Living @ ease in an Uneasy World Part 2
Dealing with Fear in an Age of Terrorism
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
March 30, 2003




Let me give you a test. In your Sunrise Update this morning you’ll find some notes you can use to follow along with the message. And at the beginning of those notes you’ll find a list of 20 fears/phobias. Some, you’re probably familiar with. Others, you’ve probably never heard of. Take a look at them and se if you can figure out what they are. And then we’ll go through them one at a time to see how you did.

Botanophobia - Fear of plants
Ailurophobia - Fear of Cats
Apiphobia - Fear of bees
Geraunophobia - Fear of thunder
Claustrophobia - Fear of enclosed places
Neophobia - Fear of anything new
Clinophobia - Fear of going to bed
Pyrophobia - Fear of fire
Batophobia - Fear of being close to high buildings
Pupaphobia - Fear of Puppets
Triskaidekaphobia - Fear of the number 13
Xenophobia - Fear of strangers
Didaskaleinophobia - Fear of school
Bibliophobia - Fear of books
Chionophobia - Fear of snow
Blennophobia - Fear of slim
Pallophobia - Fear of balloons
Chronophobia - Fear of time
Chronomentrophobia - Fear of clocks
Arachibutyrophobia - Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth

How’d you do? Were you able to get two or three? Anyone get five of them? Anyone get more than that?

Most of these fears or phobias are pretty obscure. But the truth is, we all face a variety of fears every day. Some big, some small, but all very real. According to the Book of Lists, the top ten fears that we have are…

10. Dogs
9. Loneliness
8. Flying
7. Death
6. Sickness
5. Deep water
4. Financial problems
3. Insects and bugs
2. Heights
1. Speaking before a group

Of course, over the past year and a half we’ve come to know a fairly new fear in North America: terrorism. Terrorism is the fear of fear being used as a weapon.

Think back to the days just after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. I believe the amount of fear even here in Atlantic Canada during those days was higher than at any other time in my lifetime, and perhaps in our history. I can’t think of any other time when so many people shared the same fear to the same degree. Even though the attacks were south of the border, we never felt as vulnerable as we did then. Even the Confederation Bridge was named as a possible target and was shut down for a period of time.

Thankfully as time has passed the level of fear has subsided somewhat, but I think it’s still in the back of our minds. We now know that terrorists can attack anyplace and anytime, and perhaps that’s the message they wanted to deliver in the first place.

We’re not going to spend the whole morning talking about terrorism. I’m not going to tell you that you need to go out and buy duct tape and sheets of plastic in order to protect yourself. And I’m not going to talk about the pros and cons of racial profiling. We’ve heard about those things for months, and I don’t have anything to add.

But what I do want to do is talk about some of the dangers involved in living in fear, and take a look at what advice the Bible gives for dealing with these fears.

 

The Dangers of Fear

 

A. Fear Paralyzes You

I read a story this week about when Nikita Khrushchev was premier of the Soviet Union. Obviously it’s a story that took place a number of years ago. When Khrushchev was premier, he would go around denouncing many of the policies and atrocities of Joseph Stalin. One time when he was doing this in a public meeting, he was interrupted by a heckler in the audience. The heckler shouted out, “You were one of Stalin’s colleagues! Why didn’t you stop him?” Khrushchev stopped what he was doing and roared at the audience, “Who said that?” Nobody answered. After a long, agonizing silence, during which no one dared move a muscle, Khrushchev quietly said, “Now you know why.”

Fear has a way of paralyzing you. Even when you know you should do something, fear can stop you dead in your tracks.

 

B. Fear Consumes You

Fear doesn’t just paralyze you and prevent you from acting in response to what’s causing the fear; it also won’t let you think about or deal with anything else. All that matters is the fear. You can try to suppress it, but like a beach ball pushed under water it’ll always spring to the surface again. It will end up consuming all of your time, your thoughts, your energies, and it’ll eat you up inside.

 

C. Fear Can Cause Death

We have a phrase we sometimes use: “You scared me to death.” But did you know that it is literally possible to be scared to death? You may remember the earthquake which shook Los Angeles back in January of 1994. According to cardiologist Robert Kloner, over 100 people literally died of fright during that event. His research has shown that excessive fear can cause the brain to release such a potent mix of chemicals that the heart contracts and never relaxes again, causing death.

Another study in Cleveland examined fifteen victims of assault who died even though their wounds weren’t bad enough to be fatal. The study showed that 11 of the 15 had torn fibres and lesions in their hearts, and that the damage was most likely caused by mortal fear.

Chances are you’ll never be frightened to death. It’s possible, but unlikely. It is likely, however, that if fear takes up permanent residence in your life you’ll experience some other health problems.

What are some examples of health problems that can come on as a result of fear?

PARTICIPATION

Fear can cause physical death, or at least problems. It can also cause spiritual death, or at least problems. Because fear takes your trust away from God. When fear is allowed to reign in your life, you start to believe that not even God can help you. And the result is that you slowly push Him away and out of your life. You have a hard time believing Him, you withdraw from His Church, and your growth is severely hampered until you overcome your fear.


So fear can be a very dangerous thing when allowed to exist unchecked in our lives. We need to find a way to handle it, and prevent it from ruling us. Let me give you the FEAR Solution.

