord is my light and my salvation.” (NLT)

Psalm 27:1 – The Lord is my light and my salvation–so why should I be afraid?  The Lord protects me from danger–so why should I tremble?

* The disciples panicked because the storm threatened to destroy them all, and Jesus seemed unaware and unconcerned.  Theirs was a physical storm, but storms come in other forms.  Think about the storms in your life–the situations that cause you great anxiety.  Whatever your difficulty, you have two options: You can worry and assume that Jesus no longer cares; or you can resist fear, putting your trust in Him.  When you feel like panicking, confess your need for God and then trust Him to care for you.  (NLT)

Mark 4:38-40– Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion.  Frantically they woke Him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are going to drown?”

When he woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the water, “Quiet down!”  Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.  And he asked them, “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still not have faith in me?”

*Fear of people vs. fear of God

Fear of people can hamper everything you try to do.  In extreme forms, it can make you afraid to leave your home.  By contrast, fear of God–respect, reverence, and trust–is liberating.  Why fear people who can do no eternal harm?  Instead, trust God who can turn the harm intended by others into good for those who trust him. (NLT)

Proverbs 29:25 – Ants–they aren’t strong, but they store up food for the winter.

* Letting Jesus deal with your fears

The disciples were afraid, but Jesus’ presence calmed their fears.  We all experience fear.  Do we try to deal with it ourselves, or do we let Jesus deal with it?  In times of fear and uncertainty, it is calming to know that Christ is always with us.  To recognize Christ’s presence is the antidote for fear. (NLT)

Mark 6:49-50 – but when they saw him walking on the water, they screamed in terror, thinking he was a ghost.  They were all terrified when they saw him.  But Jesus spoke to them at once.  “It’s all right,” he said.  “I am here! Don’t be afraid.”

* Why you need not fear death

Fear of opposition or ridicule can weaken our witness for Christ.  Often we cling to peace and comfort, even at the cost of our walk with God.  Jesus reminds us here that we should fear God, who controls eternal, not merely temporal, consequences.  Don’t allow fear of a person or group to keep you from standing up for Christ. (NLT)

Luke 12:4-5 – [Jesus said] “Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill the body; they cannot do any more to you.  But I’ll tell you whom to fear.  Fear God, who has the power to kill people and then throw them into hell.”

* Fear keeps us from speaking for Christ

Fear of opposition or ridicule can weaken our witness for Christ.  Often we cling to peace and comfort, even at the cost of our walk with God.  Jesus reminds us here that we should fear (to have reverential awe of) God, who controls eternal, not merely temporal, consequences.  Don’t allow fear of a person or group to keep you from standing up for Christ.  (NLT)

Luke 12:4-5 – “Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill you.  They can only kill the body; they cannot do any more to you.  But I’ll tell you whom to fear.  Fear God, who has the power to kill people and then throw them into hell….”

* – The religious leaders had a great deal of power over the common people.  Apparently these leaders couldn’t do much to Jesus at this time, but they threatened anyone who might publicly support him, most likely with excommunication.  Excommunication from the synagogue was one of the reprisals for believing in Jesus.  To a Jew, this was a severe punishment (NLT)

John 7:13 – But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.

* – Along with those who refused to believe, many believed but refused to admit it.  This is just as bad, and Jesus had strong words for such people.  People who will not take a stand for Jesus are afraid of rejection or ridicule.  Many Jewish leaders wouldn’t admit to faith in Jesus because they feared excommunication from the synagogue (which was their livelihood) and loss of their prestigious place in the community.  But the praise of others is fickle and short-lived.  We should be such more concerned about God’s eternal acceptance than about the temporary approval of other people. (NLT)

John 12:42-43 – Many people, including some of the Jewish leaders, believed in him.  But they wouldn’t admit it to anyone because of their fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue.   For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.

* Fear of life’s circumstances

The Sea of Galilee is 650 feet below sea level, 150 feet deep, and surrounded by hills.  These physical features make it subject to sudden windstorms that would cause extremely high waves.  Such storms were expected on this lake, but they were nevertheless frightening.  When Jesus came to the disciples during a storm, walking on the water (three and a half miles from shore), he told them not to be afraid.  We often face spiritual and emotional storms and feel tossed about like a small boar on a big lake.  In spite of terrifying circumstances, if we trust our lives to Christ for his safekeeping, he will give us peace in any storm. (NLT)

* How faith overcomes fear

The disciples; terrified, probably thought they were seeing a ghost.  But if they had thought about all they had already seen Jesus do, they could have accepted this miracle.  They were frightened–they didn’t expect Jesus to come, and they weren’t prepared for his help.  Faith is a mind-set that expects God to act.  When we act on this expectation, we can overcome our fears. (NLT)

John 6:18-19 – Soon a gale swept down upon them as they rowed, and the sea grew very rough.  They were three or four miles out when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat.  They were terrified.

* Faith makes trouble less frightening

The apostles experienced power to do miracles, great boldness in preaching, and God’s presence in their lives; yet they were not free from hatred and persecution.  They were arrested, put in jail, beaten, and slandered by community leaders.  Faith in God does not make troubles disappear; it makes troubles appear less frightening because it puts them in the right perspective.  Don’t expect everyone to react favorably when you share something as dynamic as your faith in Christ.  Some will be jealous afraid, or threatened.  Expect some negative reactions, and remember that you must be more concerned about serving God than about the reactions of people. (NLT)

Acts 5:17-18 – The high priest and his friends, who were Saudducees, reacted with violent jealousy.  They arrested the apostles and put them in the jail.

* Fear neutralizes effectiveness for God

Timothy was experiencing great opposition to his message and to himself as a leader.  His youth, his association with Paul, and his leadership had come under fire from believers and nonbelievers alike.  Paul urged hi to be bold.  When we allow people to intimidate us, we neutralize our effectiveness fro God.  The power of the Holy Spirit can help us overcome our fear of what some might say or do to us, so that we can continue to do God’s work.  (NLT)

2 Timothy 1:6-7 – This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power love, and self-discipline.

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