Fear An Opportunity To Exercise Faith
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 Isa 51:1 "Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, You who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.
 2 Look to Abraham your father, And to Sarah who bore you; For I called him alone, And blessed him and increased him." 3 For the LORD will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the LORD; Joy and gladness will be found in it, Thanksgiving and the voice of melody. 4 "Listen to Me, My people; And give ear to Me, O My nation: For law will proceed from Me, And I will make My justice rest As a light of the peoples. 5 My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth, And My arms will judge the peoples; The coastlands will wait upon Me, And on My arm they will trust. 6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, And look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, The earth will grow old like a garment, And those who dwell in it will die in like manner; But My salvation will be forever, And My righteousness will not be abolished. 7 "Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, You people in whose heart is My law: Do not fear the reproach of men, Nor be afraid of their insults. 8 For the moth will eat them up like a garment, And the worm will eat them like wool; But My righteousness will be forever, And My salvation from generation to generation." 9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD! Awake as in the ancient days, In the generations of old. Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart, And wounded the serpent? 10 Are You not the One who dried up the sea, The waters of the great deep; That made the depths of the sea a road For the redeemed to cross over?
 11 So the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

 Ro 13:8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is  any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

 Mt 8:23 Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep.
 25 Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!"
 26 But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 So the men marveled, saying, "Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"

I was in the Navy for 6 years and I served aboard a little guided missile destroyer. DLG-17 The Harry E. Yarnell. I wish everybody would have an opportunity in their lifetime to “safely” experience a raging storm at sea. There is nothing like it. 30 to 40 foot waves breaking over the bridge of the ship!

Sometimes during these storms I would open the hatch to the fantail of the ship and peek out and feel like a mouse as I would look up at these huge walls of water. When the ship rose to the top of a wave, the force would almost flatten you to the floor, and when it came down, you’d become airborne.
Add some 30 degree or more rolls to the mix and it could be quite frightening. I don’t know why, but I was never frightened during these storms. I was in awe of them, but never frightened. God must’ve given me a tremendous measure of confidence in the ability of the ship to handle the extreme conditions.

Whatever the disciples were riding here, you can be sure it was not the Harry E. Yarnell. In Mark’s account of this event, we are told that the disciples were in several small boats as they headed to the other side. They couldn’t go below deck to the safety of their individual compartments. They were likely in the very real danger of being swamped or swept overboard.

In fact, Mark says the boat was already filling with water. Remember, most of these guys were fishermen. They weren’t strangers to storms. And you can just picture them, hanging on for dear life. So we know that this was a very nasty storm. So nasty that they feared they would perish. They were in grave danger and they knew it.

But what is Jesus doing during this awful frightening storm? Mark says, he was asleep on a pillow in the stern. Have you ever been in a 12 footer on Lake Winnebago when a storm kicks up? You don’t want to be.

And the first miracle here is the fact that Jesus is sawing logs through all this.  Asleep like a baby. He’s not below decks in the comfort of a compartment. The water is sloshing over Him. He’s being tossed about with the others.

But He is soooooo at peace, so unconcerned about what the world throws His way as He crosses to the other side. So confident that He is in His Father’s hands, that He can sleep. What a picture for us as we live in this world, preparing to cross to the other side.

Have any of you ever had sleepless nights? What were you worried about? What were you afraid of? What was robbing you of your peace? What was disrupting your confidence in the Father?

I remember one such night when Jay was young. He was hospitalized with a very serious kidney ailment. We didn’t know if he was going to live or die. I tried to go to bed and sleep, but sleep just wouldn’t come. I was tossing about like that boat that Jesus was on. I finally decided to get up and pray. ....just to wake up Jesus.

I went down to the living room and knelt by the piano bench and I prayed. I don’t remember what I prayed, I only know that after awhile the Lord had given me peace in the matter. He assured me in the bottom of my heart that live or die....Jay was going to be alright! I got up and went back to bed and slept like a baby.

Friends, when fear grips you and you can’t sleep, or it grips you during the day and you can’t function.....try to find a quiet place and pray. Bring your Bible and your problems to God and let  the Father speak a word of comfort to your soul.  

