Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church (Hear this message at THEGATHERINGHG.COM)
It’s that time of year once again where everyone wants to be scared. What is the obsession with fear? In the US, Halloween continues to scare up some big sales. The US haunted house industry makes over 300 million dollars per year and the National Retail Federation is predicting people will splurge a record breaking 9-point-1 billion dollars this year, on everything from costumes to candy by the time Halloween is over. This has nothing on the movie industry which capitalizes on fear all year long.
Scientifically speaking, some people love the feeling of being scared because the brain releases “feel good” chemicals like dopamine when we are terrified. As soon as we realize that we’re not in fact going to die we can enjoy the arousal response — that’s when fear can be fun. Thrilling sports or activities, roller coasters, scary movies and haunted houses are all sort of a way to escape from everyday stresses. When we participate in such things we believe that we are coming out alive so the fear factor can be entertaining; however, when fear is realized as being real no one is having fun anymore. Real terror is terrible in the worst sense of the word.
SIN SICK? Luke 6:45, Philippians 4:8
Bored one day, I was flipping through channels and was horrified to catch a scene from Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015), where Colin Firth’s character, ends up in a church participating in a gigantic killing free-for-all. I watched for a minute in disbelief and then somberly changed the channel. Real life events like the Texas mass shooting, where 26 people were brutally killed by being gunned down in a church in 2017, and yesterdays killing spree that left 11 dead and 6 injured in a Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania makes sane people wonder. What in hell is wrong with our entertainment values and do they influence people’s real actions? I think they do. In fact the Bible says “whatever a man thinks he is” (Proverbs 23:7a). If out of a man’s heart he speaks (Luke 6:45) then how much more will he act out what is stored there? As a Christian matures in his faith his character and values should too. The Apostle Paul said: if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things, then the God of peace be with you.
With the above verse in mind let us continue on into the realm of real fear. That is the stuff that you find no humor or thrill in– those things that really cause you anxiety? First things first… If you have such fears then stop entertaining yourself with such anxiety producing trash and seek the peace of God as Paul instructed.
REAL FEAR Matthew 6:25-34, 11:28-30, Proverbs 3:5-6
Entertainment aside, what really scares you? For me (at this time) it is the uncertainty of the upcoming city and state elections. The fear that the vote of the people or the lack thereof will bring in godless and evil people that will make disastrous decisions affecting our city, our state and our nation. Decisions that will ultimately affect the land and the people I love. For others here it may be the fear of an uncertain future, death or illness, loneliness, or failing. For some it may even be the daily provisions that most of us take for granted. Fear is real and crippling if allowed to control us, so what is a believer in Christ to do with it? Jesus said not to worry but to seek God first (Matthew 6:25-34) and to cast all of your cares on him (Matthew 11:28-30, 1 Peter 5:6-7). King Solomon told us to trust God and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Do you find all of this easier said than done? Has someone said to you once before, “just let go and let God!” Did you want to hit them? Now here is something that you will want to hit me for, but it is true even for me: “Fear, simply said, is a lack of faith”. Faith and fear cannot exist together. Faith is described in Hebrews 11:1 as being “certain of what we do not see.” It is an absolute belief that God is constantly working behind the scenes in every area of our lives, even when there is no tangible evidence to support that fact. As unbelief gains the upper hand in our thoughts, fear takes hold of our emotions. As we believe God and his promises— fear flees and faith grows.
REAL FAITH James 1:2-8, 1 John 4:18
Faith is not something that we make happen in ourselves. Faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9), and faithfulness is described as a fruit (or characteristic) that is produced in our lives by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17) and doing what it says (James 1:22) no matter what. Just as a baby is strengthened by the food he is given and eventually walks by responding to his parent’s call—so we grow in faith the same way. Eat the word and follow your Fathers call.
God is kind and understanding toward our weaknesses, but He requires us to go forward in faith, and the Bible is clear that faith does not mature and strengthen without trials. Adversity is God’s most effective tool to develop a strong faith. When you walk with God through fearful situations you will learn to obey his word and find that each trial becomes a stepping stone to a stronger and deeper faith (James 1:2-8). God always responds in love as you walk by faith and that perfect love drives out fear (I John 4:18). Again, like the baby who learns to walk —no matter how many times he falls the call of love beckons him to try again on faith
GOOD FEAR Proverbs 3: 7-12, Proverbs 9:10-12
Proverbs 3:5-6 is a great memory verse when dealing with anxiety and fear but read on if you think that God wants you without any fear at all. There is bad fear and good fear. It is wise to fear the Lord and shun evil. We should fear what we would be apart from God—what our city, nation, and world would be apart from God. Apart from God we would face judgment and wrath, but with God we need to fear nothing at all. Therefore to fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. To any mocker I say, “You haven’t even begun to be wise”.