The problem with fear.
How many of you would like to be fearless or at least experience less anxiety in your life? Of course you would. Anxiety has so many negative effects on your life. You can’t be afraid and have good day! Prolonged anxiety is really bad for your physical and emotional health. And fear also limits your life. It makes you hedge your bets, live at a lower level and reduce your expectations. It causes you to make “safer” plans and focus too much on “worst case” scenarios. “Safer” is almost always smaller. We live smaller lives when we are afraid. We don’t pursue big things or hard things because we are afraid of failure. We set smaller goals because we fear we don’t have what it takes to succeed. Fear can make you quit too soon or prevent you form even trying. God doesn’t want fear to control your life.
Where do our fears come from?
So where do all of our fears come from? The first mention of fear is found in the first book of the Bible- Genesis. From the beginning Adam and Eve experience only confidence and friendship with God. But after Adam and Eve sinned they experienced two new emotions. Their confidence turned to shame. Their experience of friendship gave way to fear. . The Bible says,
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’”Genesis 3:8–10 (NIV84)
Now this wasn’t the first time they ever met God. He was a regular part of their lives. And it wasn’t the first time they were naked before Him. But it was the first time they hid from God and it was the first time they were afraid of Him.
And so what changed? It was the first time they disobeyed Him. And that changed their relationship with God. In the past they had been guilt-free, and now they were guilty. You feel guilty because you are guilty. Guilt is the emotional manifestation of being separated from God.
Some people think that sin is no big deal. But sin is a big deal. Sin separates you from the close and loving relationship that God has always intended for you to enjoy with Him. And when you are are separated from God and the love of God, you are left to face the challenges and opportunities of life on our own. That kind of life can be pretty scary. But God doesn’t want you to live in fear. That is why He sent Jesus.
Today we will talk about three encouraging messages God has for you at Christmas. Each one was delivered by an Angel and included the phrase “fear not.” So I call them them the “fear nots” of Christmas. And the first is the “fear not” for impossible situations.
God’s “fear not” for impossible situations
The hopeless language of impossible situations
There is a whole vocabulary associated with things situations that we perceive as impossible. We use the word “enough” as in, “I don’t have enough…” I don’t have enough time, enough money, enough strength. Or I’m not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, healthy enough.
Or you use the word “too.” It’s too hard, its’ too late. There are too many. It’s too much. I have too little. I’m too old or I’m too young. I’m too weak.
And of course the old stand by, “I can’t.” “I can’t take it any more.” I can’t wait any longer. “I can’t help it. And we add “always” and “never.” “I’ve always been this way or “he will will never change” This is the language of hopelessness. This is the language that stops you from starting something and causes you to quit too soon. And I believe these hopeless phrases coming out of our mouths are more offensive to God than any four letter swear words you string together and blurt out in your fear and frustration. Because hopelessness is a rejection of God’s Christmas Gift, Immanuel- God with us.
Our first Christmas “fear not” comes from Gabriel’s conversation with Mary.
“And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.”Luke 1:30 (KJV)
Circle “with God” Gabriel repeated the phrase, “with God” three times in this conversation. “God is with you,” “you have found favor with God” and then having explained that Her child was God’s Son, Gabriel concluded the conversation,
“For with God nothing shall be impossible.”Luke 1:37 (KJV)
Circle “nothing.” God’s answer to your “not enough” or your “too hard” or “too late.” God’s response to your “always” and “never” is a very blunt and loving rebuke. “nothing, nothing, nothing is impossible with God” When God says “nothing,” He means it.
This really is a picture of a man with no arms and no legs riding a surfboard. He was born that way. His name is Nick Vujicic and he is a Christian Evangelist and one of the most sought after motivational speakers in the world. His parents were told not to expect much from him. He would never be able to do anything physical. Yet, he walks, swims, surfs, sky dives and can even kick a soccer ball. A few years back he got married and became a dad. He credits God for his ability to live a seemingly impossible. His tag line is “nothing is impossible with God.” His life is the proof!
What’s your impossible situation?
God wants us to know that we don’t need to fear impossible situations, because nothing is impossible when God is involved in our lives. What’s your impossible situation?
God still multiplies bread and fish. He still stretches budgets and surprises us with his goodness. He often moves through the kindness of others and sometimes surprises us with an unexpected check in the mail. God can find you a job and open a door of opportunity. He can persuade an employer to give an unexpected raise or promotion. Nothing is impossible with God.
Perhaps you have a physical or mental health issue and wonder if you will ever get better or how you will get through it. God still heals and God still helps us endure. I have seen God miraculously heal people. I received a miracle of healing. But I also knew a man who after a series of heart attacks, was given 2 months to 2 years to live. And they told him the same thing at every check-up for 20 years. Nothing is impossible with God.
You can lose the weight. You can quit smoking. You can start exercising. You can get enough sleep. You can become or stay sober. Nothing is impossible with God.
Forgiving someone might seem impossible. People say and do terrible things to each other. Sometimes it seems like they will never change and we can never forgive. Without God it may be impossible to reconcile. But with God all things are possible.
