PEOPLE MORE THAN THEY FEAR DEATH.”
Can a scene in a movie make anyone that pathologically afraid? Yes indeed, and we with our children must be very guarded about which movies or television shows we watch. It can do pathological and permanent damage to older and younger impressionable minds. Those programs have the potential of programming us, and living on in us and our children’s children. Of course, one of the most frightening programs on television is the 6:30 p.m. World News. Fox news literally goes from one FOX NEWS ALERT to another FOX NEWS ALERT 7/24.
We are now living in “The Age of Fear” and the “The Era of Fright.” Fear of financial collapse – economaphobia. Fear of Islamic terrorists – jihadaphobia. Fear of earthquakes – Richteraphobia. Fear of tsunamis – tsunamaphobia. Fear of nuclear power plants – radiaphobia. Fear of terminal diseases – pathophobia. On and on it goes in this time when crisis and catastrophe seem to be waiting for us around every corner.
The entire world has changed into Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” because it it is filled with psychopathic screwballs. Indeed just living in the world today can be psychologically damaging. Humanity now lives, or should we say exists, waiting for some huge wave of something or other to sweep over them and carry them away to their deaths. Movies and television are filled with this paranoia as the film 2012 gives vivid testimony to. Human beings all now resemble little children on a daily basis jumping to stay above the ocean’s swells of fear.
As we now face earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes in unprecedented proportions, I am reminded of the words of our Lord in Luke 21:25-27,
upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity
at the roaring of the sea and the waves ,”
coming upon the world; for the power of the heaven
will be shaken.”
a cloud with power and great glory.”
A TRULY REMARKABLE STORY
Even for believers, faith can be a most fragile thing, and for an instant or two or more, faith can flee and be replaced by paralyzing fear. The incident in Matthew 8:18-27 is all too familiar to many of us. It happened in the first part of the public ministry of Jesus, and has become the defining moment for all of His followers in their battle against fear.
Jesus was on one side of the Sea of Galilee where the crowd was so heavy, that we are told that He ordered His disciples to get in the boat with Him, and they set out for the other side. The other side in this case was 8 miles across.
Suddenly there was a great storm. Literally the word translated STORM in Matthew 8:24 comes from a word meaning EARTHQUAKE. That is, something so horrible and terrifying that their boat was all of a sudden being blown about like a cork, and inundated with water as the waves were slashing over it! You really have to watch the series Deadliest Catch on Discovery Channel to get the feel of how dire a circumstance they and their boat were in. It wasn’t just unpleasant or even unnerving, it was hair-raising and mortifying.
On that boat with Jesus were some who had spent their entire lives on the sea. Not novices at all, but rather, professional seamen. Others just by being native to the area are familiar with the sea and what can happen on it.
But apparently they had never seen anything like this. In their very real nightmare they struggle, in the midst of the wind and wave’s sloshing and slamming, to get to the back of the boat, where mind you they found Jesus fast asleep. Here is Jesus peacefully asleep, while the disciples are as it were walking the plank. They could not fathom:
“THAT THIS JESUS WAS NO MORE AFRAID WHEN HE WAS
IN A TYPHOON THAN WHEN HE WAS IN A DEEP SLEEP.”
Why did these disciples wait so long to go to Jesus? Because they were experienced! They knew the sea! Storms in the Sea of Galilee are extremely common. Due to the surrounding terrain, you could suddenly have a storm in which you literally cannot see your hand in front of your face. This was one of those storms, only worse, which accounts for the fact that veteran seamen are scared out of their wits. So they woke Jesus up and cried to Him in Matthew 8:25 KJV,
“Lord, save us: we perish.”
No, they were not within their right, and no, He would not indulge them like “Practice Children” and overdose them with parental protectionism and pity. They would have to grow up then and there into courageous fearlessness, in order to face the religious and political storms they would have to face for following Him. There was no spare time for spoiling them or allowing them to feel justified in their nervous breakdown. So we read in Matthew 8:26 Jesus’ stinging, cut-no-slack rebuke of them,
“Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?”
GOD KNOWS NOTHING OF FEAR.”
Therefore, Jesus chides them for faithlessness and fearfulness, as if they were in the most pathetic and reprehensible spiritual and emotional state they could have ever manifested in their lives. Cowardice and unbelief are the charges.
So after first rebuking the disciples for small faith and great fear, then Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea. We read in Matthew 8:26,
“Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and it
became perfectly calm.”
He gave them His “Divine Show And Tell” why the disciples may not fear when they are in a storm-tossed boat with Him. Absolute proof! Case closed! Fear obsolete!
