12th June 2016
Psalm 34 v 4 and other Scriptures.
In case you have been living on another planet these past months can I tell you this morning that we are in the middle of a raging debate in the country at the moment about whether or not we should be in or out of the European Union.
It’s pretty exciting stuff isn’t it with clear cut issues on either side and we have amazing facts and truths at our very finger tips to help us make this decision in a few weeks time when we go to the ballot box.
Okay, that is how it should be but unfortunately no matter how many debates I watch, or how many people bring their arguments I am still left scratching my head wondering what are the facts.
With this referendum as indeed with the Scottish referendum a couple of years ago, what is done when we don’t really have any clear cut facts is that a thing called project fear is wheeled out.
It is fear that I want us to think about this morning, not in the context of a referendum, but in the context of living our Christian lives, because we come against this project fear thrown at us by the devil every day.
Fear is very much a part of our lives. Maybe you’re afraid of losing your job, or your health, or losing your finances. Maybe you’re afraid of not being accepted by others. Or maybe you’re just afraid of growing old. The list could go on & on, for all of us have things that cause us to experience the emotion we call “fear.”
As a result, we try to take precautions to protect ourselves. We buy insurance policies to cover those things we consider valuable. We put strong locks on our windows & doors & buy alarm systems to protect our homes. All this because of fear.
Yet, listen to what God has said on this subject. The angel spoke to the shepherds on the night that Jesus was born & said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
The message of Christmas is that if Jesus Christ is our Lord & Saviour, we do not need to be afraid. Again, the Bible says, “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, `Fear not, I will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13)
And in the 34th Psalm, the Psalmist is praising the Lord, and he is doing it in a very personal way. Then in vs. 4 he says, “I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.”
Now if God can do that for the psalmist in the O.T., then He can do it today for us, too.
I. EXPOSE YOUR FEARS
And in order to do that, first of all, we need to face our fears & realise that sometimes our fears are the result of sin.
One of the most beautiful scenes in the Bible is found in the first chapter of the book of Genesis where it tells us about God walking & talking with Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden. It was a time of complete innocence. There was nothing hidden, nothing false.
But when we turn the page and read about Adam & Eve eating of the forbidden fruit then everything changes. God comes to the Garden & He looks for Adam & Eve & they’re not where they usually are. So He calls out, “Adam, where are you? Where are you?”
Finally there is this weak little voice from behind a bush, “I’m over here, God.” “What are you doing over there, Adam?” “I’m hiding, God.” “Why are you hiding, Adam?” “Because I’m naked.” “Who told you that you were naked, Adam?” And finally Adam says, “I’m hiding because I’m afraid.”
Now let me tell you something. The more we try to hide or cover up our sins, the more we try to hide from God. The more we refuse to face them the deeper we go.
By the way, have you every really been afraid? Have you ever had an experience that just brought a surge of fear into your life?
I remember many years ago the night that myself and my brothers were left to stay overnight in the house for the first time. My mum and dad were away at a wedding or something. I can’t remember. My brother was about 17 which made me 14 at the time and my younger brother 11. My sister was staying else where.
I remember being woken in the middle of the night by we younger brother saying her heard a scraping noise. We listened and sure enough this frantic scraping noise started on the bedroom door followed by a thump.
To say we were scared was an understatement. We shouted to my big brother in the other room, who eventually shouted back to stop being babies and get to sleep there was nothing there.
Not convinced we tried to go back to sleep. 5 minutes later the same scraping the same bang but this time with a cough. This went on for about an hour, with my older brother getting more and more angry, coming into the room a few times telling us to get a grip, that he heard nothing.
Eventually it came to light that yes you guessed it. It was my lovely brother playing a trick on us.
“I had lost an hour & a half of sleep trying to figure out what was making that noise, & the second it was exposed the fear was gone.”
You see, whether our fears are the result of something unknown, or the result of sin, we need to face them & expose them for what they really are.
II. ELIMINATE THEM
A. Then we need to eliminate them. Eliminate those fears. In 1 John 4, there is a really great verse of Scripture. You’ve heard it before. It says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” (v18)
Listen to that. “Perfect love casts out fear.” That verse tells us that fear and love cannot coexist. The closer you get to love the further you get from fear.
But the other side is true also. The closer you get to fear the further you get from love. They are like the north pole & the south pole. The closer you get to one the further you get from the other.
So the more you learn to love and the more perfectly you love, the further you drift from fear.
Now Jesus said, “You will know the truth, & the truth will set you free.” “What is truth?” we ask. Jesus said, “I am the truth. I am the way & the truth & the life.”
Jesus is saying, “As you get to know me; as you learn to think the way I want you to think; as you begin to live life the way I want you to live it; as you learn the truth, then you will be set free from fear, from sin, from the uncertainties of life.” “Perfect love casts out fear.”
