Fear and the Christian

(Jesus) replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. – Matthew 8:26

Fear is like the monster under my kids’ beds — its power is fueled not by what’s really there, but by what might be, what we imagine could be. Fear is a hollow darkness in the future that reaches back through time to rob our joy now by belittling the sovereign goodness of God. – Jonathan Parnell

You can’t let your mind get away with being afraid. You have to fight it all the time. – Aubrey Charette

My wonderful pastor recently celebrated 20 years in the ministry. During a service I was interviewing him and asked him the greatest difference between leading believers now compared with leading them in 1994. He didn’t hesitate in his answer.

Christians are much more afraid now.

Specifically he said that as Christians have blurred the line between light and darkness in their lives and as they have been drawn to the call of a secular culture fear has slowly and steadily creeped into their lives, such that, for many, it now has a stranglehold.

I agree with him. And as he spoke I found myself rightly convicted, praying for my own relationship with the Lord and for freedom from fear and thinking about the dozens upon dozens of times someone in Scripture is exhorted to “Fear not.”

The Fear Epidemic

If the average modern day child were to be teleported back to the year 1957, he or she would likely have sufficient anxiety levels to be institutionalized as emotionally disturbed. The average child.

One study indicated that either fear, stress, or the combination of the two account for more than three quarters of the appointments general practitioners see in the typical week. In the same study, secular psychologists studying years of data concluded that, of all of the human emotions, fear has the greatest impact on how we feel about our lives.

We are bathed in fear, fed a steady diet of it from our earliest days, just turn on a television or click on any online news source. Yet, ironically, we wander from the “peace that passes understanding” available in Christ.

Fear, as you might guess, is the most powerful cause of the troubled life.

The Church 

A few years ago, I was teaching at our church’s men’s retreat. These are always the Godliest and strongest men I know. Men who have taught me a lot. In one of those “heads-down-eyes-closed” moments, I asked anyone who was experiencing fear to raise their hands. At least 80% responded in a room of about 90 men.

It’s become clear to me that my pastor is correct and that the folks in our congregations – believers or otherwise – aren’t immune.

It’s real in our churches and can’t, or shouldn’t be ignored. If it’s ever been clear why the Bible so often encourages us to be strong and courageous, and to trust in the Lord, it’s clear today.

While I’m not suggesting you teachers begin a series on fear (although that’s not a bad idea), I am suggesting that a strong preacher/teacher understands his or her audience in order to connect hearers to the Word of God in more powerful ways.

Since that’s the case, it’s important that preachers, teachers and small group leaders know: Your hearers are afraid. They battle a panoply of fears related to health, finances, relationships, the state of things.

And consciously or subconsciously, they are looking to you for help. Thankfully, you can confidently join the battle against fear by understanding its impacts on your congregation, small group, or class, and using the plentiful weapons God’s Word offers.

Fear is a boa constrictor eyeing the necks of your sheep greedily, but you have true hand and a strong sword. It shouldn’t be ignored.

Don’t be afraid.

Scriptures for Consideration

Mark 4:35-41
2 Timothy 1:7
Philippians 4:6-7
Psalm 27:1
1 John 4:18
Proverbs 12:25
1 Peter 5:6-7
Joshua 1:9
Deuteronomy 31:6
Isaiah 41:10
John 14:27

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Sourced for this post:

The Stress Factor: Finding Rest in an Uneasy World

Jean M. Twenge. The Age of Anxiety? Birth Cohort Change in Anxiety and Neuroticism, 1952-1993. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2000. Vol 79.

Candis McLean. The Age of Anxiety. The Report. January 22, 2001.

Marc Shoen. The Fear Epidemic. Psychology Today. April 27, 2013.

David Kupelian. Americans Snapping by the Millions. World News Daily. September 12, 2013.