How to Overcome Fear through Jesus Christ
October 4, 2009
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Our topic today is “How to Overcome Fear through Jesus Christ.” No matter what age we are, no matter how much experience we have, and frankly, no matter how courageous we are, most of us are afraid of something, aren’t we? Some people are afraid of the dark, but yet they must walk along the dark path to get home sometimes. Some people are afraid of failing. Some people, believe it or not, are afraid of success. Some people are afraid of public speaking. Some people are afraid of what other people think. No matter what it might be, many of us, deep down, are afraid of something.
I want to talk with you today about this: how do we, as friends of Jesus Christ, deal with the things that we are afraid of? I think the Bible has a powerful lesson to teach us about what we can do to overcome our fears through the power of Jesus Christ.
First, I’d like to begin with a little story about something that happened to me this week. Absolutely true story, and I’d like to tell you about the young lady that inspired the thoughts behind the sermon. I was driving along one of our beautiful country roads here in Belle Mead, and I saw, parked in front of me along the side of the road, a van. The driver’s side door was wide open, and there was a young woman standing outside the van looking very distraught, pacing back and forth.
I pulled up alongside the van, lowered my passenger side window, and said, “Ma’am, is there any way I can help you?”
She said, “I hope so. I’m so afraid. I’m so afraid.”
I said, “Can I help you in some way?”
She said, “I hope you can.”
I said, “What can I do for you?”
And she pointed nervously and breathlessly to her open door. She said, “I’m so afraid of that big…bug.”
I said, “I’ll see what I can do.” So I parked my car and took a napkin and went over to her door. Sure enough, there was a large bug on the door. It looked like a flying daddy long legs. They come out in this season. I don’t think they’re harmful. But it had completely scared this intelligent, fine young woman into stopping the car and jumping out of it. So I gently picked it up in the napkin, took it across the street to a wooded area, and we watched it fly free into the air.
She said, “I am so thankful to you. Thank you so much. Bugs scare me so much.”
I said, “No problem at all, ma’am. And by the way, I’m Pastor Tony. I’m the minister of the church down the road here.”
She said, “Really? That’s wonderful! I’m a Christian, too.”
I said, “That’s great!”
She said, “I go to the Chinese Christian Fellowship over in the next town.”
I said, “Praise God! I think that’s a wonderful thing.”
She said, “I’m so glad you stopped by. God answered my prayer today.”
I said, “Ma’am, you bless me. It was good to be part of the miracle.” And I went my way.
I want to talk with you about this, though. This was a fine, upstanding, intelligent person who had a fear, a very real fear, of a bug flying around in her car. We all have fears. There are things we have to do, things we have to take care of, that make us fearful. You are not alone. You are not alone because there are others who feel the same way, and best of all, you are not alone because Jesus is with you. There is a Christian way to face your fears.
Friends, if you have something that you’re afraid of, there’s one thing I want you to do, please. The Bible says a lot about fears, but it does say this one thing in the beloved Twenty-third Psalm, and this is what I want you to remember and to take home with you: “I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” The next time you’re afraid of something or you have to do something that makes you nervous, I invite you to say that in your heart. Picture those words. Close your eyes once now and said it again. I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.
That’s the key; that’s the promise. You’re a friend of Jesus. You’ve invited Jesus into your heart. Yes, you have! That’s your part of the deal. But you know what? It’s a two-way street. Your part of the deal is inviting Jesus into your heart. Jesus’s part of the deal is to be with you. You do the inviting, but Jesus provides the presence. That’s the deal; that’s the covenant; that’s the contract. And it’s solid and it’s good. It’s what we rely on. “I am with you always,” said Jesus. We need to remember that when we are fearful, we can say, “I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”
I want to look at this quickly three ways this morning. To make this practical, we look at it in three ways. Face forward; don’t be afraid to ask for help; and faith forever. Let’s look at those together.
First of all, face forward. If there is something that’s scaring you, if there’s something you have to do, that makes you tremble a little bit, I invite you first and foremost to face forward. Face it courageously. Walk into the lion’s mouth, as it were, and know that you are in control. It’s sort of like driving a car. Who’s driving the car? Is it fear or is it you? Well, if it’s your fear that’s driving that car, ask that fear to slide on over to the passenger side, and you be in control. You take charge. You be the one to face the fear, because you know in your heart that you don’t do it alone. You have the companionship of the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ with you. The first step is to face forward. Face the fear head on.
Another way you can face forward is to make a little game of the thing you need to face. It’s Person vs. Challenge. You can write down a list of all the things you need to do to conquer that fearsome thing. Put a little box by each item and check things off as you do them. The first thing to face your fear is to know that you’re not alone and to face forward and to confront the fear bravely. Say, for instance, that public speaking is a fear of yours. The thing to do is to be prepared, to know that you’re going to do your best, and then to surround yourself with the light of confidence as you go forward and face the thing bravely and head on.
The second thing is to realize that you don’t do it alone. Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This woman in the car evidently felt fear, and evidently prayed a prayer, and jumped out of the car and asked God for help. And somebody came along and took care of the problem. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from God, because God has amazing things to do when we’re humble enough to ask. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from other people. There may be somebody in the church family. You can ask me. You can ask some other trusted friend for help with the thing you fear. And maybe just by having someone listen something wonderful will happen. You’re not alone. Marvelous things can happen.
A few weeks ago, I conducted the Songfest for the bishop in Ocean Grove. Part of my job in doing that is selecting the music that the choir will sing. This summer, while I was preparing, I realized that I was short one piece. I knew I had to pick one more out; it had to be lively and enjoyable both to sing and to listen to, and I just wasn’t sure what to pick. I prayed about it. I prayed for guidance on it. I was walking along in Ocean Grove and I prayed for guidance, and I ran into a friend who came up to me and said, “Did you pick out the pieces for Songfest yet?”
I said, “I’m one short.”
He said, “How about that one song you led some years ago, ‘He Never Failed Me Yet.’ Isn’t that a great song?”
I said to my friend, “Thank you! You’re an answer to prayer.”
Remember that God often uses other people to be the answer to our prayer, to our prayer for the redemption from fear. So be open to it. Be open to the idea that God can help us through other people.
And finally, faith forever. You are a beloved child of God. You are not a person who lacks hope. You are a person who is blessed with the knowledge of the presence of the Creator in your life. Hold fast to that and know that God is with you. You are not alone. God is with you on good days and bad days. God is with you when the weather is great, and God is with you when the weather is bad. God is with you when can feel His presence, and God is with you when you cannot feel His presence. God is with you when you are doing marvelously, and God is with you when things aren’t going so well. He’s with you all the time. Knowing that is what it means to have faith. Keep the faith forever, and know that He is with you.
And so, my friends, if you face fearsome things this week, I invite you to say this phrase from the Twenty-third Psalm: “I will fear no evil, for God is with me.” And He is, because He loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2009 Anthony J. Godlefski