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The Bible says we are to fear God. Fear can also be an appropriate response to real potential dangers. Fear becomes sinful when we fear men more than God and we fail to trust God. What are some proper and healthy manifestations of fear? What are indications that fear has become sinful?
Fear, very closely, related to worry. And depression. Fear is not necessarily sinful. We’re to fear God. When somebody, for example, starts talking about saying they’re mad at God they should fear God. And fear what just came out of their mouth. And repent. And Isaiah chapter six, when Isaiah has the vision of the Lord in His glory, he falls down. God is awesome and we should reverence him. Fear is also a reasonable and helpful response to danger. Some of our youth were talking about going to Yosemite and climbing Half Dome. That’s something I’ve done twice. And I have a built-in fear of heights. I think most people have some, I have a lot. But that fear is helpful, especially, I don’t know if you’ve ever done Half Dome, but the end of Half Dome you basically have cables you hold on to while you’re going up, and it seems like you’re going up a sheer, but it’s you have 45 degrees or something, and you’re going up this thing, and it’s sheer granite. And if you let go and you fall down, you’re gonna bounce a few times, you’re gonna land in the valley thousands of feet below and you’re going to be dead. And fear helps me to hold on really, really tight. And the people who have died are people who didn’t really have fear. There have been people who have been high when they’ve gone up there. And so they’re dancing around, they’re making jokes, they don’t have a sense of the fear, and they’ve slipped and there’s a whole book of all the people who’ve died at Yosemite and all the different ways it happened. There was one guy, a tourist, I think, from Japan, not long ago. And again, you see all these people going up and down these cables the last hundreds of yards up the top of Half Dome and, I guess they think it’s like they’re in Disneyland and it’s safe, and so a guy is hanging off the edge of the cable, posing for the camera, he loses his grip, and he falls and dies. That’s never gonna happen to me. My hands probably still have the impress of those chains in them from the two times I’ve gone up, and then down is even worse than up, cause you’re looking at what’s happening. So fear is a reasonable and helpful response to danger.
But it’s also a reasonable and helpful response to spiritual danger. First Corinthians, 10, 12, Paul says be careful if you think you stand lest you fall. And I’ve been going through second Samuel lately and preaching, and when I read what happened to David, who was a good man, a godly man, I see that happen to him, I’m afraid, it could happen me. I’m not paralyzed by fear but it means I don’t counsel women alone, and I’m cultivating my relationship with my wife, it’s like hanging on those chains going up Half Dome, is I don’t wanna ruin my life that way. We should be fearful of the sin that we are capable of in our own wicked hearts. When I counsel couples who have had conflict and now they’re hateful to each other, and they’re on the verge of divorce, and there’s bitterness built up over years, and then when have a little spat with my wife, I realize, this is the beginning of what they got into. And I should be afraid, not to let the sun, do not want to let the sun go down on my anger. I use this in counseling. The man who has been looking where his eyes should not go, or the woman who’s been flirtatious at work, and is kind of enjoying the attention of a man there, that she has let go of the rope. And she’s in grave danger, he’s in grave danger, of a fall they would never really intend.
Like anger, fear can have physical manifestations. We see this especially in some of the Hebrew and how it’s portrayed in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy, two, 25, the Lord says I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere and to the Heavens, when they hear the report of you, they will tremble and be in anguish because of you. So, most of us have trembled at one time or another, maybe public speaking does it for some of us. Exodus, 15, 16, terror and dread shall fall upon them by the greatness of your arm. They are motionless, as stone. So frozen, and you’ve got people quaking. Some people get rashes when they’re fearful.
Fear can also be paralyzing and damaging. Proverbs 22, 13, The sluggard says there’s a lion outside, I will be killed in the streets. Okay, he’s afraid to go outside, he’s afraid, afraid of work is what he’s afraid of, but his alleged fear of the danger outside makes him lazy and worthless. The wicked flee when no one is pursuing. There are disorders, so called by psychologists, one would be obsessive compulsive disorder, OCD. There’s a very helpful pamphlet that CCF has on OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder. And I’ve counseled people with this, and they have fears, which are improper, which prevent them from functioning. I have a woman who, when she was in college, contracted some kind of disease from a toilet seat, and when that happened, because it’s disease which can also be sexually transmitted, it was extremely upsetting to her. She was among Christians, in a Christian college, I think, and she got blamed for something that she swears she did not do. But now, she does not want to ever leave the safety of her parents’ house where the toilets are under her complete and total control, and so she, 20 years later, can’t get a job, can’t have relationships, can’t be out of the house more than three hours, because she is controlled by the fear of public toilet seats. I met a young man, college student, and he is afraid of lots of different things, one of which is that he’s afraid he’s gonna wear clothes that God doesn’t want him to wear. And so, when he’s about to go to work, or about to go to school, he’ll put on a shirt and think, well maybe God wouldn’t like that, so he takes that one off and he puts on another one and he might spend an hour and a half in his closet, trying, putting on clothes, and not putting on clothes, meanwhile, he misses class, he misses work, he loses his job. When I showed you on the first day, that stop it video, remember what the doctor was doing at the beginning, you know, he was washing his hands, and when the patient says, well I’m always, oh that’s okay, there are lots of germs out there. Well, there are people, that can be kind of a halo date, where you see at counseling, comes in, and the hands are rubbed raw from washing, cause they fear diseases. They’re thinking like Howard Hughes, if you’ve seen movies about him, or heard about him, and was so fearful of germs that he ruined his life. So fear can be debilitating. Some people have panic attacks in which they’re so consumed by a certain fear it can affect them physically, they’re shaking, they’re delirious. I had a seminary student, one time, who would have a panic attack if he even thought too seriously about getting on an airplane. Interestingly, when there was a girl across the country, that he was courting, he was able to overcome that. Which will get to my point later.
