All through the spring we have been in a conversation that has been a lot of fun and challenged us in so many ways.  We spent the first two weeks of this series talking about the battle of life and why we all make life so much harder than it has to be because we simply refuse to surrender our lives to God.  I have always found it interesting how many Christians like to call Jesus their Lord and Savior, when in reality they are all in on Jesus as their Savior, but not so in on the idea of Jesus as the Lord leading their lives, and because of that, life is just harder than it has to be.  We must center on God and place Him first in our lives.  Then we spent the last few weeks looking at and dealing with many of the key areas of our lives and how we must get to a place where we are surrendering those areas and our lives over to God.  I have really enjoyed these conversations because there is so much for me to grab hold of and apply right into my life.  We have talked about some extremely relevant topics, you know things you and I wrestle with on a regular basis and how important it is to give those areas of our lives over to God…things like money, success, and last week Ken did a phenomenal job talking to us about relationships.  I really hope you have taken the time to watch his videos from last week…I know we are in a Pandemic and we haven’t seen too many people lately but the reality is we all deal with people, and Ken did a great job putting the tools in our hands to really develop that area of our lives.  So please go back and watch those talks from last week!  It was awesome and I think we have another topic this week that we can really sink our teeth into, also one that we are all wrestling with a bit in the times we are living in today.  This week we enter a conversation on fear…fear of the future and worrying about tomorrow and most importantly, I want to talk about how we can overcome it.

But before we get started can we just talk a little bit?  I know Ken and I are really trying to stay encouraging and challenging everyone to engage this gift of time we have been given during this Pandemic but I was telling our team last Sunday that every day lately has felt like Groundhog Day to me.  At times I feel like I’m really pulling my four teenagers, and most people I connect with through their days, I’m trying to stay positive, but I don’t know how to answer anyone’s questions.  And with every question asked of me in a time where we just have no clear answers…I can feel energy just leaving my body.  “Dad, when will soccer start back up?”  I don’t know.  “Dad, will I have a Cross Country season in the fall?”  I don’t know…I sure hope so bud.  “Dad, can you fix my chrome book, it just froze during my timed AP test, and couldn’t finish the test.  What should I do?  What will my teacher say?”  I don’t know.  “Dad, will I have a graduation ceremony and if so when will it be?” Well yeah, I hope so…as long as…actually Monica, I don’t know…maybe July 31st?  Add church to the mix, and everyone’s biggest question which matches mine; “When will we meet again?”  I don’t know.  “What does yellow phase mean?”  “When will we go to green phase?”  “What happens if a second wave of the virus hits in the fall?”  “Do you think this is real or about politics?”  I DON’T KNOW…and even the important questions like “Dad could there really not be NFL football this fall?”  I DON’T KNOW…and frankly I’m tired of all the unknowns!  I know people like to tell me I don’t like details or that I don’t like to plan but I actually like having a plan and a schedule and a rhythm to my life…as for details I don’t hate them I just don’t let them stop me from doing things!  I’m funny that way, but I actually like regularity and a plan and a rhythm to my life and as we wake up each day in these incredible times we are living with no real idea of what tomorrow may bring…with no real way to make a concrete plan…it can be tough to push through all the unknowns, all the questions of what the future may hold for me personally, for my own family, and for my church family as well…then I look at the speaking schedule and see that I get to talk to you about fear, fear of the future and worrying about tomorrow as we all try to make sense of this Coronavirus Outbreak…wow does this feel timely and I’m really excited to jump into this with you.

First things first, let’s talk about fear for a moment.  Fear is a challenging emotion to deal with and for many people it is hard to push through fear and keep moving forward in life.  It can be paralyzing, but fear can also be a good thing that can protect you from getting hurt.  You feel fear as you get to the edge of a cliff or when you get too close to a fire, or when you see a snake rattling its tail at you.  That is you protecting yourself saying, “Hey, don’t do that it’s going to hurt!”  So that is probably more what fear should be, but for many of us it’s paralyzing, and this fear can not only wear you down, but also block you from moving forward in life, keeping you from your purpose in life, and from standing as the person God created you to be.  Many dreams go unreached and fade away because fear has stopped them from moving forward…and really this week we are going to talk about how to overcome fear.

