Facing our fears

 

Dear friends

Welcome to our special service today for ‘Education Sunday’. It strikes me that part of the process of education is to help us develop confidence in our abilities so that we can reach our full potential. ‘Fear’ in one form or another can often be the obstacle. But by offering support and gentle encouragement we can be helped to grow through our fears so that they no longer inhibit us.

Texan Pastor and radio personality, Ed Young writes in his book, ‘Know Fear’, ‘Fear is an unavoidable part of the human experience. Anxiety, fear and phobia threaten to encompass us…Because we are taught that it is weak to show fear, that cowards are despised, and that being a hero knows no fear, we try to hide our fears and anxieties. Condemning ourselves, our self-image takes a nose dive with our self esteem.’ He describes the six most common phobias we all face; fear of helplessness, fear of the future, fear of commitment, fear of failure, fear of loneliness and fear of death. I’m sure we could all add our own fears to that list. If we settle in that place of fear we can find ourselves limited from the fullness of life that God intends for us. However irrational these fears might be for us they are real enough and like David confronting his Goliath, we too need to find a way of disarming the power of these fears so that they will not rule over us and limit our potential. 

Remembering my own school days, like most teenagers, I just wanted to blend in with my peer group. My greatest fear was to be ‘labelled’ or picked on or exposed in any way and made to feel vulnerable to unwelcome attention.

One evening at the New Wine summer conference last summer which many of us attended, hundreds of people squeezed into the after hours entertainment show at which John Archer, a well known stand up comic was performing. His routine was as hilarious as ever. But I was so glad that we were sitting nowhere near the front within sight of becoming the target of the comic’s sharp wit and endless jokes!

 

It has been said that the expression ‘Do not be afraid’ occurs in the Bible 366 times, one for every day of the year (including leap years!)

We all experience fear from time to time, whether it is fear of public speaking, fear of starting again, fear of stepping out into a new adventure, fear of dying. If we don’t confront our fears we can be paralysed into a limitation of life that is not God’s best for us.

Growing Confidence

As we look at the book of Proverbs in our sermon series this month, we find wisdom to help us steer a passage through life learning to trust ourselves to God and find confidence in who we are in relationship with Him. Wisdom has been defined as the ‘art of steering’. I know of a driveway with a very narrow entrance, which in order to pass through without scraping your car requires precision steering. Sadly the various coloured marks on the brick work either side betray how difficult some people find it. As we go through life we come across many tight situations which require wisdom in order to avoid damaging ourselves or others.

Wisdom will ‘keep you from making wrong turns, or following bad directions’ says the writer of Proverbs (Chapter 2:12). Wisdom will stop us steering off course. It will stop us travelling paths that go nowhere, wandering in a maze of detours and dead ends (v15). Wisdom will keep you walking with those who walk straight (v21).

Many of our fears arise from bad past experiences or inherited anxieties. As we pursue the path of God’s wisdom, we can learn to make good decisions for the future that help us to live well, without fear, and ready to risk again.

Travelling Together

It is in our walking with Jesus and with others, that we can share our fears and find encouragement and strength to contend with them and in so doing enjoy the experience of life that God desires for us. It’s in our life together and more specifically in our small groups, that as we pray and stand with one another we can find that release to become the person we were created to be in Christ.

The Right Kind of Fear

The writer of Proverbs says that if we are wise, we will ‘choose to fear the Lord’ (1:33), that is having a healthy respect for God, and as a result ‘we will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm’ (1:33).

Now that’s a promise worth holding onto!          

 Stephen