Fear and the BelieverLuke 12:22-27 • Gabe Morris • March 6, 2016 • Topical Sermons by Gabriel Morris
Fear and the Believer
Thank you singers, and thank you for that prayer. He’s right, I am getting over the tail end of a cold so forgive me if I sniff a little and cough, we’ll edit that out. Can we pray: Thank you, Father, for Your Word, we acknowledge our dependence upon You and on Your Word. May you open our hearts to Your Word, Your Word is truth and use me Father, as you see fit, in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Can we please turn to Luke 12:22, Over the past six months or so we’ve been receiving excellent sermons given by Pastor Andy, from the book of 2 Timothy, and we all know by now that 2 Timothy was a letter from Paul encouraging Timothy in his pastoral ministry, encouraging him to endure in the face of trials, to finish the race in the face of hardship. And would you agree that these are very timely sermons? They are! And if you’ve been living under a rock for the past eight years you may have missed how our country went from bad to worse. From my perspective at least I see a huge device in America and I’m sure you do too; it’s getting deeper and deeper. You can just fill in the blanks, political division, racial division, division between community and police, families. In addition there’s been numerous terrorist attacks, both at home on our soil and abroad from extreme groups like radical Islam and things of that nature. There’s also an unmonitored influx of refugees and illegal immigrants flooding into our country. Have you guys heard about Germany lately? It’s not a pretty sight. Our safety as Americans continues to be compromised on many fronts.
What else? We’ve lost a godly generation of certain individuals who went on to be with the Lord, Roy Zuck, Dwight Pentecost, and just recently Charles Ryrie. They went up to be with the Lord. And bringing things closer to home high caliber and godly men and women that were very close to this body we’ve lost, they’ve gone up to be with the Lord. To add to that we’re faced to endure trials and tribulations at home, the daily grind with our family, our relatives and children and grandchildren. At work, in our businesses, not to mention the Presidential elections are in high gear, right? And there seems to be a worldly delusional anti-Christ like, an anti-common sense mindset taking over people, taking over Christians, at rapid rates.
And quite frankly, it’s getting scary… it’s getting scary! I am a father of four, soon to be five, and I’m fearful of the idea of what America is going to look like for my children, and for their children. And just by the looks of it doesn’t, to be quite honest, it doesn’t look too good. And that’s scary. I fear for them. I fear for my family. I fear for the church in our country. And all the while we’re going through 2 Timothy and we’re seeing all these things unfold before our eyes.
Dr. Andy’s been going over how the church is going to go through apostatizing. We see Christians being beheaded, we see mothers, I don’t know if you heard about that mothers setting their children on fire. People going from bad to worse. And I just can’t help but think is this it? Is this is it, are we going to be the rapture generation. I hope so, I certainly pray that we are.
And I bet you’re thinking well Gabe, you’re quite the wet blanket this morning. You’re supposed to be encouraging us and equipping us, not depressing us. So forgive me, that’s not my intention. But if we’re brutally honest with ourselves and as current events unfold, as life unfolds around us we have a natural tendency to fear. I would venture to say that some of us in this audience our default is fear. And that’s what I want to talk about today—fear, fear, anxiety and worry because we all deal with it to some degree or another.
What initially sparked my interest in speaking about fear this morning, at the time when Andy asked me to fill in for him, my oldest daughter, for some odd reason kept coming into our room at night and I would pass by her room and she had her blinds barged up with pillows. A few mornings we would wake up in the morning, and see Ashley sleeping on the side of our bed. So I asked her, why are you sleeping in mommy and daddy’s room? She said I’m scared. I said what for? She said there’s a lot of Muslim terrorists out there hurting people. This was the time of the San Bernardino shooting. And I also bring this up because one, I deal with fear myself, and I know someone out there at the sound of my voice is dealing with fear right now.
But praise God, the Bible has an answer. Amen! God has an answer for fear. This lesson is called Fear and the Believer. So here’s a simply outline of where we’re headed today. This will be a topical message so we’re going to be jumping around through our Bibles. And so when you talk about fear the biblical concept of fear, it’s not only a massive subject, it gets a little tricky.
And as I search the Scripture I see three types of fear. There’s the godly fear, singular, godly fear. There is what I call productive fear, and then there’s the ungodly fears (plural). And we all know what godly fear is, right? It’s a good fear; it’s a reverential fear, God honoring fear.
Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge….” that’s a good fear. That’s also, what I’m calling today, a productive fear, a feat that’s more organic or an inherent fear that’s in us all. You know the fear that grips you when you’re near the edge of a cliff? That kind of fear, your palms start sweating, like my palms are sweating right now. All you’re thinking about when you’re on that edge is I need to get to safety. This is the fear that wants to say I need to protect you or your family. I call that a productive fear, it’s beneficial; it’s ingrained in us, it’s reasonable. I found this in Amos 3:8, “A lion has roared! Who will not fear? …” Now if you had a lion in your presence roaring in your face, that should instill fear in you. That’s a flight or fight type of fear; that is a productive fear.
I remember before I married Fabi I was in California, I was surfing with a friend and in the distance I saw what looked like two huge humpback whales, just rolling around in the water. I got so excited, I was such in awe, I started swimming to the whales. And as I got closer I seen an eye, it looked at me like… [laughter] and there was so much fear that overwhelmed me, I thought I was going to die. So I started backpedaling; and that’s a good fear, that’s a productive fear. And then there’s also the ungodly fears; in the Bible these ungodly fears, they’re called fear, anxiety and worry. These types of fears are all over the Bible and they sometimes are mentioned alongside each other; they overlap.
And before we get into this lesson I want to say this: it’s very important that we as Christian individuals, that we are aware of and we understand ourselves, our emotional, most times our spiritual makeup. God knows everything about us but that does not give us a reason to now be honest with Him. And not only to be brutally honest with Him but be brutally honest with our family and our spouses and things like that. Does not the Bible instruct us to examine ourselves? We have to be honest with ourselves. Psalm 119:59 says, “I considered my ways, and then I turned my feet to Your testimonies,” David says. We just partook of the Lord’s table, 1 Corinthians 11:28 says we should examine ourselves before we partake of the elements. [1 Corinthians 11:28, “But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”]
Yes, God has designed us very good; we were made in God’s image, but as a result of the fall we are all now flawed, fickle and sinful in our nature. That’s now our default because of the fall. We have in our natures a corrupt, corrupted both physically and spiritually, so much so that we’re able to be deceived by others and… that’s in Ephesians 5:6, we can be deceived by others and we can also be able to deceive ourselves, I Corinthians 3:18 says that. [Ephesians 5:6, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” I Corinthians 3:18 , “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.]
And we must remember in our own distinct and unique way we all have our constitutional makeup, you know. There’s a lot of things that make us who we are. All of us were raised differently, culture and what not, and those are factors. We all have different demeanors, we all have different temperaments and tendencies that make us different. But by and large we all wrestle with similar emotional issues, like fear, anxiety and worry. And it’s important that we are able to evaluate ourselves in the area of fear because I think that area can be very dangerous. It’s very easy to talk ourselves out of reality.
I think Christians in particular are experts at masking fear, anxiety and worry. “Oh, I’m just concerned.” We’re just concerned people and therein lies the danger. If we are not careful concern can lead to all types of sinful emotions like fear, anxiety and worry, and other types of sins.
So let’s break down fear; what is fear? The dictionary says: It’s a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc. Whether the threat is real or imagined the feeling or condition of being afraid, lack of courage, or resolution.” The Dictionary Bible Themes says this: An attitude of anxiety or distress caused by concern over a threat to one’s future. You see the overlap? Fear and anxiety; fear can paralyze us, it can lead to either flight or foolish action. What is anxiety? Like fear, there also can be a productive type of anxiety; we see this productive anxiety in 2 Corinthians 11:28, where Paul writes his concern for the churches that he planted. [1 Corinthians 11:28, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.”]
There’s also a legitimate concern for one to please his spouse, 1 Corinthians 7:32 and 34.
[1 Corinthians 7:32, “But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord;”  “and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.”]
But there’s also a sinful type of anxiety. The dictionary version, as you can see there, “Full of mental distress or uneasiness because of fear of danger” see the overlap, “or misfortune; greatly worried; solicitous.” And the Bible dictionary says this about anxiety: “Intense worry or concern.” What is worry? It’s “To torment or plague oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts; to fret.” Notice that, “to torment or plague oneself,” this is self-inflicted. The Dictionary of Bible Themes
defines worry as “A sense of uneasiness and anxiety about the future.” [Dictionary of Bible Themes: [The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser, 2009]
Do you see the overlap? By the way, the word “worry,” have you guys ever read the book Fox’s Book of Martyrs? It’s a book originating back in the late 1500’s, the term “worry” was an old English term; it was used to describe how Nero would persecute Christians. Worry back then was defined as to strangle or be seized by throat by wild dogs, wolves or beasts, and to be mangled by them to death.
Worry! And as we define these terms please notice the overlap of fear, anxiety and worry. They’re kissing cousins. Isaiah 41, the first part of verse 10 says this: “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. [I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’]” You see how they’re found very closely together? They’re related. If you’re fearful it’s likely that you’re anxious; if you’re anxious it’s likely that you’re worried. And if you’re worried it’s most likely that you’re fearful.