For some people the teen-age years can be roughest part of life. Carol and I have both agreed that neither of us would want to relive those years. The awkwardness you feel Sometimes other teens be cruel. Authority figures like teachers and coaches can be or seem unfair and uncaring. And the embarrassment we feel at times can see unbearable. And those 7 years may seem like they will never end. And maybe this is God’s way of letting you know that you need Him and He can and will help you. Because nothing, not even teen years are impossible with God.
For some, raising teenagers may be the roughest part of parenthood. The arguments, the challenges to your authority, and the mood swings can be emotionally draining. Perhaps this is God’s way of preparing parents to let their children leave the nest. Nevertheless, parents may wonder if they will ever get through those years. Well, hear the message from heaven “Nothing is impossible with God.”
When you got married you vowed, “in good times and in bad times.” And right now might seem like an extreme case of the bad times- you see no light at the end of the tunnel and wonder if you can stay the course. Well, hear the message from heaven “Nothing is impossible with God.”
The Story of Christmas is the Story of God with you. And God doesn’t just show up on Christmas. God will be there whenever you need Him. The Bible says,
“When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end— Because I am God…”Isaiah 43:2–3 (The Message)
Circle all the “whens” Each one refers to an overwhelming and seemingly impossible life situation. Whenever you are tempted by a “too hard, too late, too much, too little.” Stop and tell yourself the truth. “Nothing is impossible with God.”
God’s “fear not” for unanswered prayer
We know that there are three possible answers to every prayer. God can say “Yes.” God can say “no.” And God also say “wait.” Perhaps “wait” is the answer we like the least. We don’t like to wait. And many times this time of waiting might seem like our prayers have gone unanswered. Well the Christmas Story provides a “fear not” for those who think their prayers have gone unanswered.
For years Elizabeth and Zechariah prayed for a child. They were good people. They obeyed God and served Him. But their prayer for a child was seemingly unanswered. And it had been that way for a very long time. They were considered far too old to have any children. But one day, while Zacharias was serving before the Lord in the Temple, the angel Gabriel arrived with the answer. .
“The angel said to him, ‘Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife Elizabeth will have a son, and you will name him John.’”Luke 1:13 (GW)
Circle “heard your prayer” Elisabeth and Zachariah’s unanswered prayer was not unheard. The answer was simply delayed. They would have a son and their son would be a great man- powerfully used by God to introduce the Messiah. And the delay had a divine purpose. Their son, John would be born at just the right time to accomplish his mission.
Sometimes it may seem like God isn’t listening, but rest assured every prayer is heard. And every prayer will be answered. The Bible says
“When you call to me, I will answer you. I will be with you when you are in trouble. I will save you and honor you.”Psalm 91:15 (GW)
Circle “call to me” that’s prayer. Now Circle all of the “I wills”. These are promises. God hears and answers your every prayer. He promises.
There may be answers we don’t like. The timing of those answers may not seem ideal to us, but rest assured that every prayer is heard and every prayer is answered.
- Keep on praying for your children, parents and friends
- Don’t stop praying for your spouse and your marriage.
- Don’t stop praying for unsaved loved ones.
- Keep on praying for your career and direction in life
- Always pray when taking tests at school and before important meetings. Ask God for blessing on your business, and through difficult projects at work.
Prayer always gets an answer, so keep on praying.
God’s “fear not” for outsiders
When I say outsiders, I’m just talking about people who are looking into the the good news of the Gospel, looking into the claims about Christ and looking into Christian beliefs, but haven’t yet put their faith in Christ. Outsider are people on the outside looking in. And God wants you to know that you have a you have a special place in His heart. Let’s read another familiar Christmas passage.
“That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep.”Luke 2:8 The Living Bible
And the Christmas story sometimes paints these shepherds in an idyllic manner. But shepherds in first century Israel were social and religious outsiders. They were both literally and figuratively “outsiders”. They weren’t welcome in the market place, town square or in the Temple. But God wanted them to know He welcomed them. The Bible says,
“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”Luke 2:9–11 (NIV84)
Circle “to you” This message was directed to a very specific group of people- the shepherds. We know of no others who heard or saw these angels. And God made sure that they were the first people to welcome His Son to planet earth. God’s “Savior has been born to you”. Circle “Savior”. A Savior is someone who rescues people from danger. In fact, that is what His name means. And what did Jesus come to save us from? The angel told Joseph,
“And she [Mary] will have a Son, and you shall name him Jesus (meaning ‘Savior’), for he will save his people from their sins.”Matthew 1:21 (The Living Bible)
Circle “from their sins”. Some people think that sin is no big deal. But it really is. Sin separates you from the close and loving relationship that God has always intended for you to enjoy with Him. Like Adam and Eve who were ushered outside of the Garden, all people are separated from God by their sin. Outsiders are left to face the obstacles and opportunities of life on their own. That kind of life can be pretty scary. And Jesus came to save you from your sins and make you an insider. So you can face the obstacle and opportunities of life with God rather than without Him. God sent Jesus so that you could live in relationship with Him and live without fear. Jesus said,
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”Revelation 3:20 (NLT)
Circle “as friends”. A friend is the ultimate insider. And God want to be your friend. And when God is your friend you have nothing to be afraid of.