God's Prescription for Overcoming Fear

Bible Book: 2 Timothy  1 : 3-7
Subject: Fear; Faith
Series: God's Prescriptions for Life

God's Prescription for Overcoming Fear

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

1 Timothy 1:6 ...

"3 I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the [b]genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."

A man was desperate for money so he decided to rob a bank. He had never done anything like this before and he was extremely nervous as he entered the bank building. He meant to say, "Don't mess with me lady, this is a stick up." In his nervous condition he said to the bank clerk, "Don't stick with me lady, this is a mess up."

Well, I’m sure it was a “mess up.” The reason he confused his words was the presence of fear, and in his case he needed to be afraid. Actually, fear can “mess up” our lives even in the normal process of living. God wants us to be free of fear. You might ask, “How do you know he wants me to be free of fear?” He tells us in His Word many times, “Fear not!” It is not God’s will for you to live in a state of anxiety. Anytime we are living in fear, we are going to mess up. In 2 Timothy 1:6-7 we see the problem of fear and how to overcome it. So let's start with ...

I. The Value of Fear

There is actually a good a valuable kind of fear. Did you hear about the boy who was away at camp and was difficult to deal with? His counselor called his mom and told her that he might need to be punished while at camp. She said, "Please don't slap Irvin, he is very sensitive. Just slap the boy next to Irvin and that will scare him into submission." Fear serves to do some good things for us. We can avoid many pitfalls because we are afraid. We teach our children to fear playing in the street in order to save their lives. My dad was an electrician, and believe me he had a healthy fear of electricity.

There is the positive fear which God encourages. We are told in the Bible to fear God. In fact, the sure sign that people on their way to judgment and ruin is that they do not fear God.

When Jethro advised Moses to place judges in the land to help him with order and decisions, he told Moses to choose men who "fear God." (Exodus 18:21)

The writer of Ecclesiastes stated that the major responsibility of man is to "fear God." (Ecclesiastes 8:13)

Abraham once said that his life was in danger because he was in a place where the people did not "fear God." (Genesis 20:11)

Some years ago the Grand Trunk Railroad offered a reward of $2,500.00, which was a very large sum of money in those days, for the best phrase to use on their railroad signs. The phrase that won the award is one you have seen many times: “Stop, Look and Listen.” A healthy respect and fear of trains is good for all of us.

When we read what is happening in our world among the young, there is reason to believe that they are losing the positive concept of fear. Teen attacks upon children, one another and adults are rampant in our day. I suppose everyone here today has read or seen the story on television concerning the shooting of Christopher Lane, the star athlete who was going to school in America but was from Australia. One of the young men accused of being part of the shooting was accompanied in court with his fifteen year old pregnant girlfriend. Another one of the teens implicated in the shooting was said to have laughed and danced when he was arrested. Apparently we are lacking a respect for God and for human life in our modern world. To fear God is the beginning of wisdom, so failure to fear God must be the beginning of stupidity!

Not only do we need to know the Value of Fear,  we need to note ...

II. The Victims of Fear

There is a negative kind of fear which is not good for us. That type of fear is rampant in the land. Ann Landers was a newspaper writer. At the height of her fame she was said to receive up to 10,000 letters a day. She stated that the number one subject of those letters  by far was fear.

So many people are afraid. They are afraid of dying, and they fear living. They fear not having any money, but they also fear losing the money they have. They fear losing a spouse, but they also fear getting married.

Fear is sinful and harmful. The one feeling teenagers express most is fear - fear of the future, fear of responsibility, and fear of failure. There has always been a tension in between independence and insecurity in the adolescent years of life. Today the pressures on teens are more intense than ever. A lot of kids have the feeling that they can't (or don't even want to) make it all the way to adulthood. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers in America. And many young people do not want to go out into life with all its hardships and fears, thus they live with mom or dad into their late 20s and early 30s.

There is great fear among senior aduls as they deal with illness, distance from extended family and higher prices and lower incomes.

There is fear among adults who see the world changing rapidly around them. They fear what their children are being taught in public schools. They fear the modern diseases, like Covid 19, and what that may mean to them and their families.

Fear has a vicious nature about it. It does not care who you are or where you are. Fear attacks people of all colors, all economic levels and all backgrounds. Fear can attack children, teens, young adults and everyone else into old age. I once had a mother bring her 8 year old daughter to talk with me. The little girl did not want to get on the bus to go to school. No matter how the parents tried they could not get her to tell them what was wrong. I sat with her alone for about 30 minutes talking about her friends, her favorite TV programs and what toys she liked. Then she wasn't actually thinking about it I asked, "Is anyone hurting you on the bus or at school?" She didn't answer. "Are you afraid of someone?" I asked. She nodded. "Is it your teacher?" She replied with little tears falling from her eyes, "Yes." It turned out that no one was hurting her but she had an terrifying fear of her 3rd grade teacher. The problem was eventually resolved. Just think of it, a little girl so afraid in her young life. Fear is real.

