We live in a society that breeds fear. Our economy generates billions of dollars both promoting fear and then promising to protect us from our fears.
I’m not a big fan of Max Lucado’s books. I’m sure he’s a very competent Bible scholar, but I find that in his books he doesn’t let exegesis get in the way of telling a good story. I do find, however, that he knows how to connect with people, so I’m using his book Fearless as a guide for my current sermon series.
In the opening chapter Lucado points out that 20% of Jesus’ commands in the Gospels address his followers’ fears. Here’s the paragraph from the book:
“[Jesus] most common command emerges from the “fear not” genre. The Gospels list some 125 Christ-issued imperatives. Of these, 21 urge us to “not be afraid” or “not fear” or ” have courage” or “take heart” or “be of good cheer.” The second most common command, to love God and neighbor, appears on only eight occasions. If quantity is any indicator, Jesus takes our fears seriously. The one statement he made more than any other was this: don’t be afraid.” (p10-11)
I haven’t verified his numbers, but if they’re not exact I don’t expect they’re far off. The point is, “combating fear was a major component of Jesus’ ministry.” When we think about it this seems obvious because Jesus came to defeat sin and sin breeds fear. In Genesis 3 describes how the immediate response of Adam and Even after committing the inaugural sin was to FEAR.
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Genesis 3:10)
Before sin humanity had nothing to fear. So when Jesus died to defeat sin, he also defeated fear.
In a powerful statement (John 16:33) Jesus reassured his followers prior to his death, saying “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (NLT)
Jesus doesn’t sugar-coat his call to discipleship, but he reminds his followers of the grand scale of his mission. He’s not just making a book tour, or even promoting a new ethic. Jesus overcomes the world. Whatever fear the world may throw at us. However it may seek to intimidate us. Jesus has already overcome it.
We will still experience trials and sorrows, but ultimately our fears will disappear and only God’s peace and love will remain.
I feel that I need to include a disclaimer at this point. Some people in our churches and society suffer from various degrees of depression and anxiety. These are mental health issues. Too often Christians have regarded these struggles as a lack of faith. In fact, these people yearn for faith and wish intensely that their outlook on life was different.
Jesus was not addressing the issue of brain chemicals, hormones, balances and imbalances. Jesus was talking to people who generally handle life well, but when they encounter unpredicted and unpredictable circumstances resort to fear rather than faith. Jesus’ words of reassurance may help those battling anxiety on occasion, but the big question is, “How do they impact your life?”
Jesus has overcome the world. What scares you?
- Do you feel it’s accurate to describe eradicating fear as a primary purpose of Jesus’ ministry?
- Do you agree that there’s a strong connection between sin and fear? Where else do you see this connection in Scripture?
- Some fears are healthy as they prevent us taking unnecessary risks. How can we distinguish between healthy and unhealthy fear?
- Which of these questions would you like me to blog about in the future?