We humans have so much fear; we even classify that and give them names, and you guys are probably familiar with the plethora of phobias out there. Right? Here are the more common ones, Acrophobia – Fear of heights. Aerophobia – Fear of flying. Arachnophobia – Fear of spiders. Claustrophobia – Fear of confined spaces. Glossophobia, what Andy and I struggle with – Fear of public speaking. Right now I struggle with this fear. Pentheraphobia, you guys ever heard of that fear? The fear of your mother-in-law. [laughter] I’m serious. Moving on, how about this one:
Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia; do you guys know what that is? It’s the fear of long words. Isn’t an oxymoron like that?
This is crazy. There are literally hundreds of document, these are all documented phobias. [Ecclesiophobia: Fear of Church, Homilophobia: Fear of Sermons, Staurophobia: Fear of the Cross/Crucifix, Dikephobia: Fear of Justice, Eleutherophobia: Fear of freedom, Gamophobia: Fear of Marriage, Pedophobia: Fear of Children, Hypegiaphobia: Fear of Responsibility, Satanophobia: Fear of Satan, Ouranophobia: Fear of Heaven, Zeusophobia: Fear of God or gods]
Let’s just put it this way. For every letter in the alphabet, except q there is at least 5 to 10 fears listed, fears of all kinds and all types, fears of animals, insects, social fears, plants, ocean life, love, injuries, all types of sicknesses, space and time type fears, things in existence, things not in existence, like the boogey-man, that’s a documented fear. Fear of inanimate objects, like dust. There’s a thing called phobophobia, the fear of phobias.
When I think about all these phobias do you know what comes to my mind? I believe Satan is having complete and utter dominion over a person’s life when someone struggles with these kinds of fears. Fear can literally rob us from our lives. You may say now, now Gabe, wait a minute, these are some legitimate fears here: fears of snakes, fears of spiders and all that. But if you think back, look at Genesis; who had dominion first? Satan is having a heyday with the human race. You don’t believe me? In my research I even found fears of biblical things and concepts: Ecclesiophobia: Fear of Church. Homilophobia: Fear of Sermons. Staurophobia: Fear of the Cross. Fear of Justice: [Dikephobia]. Fear of Freedom: [Eleutherophobia]. Fear of marriage. [Gamophobia] Fear of responsibility. [Hypegiaphobia]. Fear of Heaven, [Ouranophobia]. Anthrophobia, the fear of people. The fear of Satan, [Satanophobia]. Zeusophobia [Fear of God or gods], I would call that the [can’t understand word], fear of God, or gods.
These are all documented fears. You see, the thing about fear is that if we’re not careful fear can rob us of every ounce of strength, every ounce of joy, every ounce of life, and steal our lives away from us. You know what else fear can do? Fear can actually motivate us to make wrong or sinful decisions.
Do we see this in the Bible? Yes we do. “The fear of man,” the fear of others, [Proverbs 29:25, “The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.”] In 1 Samuel 13, in the days of King Saul who reigned 42 years over Israel, remember the story where he summoned the army of 5,000 men to fight the Philistines? The Bible said the Philistines had an army of 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen. That could scare someone. And it says they looked, the Philistine armies, they looked like sand from a seashore to the Israelites. They became so afraid they started hiding. They hid themselves; the Scripture says in caves and thickets, in cliffs and in pits. The fear of man. Proverbs 29:25a says, The fear of man brings a snare, [But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.”]
We could park here and talk about Proverbs 29 for days. Just think about all the different types of fears under the fear of man. The fear of personal interaction—the fear of men. Peer pressure being a people pleaser, the excessive need for love, attention, approval by others, control by other’s opinions and judgments, that’s a fear of men. The strong and excessive need for relationships from others, that’s the fear of men. Or how about this one, the fear of speaking the truth to others. The fear of being rejected. The fear of man. In the gospels we hear of many who believed in Jesus, including His disciples who were afraid to even acknowledge Him in public. This fear of anticipated evil made them act cowardly, timid, and even unwilling to even act.
And all the fear of man can be summed up into this: it’s being concerned of what others think of us rather than what God thinks of us, or has already said who we are in Him. Notice Proverbs 29:25 again, “The fear of man brings a snare,” that’s a Hebrew word, “snare,” it literally means a trap.
This is what Harper’s Bible Dictionary said: “Technically it was a [sounds like slip-notic] cord or wired pulled tight to wrap and hold the legs, or leg, of an animal or bird when it steps into the loop to get the bait; they’re lured by bait and trapped. Biblical usage includes reference to its use in catching birds. We see this in Psalm 91:3, [“For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper And from the deadly pestilence.”] And animals, we see this in Amos 3:5, [“Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground when there is no bait in it? Does a trap spring up from the earth when it captures nothing at all?”]
