Facing Fear With Faith
Text: Mark 914-29
Proposition: Fear can be both good and bad but the sure presence of God with us enables us to withstand and overcome all fear.
Introduction: What do think is the most frequently used command of God to man in the Bible? Do you think it might be, “sin not”, or “Love the Lord” or “be kind”? In fact the most common command of God to man, the thing that God says again and again in the pages of Scripture is, “fear not”. There must be a reason that this is repeated so often. Is it that fear is one of the most common challenges that we encounter? From the lesser fears of spilling food on your shirt at a pot luck to the deeper controlling fears called phobias, fear is present in our life every day. For instance did you know that at last count there are over 530 phobia’s that have been documented and recognized. There are lesser known phobias like the one called Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia which is the fear of the number 666. There is Neophobia, the fear of anything new, there is Logophobia which is the fear of words and Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia which of course is the fear of long words. Fear is an emotional response that is there to warn us of danger, to cue us to the fact that we are at risk in some way. You could even say that fear is like the light flashing on the dashboard of your car telling you that the oil is low or the engine is over heating or the trunk is open. The light itself is just the messenger, the real problem lies somewhere else. One author has suggested that there are different ways that we are meant to respond to fear. The first would be the kind of fear that a snake or spider incites in us, a fear to move away from them for safety. The other fear is that which we should move towards, like when seeing a house on fire with children in it, we feel the fear and yet the right thing to do is to move towards it not run from it. Yet another kind of fear is that which is to be ignored or set aside, we neither move towards it nor run from it. This fear would come from exaggerated perception that has no actual fact or truth in them. The fear of speaking in public or singing before a group or sharing our testimony could be examples. So again and again through the pages of Scripture God commands man to not submit to fear, whether that fear is because an Assyrian army was about to invade or whether that is because the testimony of Jesus Christ was offensive to those in authority. Let’s look at a passage of Scripture this morning that shows how fear in a series of different settings is dealt with by the One who has come to conquer fear through His perfect love. Turn with me to Mark 9:14-29.
I. The Fear of Being Ineffectual. As Moses came down from the mountain only to find the camp in confusion so also Christ comes from the Mount of Transfiguration to find the disciples being challenged by the scribes with a great multitude around listening in. What do you suppose the scribes were saying to the disciples, was it along the lines of their inability to bring relief to this epileptic son who was demon possessed? Were they being taunted as being bearers of false hope, of having no power and worse, no truth? If this was indeed the scenario we could conclude that there was a rising fear within the disciples. Not only was Jesus absent, but Peter and James and John were gone too. There are many times when we will be on the front lines and feel like we’ve got little to bring relief to another’s suffering. There may be times when we feel ill prepared to respond to the taunts of unbelief or to those who find Christ offensive. That fear that arises in such moments is something that we need to move towards rather than to flee from. It is a fear that needs to be seen for what it is, a fear of personal credibility, a fear of loss of reputation and a fear of embarrassment. In short what underlies such fear is often pride. To move towards that fear is to recognize this is often what lies underneath the blinking light of fear. To move towards this fear is to be willing to let reputation go, to proclaim truth despite the anticipated reception of it. Strangely it is often the anticipation of negative results that holds the power, once I move past its threatening fist the fear is not as great as it had once seemed. The Lord meets us in such places, waiting for us to take that stand and then as we do He now gives the words that are needed for the moment.
II. The Fear That Things Will Never Get Better. As the crowd comes around Jesus, He looks at the scribes and directly asks them what it was they had been discussing. They hear the question but say nothing, their motives would be too transparent. The disciples say nothing either perhaps partly because of their joy at seeing Jesus get them out of this tight spot or partly out of their own inability to effect any change in the son’s condition. It’s in that in between silence that the father of the boy speaks up. He lays out the problem, he tells of how he tried to get help and the conclusion is that nothing has changed. The response of Jesus can seem rather harsh to us, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here.” Is it that Jesus is addressing these remarks to the scribes because their ‘one-up-manship’ attitude didn’t even want the boy to be healed so that the failure of the disciples would the more evident? Sometimes the pride of those about you, their fear of losing face or stature can engender a hopeless fear in us that says within our spirits, “Maybe they’re right, maybe it’s all of no use, maybe I should just give up.” That is a fear that we need to move away from, like a venom that slowly poisons the possibilities that are so close. So Jesus has them bring the boy to Him and as they do the demon in the boy convulses him causing him to collapse in a seizure. The very intent of the seizure was a ploy by the enemy to strike fear into the Healer’s heart, to keep the captive away from freedom. Do you see the response of Jesus? It’s almost out of place. It seemingly ignores the fit that has just occurred and asks a rather benign question, “How long has this been happening to him?” Was Jesus asking this question to show the deep extent of the problem? Was He pointing out through the father’s response, “From childhood.” the grip that the demon had on this child? Was it a question designed to bring the father in closer, to begin to awaken his faith that indeed with Jesus nothing is impossible!
III. The Fear That Faith is a Gift That Others Have, But I Don’t. The distraught father looks at his unconscious son and tells Jesus that this demon has been trying to kill his son by throwing him into harms way. In desperation he looks at Jesus and says, “If you can do anything…help us.” Jesus response reflects the man’s own words back at him, “If you can believe…” In other words Jesus addresses the issue of faith in this father. It’s more than just wanting a change in your circumstances, the faith that He is awakening in this man is not a faith that things will get better it’s a faith that trusts Jesus unreservedly with the life of his son. It’s faith that grasps hold of the truth that Jesus is and does good, that His will be done and this father willingly accepts the will of Jesus for both himself and his son. The man bursts forth with the tearful cry, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” That is, Lord help me overcome the faint voices of doubt that reason and experience have drilled into me. O God, help me to trust more in what I cannot see in You than I have ever seen in this world! In a moment, Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit and sets the boy free and then restores him to his believing father. The wonder of your faith is never contingent upon what others have received or on what others have given. Faith is the gift that comes from Christ when you seek Him, when you allow Him to throw your own words of unbelief back at you and receive their instruction, “If you can, believe… all things are possible to him who believes.”
IV. The Fear of the Lord, How To Receive Correction From God. It seems that whenever the Lord said, “Fear not” almost always His next words were, “For I am with Thee.” The Lord’s presence becomes the enduring antidote to fear. “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…” WHY? “For You are with me.” –Psalm 23:4. The presence of the Lord dispels fear and the fear of the Lord invites wisdom. The disciples ask Him why they were unable to cast out this demon. His response is two fold:
1. Because of your unbelief (Matthew17:20)
2. Because this kind of demonic entrenchment from childhood can only come out through prayer and fasting.
The connection we make is that prayer strengthens belief or faith and that fasting strengthens belief or faith. What was needed was the opposite of unbelief, the exercise of prayer and fasting builds faith. It is as we draw closer to the Lord that we learn what we need to do in order to strengthen our faith. Faith is the means for drawing closer to the Lord, the known presence of the Lord is the antidote to fear