One of the great benefits of spending time with Jesus is that His character starts to rub off on us. Wouldn’t it be great if all of us looked a little more like Jesus? Many of you do!
If you’re new to Brookwood, my name is David Hardy, one of the pastors here, and I was not on our schedule to be preaching today, but I must have been on God’s schedule ‘cause here I am. Perry caught something like the flu near the end of the week, so he called me to do the message today. We have been going through a series called “Can you hear Me?” where Perry is teaching through the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3. We were scheduled to look at the letter to Thyatira today, but Perry wanted to teach that one, and I wanted him to teach that one, so we’ll take a break from the series today. Perry will pick back next week, Lord willing, and will teach on Revelation 2:18-29 that he intended to do today, and we’ll extend the series by one week through March 8. So that gives you an extra week to work on your own personal Letter from God. If you haven’t been here, we have provided a guide you can use to ask God what He would write to you if He were writing a letter to you similar to the outline of the letters to the churches in Revelation. You can find that guide at brookwoodchurch.org/hearingGod, or you can look at the Soul Training on the back of your Message Guide, and it will review the parts of the letter we’ve worked on so far.
Now for today, we’ll discuss a topic that I think we all have experience with, and that is fear. If you were here for Adventure Week Sunday this past summer, you may have heard J.C., our Family Pastor, share a message on fear. I still remember the key phrase from his message which was . . . anybody remember? FEAR IS NOT THE BOSS OF ME. He pointed out 2 Peter 1:3 that tells us that God has given us everything we need to live a godly life. So I want to look today at what God has given us that will help us overcome fear.
That is found in our theme verse, which is also our memory verse, 2 Timothy 1:7.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.;
2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)
Unfortunately, I am well acquainted with fear. There are four common categories of fear, and I’ve experienced them all. There’s the Fear of Failure. It’s trying to get in my mind right now. When I stand in front of a crowd like this and think of how many people might be watching online, I know there’s gonna be somebody who doesn’t like what I have to say, and might get offended or get angry. Or I might mess up what God is trying to say. I know it’s not rational, but those thoughts pop up. Are you afraid of failing at something, afraid you’re not good enough, so you’re extra cautious?
The Fear of Loss. I remember driving our oldest daughter six hours away to drop her off at college several years ago now, and being afraid to let her go. To set her free. Fearing I haven’t given her all she needs to be on her own in this world. Now both my daughters take care of me when we travel together.
Fear of rejection. We want everyone to like us, we don’t want to upset anyone, we want our appearance, our behavior, everything to be just right so no one will reject us.
Fear of the unknown. What if I get sick, or get cancer? What if I lose my job? What if things don’t work out like I hope? What really happens when we die? What if?
What causes you to fear? What are you afraid of today?
We may not realize we experience fear, but if you evaluate some of your behaviors, you might see some indicators of underlying fear. Like when we react in anger or frustration, or with excessive emotion, or try to control everything and everyone arounds us, those are good indicators of fear.
Some say that fear is a lack of faith, but I think a more accurate statement is that fear is misplaced faith. We all place our faith in something, but we fear when we trust in something or someone that we don’t truly believe can take care of us.
2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that our fear is not from God.
Let’s look at the context of that verse. 2 Timothy 1 is on page 960 of this Bible that we make available here at Brookwood. If you don’t have a Bible, you can get one in the Bookstore, and if you can’t pay for one, they have one they’ll give you. You can also download the Bible app on your phone and go to 2 Timothy chapter 1, verse 5.
2 Timothy is a letter from the apostle Paul to his son in the faith, his protégé, his close friend Timothy. I think I can relate to Timothy because as I read between the lines, it sounds like there may have been some timidity in Timothy, possibly a lack of confidence. Paul encourages Timothy in verse 5 by saying:
I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.
2 Timothy 1:5 (NLT)
I remember your faith Timothy. Genuine faith, trust, dependence on Jesus. It’s a faith that’s not new to you, or to your family. We’ve seen that faith in your grandmother, and in your mother, and I know that faith is strong in you.
But there must have been some room to grow in Timothy’s faith, because then Paul says in verse 6:
This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.
2 Timothy 1:6 (NLT)
This is my opinion, but it seems that Timothy might have been a little timid, a little shy about using the gift God gave him. Paul is telling him to use your gift, don’t hide it, fan the flame, get it going. Don’t be shy to use your gift. Then Paul says,
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)
This fear of what people might think, this feeling of “but what if I fail or don’t do it right”, this is not from God. God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity.