Now then, to add emphasis, when a storm is about to end and the wind has let up, you still have boisterous seas for quite a while. That was not the case here. Both the wind and the sea are completely and instantly still. You could now hear a minnow surface. Of course the disciples were amazed.
I am reminded of actor Henry Fonda, then the old fur-trapper in How The West Was Won, watched as the railroad slashed across the plains and he realized an era was ending. So the disciple-fishermen in How The Sea Was Tamed, watched as a whole new world was beginning before their windswept and wave-blinded eyes. What they saw here was how it was going to be from now on. Fierce religious and politcal storms, and the Almighty God in Whose care and keeping they would always be.
So disciples, start showing that your age of fear has ended, and your age of true faith has begun.
FEAR IS FAILURE TO BE GOD-CONSCIOUS
Do you remember what the disciples said to each other on the Sea of Galilee when the raging bull at a rodeo became a milk cow lying down in a peaceful pasture? They remarked in Matthew 8:27,
“What kind of a man is this, that even the winds
and the sea obey Him?”
“THEY MARVELLED AT A MAN, INSTEAD OF PRAISING
What God? This God:
“THE GOD WHO HOLDS THE WINDS IN HIS FISTS AND LETS THEM
FLY INTO A STORM, AND THEN SILENCES THEM INTO
A CALM INSTANTLY AS HE PLEASES.”
It was not just a man, but it was God in the flesh Who had the commanding voice and controlling hand over the wind and waves. The winds and the waves obeyed the voice of the Son of God, not just the Son of Man. Listen:
“THE NATURAL IS COMPLETELY UNABLE TO GO BEYOND THE
BOUNDS OF THE SUPERNATURAL GOD.”
More than that:
“WHEN THE NATURAL IS BOUND BY SUPERNATURAL CHAINS,
IT CANNOT SO MUCH AS WIGGLE.”
Not even a breath was stirring, not even a ripple wiggling! How foolish to fear the opposing finite when the omnipotent infinite is your loving Lord and Savior. Or, if you will:
“THERE CAN BE NO UNGODLY FEAR WHEN YOU HAVE THE
FEAR (AWE) OF ALMIGHTY GOD.”
BEING HONEST WITH OURSELVES AND GOD
We must get tough on fear, and to do that, we have to get tough on ourselves. The title of this teaching is “The Godlessness of Fear.” That does not mean that being gripped by fear means that we are absolute atheists. Jesus did not say, “O Ye of no faith.” It does mean that for the moment we are agnostics. Jesus did say, “O Ye of little faith.” And if He does exist, He really doesn’t care what’s happening us. “Carest Thou not that we perish?” Ever been there? I have!
If you will, it does mean the following:
“WHEN GRIPPED BY GODLESS FEAR, WE ARE FAR LESS SURE
OF THE EXISTENCE OF A CARING GOD, AND FAR
MORE SURE OF THE EXISTENCE OF A
Gulp! Boy does that smart! But remember, “No pain, no gain.”
“WHEN WE YIELD TO TEMPTATION WE LOSE OUR SENSE OF
EVIL, SO WHEN WE YIELD TO FEAR WE LOSE OUR
SENSE OF GOD.”
No psychological or emotional strokes here. None of this, “Poor baby, mommy understands” stuff. We have to confess the sins of faithlessness and fearfulness before God, ask for His mercy and forgiveness, and ask Him to set us free. For indeed, if Jesus sets us free, we are free indeed. Dear God help us and rid us of that reoccurring, seasonal agnosticism that so terribly dishonors You, and renders us ineffective for you.
So then, be real now with yourself as I am trying to be real with myself. Let us not come off here as the Pharisees who presented themselves as those who personally did not sin, but were totally equipped to understand and counsel and even condemn those who did. You know, that holier-than-thou persona.
So neither may we present ourselves as the fearless ones, and at the same time totally equipped to counsel the fearful and cowardly. I am not doing that in this teaching. No sir! I still get a bit nervous flying. I would agree with George S. Kaufman who said:
“I LIKE TERRA FIRMA, AND THE MORE FIRMA,
THE LESS TERRA.”
FEAR SEES GIANTS – FAITH SEES GOD
Let’s leave the disciples in the boat, and go back in history to the Israelites standing on the threshhold of the “Promised Land” so called, because it had been promised to them by God Himself. God now instructs Moses to send a reconnaissance of spies into the land of Canaan. And for what purpose? To verify the promise of God that it was a land flowing with milk and honey.
And indeed it was a “Land of Provision.” The spies came back with grape clusters so huge, that they had to carry them on a pole between two men. The pomegranates, the figs, the grapes were so bountiful that they called the place:
“ESCHOL – MEANING CLUSTER.”