As we get started today, I want to kind of warn you going into this week that we are going to do this week’s videos a little different.  Today I’m giving you the main talk on overcoming fear.  We are going to look at Jesus’ teaching, we are going to look at guys like Paul and how they seemed so fearless…but we are going to land with David and how he overcomes fear…and then what I’d like to do is spend the week in shorter videos where we read a few verses in Psalms together and talk about it…so call it a five day Bible study this week looking at some pretty awesome Scripture that talks about fear so this is a bit of an experiment but should be a lot of fun as we study God’s word together.  So let’s get started looking at Jesus’ teaching on fear from the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. NIV

Jesus is saying we should not fear what is coming tomorrow because God loves us, values us, and will take care of us…we aren’t to worry about things because God is with us.  Well can we just say it, because the minute someone tells us to not worry don’t we start to explain every reason why that person has no clue what we are dealing with and every reason why we could never accept that advice.  I mean if we are afraid our first thought here is probably something like…Really Sam, Jesus didn’t have to deal with a Pandemic like Covid-19 though did He?  I mean it’s different for you and I right?  The other thing is Jesus is God so of course He can live fearless and have peace I mean life is just easier for Him…right?  Well I want you to hear me, yes we deal with stuff…but so did He, remember He has the weight of the entire human race on His shoulders…so we aren’t that special and what is interesting is, Jesus also tells us the key to overcoming fear, did you see that in verse 33?  He also models this all in His time on this Earth.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. NIV

He brings this up a lot…you hear this verse a lot here at MRC…

Matthew 11:28 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” MSG

Jesus says seek God first.  Come to me, get away with me and find real life.  This is the key and frankly its how we see so many amazing people in our Scriptures overcome fear.  But have you ever read of the things that some of these men and women in Scripture did and thought, how did they push through so much?  Paul is the perfect example of this in my opinion because you could not do anything to this guy?  You could beat him up, arrest him, stone him, persecute him, I mean the guy was shipwrecked, bitten by snakes…he never stopped moving forward.  He will even tell you that he wasn’t even a good public speaker yet there he is public speaking.  He pushed through it all, he overcame fear because He understood the key.

So we need to press in on this a bit because we have a tendency to do something with guys like Paul, and even teachings like we read earlier from Jesus.  For so many of us we do what I did earlier with Jesus’ words right?  We decide that we can’t push through fear because our personality is different than someone like Paul or Jesus.  We decide we are either smarter, more detail oriented, or just the kind of people that have to understand more of the plan before we can push through the kind of things that you know…simpler minded people may push through like fear.  Better yet, we look at our circumstances and think somehow, what we are dealing with is much more challenging and difficult than anything someone in those Biblical times would have had to deal with…but I want you to understand something.  It isn’t about your personality.  It isn’t that Paul was more talented than we are and it certainly wasn’t that he had an easier life than you have today so it must be something else…frankly it has to be something else.  Why could Jesus or Paul have peace during so much pressure, confrontation, chaos, and danger?  Well now we are getting into the key to overcoming fear and the key is found in what you turn to when the fear hits…and I want you to understand something, you are turning to something.

Remember Jesus says seek God first…come to me.  Paul speaks of finding peace that is beyond understanding…and it’s found the same way Jesus teaches us to find it…it’s found in God.

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. NIV

Think about this, finding peace, and overcoming fear is not about personalities, circumstances, or your level of intelligence…it’s all about turning to God and surrendering your life to Him.   Where do you turn when fear hits your life?  This is an important question because we all turn to something, and if it isn’t God I do not see you overcoming fear.  “Ok, so Sam how did you come up with that conclusion?”  Well I’m glad you asked because it’s all through Scripture and I will build from two lines here in 1 John.