But it’s more frequently used symbolically for death. It capitalized on surprise and it caused its victims to enmesh themselves while struggling in it to get free. And it depended, the trap, it depended on the seat to be successful and was camouflaged by the hunters to take the prey by surprise. That’s what it means: the fear of man brings a trap. And there’s a Greek equivalent to that Hebrew word “snare.” It’s the Greek word [can’t understand word]. It means trap, and interestingly, four times the word “snare” is found in the New Testament and three of those times they’re found in the Timothy letters. 1 Timothy 3:7, “And he” the overseer, “must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” Timothy 6:9, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. And the last verse, 2 Timothy 2:2, “and they” these are the church folks that give in to false teaching, “they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. You know what all these verses have in common? The devil was setting a trap.
Moving along, there’s a more severe form of the fear of man, which is being a recluse or a hermit. All of these are manifestations of the fear of man. There’s other types of fear and anxiety and worry that we find in the Bible. There’s the fear of our future, this is a big one, the fear of our health deteriorating, the fear of receiving a terrible diagnosis from the doctor, the fear of our future, that’s the fear of our future; the dreaded “C” word, right, the fear of change in our financial situation, the fear of losing our job, the fear of losing a loved one or having a relationship dissolve, the fear of old age, the fear of death. All examples of the fear of the future.
And we must first notice at the onset that fear and anxiety and worry alienates ourselves from God. It creates a self, man-made gulf with our relationship with the Lord that made us, and saved us. And we see that with the first human back in Genesis 3:9 that’s the first reference to fear. Genesis 3:9-10 says, “Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’  He said,” (Adam) “‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” I alienated myself from You. Notice the outcome. He hid; it led to bad and sinful decisions. [Genesis 3:10, “He said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.’”]
Do you see how fear causes us to distance ourselves from God? You will see this phenomenon of fear in the nation of Israel happen over and over again in the Old Testament. You also see God command His people not to fear over and over and over, do not fear, do not be afraid. Fear not only causes us to distance ourselves from God, it paralyzes its victims, as we’ve seen with the phobias. It causes us to sin more; it causes us to fret and worry.
Please turn with me to Luke… oh, Psalm 37:8:b says,”…Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.” Can we turn to Luke 12:22 please; oh, we already turned there, right? Luke 12:22, he said this, Jesus: “And he said to his disciples, ‘For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.  Consider the ravens, for they neither sow not reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!’  And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span?  ‘If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?’”
What stands out to me in this verse is that Jesus focuses on your life; this is addressed to His disciples, believers. The word “life” there means your soul, psuché is the Greek word. It’s the immaterial part of you, your soul. Then he directs his attention to the things that the majority of the time vie for our attention, like the necessities of life. And he mentions two basic necessities of life; food and clothing. In Matthew 6:25-34 he mentions drink too, water, food and clothing are extremely important to us, to live our life we need these things to function. Do you agree?
[Matthew 6:25-34 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?  “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?  “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,  yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.  “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!  “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’  “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”]
But look, Jesus goes on, He goes beyond that, He says “for life is more than these things, food for the body, more than clothing,” see that “more than”? I had math growing up, doesn’t “more than” mean something like it’s greater than, or has more value. Jesus confirms, He said God feeds the birds, I feed the birds, it’s God’s responsibility. You, beloved, on the other hand, are much more valuable than the birds. It’s I who made you, thus it is I who will take care of you. Do we not belong to God? You are My responsibility God is saying. It is in My good pleasure to take care of you so why worry?
Look at verse 24 again, [Luke 12: 24] “How much more valuable you are than the birds!” Exclamation point. Worry is ridiculous in God’s eyes. It’s completely and utterly pointless to worry about anything. It’s fruitless. It’s impractical. Have you ever seen something so impractical it’s ridiculous, that it’s pointless. I have, let me indulge you for a second. Here are some of the more impractical things, here’s a genius invention. [shows small tray just below steering wheel with sandwich, fries and drink] It’s impractical. Or how about this: this is the neighborhood security gate. [shows gate across sidewalk with no fence on either side] It’s ridiculous. Or how about this: [shows picture of several big containers of “Diet water”] I’ve been looking for that actually, I didn’t know such a thing existed, “Diet water.” And here’s my last one, the sign on the door says “Emergency exit.” [shows a wall with a door between two cars with nothing blocking the cars] Isn’t that crazy?