So we read in Numbers 13:24,
“The place was called the valley of Eschol, because of the
clusters whichthe sons of Israel cut down from there.”
You know the story! There were great clusters of grapes growing, but there were far greater and more menacing giants lumbering about in the land. Too bad isn’t it!!! Why can’t the “Promised Land” in the Old Testament and the “Land of Promises” in the New Testament simply consist of picking grapes, eating pasta, and making new friends?
No, no, no! Simply because Christianity for those who are fully enlisted is not nap time at nursery school, or shufffleboard at a retirement center! It is the hothouse environment of kingdom conflict in which the imposing powers of darkness must be driven out first. Always!
Ten of the twelve spies came back gripped by fear that totally clouded their vision. In short:
“THEY WERE GRIPPED BY FEAR BECAUSE THEY SAW GIANTS WITH
THEIR PHYSICAL EYES, AND THEREFORE THEY COULD NO
LONGER SEE GOD WITH THEIR SPIRITUAL EYES.”
If you will:
“THEY WERE GRIPPED BY FEAR BECAUSE THEY CONCENTRATED
ON THE HUMAN PROBLEMS AND NOT ON
THE DIVINE PROMISER.”
You must see something here. More often than not, the religious majority are those at first who have to be dragged kicking and screaming across the battlefield into any new conquests for Christ. However, they never see or admit their weakness of faith because they consider themselves strong by reason of the majority among whom they move. They generally are the listless crowd that has no plans or goals beyond the present moment of contentment. Plus, this is the way it has been around here since 1892, and what is the sense of changing now?
So we read in Numbers 13:32-33,
“So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of
the land which they had spied out, saying, ‘The land
through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a
land that devours its inhabitants; and all the
people whom we saw in it are men of
‘There we also saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are
part of the Nephilim); and we became grasshoppers
in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.'”
“THE FEAR AND RESPECT THAT BELONGED TO GOD HAD
INSTEAD BEEN GIVEN BY THEM TO THE GIANTS.”
Only the minority report brought back by Joshua and Caleb kept its focus on the Promiser and not the Problems. The name tags on those in the majority are always in the shape of grasshoppers, while the name tags in the minority report are always in the shape of grape clusters. The report of the majority is always a pantomine of suicide, while the report of the minority is an announcement of paradise.
“WHILE THE MINORITY REPORT WAS BASED ON THE FACT
THAT GOD WOULD CRACK THE GIANTS LIKE PEANUTS,
THE MAJORITY REPORT WAS BASED ON THE
PROSPECT THAT THE GIANTS WOULD
CRUSH THE ISRAELITES
And in those two completely different mindsets:
“THE MINORITY REPORT WAS GOD-FULL, AND THE MAJORITY
REPORT WAS GOD-LESS.”
“FAITH SAID IT WAS A DREAM COME TRUE, WHILE FEAR SAID
IT WAS A NIGHTMARE TO BE AVOIDED.”
There we have it! To be fearful is to be faithless, and the Bible tells us in Romans 14:23,
Which means that fear is a sin and faith is a surety.
FEAR SEES ENDINGS – FAITH SEES BEGINNINGS
If you will, fear sees only death, not life. Let us get a hold of this grave fact right here at the outset:
“WHEN FEAR MAKES US TERRIFIED OF OUR DEATHS, IN
SO DOING, FEAR HAS BECOME THE
MASTER OF OUR LIVES.”
“HE WHO IS NOT PREPARED FOR DEATH IS NOT
PREPARED FOR LIFE.”
Jesus Christ our Lord made a powerful statement which is recorded in Matthew 10:28,
“And do not fear those who kill the body, but are
unable to kill the soul….”
That means for us in our day that we may not fear in the least the likes of anti-Christian radical Muslims, the Muslim Brotherhood, Osama bin Laden, Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-il, or any other black-hooded terrorists in this bloodied earth. Let’s face it, modern history’s table is being spread with a smorgasbord of the demented and the demonic. All of these and many more are really not leaders of nations at all, but rather are more like rabid and distempered murderers who have so far escaped from death row.
You see, it is with good reason that Jesus Christ in Matthew 10 is not the teacher of a mobile classroom, but rather a General dispatching a regiment of Warrior-Rambos to go forth to battle against the powers of darkness to set prisoners free. They would wage war behind enemy lines, and Jesus Christ is telling them that eventually some of them will not return. He knows full well, that if they obey His orders, He is setting them up for big trouble, but He does not want them to be troubled. The gist of His words throughout His ministry to His disciples is:
“YOU WILL GET INTO BIG TROUBLE ON ALL FRONTS,
BUT DON’T LET YOUR HEARTS BE
TROUBLED AT ALL.”
