I want to talk to you about something that’s been very real to me over the last month.
Faith & fear.
And that’s the idea of faith and fear.
For those of you who don’t know, my wife and I have been in the process of adopting for over 2 years now. And our baby daughter Grace was born about a month ago.
I want to fast forward to the end of the story and say that Grace is with us, and she happy, and she’s healthy, and she’s a miracle.
And now I’ll say that this last month has without a doubt been the hardest month of my life.
My holy virtue in ‘Faith’
My deadly sin is ‘fear’.
I learned that for people like me, I’m constantly oscillating on this spectrum between fear and faith.
And I actually think that’s true for most people.
For me : Looked like : Life of faith – Life of comfort. And I think for me, in a lot of ways, what has looked like a life of faith, has really been just a life of comfort where not a lot of faith was required.
Well that all changed when Jordan and I got the call that Lindsey, who is graces birth mom was being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance to have an emergency C-section 5 weeks early.
My wife and I have never felt terror like we felt that night where we weren’t sure if our baby was going to be ok.
And ever since that first day, it felt like every day was this onslaught of bad news hitting us from every direction.
NICU & legal process. Like a the same time that we were in the NICU with grace trying to figure out some of these health things that were happening, then we would have to leave and start fighting this brutal legal process, where we were fighting child protective services to release their claim on grace so that we could adopt her.
‘Bracing for the blow.’ My wife and I were laughing the other day that it took us a couples weeks to stop ‘bracing for the blow’, where overtime our phone rang, we weren’t afraid it was someone telling us we have this huge problem.
‘Numb’ And it went on like that for a couple weeks with new developments every day, and I think in a lot of ways, we kinda became ‘numb’. Like there were times when we were eating, and we wouldn’t even be talking and now, we can’t even remember what we were eating.
God’s – so good.
No reason – so afraid.
God’s just so good. And as is the case so often in life, there truly was no reason to be so afraid. God was working on the time in the background. And now, it’s like this beautiful story of hope, and redemption.
But it was so hilarious for me, a preacher, where we were just so afraid, and like I couldn’t even remember what to do. Like a couldn’t remember a scripture, I was anxious I couldn’t even pray without just starting to bawl.
And I feel like in a lot of ways, I’ve lived a life where I’ve never found myself in a situation where faith is kinda all you have. So I think in a lot of ways, I’ve assumed I’m better at faith than I really am.
Sea of Galilee
In Mark 4, we read the story of Jesus crossing the sea of Galilee.
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” (Mark 4:35)
Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. (Mark 4:36)
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. (Mark 4:37)
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38)
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. (Mark 4:39)
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41)
Here’s the story:
Jesus had preached all day long.
As sun was setting, he wanted to cross the sea of Galilee by boat. You can walk around it, but it takes much longer.
So Jesus and his 12 disciples got into a boat – probably owned by Peter and Andrew, or maybe James and John – who were fisherman.
They got in, and began to cross it. This could take maybe an hour.
Called : ‘Sea of Galilee’ – Lake (Pic)
12 miles long x 8 miles wide. (I’ve got a pic)
So it’s not huge, but it was common for there to be violent storms.
Jesus goes to sleep.
If you’ve ever preached all day long, you know how exhausting it can be.
As Jesus is sleeping, a storm comes.
And I think we can forget that this is happening at night.
I wonder if you can imagine how terrifying that would be.
To be in a boat, with a crazy storm, and there’s water pouring into the boat, and it’s patch black out. And this is before electricity.
There’s a beautiful painting by 17th century Dutch painted ‘Rembrant’ – the painting was actually stolen in 1990 out of a museum in Boston.
(SHOW PAINTING and go through guys)
And I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience of having a great storm in your life, and so far as you can tell, it certainly seems like Jesus is sound asleep.
So they awaken Jesus.
And the first thing they say to him is “Don’t you care?!”
Anyone ever prayed that prayer? I know I have.
It’s interesting that they didn’t exactly ask for help. They just wanted Jesus to know they were about to die. They would hate for him to miss it!!