Worry is impractical, it’s ridiculous. Let’s get spiritual, back to Luke. Look in verse 25, I find it very interesting that Jesus connects worry to the life span of one’s physical life. Luke 12:25 says this: And which of you by worrying can add a single hour” some versions say “cubit to his life’s span?” I think Jesus was onto something here. But in His wisdom He saw fit to teach us that worry was just absolutely pointless.
The fact of the matter is, with worry we cannot add a measure of time to our life, but interestingly medical studies show that we can subtract from our lives by worrying. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down [But a good word makes it glad].”
Listen to what the Harvard Medical School had to say about worry and anxiety. This is a quote: “Anxiety is a reaction to stress that has both psychological and physical features. The feeling is thought to arise in the amygdala of the brain region that governs many intense emotional responses. As neurotransmitters carry nerve impulses to the sympathetic nervous system, heart and breathing rates increase, muscles tense, and blood flow is diverted from the abdominal organs to the brain. In the short term, anxiety prepares us to confront a crisis by putting the body on alert. But its physical effects can be counterproductive, causing light-headedness, nausea, diarrhea, and frequent urination.” That’s just the tip of the icebergs. “And when it persists, anxiety can take a toll on our mental and physical health.”
I heard a very interesting detail last week when Pastor Andy in his 2 Timothy series, he referenced back to 1 Timothy 2:12, remember that, when Paul prohibited women to exercise the roles of leading and teaching and preaching. [1 Timothy 2:12“But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.”]
Do you remember why that was? It was because women, because of their tender composition and their makeup are more emotionally driven than men, making them more susceptible to emotional vulnerability. Do you remember that? This is what the Harvard Medical school also said: “Nearly two thirds of the estimated 57,000,000 adults with anxiety disorders are women.” This is what The National Institute of Mental Health says: “Sixty percent of woman are more likely to have an anxiety disorder than men, and if excessive worrying and high anxiety go untreated they can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts.”
Am I saying only women struggle with it? No I’m not, not for one second. Even godly men have bouts with fear, anxiety and worry. Can you turn with me to 1 Kings 19, remember the prophet Elijah, everyone knows Elijah, the prophet that God took prematurely, before his death. In the previous chapters we learn that Elijah had just won the biggest showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. Right? Almighty God sent down fire from heaven and literally consumed these dudes. This is the man that predicted the famine and prayed for rain and God brought the rain at Elijah’s request, but then in chapter 19 we read this in verse 1, “Now Ahab” that was Israel’s most wicked king, “told Jezebel,” the wicked wife, “everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.  Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, ‘may the gods deal with me, and even more if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow by this time.’”
She basically threatened his life, to take his life in 24 hours. And what does it say? And he  “was afraid and arose and ran for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.  But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree, and he requested for himself that he might die. And said, ‘it is enough, now, O Lord, take my life; for I am no better than my fathers.’ He lay down and slept under a Juniper tree, and behold, there was an angel touching him,” and so on and so forth.
Notice why he fled? He was afraid; he was so afraid of Jezebel’s threat, it said he fled “a day’s journey into the wilderness.” And don’t get me wrong, there was no doubt that she could carry out this threat; she killed Yahweh’s prophets before in 1 Kings 18:4 and verse 13. [1 Kings 18:4, “for when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water.”  ‘Has it not been told to my master what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD….”]
This was a legitimate threat, but notice where this fear led Elijah in verse 4, “he requested for himself that he might die.” He was so fearful he fell into a deep depression and he started having suicidal thoughts. Do you see where fear can lead us? Look at verse 4, “but he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. And came and sat down under a juniper tree and requested for himself that he might die.
Here’s some more statistics. According to the national institute of mental health here are some symptoms of depression: persistent sadness, anxiety or emptiness, difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions. Did he just forget, Elijah, did he not forget that God, what He did prior to this threat? Feelings of guilt, worthlessness hopelessness or helplessness, hopelessness or pessimism. Verse 4, “I am not better than my father,” he started feeling hopeless; there’s another symptom of depression. Appetite loss. Who goes a day’s journey into the wilderness without eating? Excessive sleeping, verse 5, “He lay down and slept under a juniper tree,” you say he might be tired, well, let’s keep reading. “He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.”  Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake based on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again.”
He just witnessed this supernatural being giving probably the best bread/cake known to man and some bottled water and he went back to sleep. Excessive sleep… I remember my mom when I was little, she woke us up and she woke me and my sisters up in the morning after my dad went to work, and she had a bunch of rubbish bags and luggage’s full of clothes, and that morning we ended up at a shelter, a shelter for battered women. My father was a mean man before he met Christ, but at that time I didn’t know what a shelter was. But I always noticed my mom, she’d always be sleeping. I mean, I was having fun, I was young, there was a bunch of other kids there with their moms. Sometimes when we got there we’d just stay in the room and she’d just sleep. I mean, she was either tired or she was in fear of her life. Sleep was her getaway.