 Mt 11:28 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

So the disciples are in turmoil and they come to Jesus with their fears and He makes a connection that we all need to recognize and remember. “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” The connection that we need to see is that “fear” and “faith” go hand in hand. Wherever you find fear, you will also find an opportunity to exercise faith.

That night at the piano bench fear had gripped me, but God gave me an opportunity to exercise faith. An opportunity to trust Him. Live or die, I knew Jay was going to be alright!

One thing we know about fear, it doesn’t come from God. The Bible says,

2 Tim. 1:7,  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Fear comes from the devil, and it’s one of the tools he uses to try and separate us from the love of God. Listen to the words from Paul in his letter to the Romans and see if you don’t agree that fear is a tool of separation:
 Ro 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  (Fearful things...all of them!)  36 As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

These are all fearful things! Yet we can conquer them by hanging on to Christ Jesus. Sometimes God allows the devil to bring fear into our lives because He knows it forces us to come to Him, and as we endure these fearful times, we learn something. We learn that He will come to us with the comfort that we need, and rather than being separated our bond of trust with God is strengthened.

Sometimes we don’t get an answer right away. Sometimes the answer is simply to endure.  I love the way God’s Word puts it in 1 Cor 10:13,

1Co 10:13  There isn't any temptation (trial) that you have experienced which is unusual for humans. God, who faithfully keeps his promises, will not allow you to be tempted (trialed) beyond your power to resist. But when you are tempted, (trialed) he will also give you the ability to endure the temptation (trial)  as your way of escape.

What does He provide for you and I to escape our fearful trials? .......The ability to endure. The ability to hang on. So hang on brother! Hang on sister! Sometimes in your fear, you feel like it is so bad that you are going to be washed overboard...but hang on!   He will pull you through.

Let me ask you something. How much fear did you have when God in His grace asked you to forsake all and follow Him? You have answered that question haven’t you? You have come to a point of complete surrender haven’t you?  If not, you need to.
What do you think Jesus meant when He said:

 Mt 10:38 "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
 39 "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

Taking up your cross is a complete dying, a complete forsaking of the perceived certainties of the world, and exchanging them for the perceived uncertainties in whole heartedly following Christ.  This should be a fearful moment of truth for all true disciples. You ought to be afraid of climbing up on that cross.

You should be afraid of having all your worldly props kicked out from under you. You should be afraid of jumping off the bridge without the bungee cords of the world attached. In this fearful moment of truth, you are committing to trusting God for everything, and you hardly know Him. About all  you know about Him is that He loved you enough to send His Son into the world to die for your sins.
Is that enough? Can you trust someone like that?

He makes no promises to you beforehand, He just says, “jump!” Follow Me! There’s fear there! But the Holy Ghost comes alongside and helps you overcome that fear if you are willing.  Luther says it well, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost called me.....

Will you respond to His call? Will you cut all the strings, kick out all the props and take the leap of faith to trust Him?  Anyone who has made the leap will tell you that they don’t regret it.  It was followed by an unbelievable, indescribable, sense of peace and joy! And the fear that was present just a moment beforehand was completely gone.

But, after that initial leap of faith, He is not done with you. He has more fear to allow into your life and more opportunities to overcome that fear through faith. Because as you get to know Him better through His Word, He asks you to do other fearful things.

I knew nothing of tithing when I surrendered my life to Christ, but sooner or later you find yourself in the Book of Malachi, and there it is.

 Mal 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the LORD of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.
You want me to give 10% of my income to the church?  How will I pay my bills? How will I send my kids to college? How will I provide a nest egg for my retirement? How will I be able to afford all the nice things I have now? How will I pay the rent?                            Pretty fearful isn’t it?

But what happens when you let go of your fear and believe His promise? Big time blessing! Not necessarily financial, but a blessing that comes from an open window in heaven. I don’t know about you, but I believe nothing but good can come out of an open window in heaven.

Fear gives us an opportunity to exercise faith.