When Jesus was asked the greatest commandment, He answered without hesitation. He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all of your soul and all of your mind and all of your strength.” (Mark 12:30)
Now what happens if I love God with my body & my mind & my emotions? That means I no longer need to be afraid of what can afflict me physically. I no longer need to be afraid of mental anxieties. I no longer need to be afraid of emotional insecurities. Because love casts out fear.
Nobody knows what tomorrow holds for us. Getting back to the referendum, nobody really knows what Britain will look like out or in the European Union. For us as individuals in our own lives we don;t know what is round the corner.
But you see, if our security depends on a bank account, or on our good health, or on good relationships with others, then we are doomed to failure. The only secure relationship we have is that which we have in Jesus. And “Perfect love casts out fear.”
So first we need to expose our fears. Then we need to eliminate them. And thirdly, we need to expect the power & blessing of God.
III. WE NEED TO EXPECT THE POWER & BLESSING OF GOD
A. We’re busy people, aren’t we?. In fact, we’re proud of how busy we are.
How often do you find yourself at a meeting or something, and you want to plan the next one. Everyone gets their diary or calendar or planner or calendar app opened, and we suggest a few dates.
This can go on for ages as each date that is suggested doesn’t suit someone because they have something else on, a conflict, and before you know it a meeting that we were looking to have before the end of June ends up in November or the like.
Everybody was so busy that we almost couldn’t find a time to meet. We’re so proud of being busy, because the busier you are, the more important you are, right?
No, that’s wrong! And sometimes we’re so busy running from one place to another that we don’t have time to slow down & be still & know that He is God.
ILL. Max Lucado in his book “In the Eye of a Storm” talks about traveling from one speaking engagement to another. He had traveled from San Antonio to Boston & had spoken at a gathering in Boston. Then he was flying on to Edmonton, Canada to fulfil a speaking engagement there.
When his plane landed in Minneapolis & he had to change airplanes, he was thinking about how tired & hungry he was, & how crowded the airplane had been, & how his back was aching, & his mind was hurting.
Try as he might, he couldn’t even remember who was supposed to meet him at his destination in Canada.
As he was heading to the gate to catch his next airplane he saw a McDonald’s in the distance & thought, “That looks good. Maybe I’ll run over there & buy a hamburger & that will at least satisfy my hunger pains.”
Then he writes, “I passed something better. I passed a telephone & decided to call home. I called & my wife answered the phone. I’m convinced that when my wife gets to heaven she’s going to be at the reception desk welcoming everyone in because when she answers the phone it makes you feel so good.”
He continued, “I just talked with her. We settled earth shaking issues. We talked about the weather in San Antonio vs. the weather in New England. We talked about what the girls did when they went to school that day & that one of them was going to have a friend over to spend the evening.”
“We talked about earth shaking things like that,” he said. “And after I had finished talking with her I really felt good. Then she passed the receiver over to one of my daughters who told me about her day. When she finished she said, `I love you, Dad.’”
And he said, “It felt good to be loved.” Then the phone was passed over to the next daughter & she talked to him for a while & she said, “I miss you, Dad.” And he said, “It felt good to be missed.”
Then he said, “They passed the phone over to the little six month old baby, & I talked to my baby over the phone. I cooed & I talked baby talk, & the people passing by looked at me in strange ways. But it felt good to be cooed at. Then we hung up & I made my way on to the next gate.”
He recalled, “I forgot how hungry I was. I forgot how tired I was because I had called home, & that made all the difference in the world.” Then he adds, “Maybe we all ought to call home more often.”
Maybe we should. Lucado says, “If you do, you will find the listening ear of God so anxious to talk to you, & He will make you feel good from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. And as you grow in your love you’ll find your fears disappear.”
I don’t know. Maybe we’ll never be able to get rid of all of our fears. But if we can just get rid of the things that dog us, and focus our attention on a loving God who really cares about us, then we will begin to hear Him when He speaks.
And as we listen we will get to know Him, and love Him. And as our love for Him grows, our fears will be forgotten, because the closer we get to love the further away we get from fear.
Fear can be such a crippling thing for us. it can make us hide away, withdraw into ourselves, doubt ourselves and indeed what God can do in and through us. Friends Project fear, not in the Eu context but in the context of our Christian walk is a project of the devil.
He wants us gripped with fear and uncertainty, because when we are, we are ineffectual for the Lord.
Satan has been defeated by the power of the risen Christ, this risen Christ who lives in our hearts by His Holy Spirit.
So let’s expose our fears and get rid of them, and instead of cowering in a corner, fearful and ineffectual, let’s expect the power and blessing of our amazing God.