But before we get to that, think back to when you were a kid laying in bed and just knew there was a monster lurking at the foot of the bed. And you knew that monster was ready to pounce on you as soon as you turned your back or closed your eyes. Remember how that fear was resolved? Somebody, perhaps your mother or father, would come in, turn on the light, and show you that you were afraid of nothing more than a sweater hanging on a chair. Once the lights came on, the fear went away.

So by looking at this FEAR Solution I’m hoping that the lights will come on for you… that you’ll see that you don’t have to live in bondage to any fear.

It should be said that some fear requires medical help. There are some conditions that need to be treated. That’s not the kind of fear I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the everyday fear that is brought on by our own worry, by our own imagination, and that is the result of circumstances, not a chemical imbalance.

So let’s look at the F.E.A.R. Solution.

 

The F.E.A.R. Solution

 

Face your Fear

I read a story from Leadership Journal about a pastor who needed to confront someone who was causing conflict in the church. But the pastor confided to his wife that he was afraid to speak to the troublemaker. He told her, “Every time I think about this person, I get sweaty palms. And every time I have to confront someone, my mouth goes dry.” His wife’s response? “Why don’t you lick your palms?”

Sometimes we just have to lick our palms and go deal with the problem. We need to stop thinking about how fearful we are and just do it. We have to face our fear instead of ignoring it or putting it off.

We talked about how fear can paralyze you. And right after the terrorist attacks, people were paralyzed. They were afraid to do anything. Do you remember the instruction the public was given to combat the terrorists? Go shopping. As ridiculous as it sounds on the surface, we were told to go shopping. In other words, face your fears and go about your everyday life.

“Do the thing you fear the most, and the death of fear is certain.”
~ Neil Anderson, Freedom in Christ Ministries (Daily Devotional, The Death of Fear, August 27, 2000)

When you try to hide from your fear, that’s when your fear controls you. That’s when it’s the strongest. But with God on our side we can stand our ground instead of running in fear.

Proverbs 28:1 (NLT)
The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions.

They stand their ground and face their fear.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Read that aloud with me.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

 

End your Rehearsing

I think this is where many of us get stuck. There’s something we have to do but we’re afraid of the possible outcome. So we dwell on how everything’s going to go wrong and we think about all the possible problems that are going to emerge, and we convince ourselves that the situation is hopeless. We’ve rehearsed the worst-case scenario over and over again until we’re convinced it’s reality. And we need to stop it.

You’re probably familiar with the Old Testament account of how the Israelites were taken out of slavery in Egypt and were led to the land God promised them. God had guaranteed them that they would occupy the land. So when they got close to the land, Moses sent 12 spies into the land to scope it out and report back what they saw. This is their report…

Numbers 13:27-33 (NLT)
This was their report to Moses: "We arrived in the land you sent us to see, and it is indeed a magnificent country--a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is some of its fruit as proof. But the people living there are powerful, and their cities and towns are fortified and very large. We also saw the descendants of Anak who are living there! The Amalekites live in the Negev, and the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country. The Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan Valley."
But Caleb tried to encourage the people as they stood before Moses. "Let's go at once to take the land," he said. "We can certainly conquer it!"
But the other men who had explored the land with him answered, "We can't go up against them! They are stronger than we are!" So they spread discouraging reports about the land among the Israelites: "The land we explored will swallow up any who go to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. We felt like grasshoppers next to them, and that's what we looked like to them!"


Most of the spies were rehearsing what they feared would happen. They rehearsed it so much the became convinced that the land would swallow them up… that the big and powerful people in the land would stomp them out like grasshoppers. They rehearsed their fear and it got the best of them.

Caleb, though, wasn’t dwelling on the obstacles. He wasn’t expecting the worst. He was focused on the promise of God and was not afraid to go into the land he had been promised. Do you crave the courage and faith of Caleb. What a great model for us to follow. End your rehearsing.

 

Ask for Help

In Exodus 3 and 4, we find the famous account of God speaking to Moses through a burning bush. This is where God first called Moses to become the man to lead the Israelites out slavery in Egypt. But Moses was afraid. So after a long discussion, God also called Moses’ brother Aaron to team up with Moses and help him. Could Moses have obeyed God and gone solo to lead the people out of slavery? Well, yes, with God’s help. But he didn’t have to. His brother was there to support him.

And we don’t have to deal with all our challenges and fears alone today. We are the Body of Christ. We are the Church. We need to be there for each other, through thick and thin. And it’s okay to ask for help.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT)
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

John Maxwell, who is a best selling author, the founder and president of InJoy based in Atlanta, and an ordained Wesleyan minister, says…

“Somewhere in your network is someone who has information you need to solve a given problem. Someone in your network can offer you encouragement when you struggle. Someone in your network has been where you are now and can suggest ways to get to where you want to go. What’s keeping you from calling them right now?”
~ John Maxwell

Ask for help. And the final thing is…

 

Rely on God

This really should have been the first point, except we wouldn’t have spelled out “FEAR” that way. We need to rely on God. We need to trust Him, no matter what.

Do you know that there are over 100 places in the Bible where we’re told, “Do not fear” or “Be not afraid”? In fact, the Bible addresses fear more than it does many other things like lust and pride. So it would appear that overcoming our fears is a large part of our spiritual growth.

Joshua 1:9 (NLT)
I command you--be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

Proverbs 29:25 (NLT)
Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but to trust the LORD means safety.

You can trust God and count on Him in spite of any fear that may come against you. He is faithful to you, and He will never leave you or abandon you. He loves you, He is God, and you can trust Him.

 

 

 

Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2003 SunriseOnline.ca