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Sermon: "Answers to Fear" (Part 1-2)
This is not a paid political announcement, though it may begin to sound like one. Several years ago Robert Reich, former lecturer at Harvard University and Secretary of Labor during Bill Clinton's first term, spoke to a large gathering of business leaders. He told everyone present that the predominant mood in the country was one of anxiety. The chief concern of many Americans, he said, was that they were afraid of losing their jobs and benefits. (In fact, I just heard this past week that that is still the fear of many Americans, despite our "robust" economy.) So, what was Reich's solution? Stem the crises. In all of his remarks, he always prefaced every paragraph with the word "anxiety."
Why did that administration continue to characterize so many of our societal problems as "crises"? Civil rights, crime, poverty, race relations, health care, the environment, AIDS, the infrastructure, the inner cities, the national debt, and the budget deficit all qualify as "crises" which demand immediate solutions, according to their assessment.
I suggest that they stressed this word because they wanted to convince the American people that we cannot survive without government assistance. They wanted us to hand over more and more of our lives into government control. They wanted us to surrender more of our freedom so that they could micromanage our existence more fully; so to speak, from the cradle to the grave, or putting it more lyrically, from "the womb to the tomb." They were determined to make us want to depend solely on the State rather than rely on God, one another, and ourselves to tackle our problems. I am convinced that this Administration sought to play on our fears in order to influence as many people as possible to see life from their world and life view, rather than from God's perspective.
Now my purpose this morning is not to harangue Clinton's administration (or the present one which is far worse) about its overreach, or to minimize our legitimate fears. Rather, I would like to examine the topic of fear with a view toward providing spiritual answers which we might use to overcome this very real foe.
The Origin of Fear
The first aspect of our topic that I would like to look at this morning is the origin of fear. To do this, we have to return to the place where this enemy got its foothold in humanity: Genesis. Genesis 3 tells us how fear began. We are all familiar with the account. Scripture tells us that a real, historical Adam disobeyed a direct command from God: "Don't eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." After Adam and Eve had tasted this forbidden fruit, they hid themselves from the presence of the LORD among the trees of the garden. In light of the warning of Genesis 2:17--"In the day you shall eat of the fruit, you shall surely die"-- they avoided God like the Plague.
When the LORD finally confronted them, what did Adam say? Genesis 3:10 reads: "I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself." Wishing Adam to 'fess up so that He could restore him, God pressed the point of his nakedness. How did Adam respond? He started blaming God for giving him Eve!
Now before we start shaking our head at old Adam, we'd better ask ourselves a serious question first. How often have we done something wrong --for instance, broken a window as a young boy playing baseball in the backyard, spent money foolishly on something we did not need, said something unkind or untrue, or even petty and stupid--and then tried to avoid the offended party for fear of punishment or confrontation? Then when we were accused of wrongdoing and shown the evidence of our fault, we tried to defend our reputation by saying, "Well, if you didn't blah, blah, blah . . . " We must be honest with ourselves and admit that we shift the blame as expertly as old Adam did.
The Enemy of Fear is Love
Recently I read an article in my Sunday newspaper entitled, "Don't Look Now, But Your Fears Are Creeping Up on You. Take No Solace In These Pages, As We Examine What Scares Us." The writer (Nancy Mills) quotes David Tolin, author of Face Your Fears and director of the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Institute of Living in Hartford, Conn. as saying, "Fear is a good thing, to a certain extent. Without fear, we wouldn't be alive. Fear allows us to escape and avoid threat. The problem is that sometimes there is no threat." Tolin goes on to say, "The solution is facing the thing we are afraid of. . . . However, we have to be willing to accept a certain amount of fear in order to beat that fear." Another author, David Borgenicht, writes, "People tend to fear what they don't know." These statements are true. Once we learn more about what makes us afraid and take that step of faith armed with the facts and truth, we can overcome many ills that trouble us.
Jay Adams in his book The Christian Counselor's Manual states that fear is opposed to love. The enemy of fear is love. The way to put off fear is to put on love. Adams very perceptively points out that fear moves away from problems; it hides, it covers up. For instance, sometimes guys don't want anyone else to know that they are afraid of anything, so they put on a "macho" image. "I can handle it," they say to everyone. That is, until their fear crushes them, paralyzes them, and digs for them a deep hole of depression. Then they become a slave to their fear.
Love, on the other hand, moves toward problems and people; it reveals and opens up. It's vulnerable. 1 John 4:18 states, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment (or punishment). But he who fears has not been made perfect in love." Love is honest; it allows others to see your humanness. It shows them that you are just like everyone else, and that you need a helping hand from time to time.
Let me ask you: "Is there something you have to own up to and confess?" Whatever it is, please make it right today. Take it to the Lord for cleansing. Seek reconciliation with your neighbor, if that is your need. Be a peacemaker.
© 2014 glynch1