So fear is damaging and the damage can be that if you’re so afraid, you’re not going out and doing your job, or you’re having some fear, whatever the fear may be, it’s preventing you from doing your duty to God and to others. And that’s actually one major basis on which I will attack these kinds of problems. So fear becomes sinful when you fear men more than God, Proverbs 29, 25, the fear of man brings a snare. That’s another kind of fear. But the one who trusts in God will be exalted. Fear becomes sinful when you fail to trust God. God has said He wants you to work. And so, even though there are germs out there, you have to trust that it’s better to go face the risk of getting a germ, catching a cold or the flu, or whatever you’re afraid of, than to fail to fulfill your responsibility and stay at home. Fear becomes sinful when you want control and certainty which belongs to God alone. That’s a big issue for people with OCD, it’s I want complete control and complete safety. That was the bizarre stuff with Howard Hughes. Well, that’s you trying to be God again. You’re not God. You can’t create perfect safety for yourself. Good news is, you’re a child of God and He can make it safe or, if He doesn’t, then He has a reason for it. But a fearful person, especially an OCD type person, they’re wanting to have complete certainty of safety that God does not promise. It can be another lady, she’s afraid to drive a car. Fearful of accidents, fearful of something going wrong. But if that keeps her from caring for her kids, caring for her family, doing her job, that is sinful, but part of the answer is to realize I have trust God rather than feeling like I have to be the one who is in control.
Keys to overcoming fear, most of all, is fearing God and then realizing that the thing you really have to fear, Jesus said don’t fear those who destroy the body but those who destroy body and soul in Hell. Thanks be to God that what we have most to fear, which is death, has been removed in its sting, by Christ. There are things to be afraid of and it’s to stand before God and your sin. Hebrews two, speaking of the work of Christ, verse 14, since children share in flesh and blood, He, Himself, likewise also partook of the same. That through death, He might render powerless him who had the power over death, that is, the Devil. And might free those who walk through fear of death who were subject to slavery all their lives. So Christ, by his work, has set us free from the real fear. That we should have. And instead, we need to learn to trust God is your shepherd.
Psalm 23 is a good verse for fearing people, I’ve got an outline on that in your notes, I’ve got audios on that, to learn to trust God. That He cares for you as a shepherd. He’s the one who protects you. You can’t ultimately protect yourself. Those who are trusting God are characterized by boldness. Proverbs 28, the wicked flee when no one coming, pursuing, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. And when facing fears, especially OCD type fears, the critical question is what would God have me to do? I can’t, quite frankly, if God wants you out working, it’s safer to get out of the house than to be in defiance of God, watching TV all day. That safety is found in doing God’s will. There’s famous quotes by Stonewall Jackson, who said I feel as safe on the battlefield as I felt on my own bed. Now, there may have been a bit of unbiblical fatalism in some of what Stonewall Jackson said, but there’s also some truth in the sense that he had this trust in God that, for him, he was doing his duty. And if he’s doing his duty, he’s as safe as a man could be. Not to mention the fact that when the bullet finds me I’ll be with the Lord anyway. So safety is in doing the will of God.
Some people are fearful because of fear of imperfection. I may mess up, so I won’t even try. Yeah, you’re gonna mess up. Only God is perfect. You have to trust Him. Only God possesses certainty. Only God has absolute control. He is to be trusted. And that means you need to stop trusting in yourself. The Scripture says as we look to Him, then you will walk in your way securely and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid. When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden fear, nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught. That’s Proverbs, chapter three, verses 23 to 26.
Review of Previous Segment
Yesterday, we were talking about the subject of fear and we talked about the fact that fear isn’t all bad. There is an appropriate fear of the Lord. Also, the Lord has designed us when there is danger to have a sense, like climbing up a mountain, or something, you know, to be careful, in danger and even spiritual danger, be careful if you think you stand lest you fall, Paul warns the Corinthians. There are a few different types of fear. When we talked about the kinds of fears which can be debilitating, those who have panic attacks, those who have obsessive, what’s called obsessive, labeled obsessive compulsive disorder. And how do you help people like that? And the focus has to be on fearing God and not man. Trusting Him as our shepherd. And along with that, as well, to acknowledge that He is in control and He is one who keeps us safe. People who are very fearful, including OCD, want to be in control, they want to be completely safe, and they need to realize that God is the one who is ultimately in control. And He is the one who will keep us safe, or if He allows us into a trial, He will be with us in the midst of that trial. And it’s safer to be doing what He wants us to do than trying to keep ourselves safe in a sinful way.