Fighting your fear
Where Faith and Fear meet. (part one)
Scripture Text: Numbers 13:1-3,
1 ¶ And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.”
3 So Moses sent them from the Wilderness of Paran according to the command of the LORD, all of them men who were heads of the children of Israel. …..
21 ¶ So they went up and spied out the land ….
25 And they returned from spying out the land after forty days.
26 ¶ Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.
27 Then they told him, and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.
28 “Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there.
29 “The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.”
30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.”
32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature.
33 “There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
Introduction: There is no feeling quite like the icy grip of fear. And it comes in so many varieties. I’ve been there, so have you. That is the terrible thing about the road’s bend, isn’t it. It is the place where we cannot see what lurks around the corner.
Ann Landers, the syndicated advice columnist, was at one time receiving 10,000 letters a month from people with all kinds of problems. Someone asked her if there was one common denominator among all her correspondents. She said that the great overriding theme of all the letters she read was fear – fear of nearly everything imaginable until the problem became, for countless readers, a fear of life itself.
Yet fear is simply a part of the fabric of living. God equipped us with it so we would be wise enough to protect ourselves from the unexpected. Fear provides us with sudden bursts of strength and speed just when we need it most. It is a basic survival instinct, a good thing – as long as it remains rational. But there is also that brand of fear known as phobia. A phobia is what results when fear and reason don’t keep in touch.
I read about a young truck driver whose route took him across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge every day. The thought entered his mind that he just might feel compelled to stop the truck, climb out, and leap from the bridge to his death. There was no rational reason to hold such a belief, but that very fear took complete hold of him. He finally asked his wife to handcuff him to the steering wheel so he could be fully assured that his deepest fear wouldn’t come true.
That is exactly what fear does when it builds its power over us; it shackles our hands and keeps us from doing the routine things in life. – working, playing, living, and serving God. We give in to the slavery of terror.
One in ten people will suffer from some specific life altering type of phobia. The other nine won’t be controlled by some irrational fear, but they will still wrestle with the garden variety of terror – those awful moments when life seems to come undone.
Fear has been described as a small trickle of doubt that flows through the mind until it wears such a great channel that all our thoughts drain into it. Tiny fears, almost unperceived, can build up day by day until we find ourselves paralyzed and unable to function.
One would think fear to be excess baggage for those who live in the presence of an almighty God. It should be- but it usually doesn’t work out that way.
The Bible does not paint a picture of the fear-free life. Judging from the Scripture, God’s people seem to be tormented by the same fears as everyone else. The disciples, who had Jesus beside them, seemed constantly fearful of – storms, crowds, poverty, armies, the loss of their leader.
The proud Israelite army lived in fear of one man. Of course, the tape measure on that man read 9 feet, 6 inches. Goliath played mercilessly on their fear, taunting them with challenges he knew they would not dare accept. King Saul was ruled by fear – of the giant, then of the boy who slew the giant. David himself was not free of fear before the big battle. But he took his slingshot and his five stones and stood tall anyway.
Mark Twain once said, “Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the mastery of it; it is the place where fear and faith meet”
Take the story found in Numbers 13. There was a delegation of men sent into Canaan to go on a fact finding expedition into the unknown territory that lay ahead. This was the Promised Land – home at last, after generations of slavery in Egypt. It was the land of Abraham, the homeland of their dreams. But they had been away for generations. The land held as much mystery as promise. No doubt about it, Canaan was the bend in the road of the Exodus, and the Israelites couldn’t see what loomed around that bend. So they assembled in Kadesh-Barnea and decided to send out the scouts.
The experience of those men had an impact on Israel that lasted 40 years. It cost them years of heartbreak and tragedy. Should they have rushed right in, without the tentative act of sending the spies? We can’t say that, for God allowed and encouraged the reconnaissance mission. We can say the men should have come to a different decision. The majority failed to see the lay of the land with the perspective God wanted them to have. He didn’t ordain the spirit of fear that drove the committee’s recommendation.
In Deuteronomy 1 Moses reminds the people as they prepare to enter the land, that they need to trust the Lord. As we study this narrative carefully, we find key principles about the tyranny of fear and the freedom of faith.
I. Where Faith and Fear Meet
A. Fear disregards God’s plan (Deuteronomy 1:19-21
19 And when we departed from Horeb, we went through all that great and terrible wilderness, which ye saw by the way of the mountain of the Amorites, as the LORD our God commanded us; and we came to Kadeshbarnea.
20 And I said unto you, Ye are come unto the mountain of the Amorites, which
the LORD our God doth give unto us. 21 Behold, the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged.)
1. God’s mandate was clear: Here is your land. Here is my gift to you. Now go grab it.
a. With their greatest hopes and dreams laid out before them like beautifully wrapped presents beneath a Christmas tree, they should have surged forward with joy.
b. They should have claimed all the abundance and fulfillment God wanted them to have
c. Yet having come so far, having made it through the wilderness with its dusty despair, its hunger and thirst – they couldn’t cross the finish line
d. They had prevailed over Pharaoh’s
army, over the high tide of the Red Sea, over the challenge of the journey, but they couldn’t take a stand against this final obstacle: fear
2. We may stand at the threshold of God’s greatest promise for us, but we will never claim His blessings if we let fear dominate our lives.
a. God wants so much richness for us in His perfect plan, and only our shortsighted fear can withhold it from us.
b. Listen to the words of Paul on this subject in II Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
– Power doesn’t shrink back in uncertainty; love isn’t conquered;
a sound mind doesn’t deal in irrational speculation.
