Mastering Fear and Anxiety

fearThis is the third of the series of sermons I preached some years ago on: Mastering the Emotions.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

John 14:27 KJV

Psychologists tell us we were born with only two fears: The fear of loud noises and the fear of falling! Therefore, if that is the case, all other fears are learned responses from environment or taught by parents and/or other authority figures. Now, there are cases in which fear is good! Fear is needed because it protects us from danger. It is part of our natural “fight or flight response” to our environment. The Bible says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” However, our fear of the Lord should not be a trembling fear of God’s punishment, but rather a reverence and respect for God’s character and nature. In other words, we shouldn’t fear God like a child fears the “boogie-man,” we should fear God in the same manner that a child respects his parents. The Lord desires for us to serve him, not out of fear but out of love! In fact, the Bible says that fear does not even come from God! 2 Timothy 1:7 says: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” So these fears; the fear of falling, the fear of loud noises, the fear that alerts and protects us from danger and harm, and the fear of God are “good” fears that are natural or should be acquired.
In my research, I found over 518 phobias or fears that are officially recognized! There are even such fears as the fear of success, the fear of church, and the fear of preachers, on the list! Our world is so engulfed with fear, that most people think that fear and anxiety are the natural and normal responses to life! But, for the child of God, the one who claims Jesus as Lord and Savior, being controlled and dominate by fear is not normal! Paul said that we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. And if we are to be who God created and called us to be, then we must master fear and anxiety.
Yes! For the Child of God, for the one who knows the Lord, fear should have no dominion in their life! Over and over again, in the Biblical text, God encouraged people not to fear! He did and He does so because fear will keep us from doing what we could, should, and want to do! Fear will hinder us from being and doing all that God created and called us to be and do! Fear is the enemy of our dominion! The ancient Chinese writer, Sun Tze wrote in his treatise: “The Art of War”, that a primary military strategy is to know your enemy. Before you engage in battle, you should learn all you can about your opponent! Well, the emotions of fear and anxiety can be enemies of our potential, therefore we need to know all we can about them and how they operate!
There are several acronyms I found using the letters: F-E-A-R, that will help us to know what fear really is! Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real: Fear paints a picture not supported by reality. Fear is an incorrect response because fear is a reaction, not to evidence that is real, but to evidence that only looks real! We can master fear by understanding that many times things are not always as they appear!
Fear is Failure Expected and Received! There are spiritual laws that govern the universe that are just a real and powerful as the Law of Gravity! Two such laws are the Law of Attraction and the Law of Faith. The Law of Attraction says that we tend to attract the circumstances, people and situations into our lives that are in agreement with our dominant and consistent thoughts. The Law of Faith says that whatever we believe with conviction, whether it be good or bad, positive or negative, it will eventually come to pass and be manifested in our lives. That’s why Paul wrote: “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” The things we constantly think about manifest themselves in our lives! Therefore, we should think good thoughts! That’s why we shouldn’t think about what we don’t want! We should only think about what we do want! The more we think about what we don’t want, the greater the possibility that what we don’t want will show up! In fact, we actually attract it because of the law of attraction! Some Bible scholars think the Law of Attraction may have been a factor in Job’s life because in the midst of his troubles Job said, “The thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and that which I was afraid is come unto me!”