So He addresses the ultimate sacrifice that they might well make, as He tells them:
“DON’T FEAR THOSE WHO CAN KILL THE BODY BUT NOT
THE SOUL, THAT IS, DON’T FEAR THOSE WHO CAN
KILL THE MORTAL, BUT CANNOT TOUCH
You see, the soul of the Christian is immortal, that is, it cannot die. However, the soul of the non-Christian is mortal, in that it shall die an eternal death. The glorious words of Paul to Timothy are celebrated by and have fortified Christians throughout the ages, as we read in II Timothy 1:10,
“But now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior
Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life
and immortality to light through the gospel.”
I enjoy the ads on television that feature the rooster by the name of “Foghorn Leghorn.” Especially when he, I say, especially when he repeats himself. So to quote him, I say, so to quote him with great emphasis, “Pay attention, I say, pay attention boy.” Jesus Christ is flat out telling us as His spiritual warriors:
“DO NOT, I SAY, DO NOT FEAR THOSE WHO KILL YOUR
BODIES BUT CANNOT TOUCH YOUR SOULS.”
If you will:
“DO NOT, I SAY, DO NOT FEAR DEATH AT ALL!”
And the reason for Him, I say, the reason for Him saying that is:
“JESUS KNEW, I SAY, JESUS KNEW THAT ONLY THOSE, I SAY,
ONLY THOSE WHO ARE FEARLESSLY WILLING TO DIE
FOR HIM WILL BE ABLE, I SAY, WILL BE ABLE TO
LIVE FOR HIM.“
Do you, I say, do you get that?
Think about it in all honesty:
“FEAR SEES THE ENDING OF EARTHLY LIFE, WHILE
FAITH SEES THE BEGINNING OF HEAVENLY LIFE.”
When it comes to death and life, fear and faith have totally different perspectives. For fear, death terminates us in this world, but for faith, death translates us into an infinitely better world. For fear, death takes us from the presence of men, but for faith, death brings us into the presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For fear, death takes us out of the earthly society of men, but for faith, death brings us into the society of saints and angels.
You see, for the faithful, the gain from death so overbalances the loss from death, that instead of fearfully trembling before death, they triumphantly cry out with Paul in Philippians 1:21,
“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
I mean, think of the wife who has been thrown away like leftovers by four husbands, gave her life to Christ, suddenly dies, and is released from all her pain, and lifted into the inexpressible love and glory of the wedding supper of the Lamb and His bride. There she is, having gone from husband to husband like a lost, thirsty, desert survivor going from dune to dune desperately looking for water. And now she comes to the very Fountain of Love and Life without imperfection, without limitation, and without end. Finally and forevermore now safe in the arms of everlasting agape!
This reminds me of the true story of the woman who lived her whole life in fear of everything, and in particular, fear of her husband. Her husband was just like her Dad, domineering, abusive and a drunk. He ran her with two-and-tight fisted force. She cowered in the corner her entire married life.
But then Jesus Christ saved this woman, and His love and life set her free from this godless spirit of fear that had been passed down from generation to generation in her ancestral line. Now there was a whole new sense of eternal safety in the arms of God’s love, Who stopped embracing His only begotten Son on the cross, so that He could forever embrace her.
And with that agapic embrace came a glorious new freedom to love God, to love people she had been afraid of her whole life and had not trusted. And miracle of miracles, she was in the embrace of her Lord now free to love her cruel and even vicious husband, for as I John 4:18,
“But perfect love casts out fear, for there is
not fear in love….”
One Sunday evening she was going to go to church, and she proceeded to put on her coat. Her husband was sitting on the couch drunk. He said to his wife, “Where do you think you are going?” She said to him with now utter confidence in her voice, “I’m going to church.” He had not heard that tone of fearlessness, strength and conviction in her voice ever before. He didn’t like it all. He then proceeded to put the can of beer down, got up from the couch, and went up to her and staring in his eyes said to her, “Where did you say you were going?” Then, he got a hold of her coat, grabbed it by the seam, and ripped it right in half up the back.
His wife went upstairs, put on a warm sweater, and started again for the door. So he shouted at her again, “Where do you think you’re going?” She responded again firmly and without fear, “I am going to church.” With that he doubled his fist, which was the size of a Virginia cured ham, and with his fish smashed her face. She picked herself up, wiped off the blood from her mouth, and looked at him saying, “Honey, I’m going to church.”