– God has a rich territory, a promised land with your name on it,
and He wants you to charge toward it with a cry of victory, not a wail of fear.
c. The Bible even tells us what that cry of victory should sound like in Romans 8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
– This verse assures us that we can claim the intimacy with Him of a small child calling out to Daddy.
3. The truth is that God has a plan and that we can claim it with joyful assurance.
a. Fear disregards that plan
b. We need to stop living as a helpless street orphan when we bear
the credentials of the royal palace.
B. Fear Distorts God’s Purposes (Deuteronomy 1:27-28
27 And ye murmured in your tents, and said, Because the LORD hated us, he hath
brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.
28 Whither shall we go up? our brethren have discouraged our heart, saying, The
people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there.)
1. Fear does one very predictable thing: it distorts our view
a. Fear robs us of our perspective
b. Fear brings out our worst
– It ushers in complaining, distrust, finger-pointing, and despair
– God ad provided victory over the Egyptian oppressors, He had
given deliverance through the wilderness, He had offered a new plan for living through the commandments on Mount Sinai, and Now He was offering real estate – the gift of a new land for building a nation.
– But in fear, the people were cowering in their tents to gripe
about God’s intentions
the LORD hated us, he hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us
2. Fear does this to us
a. It is easy for others to see the irrationality and absence of
perspective in us, but we are blinded by our own fear of what might happen!
2. Fear is an army of giants, for it multiplies one into many
a. While it is doing that, it makes us small and unable in our own eyes.
b. We lose sight of the promise that we can do all things through
Him who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13)
– It is fear, not the object of the fear, that devours its inhabitants.
– Understand: The greater our fear, the weaker our reasoning.
C. Fear Discourages God’s People (Deuteronomy 1:28 our brethren have
discouraged our heart)
1. When we give in to our fears, we make the world around us an environment of discouragement.
a. Fear causes us to drain away the vitality of people we care for.
2. Fear is catching; and eventually it breeds hysteria
a. The Bible says that ten men out of twelve came back with what the Bible calls a “bad report” and those ten infected an entire nation – not just for a week or a month, but for a generation.
b. When the spies returned from their journey, they brought back a giant with them, more terrible than the mere men they had seen
– This giant of fear prowled through their camp and devoured the faith and
courage of a nation.
3. If you don’t think fear is contagious, why is it that we are not allowed to stand up in a crowd and yell “FIRE!!!!”
a. It is because we will be successful in changing the moods and plans of hundreds of people in an instant.
b. We will also endanger everyone around us
– fear is more infectious than any disease we can name
– It roams the landscape and discourages God’s people.
D. Fear Disbelieves God’s Promises. (Deuteronomy 1:29-33
29 Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them.
30 The LORD your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according
to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes;
31 And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the LORD thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place.
32 Yet in this thing ye did not believe the LORD your God,
33 ho went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day.
1. The challenge before the Israelites wasn’t something that came out of nowhere and demanded that they trust some mysterious, untested providence.
a. This was the invitation of the God who had gone with them throughout their journey.
b. This was the loving Father who had remained so steadfast by their sides, and who had provided every need.
c. This was One worthy of the same trust a tiny child would place in their loving parents – AND SO MUCH MORE WORTHY!
2. Learning always involves testing
a. That is what happened when the spies were appointed
c. The people were given a test to reveal whether they really trusted God or not.
– The people had everything they needed to pass this test.
3. it seems that every defining moment of faith is just like
d. Memory and experience should empower us
e. The rearview mirror should give us perspective, but we don’t look at the mirror at all – our eyes are frozen by what is in the headlights.
4. The Israelites are a testimony to this
a. The giants seemed so fantastically massive that they
blocked out what God had done in the past, what He was doing in the present, and His Word on the future.
E. Fear Disobeys God’s Principles (Deuteronomy 1:26 Notwithstanding
ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God:)
1. It is a harsh truth but an insistent one: Fear is disobedience,
plain and simple
a. How can fear be anything other than disobedience to God, when He has given us everything we need to walk in faith.
4. Over 120 times in the Bible a little phrase is used in the imperative form “Fear not”
a. How many times must God command us not to fear
b. James 4:17 says Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and
doeth it not, to him it is sin.
Conclusion: The next time you find yourself overcome by fear, remember -a along with all of God’s other promises and assurances to dwell in fear is to live in sin.
Your first response might be, “But I can’t help it! I don’t want to be fearful, but it is out of my control.” and if that is how you feel, you have forgotten that God has given us everything we need to deal with fear. He has provided us with principles of faith that help us live courageously. 2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us that, God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
When all is said and done, any alternative to His way boils down to simple disobedience – something that is always costly. For the nation of Israel, it meant a lost generation. The adult group of that time was forbidden from finding their journey’s end for forty years. They were sentenced to a restless, nomadic life of wandering homeless in the desert, waiting for the last of that forsaken group to finally die. Only tow of them were permitted entry into Canaan: Joshua and Caleb, who had stood firm in their faith. Courage earned them their home, yet they, too, wandered beyond the borders during those forty years. Attending the funerals of their friends. When the last body was laid to rest, the nation could finally claim its true home.
We have looked at the put off of fear, and now next time I want us to see the “put on” of faith. You come back as we continue our discussion and complete the picture. Here are some things to work through until we come back.
1. Look over your life and evaluate what you are afraid of
2. Understand the truth about that fear as it is recorded in the Word of God
3. List what God thinks about your fear and what you are afraid of and prepare your heart to deal with it appropriately.