In a sense, fear and faith are not really opposites, but in a very real way, they are two sides of the same coin! Fear is a type of faith because, like faith, fear is a conviction and an expectation. The difference is the conviction and expectation is in a negative and unwanted outcome. Fear is the substance of things not hoped for and the evidence of things not seen! Faith is belief directed toward what we want; fear is belief directed toward what we don’t want! We can master fear by simply not thinking about and not focusing our attention on what we don’t want! We can master fear by starving our fears and feeding our faith!
Fear is Forgetting Everything is All Right! The Disciples were fearful in the storm because they forgot Jesus was on board! And even when they remembered he was on board, they forgot who he was! They forgot he was the master of the sea! Yes! We fear because we forget that greater is He that is within us than he that is in the world! We fear because we forget that Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” It is because he has overcome the world that we can overcome the world! We fear because we forget that our Heavenly Father knows what we have need of and He has promised to supply our every need! Yes! My brothers and sisters, we can master fear by simply remembering that no matter how it looks, the Lord says; “Everything is all right!”
Yes! We need to know fear! But not only do we need to know fear, we also need to know how fear operates! We need to know that fear is contagious! Therefore, we need to inoculate ourselves from fear because fear can be passed on and we can be infected with fear from other people! Listen to the instructions the Lord gave Moses to give to the people concerning war in Deuteronomy 20:1-4, 8: “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you. . . . And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart.” According to the NLT, the officers said to the people: “Is anyone here afraid or worried? If you are, you may go home before you frighten anyone else!” Contagious fear caused the Children of Israel to spend some 40 years wandering in the wilderness. The report of the ten spies was motivated by fear and it was their fear that infected the multitude, who in turn, rebelled against the expressed command of the Lord to occupy the land! Yes! Fear is like a bad cold! If you hang around fearful people; you will catch it! Therefore, one way we can master fear is by isolating and insulating ourselves from fearful people!
Now, you might have noticed that our subject is “Mastering Fear and Anxiety.” Some people don’t think so, but there is a difference between fear and anxiety. Fear is an emotional response to a known or definite threat, whereas, anxiety is often a response to an imprecise or unknown threat. It comes from the mind’s vision of possible danger. In other words, anxiety comes from our minds thinking of something that could happen! Anxiety is being worried about being fired from your job when there is no concrete evidence of it happening! Anxiety occurs because we focus, not on what is wrong, but on what could go wrong! The difference between fear and anxiety is that you have fear when you’re in a dark alley and you see a man headed in your direction with a knife! Anxiety is when you are in a dark alley and you see a man headed in your direction and you “think” he may have a knife! Fear is when you run a red light and you look in your rear-view mirror and the police is right behind you with his lights on! Anxiety is when you haven’t broken any laws and you are uneasy when you look in your rear-view mirror and the police is right behind you with his lights on! Fear may result from a real threat, but anxiety comes from just the possibility of a threat.
Well, I need to come to a close now! I don’t have to tell you the damage that fear and anxiety can cause. Fear and anxiety can elevate your blood pressure and body temperature. Fear and anxiety can cause fear and panic attacks during which there is severe shortness of breath, causing even further panic, which in turn could lead to strokes and heart attacks! In other words, besides preventing us from doing what we could, should and want to do, uncontrolled fear and anxiety is unhealthy and lethal! But, we can master fear and anxiety! The Bible says that we are to be anxious for nothing! When we’re fearful and anxious, we’re really saying we don’t trust God and that God is a liar! In the text Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” The peace Jesus gives is not the absence of conflict, but rather the calmness in the midst of conflict! Peace in the midst of the storm! He said: “Don’t let you heart be trouble, neither let it be afraid!” If we are anxious for nothing, but by prayer and supplication, make our request known to God, the peace that passes all understanding will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus! It is the peace that comes from the Prince of Peace that gives us the power to master fear and anxiety!