That fear is either coming from the fact that you’re trusting in someone or something other than God, or it’s coming from your mind, or from someone else, but it is not from God.
Though God has not given us the spirit of fear, He knows that fear is very real for us, and He has given us some things to counteract our fear. So how do we overcome fear?
- Trust the power of God’s Spirit.
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but if we trust our lives to Jesus, He put the Holy Spirit in us, and gives us a spirit of power. There’s power to overcome any fear, but am I trusting that power, or my own power.
WHAT YOU FEAR REVEALS WHAT YOU VALUE THE MOST.
If I fear that you won’t think highly of me, it shows I value my reputation. If I fear I’ll lose my marriage, it shows I value my marriage. If I fear not having enough money, it shows I value money. If I fear death, it shows I value my life. What you fear shows what you value. And it’s ok to value those things.
WHAT YOU FEAR ALSO REVEALS WHERE YOU TRUST GOD THE LEAST.
Do I fear what you think of me because I don’t trust what God thinks of me? Do I fear losing my marriage because I don’t trust God with my marriage? Do I fear not having enough money because I haven’t trusted God with my money? Do I fear death because I don’t trust God with my life?
Overcoming fear comes down to where we place our trust. Do I trust my own power? Then I’ll be anxious, nervous, fearful. Or do I trust the power of God?
It’s ok to acknowledge your fear, but then trust God’s power to overcome whatever is causing your fear.
King David, who wrote most of the book of Psalms, considered to be a man after God’s own heart, great warrior, acknowledged being afraid. When David was first anointed to be the king, Saul was still the current king. Saul had fear that David was going to take away his job. So Saul told his men to hunt down David and get rid of him, kill him. Saul was operating out of fear because he valued his position as king. Then David runs and ends up in the hands of the Philistines in Gath, the people of Goliath whom David had killed. So put yourself in David’s place. His friends want to kill him and his enemies want to kill him. That’s likely the situation David was in when he wrote Psalm 56 where he says:
I am constantly hounded by those who slander me, and many are boldly attacking me. But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.
I praise God for what He has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?
Psalm 56:2-4 (NLT)
David acknowledges that there are some very real problems to cause concern. I am constantly hounded by those who slander me. There’s all kinds of people talking about me behind my back. People are against me, and I can’t even defend myself. I’m not sure who is with me and who is against me.
On top of that, many are boldly attacking me. Criticizing me, obviously out to get me, even kill me.
Then David admits he is afraid. “When I am afraid”. What are you afraid of?
When I am afraid, where will I place my trust? Who can I trust? God has given us a spirit of power. It’s His Spirit.
What I fear may be very real and rational, but who is more powerful than God?
What can mere mortals do to me? What’s the worst thing that can happen? That someone kill me or my loved ones? Then we end up in heaven with Jesus. What reason do I have to fear if I’m trusting the God of the universe?
I may be afraid today, I may be weak, what I fear might actually happen. But I trust the God of the universe who wants to show His power in me.
Paul had a similar conversation with God in 2 Corinthians 12 where he begged God to take away his thorn in the flesh. Some weakness that Paul couldn’t overcome. And God said in 2 Corinthians 12:9:
Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)
It’s okay to admit your fear, then trust the power of Christ to work through you.
Now that’s easy to say, Trust the power of God’s Spirit. God is the most powerful being in the universe, so I’ll trust Him to take care of me and work through me, but how can I really believe that He wants to show His power IN ME? I still feel the fear. The next step to overcoming fear is to:
- Experience the love of Jesus.
I might believe that God has all power, but is that power really for me? Only if God really loves me. 2 Timothy says that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of love. He has put His Spirit in us, so that we may know His love for us. Why would you trust someone? Because you believe they have your best interest in mind, because you believe they love you.
What would it take for you to believe that I really love you? What if I gave you all my stuff? All my money, my home, my car, my clothes, my food – would you believe I loved you?
What if I gave you myself – what if I was available to you 24 hours a day, taking care of every request? What if I was like your own personal Secret Service agent, willing to take a bullet for you? What if I had your back, would you believe that I loved you?
What if I even gave my wife and children and my dog to you, to be placed in your service, even to die for you, would you believe that I loved you? Would you trust me then?
It’s one thing to accept with our minds that God did that for us, that He provides what we need, that He promises to be with us 24/7, that He actually sacrificed His only Son so that we could be with Him forever, so that we could experience how much He loves us. We might believe that God loves some people that much, but do we really grasp, do we really feel that God loves us that much?
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love.
1 John 4:18 (NLT)
If I am afraid, if I still experience fear, that shows that I have not fully grasped the depths of God’s love for me, that I have not fully experienced His love for me.