And then another symptom of depression is thoughts of suicide. We see this in verse 4, he actually asked God to kill him, to take his life. …feel paralyzed as a person. We forget about God when we let fear take over. It blurs our vision, it alienates us from God. Proverbs 12:25 again, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down.…” Well, how does fear, anxiety and worry take root in one’s life? Isaiah 57:11 gives us a glimpse of how that can happen. It says, this is God speaking, “worried and fearful when you lied, and did not remember Me Nor give Me a thought Of whom were you? [Was I not silent even for a long time so you do not fear Me?]” The nation of Israel, because God was silent for a number of years they forgot who they served. You see, there is an unfortunate repercussion when someone, in this case a nation, forgets about God.
Isaiah 17:10 says, “For you have forgotten the God of your salvation And have not remembered the rock of your refuge. Therefore you plant delightful plants and set them with vine slips of a strange god. In the day that you plant it you carefully fence it in, and in the morning you bring your seed to blossom; But the harvest will be a heap in a day of sickliness and incurable pain.”
I understand these verses don’t directly apply to us but it’s interesting to see that the nation of Israel had forgotten the God of their salvation. It was a slap in God’s face. And no matter how much the nation forgot God who saved them… this was the God that delights in providing all their needs. And by the way, did you know the theme, “Do not fear” is found in both the Old and New Testaments; it’s found more times than the theme “Love your neighbor.”
And I think the reason is because those things, fear, anxiety and worry, are rooted and grounded in unbelief. Unbelief is the potent soil that these things grow in. It’s a slap in God’s face, it’s essentially saying to God I don’t think You’re able to take care of me and my needs so therefore I will do this on my own and in my own strength. It’s a full-fledged attack on His character, His love and His care for us. It’s unbelief.
Do you remember Matthew 8 says this,  “And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, Save us, ‘Lord; we are perishing!’  He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?’” Unbelief. Or when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the sea at night they thought He was a ghost, and then Peter… Jesus said,  “…Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.’  Peter said to Him, Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’  And He” Christ “said, ‘Come!’” And it says, “ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ And the Lord said,  ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?”’
Going back to Luke 12:28 we see God takes care of His creation by feeding the birds, clothing the grass and so on and it says, will He not much more clothe you, you of little faith. [Luke 12:28, “But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!”]
It’s clear from Scripture that one who fears, one who worries, and the one who is anxious is exercising the very thing that was deemed for that generation as unpardonable, as unbelief. It was a rejection, that generation, it was a rejection of their Messiah because of their unbelief. And at the end of the day that’s all it accomplishes, fear, anxiety and unbelief.
Hebrews 3:12 says this, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.” That’s enough about that.
We learn Scripturally that fear is all those kind of things. So what’s the biblical provision for dealing with fear, worry and anxiety? How should we respond in the face of fear? Well, there’s many, but I want us to look at the life of Nehemiah very quickly, who faced fear straight on. By the way, Betty Cooke is doing an excellent study on the book of Nehemiah, I know that because my wife goes to that study and when she comes home she shares with me the wonderful things she’s learned. And talking with [can’t understand word] I decided to include this, the Life of Nehemiah. And how us Christians in the 21st century can do the same thing that Nehemiah did because God’s Word never changes. So just a brief orientation of the book; Nehemiah was one of the last Old Testament history narratives. It goes back to Babylon at the time of Israel where the nation was nearing the end of a 70 year exile; it began with Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar ruled Babylonian, he became the super power. And then there was a shift of powers from the Babylonian kings to the Persian kings.
538-515 B.C. 483-473 B.C. 457 B.C. 444 c.425 B.C.
Zerubbabel Esther Ezra 7-10 Book of Nehemiah
Ruler: Darius Ahasuerus Artaxerxes Artaxerses
1st Return 2nd Return 3rd Return
Restoration of Temple Reformation of People Reconstruction of walls
And here’s a brief chronological order of those accounts. But Nehemiah served the king named Artaxerxes, in fact, he was a cupbearer, the one who tasted the king’s drink to see if there was any poison in there. Now this was a high and trusted position and there was three phases, that you see there that took place in the nation of Israel. This was when Cyrus made the decree for Israelites to come back to their homeland. Zerubbabel made the first return; Ezra the second and so on and so forth.
