Sunday March 12, 2017 | Sandra Unger
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us.
Fear is part of the journey in this life, but for many, fear is consuming. As a result, it serves as a roadblock that keeps us from entering into what God has for our lives. God provides a way for us to move beyond fear and into a life of love. This is possible not because we have a guarantee that everything will work out as we wish, but because, even in the midst of the ups and downs of life, we know that God's love is greater than the fearful circumstance we face.
In this sermon, Sandra Unger shares her personal experience with fear as she faced and recovered from cancer over the last year. Her story illustrates one of the two kinds of fear that we commonly face in daily life, which she labels as personal fear. These are the fears that we face on an individual and a relational level as we go through the ups and downs on our journey, i.e., finances, work, health, friends, growing old, relationship struggles, etc. The second form of fear is called global fear, which is stirred up by the issues that are being reported on a national and an international level. These are the kinds of fears that are based in “the world is going to end” kind of imagination.
In contrast to this, the Bible calls us to never succumb to fear. In fact, the Bible speaks to the need not to fear 365 times. Two examples are found in Psalm 27:1-3 and in 1 John 4:18-19. In the second passage, we see how the lack of love and the lack of our knowledge of being loved leads to fear. Sandra tells the story of how she dented her father’s car as a teenager and how her father typically responded to such mistakes with anger and a lack of love. Because many people view God in a similar way, as one who is ready to pounce upon us with anger when we make a mistake, they typically live in fear of God, which compounds the fear upon fear.
It is helpful to understand the impact that fears—both personal and global—have upon our lives. When we see how personal fears impact us, first, we see how fear hinders us from being present to those around us, limiting our ability to engage them in love. Instead, we often end up trying to manipulate and control others. Secondly, personal fears paralyze us. Steve Maraboli: states “The purpose of fear is to raise out awareness and not to stop your progress.” Fear keeps us from progressing and moving forward.
When we engage others who are struggling with personal fear we need to respond with love and truth. We begin with love, quietly listening and being present to them, while affirming that we will walk with them through the fear. In this affirmation, we also create a space to speak the truth that the fear is not based in God’s love and that God is bigger than the fear. We begin with love and move toward truth.
Now let’s look at global fear and its impact upon our lives. This kind of fear takes away our ability to be the body of Christ and to be the hands and feet of Jesus, as demonstrated in Scriptures like Isaiah 58:6-7, Lev 19:34, and Matt 5:43-44. If we allow global fear to rule our hearts, we will not be the the kind of people that God has called us to be. While many want to make this about politics, that is actually not necessary. It’s about allowing God to shape us to live in love and compassion toward others.
The Methodist pastor John Pavlovitz wrote this:
Fear is a powerful drug;
it’s a fantastic political tactic;
it’s a wonderful manipulator;
it’s an effective motivator;
but it’s a really lousy religion.
May more Christians in America come to believe that the sky is not falling, because they know the One who holds up the sky.
In response to the global fear, we start with truth and then move toward the affirmation of love. The response is the opposite of that when we face in personal fear. We receive and give the challenge to live out our calling and then we affirm how we will walk with each other in this call to love.
We are called to live courageously in the power of Christ, not because everything is going to turn out perfectly but because the situation we face is not the end of the story. Our lack of fear does not depend upon the circumstances because we are putting our hope in Christ. Based in this truth, we can opt for something other than fear. This includes:
1. Making a choice to live differently. We need some disciplined activities in order to think differently. We have to name the fear with which we struggle and make a choice not to let that fear control us. In doing so, “we take that thought captive” so that it can be set aside and this act alone can remove its power over us.
2. Embracing the love that casts out fear. We have to accept the truth that God is love and that God loves us as we are.
Immersing ourselves in the truth that the Bible says about fear. There is a verse for every day (easily found on the internet) that calls us out of fear and into a life of love.