At that point, her husband walked into the living room, took his loaded revolver out of a drawer, walked over to her, cocked the trigger, put it to her temple and said, “Now where did you say you were going?” She without a moment’s hesitation, having before lived a life of godless fear, now said in a loving tone:
“SWEETHEART, I LOVE YOU AND IF YOU PULL THE TRIGGER,
I AM GOING TO HEAVEN, AND IF YOU DON’T, I AM
GOING TO CHURCH.”
At which point her husband dropped to his knees, repented of his sins, gave His life to Jesus Christ, went to church with her, and publicly accepted Christ as His Lord and Savior.
We read in Psalm 21:4,
“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?”
“When evil-doers came upon me to devour my flesh,
my adversaries and my enemies, they
“Though a host should encamp against me, though war
rise against me, inspite of this I will be confident.”
FEAR SEES ONLY OBSTACLES – NOT OPPORTUNITIES
Too often, the Christian life is a history of missed opportunities and missed open doors for the Kingdom of God, because of the threatening obstacles and people before us. Nehemiah had been miraculously granted permission by King Artaxerxes to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls and gates that the Babylonians had smashed and burned to the ground. He did so, but he with his co-laborers met with tremendous opposition even to the point of the threatening of their lives.
But the miracle door had been opened by a heathen king, and he was not about to let the opportunity be lost for God’s glory. So it was that Nehemiah stood in faith and said in Nehemiah 6:11,
“Should a man like me flee?”
A man whose passion within Him burned for the Holy City of God with such firey desire and unbearable pain, that he prayed and fasted and wept before God for 4 straight months before God gave him the miraculous and divinely orchestrated opportunity through a pagan king to rebuild Jerusalem. And so he ignored the threats of men and obeyed the Spirit of God.
Listen to it now:
“IT IS NOT THE STRENGTH OF THE ENEMY, BUT THE WEAKNESS
OF OUR FAITH AND THE LUKEWARMNESS OF OUR PASSION
FOR GOD THAT ALLOWS FEAR TO CLOSE THE DOORS
THAT GOD HAS OPENED TO US.”
Oh now we need to hear the words of our Savior again and again in Matthew 10:33,
“But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny
him before My Father Who is in Heaven.”
Oh dear God, how many doors to witness for Christ have been open before us, only to have them closed by fear of the pain of rejection and revilement? But we must hear this today:
“HE WHO FEARS THE FACE OF MEN, WILL NEVER
SEE THE FACE OF GOD.”
I am reminded of the story of the star halfback football player in high school by the name of Mike Murdock. He did very well one year, but a slight injury had kept him out of this particular game that they were playing against their greatest rivals. He was silently relieved, because the team they were playing against was known for their rough play and smash-mouth football.
The game was going poorly for Mike’s team, because they were missing their star running back around whom their entire offense was built. It wasn’t long before the home fans and the home teammates began to chant, “MURDOCK, MURDOCK, MURDOCK.” They wanted their kingpin in the game, and it wasn’t long before the coached succumbed to the chanting pressure, and put Mike Murdock into the game.
Mike didn’t really want to go into the game, but his team was getting killed, and so the coach told his star player to go in and run the ball. So he went into the game, as the home fans were now ecstatically cheering because MURDOCK was going to get the ball.
The team on their first play with Murdock in the game, stayed in their huddle far too long, and they then got penalized five yards for delay of game. When they finally broke huddle, they got a play going, only the quarterback faked a handoff to Murdock, and instead gave the ball to another halfback who was tackled for another five yard loss.
When this happened, the home fans now became enraged, and they began to shout:
“LET MURDOCK HAVE IT, LET MURDOCK HAVE IT.“
The team stayed in the huddle too long again and was penalized another five yards. They broke the huddle, and ran a play as the quarterback this time handed off to Murdock who threw a pass to one of the ends who dropped the ball.
The home crowd was incensed, and screamed in unison:
“GIVE MURDOCK THE BALL, GIVE MURDOCK THE BALL.”
The coach shouted to the quarterback, “Give Murdock the ball.” At which point the quarterback called time out, walked to the middle of the field, motioned with his hands to the crowd to quiet down, and when they did, shouted to the hushed crowd:
“MURDOCK SAYS HE DON’T WANT THE BALL.”
Is Murdock us? Is Murdock me? Is Murdock you? He had the opportunity to help his team come back and win. But are we saying by our lives, “Murdock don’t want the ball.” Perhaps one or more of you are saying, “Murdock don’t want the ball’ is incorrect English. Yes, you are right, and most likely you are more concerned about being correct than courageous. Murdock’s sin was not lack of linguistic correctness, but lack of courageousness born of the fear of men. How is it with us? For Jesus Christ, do we truly want the ball, even if it means pain? Jesus did! Do we? Amen!