So let’s take a look at Nehemiah 1, shall we? Nehemiah 1, I want to focus on a couple of sections that can really benefit us in regard to fear. How did Nehemiah respond to fear. In chapter 1 he gets wind from his friends, Jerusalem was laying vulnerable to another siege, it was basically unwalled, unprotected, and by this news he was deeply moved; he was deeply saddened to the point of what looks like to be the beginning of depression. And why do I say this? In verse 1, “‘The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capital,  that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem.  They said to me, ‘The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.’  When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days;” let’s stop right there.
This report instantly depressed Nehemiah because his people in Judah were greatly troubled and disgraced. Jerusalem walls were destroyed. And if you remember what Pastor Andy said, he said this in one his lessons, the city without walls in those times were a disgrace because of their defenselessness, the total vulnerability to all kinds of attacks. So he gets this terrible message, then fear, no doubt worry for his people, no doubt distress over the situation, plagued his mind.
Remember with depression comes a mind riddled with fear and worry. But what does Nehemiah do. Let’s finish the verse? Verse 4, it says, “When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” When was the last time we fasted and prayed before God? The God of the heaven, in the midst of our pressing and stressful situation. In this case concerning our nation, right, or our family. When was the last time we fasted and prayed for the people at church. From the messenger’s perspective it looked so bleak for his nation, so hopeless that all he knew left to do was entertain his fears and he went to go see Nehemiah. Aren’t we going through that right now as a nation, as we speak? Our nation seems like it’s “going to hell in a handbasket.” And what are the people of God doing? Are we on our knees or are we buckling under the weight of fear, anxiety and worry, giving room for the devil to set up his traps. God help us when we lose sight of our basic responsibil¬ities as Christians, when we fail to pray.
Let’s skip over to Nehemiah 2:1, it says, “And it came about in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, that wine was before him, and I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence.  So the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.’” Then he said, “Then I was very much afraid.”
Now this was a very ominous situation for Nehemiah. One commentator says a servant was never to let his negative emotions show before a king because it might suggest dissatisfaction with the king. To do so might jeopardize his position or even his life. But what Nehemiah do? He pressed through his fears and he makes this bold request of the king for Artaxerxes to allow to him to go back to Judah to build his city.
Let’s not forget, this is the same king that stopped the first rebuilding of Jerusalem a number of years back in Ezra. This was a bold request. This was asking a king to reverse his initial decision. Nehemiah was risking his life. No doubt he was fearful. No doubt he was anxious and worried, and he showed signs of it: sadness, depression, mourning for days. Beyond that he displayed his emotions before the king, which was a no-no.
But notice the action of Nehemiah while he faced this pressing and stressful situations, and this should be our first response to fear, anxiety and worry. Look again with me in Nehemiah 2:4, “Then the king said to me, ‘What would you request?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven.  I said to the king, ‘If it please the king,” he said, that was a short insert, that was an unspoken prayer in the midst, “I said to the king, ‘If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah,” what was Nehemiah doing? He was seeking God in prayer, in the midst of his fears… in the midst of his fears!
What did David pray? “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” Even though … I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” By the way, who is David talking to? Himself? This wasn’t schizophrenia, he was encouraging himself in the Lord, he was claiming for himself the promises of the Lord. “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want,  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me…,  He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness, for His name sake,  Even though I walk [through the valley of the shadow death,] I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me,” and so on and so forth.
Nehemiah faced fear;ehemiah faced worry for his people and anxiety too, no doubt. But did he give in to those things? Scripture says he prayed as he faced anxiety. This sounds familiar. Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for” something? No, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything” when you’re smackdab in the middle of your difficulty, “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” And then look what happens,  “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Guard it from what? The traps and snares of the devil.
Nehemiah was a man of sound mind. A few months ago we covered 2 Timothy, right? 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline,” that word “discipline” can be translated “sound mind.” That means he was self-controlled in his mind and in his devotion, in his thinking, he never let fear, anxiety or worry get the best of him. Rather, he let truth…, he let the truth of God and the peace of God guard his heart and he went about God’s business, God’s work.
Nehemiah is what we would call a prayer warrior. The book says he prayed day and night. And as the story goes on Nehemiah gained favor from the king. The king approves Nehemiah’s request and why was that. Look at verse 1:11, it says he prayed for that very meeting with Artaxerxes. [Nehemiah 1:11, “Oh Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man.’ Now I was the cupbearer to the king.”]
And in 2:8 it says, “…because the good hand of my God was on me.” He not only ended up getting permission from the king, the king authorized a provision for the building materials needed to complete this project. And as the story unfolds Nehemiah faced opposition, right? Remember that? The Lord God put this project on his heart, he was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem so that they would not be a reproach, Nehemiah 2:17. [Nehemiah 2:17, “Then I said to them, ‘You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach.’”]