I accept that. I accept that there are still fears that creep up in my mind because I don’t fully grasp how much God loves me. But I have received a taste of God’s love, and that is what began my transformation.
When I was a child, my parents took me to church and I heard that God created the world, and that we celebrated the birth of His Son Jesus at Christmas, and at Easter we remembered that Jesus died on a cross. But I didn’t know what that meant for me, and I was a very scared, anxious little kid. At the time an only child before my brother was born, and very scared to be left alone. I can still remember my fear of riding in the car when my mom would drive over the Red River Bridge to take my dad to work-the fear of going off the edge of that bridge, my fear of the mean women at the day care where my mom would leave me when she went back to work. When I was in first and second grade my mom had to pick me up after school, I was too scared to ride the bus. If I walked out of the school at the end of the day and my mom was late, if I couldn’t see her car, then I would stop on the sidewalk and cry, paralyzed with fear that something happened to her and she wasn’t coming to get me. Then somewhere around age 8 or 9, I remember sitting in church, and the pastor was explaining why Jesus was sent to earth and why He died on a cross. He said that God loved me, but my sin had separated me from God, and I deserved punishment for that sin. God sent His Son to earth to live a perfect, sinless life so that He could die in my place to take the punishment for me. The pastor explained that I deserved to receive the punishment of that cross, but He gave His Son Jesus to take that punishment for me. Now that wrecked me, that love overwhelmed me. In the midst of my fear, I felt the love of God for me. Not long after that I believed and trusted God, that the death of Jesus was for me, and I trusted my life to Jesus. I believed that if He would do that for me, I could surrender my life to Him. That was the beginning of the spirit of love overcoming my fear. I told my mom she didn’t need to pick me up after school, I was good with riding the bus. And then on pretty days I would skip riding the bus, and just walk home with my friends. Ephesians 3:19 says,
May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Ephesians 3:19 (NLT)
When we experience the love of Jesus, it transforms us. Our perspective changes. We receive the life and power that comes from God.
But even though the love of Jesus overcame that fear, there were still other fears. I needed a further experience of His love, and I won’t fully grasp the depths of His love for me this side of heaven, so I keep seeking that. So how can I experience the love of Jesus? What do I do? That’s the next step to overcoming fear:
- Keep on seeking
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of self-discipline. Some versions say, a sound mind. A spirit of discipline to focus our mind on Him and communicate with Him. I hear some people say that God gave us a mind with common sense to figure things out. No, my mind cannot figure everything out. God gave us a mind to communicate with Him. In Psalm 34:4, King David said,
I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 34:4 (ESV)
God has given us a spirit of self-discipline to keep on seeking Him because once He overcomes one fear, then another will pop up. Keep on seeking Him, and seeking to experience His love so that my faith, my trust in Him grows. How do I do that?
I know my wife’s love by the way she looks at me, by the things she says about me, how she hugs me, how she responds to me when I talk with her, by how she cooks for me, gives me gifts, spends time with me, plans things for us to do together. My step to experience her love is to keep seeking ways to thank her for her love, to interact with her, and experience her in many different ways.
My trust in her grows as I think of all the ways she loves me and thank her for that. Keep seeking God by thanking Him for what He’s already done for you.
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)
As I consider what God has done for me, my trust grows. It’s God’s will that I thank Him what He’s done for me.
Read God’s written love letter to you, the Bible. Jesus said,
… “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
John 8:31-32 (NASB)
Continue in His Word to see what He has to say to you, and His truth will free you and give you life.
Ask God what He wants you to know, what He wants to say to you personally. God gives us a spirit of self-discipline to read what He has to say to all of us, but His Spirit wants to give us what He has to say to us personally. Jesus said,
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”
Luke 11:9 (NLT)
Keep on seeking what God wants to say to you personally, keep on asking Him. That’s why we’re asking you to use that guide to write your own Letter from God that you can find at brookwoodchurch.org/hearingGod. It’s a way to keep on asking God what He has to say to you personally.
Keep on seeking God by giving thanks to Him, by reading His written Word, and by asking Him continually what He wants you to know.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)
If there is something causing you to fear, trust God’s Spirit to show His power in you, experience the love of Jesus today, and keep on seeking what God wants to say and do in your life. Ask God to show you what step He wants you to take to keep seeking Him today.
If you want to talk with someone about your fear, or just need someone to pray with you, our Care Volunteers will be here at the front of the stage and in the Care Connection Room in the Concourse to listen to you or to pray with you. Let’s pray.