  • Peter experienced fear when he stood by the fire while Jesus was being tried.
  • Elijah knew the power of fear after his mighty victory against the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel. Fear respects no one! Anyone can fall victim to fear.
  • Even Timothy, with the Christian upbringing in the home, his training at the feet of Paul, and spiritual his gifts, fell victim to fear.
A. Fear Challenges our Training

Even the best trained and educated people can be filled with fear. One actor, who had starred in many films, said he became physically sick when he was called upon to speak in public.

B. Fear Confounds our Temperament

Some people seem very self-confident when in public, but deep down inside they live with abiding fear. In fact, some of those who act the most self-assured have deep fears buried in their hearts.

C. Fear Contests our Trust

You may be killing your dentist. At least that's what one might think after reading what a director of the American Society for Preventive Dentistry has written. Dr. Omar Reed claims that dentists die young and have the highest suicide rate of any profession because they are "burned out" by the emotional trauma of dealing with fearful patients. I don’t know if that is true, but I know a few dentists who have almost killed me!

I know a person who is extremely confident. He owns businesses that employs many people. He can stand and speak at a moment’s notice to any number of people. He seems fearless, until he has to go to the dentist. He actually prefers to be drugged into sub-consciousness in order for a dentist to work on his teeth. To see him in almost any other circumstance, you would never guess he has this problem. Fear is real.

In reality, fear is actually an attack on our faith in God. We are pressed in heart and mind to let go of our trust in God when facing challenges. Fear robs us of the confidence we can have that God is with us and will help us deal with every issue. I doubt there is a person on earth who can say that he or she is not a victim of being fearful at times in life - even the most faithful Christian can become terrified - but that is not God's will for us.

III. The Viciousness of Fear

“Dr. George Engel has written a book detailing the deaths of 170 people who died shortly after receiving an intense emotional shock. The most vulnerable appeared to be men in the 45 to 55 age bracket. Nine of the men in the study died after a sudden loss of status or self-esteem. The women typically died after hearing the news of the unexpected death of their husbands. An English writer published a book entitled Scared to Death, telling about 28 men and 14 women who supposedly died of fright. It has been documented that when facing what is perceived as great personal danger an individual's blood pressure often rises and the muscles around the heart may constrict. In some cases, people bitten by a snake have died, not from the venom but from cardiac arrest. Apparently Ananias and Sapphira were literally scared to death when their duplicity was exposed by Peter in the assembly.” (Pulpit Digest," Mar/Apr 1991. Pages 57-58.)

A. Fear Creates Forgetfulness of God's Promises

When a Christian is fearful, it is a sign of forgetting the promises of God. It is very important for God’s people to memorize scripture passages that contain promises of God’s presence, love and power in our lives. Studying the lives of Bible figures can help as well. We learn that many of them when through extremely dangerous and difficult circumstances but came out victorious because God was with them and He kept His promises.

B. Fear Generates Unfaithfulness toward God's Purposes

When we fear, we are unlikely to obey God. Yet, when we trust God, we will do anything He asks of us. Fear keeps many people from serving God faithfully. I have known people with great gifts who refused to serve because of fear. Yet, I have known others who were mediocre in terms of their talents, but they served and were greatly used of God because they had a deep faith that overcame their fears.

I pastored a church in Hartsville, South Carolina in the early 1970s. That is where I met Hattie Gardner. When I arrived at the church, Hattie was just finishing up a 40 year career as a missionary in Africa. At seventy years of age, she was forced to retire due to the Mission Board’s age limitation requirement. What an amazing lady she was. Barely five feet tall and thin as a rail, she appeared as the most unlikely person to have survived 40 years in Africa, years which began in the 1930s. Her story is actually one of courage and commitment to the will of God.

God called Hattie Gardner into missions in her mid-twenties. She volunteered to the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) of the Southern Baptist Convention. She went through the training process and was assigned to China. When she appeared at the commissioning service, each missionary being commissioned was asked to speak for a few moments about his or her call from God. Hattie told the assembled board that God had called her to Africa but that the broad didn’t want to send her there. She said that she was extremely disappointed. One of the board members stood and asked why she was not being sent where God had called her to go. An employee of the Mission Board said that darkest Africa was no place for a tiny woman like Hattie. The board member said, “When God called her to Africa, He knew she was a woman and a small woman. Send her where God has called her to go.” Other board members agreed and off Hattie went to Africa. The Mission Board was convinced that she would not last two years in darkest Africa. Hattie lasted 40 years and was never seriously sick or injured during her entire time of service to God there.

Dear friend, don’t be afraid of God’s will for you. Fear will keep you from His purpose in your life. Don’t be afraid to witness. Don’t be afraid to tithe. Don’t be afraid to take a place of service in His church. Faith overcomes fear.