So they wake him up, Jesus springs into action, he rebukes the wind and says to the sea ‘Be Still.’ – And suddenly there was a great calm.
We’ve heard these stories, most of us, since we were kids, but can you imagine?!
And Jesus turns to them and says ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’
Fear and Faith are the same thing.
They’re at the opposite ends of the same spectrum. So in one sense, they’re polar opposites, but they’re the same ‘kind’ of thing.
They’re both a way of perceiving the future.
One is relating to God, the other is sort of an absence of God.
I was doing a little reading on what people are most afraid of. And not some dumb list like ‘the fear of public speaking’.
But that really humans tend to be afraid of the same handful of things: The fear of dying, the fear of being alone, the fear of rejection. The fear of pain.
I wonder if you wouldn’t mind taking a second to identify what a 1 or 2 of your major fears. And hold that in your mind. You’ve carried those fears around with you everywhere you’ve gone and they haven’t done you a bit of good.
Here’s a simple sermon: ‘Don’t be afraid. Instead, have faith’.
Brian Zahnd, a pastor I really love says this:
“We live most of our lives in memory and imagination. The present moment is hard to find.”
You see what he means by that?
We’re always remembering stuff. – “Man, remember when we had that taco truck?”
Or imagining stuff. – Daydreaming about what might be. Like what are the broncos gonna do. Or whatever.
If we’re going to be happy, we have to heal memories and have a hopeful imagination.
If you don’t heal from the memories of the past you’ll be depressed and if you don’t have a hopeful imagination, you’ll be anxious and stressed.
Fear is an evil imagination.
A lot of people get to the end of their life and look back and realize that most of the things they worried about didn’t happen.
Or if they DID happen, they found out it wasn’t nearly as bad as they were thinking.
I’ve followed God my whole life, I’ve been preaching for over a decade now, and if you were to ask me what I believe the central message is of the gospel it would be those 4 words: “Do not be afraid.”
That’s the only posture God has towards us “Don’t be afraid.”
Throughout the Old Testament you have people who are scared to death of God. And what he might do.
But then Jesus comes and finally reveals exactly who God is, and his message is this “Do not be afraid.”
At this point in my life, I’m convinced that most everything that goes wrong in our life, comes from when we’re motivated by fear.
I don’t think God ever motivates us though fear.
I know “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” I know that. That’s talking more about a kind of awe and respect.
But 1st John makes it clear: “Perfect love casts out fear.”
Fear is not the right reason to do anything.
All decisions made out of fear are wrong decisions. Whenever we act our of fear instead of acting our of faith, we end up in the wrong place.
The God who calls us to do some truly terrifying things is also the God who would come to us and tell us to not be afraid.
I want to say something that is so radical, you might not believe it: “No one in Christ ever has to be afraid of anything.”
B/C if God really is the God of resurrection, what’s the worst that can happen?
Like, what could possibly happen that worse then death?
But if death is not the final word, what can there possibly be to be afraid of?
That means there’s no dead ends, never a place where there’s no way out, you’ve never without an escape, you’re never in a situation where God can’t do something creative and new.
That’s what God does. – He brings new life out of dead things.
And if I can just be honest for a second, and a say after all these years following God, if there’s anything God is doing in me, it’s that.
- I’m tired of being afraid of so many things.
- I’m tired of being so motivated by fear.
- I’m tired of always thinking of the ‘what ifs’ and not entering into a simple faith that God’s watching out for me.
Whenever God says ‘Do not be afraid” in the scriptures, it’s always followed by something new that God is doing.
That’s why he says ‘Don’t be afraid.’
B/C we’re naturally fearful of new things.
Everything that’s unknown is terrifying.
Which is why God leads with ‘Do not be afraid.’
What God wants to do in this season might be very different than what he did the old season, but don’t be afraid.
Ask yourself: Have I allowed myself to be motivated by fear?
And in what ways do I need to put my trust BACK in Jesus?
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, (Psalm 46:2)
though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:3)
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:7)
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. (Psalm 46:9)
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:11)