A False Theology of Death

tombstonesWe live in an increasingly violent society and in view of the constant senseless tragic premature deaths that occur in our society on a daily basis, many people are formulating a false theology of death as a coping mechanism. It is just part of the human make-up to “make sense” of what are otherwise “senseless situations.”
Now, the reason why people are formulating a false theology of death is because of an ignorance of what the Bible says about the subject. But, the surprising thing to me is that while one would expect people who are non-religious and/or who don’t attend church to be ignorant on the subject, much of the false theology of death being promoted is coming from “church people,” even people who are preachers, pastors, and church leaders!
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica these words: He said, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep. . .” (1Th 4:13 KJV) In that particular text, Paul used the word “asleep” as a euphemism for death. There were people in the church at that time who were anxiously awaiting the coming of the Lord and they wanted to know what would happen to those who had died prior to the Lord’s coming. They were apprehensive because they feared those who had died would miss the Lord’s coming. Therefore, Paul wrote this section of the text to allay their fears. He didn’t want them to be uninformed or in the dark about what would happen to those who had died when Jesus came back. Yet, over two thousand years later, people are still largely ignorant and uninformed concerning those who have died! Not so much about what would happen to them when Jesus comes back, but rather, about what happens to them when they die.
In promoting a correct theology of death, I think it would be beneficial to cite some of the false beliefs that are prevalent. A few months ago, I was shocked to witness an example of a false theology of death in a church resolution! I was sitting in the funeral service of a dear elderly mother who had spent years serving in the church. All was going well, until they read a resolution to the family by the church. After many “whereas” and “therefore” (I don’t know how to write these in plural form!), the clerk read this: “Whereas on (date) God looked down from Heaven and plucked a gentle flower named (the deceased) from His earthly garden to array His Heavenly bouquet. . .” To be honest with you, I almost fell out of my seat! I mean . . . seriously? I wouldn’t have been so shocked if someone from the congregation had said such nonsense in their remarks, but this was an official church resolution! Now you might be wondering what’s so terrible about the statement. But think about it! The statement implies that God “killed” this dear mother, just to beautify Heaven! I know we say things, trying to comfort the family in their time of grief, but statements like this is a gross misrepresentation of what the Bible says about death and the character of God!
First of all, GOD DOES NOT SPONSOR DEATH! Jesus said in John 10:10, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (KJV) God is not in the business of killing people! It’s God will that we live long, prosperous and productive lives! And if we studied Genesis carefully, we would discover that death was not part of God’s original intent. It was God’s original intention for man to live forever upon the earth! Death came about as a result of sin.
I encountered another case of a false theology of death while attending a visitation for a young man who had been murdered in a shooting. I was walking out the door of the funeral home when I overheard and elderly woman trying to comfort a grieving young person. The woman said to the young man: “Well you know, it was just God’s will and God just called him home!” I almost stopped in my tracks! Seriously? It is NEVER GOD’S WILL for a 24-year-old to be shot and murdered! God doesn’t use murder to “call people home!” It is more beneficial to God and to us to live a long life because we are more useful to God on earth than we are in Heaven! Where are we getting all of this foolishness? We need to learn to call it for what it is! There is a story in Matthew about a man who planted a field, but when it was time for the harvest, the workers discovered tares among the wheat. They asked their master: “Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them: An enemy hath done this. . .” (Mat 13:27-28 KJV) People attribute all deaths as being the work of God, but the truth of the matter is: The enemy hath done this!” And the enemy doesn’t want people to know what he is doing because he knows it is really difficult to truly praise a God that you think is responsible for your grief!
I’ve got one more false theology I want to address and then I will be through with my rant (for now). For some reason, many think that death is a promotion to angelic status. But the truth of the matter is this: Angel will always be angels and people will always be people! People do not change into angels and they do not get wings when they die, even if they were good people! I know we sing the song about two wings to veil our face, two wings to veil our feet, and two wings to fly away, but nowhere in the Bible is it even implied that we will get wings! The song has good rhythm but it has bad theology!
Well, I’ve shared the false theology of death; now let me leave you with the true theology of death! The true theology is this: We live in a fallen world! Because of that, life is often cruel and unfair! Many times the good die young, while people who raise hell seem to live forever! It’s not fair for the life of a young person with potential, dreams and goals to be violently taken by someone who only lives for themselves! It’s not fair for a father or mother of a young family to be killed in an automobile accident while the person who caused the accident, whose license had already been suspended for driving drunk, walks away! No! Life’s not fair, but don’t blame life’s unfairness on God: The enemy has done this! But, in the end, it will all work out! The Apostle Paul said: “Our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Cor. 4:17 NLT) Paul also said that for the believer, to be absent from the body (dead) is to be present with the Lord! And the Bible says that in His presence is the fullness of joy! The Apostle John received a revelation on the Isle of Patmos, listen to what he saw: “And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (Rev 21:2-5 KJV)

Until then, be not over-whelmed with the worries and tragedies of this present world! Use them to motivate you to be all that God has called you to be in the short time that life allows! If and when tragedy strikes in your life or in the lives of those around you, know and offer the hope that is available in Christ: “Jesus said unto her, (Martha, the sister of Lazarus) I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26 KJV)