And he faced more opposition, remember he passed through the neighboring cities and he had to pass through these governors who despised the Israelites. And in fact, when he did that, when he gave the message to the governors they didn’t waste time and try to derail his mission, Nehemiah’s mission. And as the rebuilding began, verbal attacks, ridicule, discouragement, reproach, all the anger, threats, death threats were hurled at them. It got so bad Nehemiah had to station families with weapons protecting the builders.
Look at 4:14, it says, “When I saw their fear,” Nehemiah is speaking, “When I saw their fear I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people: ‘Do not be afraid of them;” the fear of man, notice what he says next, “remember the Lord who is great and awesome,” does that sound familiar? We just read in Isaiah 57 that what happens, what takes root when fear comes, God said, “of whom were you worried or fearful” when you “did not remember Me nor give Me a thought….” The builders began to lose focus and Nehemiah reminded them.
We need reminding, hey, snap out of it, remember the God who is awesome, and they focused… notice what they focused on, the work of the Lord. And then in chapter 6 we learn that the enemies of the project sent multiple messages to Nehemiah trying to discourage him and instill fear in him, one scheme after the other. They even lied about Nehemiah trying to make himself as a king in Israel. Actually that would be a threat to the king, Artaxerxes. And because Nehemiah was a man of prayer and of sound mind he discerned every what? Every plot to derail him off his mission. Are we catching this? Because Nehemiah was a man of prayer he was a man of sound mind, therefore he could discern every plot to derail him off his mission. Even a traitor named Shemaiah was hired by the enemy to derail Nehemiah and Nehemiah saw through that a mile away, exposing him as a false prophet.
What I want us to note here is the deep and intimate relationship he had with his God, through prayer. Why do I say that? Because Nehemiah’s fortitude and his confidence and his unshakeableness, his level of discernment that he displayed could only come from a relationship with His God. He knew what God had already said. Remember what Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.’” Nehemiah remembered what Psalm 27:1 says, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread.” He remember Psalm 27:3, “Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident.”
He remembered these too. “I sought the LORD, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.” Do you see that, “I sought the LORD and He answered me.” [Psalm 34:4] To make a long story short, Nehemiah and his crew built the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days, that’s less than two months. The orange are the walls of Nehemiah. 52 days!
“So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Elul in 52 days.” [Nehemiah 6:15] “When all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence;” look at that, “for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.” [Nehemiah 6:16]
I’m going to stop here, if you want to learn more about Nehemiah you’re going to have to attend Betty Cook’s study. But you’ve got to be a woman to do that. In all honesty we could talk for days about fear, anxiety and worry, it’s such a massive subject. Allow me to conclude: we learned just a little about fear, anxiety and worry. And what it can do and what it can lead to, and how it can get extremely out of hand if not dealt with. We learned that fear can manifest itself in all types of shapes and forms, the fear of man, the fear of the future. We also learned from a man of God, Nehemiah, how he responded resolutely in the midst of fear… in the middle of his fear, in the face of opposition, and he did it by remembering his God and praying and seeking hard after him. These things we should cultivate in our lives and in our family’s lives on a daily basis. Let’s be a people of prayer, let’s be a people who remember who God is and who God said that we are.
And of course there’s some of you that may not have a relationship with Jesus Christ today, who does not have a relationship with the God who made you and never experienced this peace that we’re talking about here, this peace that surpasses all understanding, that will guard our heart from fear, anxiety and worry. So how does one obtain that peace? It’s plain and simple, it’s a relationship with Jesus Christ. And we enter into that relationship with God through what the Bible calls the gospel, and the gospel is the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who left His abode in heaven to come to earth and while He was here His will was to do the will of His Father, and it was to die for mankind, for the sins of the world. He died for my sins, He died for your sins.
The Bible says He died for all, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” [Romans 3:23] And what His death accomplished is that He saved every person who believes in Him; He saved them from an eternity of separation from Himself. We all know John 3:16, “”For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever” that’s including you, “whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” I encourage you today to believe on Jesus Christ, to rely on Him today, and if you did that the Bible says you’re saved. You are now a child of God, and the best news is you will partake an eternity with Him. That’s good news. I pray you’ve done that. If you’re unsure I will be available to speak after the service. Can we pray?
Heavenly Father, I thank you for Your Word, I thank you that Your Word is settled and that Your Word is sure. I pray from this day forward that we take Your Word serious as it pertains to fear, anxiety and worry. Keep us from the snares of the devil, cause us to remember You in our difficulties, search for You in the midst of our hard times, and trust You for our provisions. We love You Lord and we thank You so much, and we pray these things in Jesus’ name. And God’s people said…