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. ESV

So perfect love casts out fear.  This means we need to seek, find, and center on this perfect love…and you know who is love right?  It’s God.

1 John 4:8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. ESV

Jesus says seek God first…come to me to find peace and rest.  Paul says not to be anxious but to take everything to God…who is perfect love, and it’s this perfect love that casts out fear.  Do you see it?  The key to overcoming fear is what you turn to when you feel afraid.  This is something you need to think about because we all turn to something, what scripture tells us is that the key to overcoming fear is turning to God.

This year I did something a little different in my own time studying Scripture.  I decided to study the life of David, which was a ton of fun for me, and I added to that study a slow walk through Psalms.  So as I started to think through how I wanted to present this topic of how to overcome all this fear of the future and all this anxiety and worry to you…I kept thinking about a specific line from David’s story in the middle of a pretty intense time of his life and I think it really helps us see the key to overcoming fear.  Which by the way is regardless of what excuses we can make for ourselves…remember this is not a personality thing, this is not about our circumstances that we think must be worse than everyone else’s.  No, we can overcome fear just like these people we look up to in scripture.  Just like Jesus, Paul, and the man we study today and this week…David.  When I first looked at this topic, I knew we had to engage this one line from a terrible moment in David’s life.  I will give you the line, then we will look at the story…here it is…you ready?

1 Samuel 30:7 But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. ESV

This is where David goes to find strength when things get tough…I hope you hear this, and I hope it really hits your heart.  David and his mighty men didn’t lose many battles, but this one day in all their fighting they came home to a scary and painful moment where while they were off fighting, a raiding party had come and attacked and destroyed their camp and captured their families…it was so painful, so shocking, so emotional that the men were thinking of mutiny against their leader, they were actually talking of killing David over it…so you could say he was having a bad day…you think David had some fear to deal with?  You ever hear any stories of these great warriors and what they did?  Yeah this was a bad day, now I know it isn’t as bad as the Quarantine of today…but, it’s pretty intense.

1 Samuel 30 David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, 2 and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way. 3 When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. 4 So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. 5 David’s two wives had been captured — Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 6 David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.  NIV

Do you see our phrase there at the end of this section?  I love the ways it’s worded in the ESV here…

1 Samuel 30:7 But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. ESV

The key to overcoming fear is surrendering your life to God.  It’s seeking God first.  It’s coming to Jesus to find peace.  It’s taking all of our stress and worry to God just like Paul encouraged us to do.  It’s going to God who is love to cast out all fear.  It’s exactly why David could press on in the face of this terrible moment, in the fear of what is in front of him…because David strengthened himself in the Lord.

I want you to hear me, it isn’t David’s personality.  It isn’t his circumstances.  It isn’t his IQ score.  It isn’t even about his talents and abilities. He can overcome fear because of what he turns to when he is afraid.

So as we close out today I have a few questions that I would like you to answer.  These are questions that I want you reflecting on today and all week long.  I would recommend getting out a piece of paper and writing out your answers to these questions because they are the key to overcoming fear in your life.

  • When you hear that David “strengthened himself in the Lord” what does that mean to you? 
  • How would someone strengthen themselves in the Lord in difficult and anxious moments?  How can you specifically strengthen yourself in the Lord?
  • When you are afraid and feeling that fear or anxiety where do you turn for strength?  You are turning to something, what is it?  If it isn’t God who is perfect love which casts out fear it won’t work…so what is it?

Please take some time today and think through these questions.  Remember overcoming fear isn’t about your personality, circumstances, or your intellect…it’s all about what you turn to when fear hits your life.  That is the key, we must turn to God.

This week we are going to do a Bible study on a few verses each day from different Psalms that talk about overcoming fear which I’m really excited about.  I can tell you that when my life feels like it’s caving in, and I’m feeling fear and stress over all that I just can’t answer these days.  I have been drawn to the book of Psalms, and I can’t wait to engage some of these awesome writings with you this week.  I hope to see you tomorrow!