As Sheila Luck shared last week, she was asked to face her guilt associated with her abortion. What was that like for her? Pretty fearful wasn’t it? What’s it like for her now? Could you see the victorious and joyful life she is now living?  

Fear gives us an opportunity to exercise faith. God may ask you to love and forgive an enemy. What would that be like? Pretty fearful wouldn’t you say?  What would it be like if you let go of your fear?  Try it and see!

You see, fear and faith go hand in hand. As long as you have opportunities to believe and trust in God and His Word, you will have fear. But remember what happened every time you decided to trust God.
Fear melted away and faith brought peace to your soul. Faith brought blessing, and faith brought victory!
Something else to know in the matter of fear and how to overcome it.

1Jo 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

What does this verse tell us? It tells us that fear and love come in the same box. But there is only so much room in this box, and the more we fill our box with loving acts and deeds, the less room there is for fear and torment. It’s funny how that works. More love, less fear and torment.

But it also tells us that as long as we are in this world, we will not be completely removed from fear, because we have not yet been made perfect in love. Fear will always be lurking, and when we realize that truth, we are more prepared to deal with it, because we know there is a purpose for it.

That purpose involves strengthening our faith, and increasing our love of God and love of others.

Lord, you want me to reach out and love others? You want me to learn to live for the sake of others rather than myself? There we go, still another fearful proposition.

But what do you think it will bring to you and this church when we let go of our fear and seize the opportunity to exercise faith by loving others unconditionally?  The same thing every other faith wrought fearful step brought you....peace and blessing.

In our epistle lesson today, I could not, for the longest time make the connection with the gospel, but I see it now. Perfect love casts out all fear! And so Paul says, “Owe no one anything except to love one another,” “Love is the fulfillment of the Law”

The law brings fear, but love fulfills the Law and removes fear.

Jesus is perfect love, and when we fail, or when we are fearful, we can come to Him for forgiveness and aid in casting out all fear. That’s what the disciples did, and by coming  to Him, they expressed trust in Him and He responded and took away their fears and replaced it with a  calm that passed all understanding, and the disciples could do nothing but marvel.

Now I suppose, He could’ve just gotten up and stilled the seas and went back to sleep without chastising His disciples....but what good would’ve it done them in the long run?  His response was measured and meant for their good and ours.  

Don’t be afraid to trust and obey God’s Word. Cut the bungee cords of this world, kick out your props and trust Him alone. Sometimes it’s fearful to trust His Word and do what He says, but He delivers peace and blessing to you every single time you exercise that trust. And almost immediately we have to wonder, “Why didn’t I trust Him sooner?”

Part of my job as your pastor is to come alongside you and invite you to trust Him sooner. He is faithful. Faithful in what you might consider to be the most impossible circumstances. That’s one of the points Isaiah seeks to make in the OT lesson.

He promised Abraham a son, but Abraham and Sarah were so old, it was like asking a rock to have a baby. “Look to the rock from which you were hewn!” He and Sarah were hopelessly old, but God was faithful and gave them a son. He is faithful and He is able!

Believe it and hang onto it. In v7 we read, “Do not fear the reproach of men, nor be afraid of their insults.” Take that statement and boil it down for a moment. You know what you get? “Don’t be afraid of the world. Oh it will tell you that you are a fool, but let go of it and trust God....in all things. Let the Holy Ghost speak to you...”fear not!” And then let go!

Because when we face our fear of letting go and letting God, and we take the leap of faith, the leap of believing and trusting His Word, real certainty is received, peace and joy are granted.

So the next time you are afraid of trusting Jesus or living according to His will. Let Him ask of you, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Take the time to analyze your fear, and if you will be honest you will see that you don’t want to trust Him, your faith is little  because you think the world’s way is more certain, less fearful. But look how fleeting the world is.

The heavens will one day vanish like smoke, the earth will grow old like a moth-eaten garment, and the ways of the world will also be eaten up by moths, But the righteousness of the Lord will be forever! .  (V8)

O beloved, as long as we are on this side of heaven, fear will come, but don’t be afraid of fear, welcome it. Because it will always be accompanied with an opportunity for you to exercise faith and trust in God.