C. Fear Generates Weakness in God's People

There is an illness related to fear that I have never heard of till I started studying for this message. It is a psychiatric illness called BBD. It leaves its victim obsessed with an imagined defect so tormenting that a glimpse of one's reflection can elicit screams of terror and coming face to face with others is agonizing.

Psychiatrists have called it a "hidden epidemic." It was not even recognized in psychiatric diagnostic manual until 1987, but now the sufferers are, to use one doctor's words, coming out of the woodwork. He's seeing at least one new patient a week. The bizarre disease is called "body dysmorphic disorder" or BDD. Its victims imagine that they have some physical defect (usually facial). They see it clearly anytime they look in the mirror and are afraid to been seen by other people. These unreal deformities cause such a sense of shame that the person often cannot function in a job or social situations. The afflicted individual will sometimes cut or disfigure himself in an attempt to get rid of the imaginary deformity. Others spend huge sums trying various products in hopes of covering up or getting rid of the flaw. The disease usually begins early in life (between ages 7 and 25) and is often triggered by a traumatic experience such as a death in the family. Researchers have linked BDD to low levels of the brain chemical serotonin, but its victims are almost always abnormally shy people. Positive treatment results have been obtained with both medication and psychotherapy. "Reflections of torment" by Joannie Schrof. (U.S. News & World Report, Nov 25, 1991. Pages 65-67.)

Fear can weaken you so much that you can’t function in life. Fear can keep you from being the father or mother you children need and deserve. Fear can keep you from seeing yourself as the unique person God has made you to be. Yes, fear weakens God’s people and that weakens God’s work.

How do we overcome fear. Let's consider ...

IV. The Victory over Fear

When the famous author Robert Louis Stevenson was a little child, he accidentally locked himself in his room and couldn't get out. As darkness came on, he became terror-stricken. When his father was unable to open the door, he sent for a locksmith; but while he waited, he talked to his son through the keyhole. Hearing his dad's soothing conversation and knowing he was there was all young Robert needed.

Dear friend, you need to know that your heavenly Father is close and that He cares for you. You can have victory over fear!

A. We have God's Power to Confront Fear

We are like the supposedly experienced paratrooper who was asked how many jumps he had to his credit. He responded, "Twenty‑five." Then, with his head held low he added, “Actually, it was only one jump.” He was then asked, “Really, only one jump?” He answered, “Yes, I only jumped once, the other twenty-four times I was pushed.”

Sometimes God will push us in order to help us overcome our fear. He wants us to know that the power to overcome is present because He is present. He is like a father standing in the pool beckoning his child to jump into His arms. The child is reluctant. At last, the child sees the father’s large, strong arms and smiling face, and jumps. There is no way that father is going to let the child drown! That is how God wants us to trust Him in every situation.

B. We have God's Love to Cast Out Fear

Turn to 1 John 4:18 ...

"18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love."

Dear friend, this is not our love for God - it is His love for us. You need not fear; He loves you! You see, it is not just God’s strength that causes us to trust Him, it is His love. He loves us and even if we are going through hardships, He is working behind the scenes to bring about a good purpose. Read Romans 8:28. Look at Philippians 1:19ff. Paul states clearly that he knows God is going to deliver him. He even goes so far as to state that whether it is by life or death, he can’t lose. If Paul lives, Christ is with Him. If he dies, he will be with Christ. Paul was resting in God’s love!

C. We have God's Sound Mind to Contain Fear

A large, old Bible, frequently used by Abraham Lincoln during the critical years of the Civil War, falls open easily to the Psalm 34. It is said that when one reads that passage, it is noteworthy that one part of the passage is smudged in the old Bible. It is apparent that the President had often placed his finger on that spot. Here is what that part of the Psalm states, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears."

Have you done that? Have you sought the Lord and found that He delivers you from all your fears? Someone here, in this very service, is dealing with fear. Listen to me, fear harms your body. Fear takes away our peace of mind. Fear stresses your nervous system. Fear makes you selfish. Fear keeps you from acting in faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God. Would you like to have victory over fear? Come to the Lord tonight. He promises to give rest to those who are weary and heaven laden.

Conclusion

Now, there is one type of person here in this service that has a right to be afraid. If you have never trusted Christ, you are one heartbeat from meeting God. “It is appointed unto man once to die and after that, the judgment.” It is a very dreadful place to be – to be lost and unready to meet God. If you are not saved, or you are unsure of your salvation, come to Jesus right now. He loves you. He died for you at Calvary. He arose and lives to give you the assurance that He will keep His promise to keep you in the palm of His hand.

God’s care for you creates a divine and effective care act that can save the lost, renew the saved and cause those who are hesitant to join forces with this local church and serve God faithfully.

Now, let’s respond. Lay aside fear and trust God completely.