Pastor Lester is out sick with the flu. Posts will resume when he is feeling better.
Pastor Lester’s Wife Denise
Pastor Lester is out sick with the flu. Posts will resume when he is feeling better.
Pastor Lester’s Wife Denise
Lesson 2 part b
The Bible contains many accounts in which people are shown displaying worry, fear, or anxiety. We’ll look at three of them.
Abraham. This biblical character lived an exemplary life. We see him willing accepting the call of God, leaving Haran, and setting out for Canaan. He displayed a great deal of faith and generosity to others, as well as living a life of steadfast obedience and closeness to God. However, after a period of intense activity (see Genesis 12-14), Abraham became afraid of what could happen. He must have been pondering one of those what-if thoughts about the son of promise who hadn’t come yet, when he concluded, If I’m not given a son, Eliezer – just a servant, after all, and not even a member of my family – will become my heir.
But the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward” (Genesis 15:1). Then God told him directly that his heir would be his biological son, “a son coming from your own body” (verse 4). In addition, God gave him a vision of the future and made a covenant specifying the land that his heirs would inhabit.
Abraham’s doubts and fears must have diminished. But his relief didn’t last long. Many other things happened before Isaac’s birth, including Abraham’s and Sarah strange attempts to supply the son of the promise – all probably a result of Abrahams’s doubt, fear, and anxiety. But eventually “Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age” (Genesis 21:2). David. This son of Jesse is possibly the bible character who felt the most fear. We can understand this when we remember that during much of his life, enemies were trying to kill him. When he was a young man, his predecessor on the throne, King Saul, pursued him relentlessly. Then during his mature years, his own son Absalom sought to overthrow and kill him. And the Philistines battled against him throughout his adult life.
It is in this context that we find jewels such as Psalm 27, a song in which David tells how the LORD freed him from fear:
The Lord is my light and my salvation Whom Shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid? . . . Though an army besiege me, My heart will not fear Though war break out against me. even then will I be confident (verse 1, 3).
David’s key strategy for dealing with fear was trust in God. We see this in passing such as the following:
Many people have claimed the wonderful promises David’s words suggest. Committing some of his psalms to memory and repeating them at critical times has brought divine comfort to people who were afraid. It is said that Bishop Bashford, while on a trip to China, didn’t have any option but to sleep outside because there was no room for him in the inn where he arrived late one night. He was warned of the presence of bandits and their nightly activity and found it difficult to go to sleep after saying his prayers. But the words “When I am afraid, I will trust in you” kept coming to his mind. Eventually, he said to the LORD, “there is no use for both of us to be watchful,” and soon after he fell asleep and had a good night’s rest.
Early Christians. The first generation of converts to Christianity shared their possessions with each other. Their sharing wasn’t limited to food, tools, utensils, objects, and money; it also included real estate. According to Acts 4, those who owned land or houses put them up for sale and brought the proceeds to the apostles. They, in turn, distributed the wealth to those in need. This system worked well, for we are told that there were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:32).
Scripture mentions the names of some donors, the first as an example of true generosity, and the others to show that God doesn’t accept covetousness and deceit. Joseph, the Levite from Cyprus, sold a field and put proceeds at the apostles’ feet, Ananias and Sapphira, a married couple, pledged that they also would bring the proceeds from the sale of some land they owned to the apostles. However, they secretly agreed to retain some of the money for themselves. When asked about their donations, they lied, saying they had donated all the proceeds. And soon as the words came out of their mouths, they died (see Acts 5).
It should be noted here that this communal system wasn’t based on coercion. According to Peter, Ananias and Sapphira could have kept the land or any part of the money from the sale. But they had promised to donate all the proceeds to the general fund. And when they claimed to be doing so, they were lying both to men and to God.
The Bible tells us that as a result of the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, a ‘great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events” (Acts 5:11). It’s difficult to know the nature of this fear. It may have increased awe toward God, but it may also may have been that the church members were afraid of what might happen to them. Some may have schemed like Ananias and Sapphira to sell their properties, keep part of the proceeds for themselves, and bring the rest to the apostles to gain their esteem. What happened to Ananias and Sapphira no doubt caused them to change their minds.
At times fear leads to a positive outcome. A prudent amount of fear may save lives, and fear of doing evil can be beneficial. What happened to Ananias and Sapphira must have been necessary to keep the members of the early church on the right course.
Anxiety disorders including phobias of different types – panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorders, posttraumatic stress disorders and generalized anxiety disorders. All of them have to do with fear, anxiety, and restlessness – sometimes for a known reason, other times for reasons unknown. Some like panic attacks, are brief but very intense, with painful physiological symptoms (palpitations, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, feelings of choking, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, feelings of unreality, fear of losing control, fear of dying, tingling sensations, and chills or hot flashes). Others, like generalized anxiety disorders, bring on months of restlessness, fatigue, irritability, tension, and deep disturbances.
These problems aren’t rare. From 9 to 11.3 percent of people in the general population experience phobias. And generalized anxiety disorder has a one-year prevalence of 3 percent and a lifetime prevalence of 5 percent. And these are just clinical cases. In addition, there are many people suffering less frequent, less severe symptoms that don’t receive a diagnosis. Yet these people experience great pain because of their own or a loved one’s job loss, family crisis, or serious illness.
God doesn’t want men and women to suffer in this way. He wants us to hold on to His promises and trust Him in the face of fear and anxiety. At times we may need qualified psychological and medical treatment just as we need treatment of physical diseases. But in all cases, pathological or not, both the prevention and cure of these adverse symptoms requires us to practice fervent and faithful prayer, communion with the Lord, and determination to think and to do what is right.
On several occasions, Jesus had to remind His followers to cast off their cares and maintain their trust in the Father. He said, for instance, Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.’” (John 14:1,2).
Notice that Jesus spoke these words after He predicted His betrayal and attempted to explain His last days on earth and His return to heaven. The apostles, although not quite clear about the meaning of all this, must have felt disturbed. That is why Jesus told them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” He was inviting them to displace the fear in their hearts with trust in God the Father and Jesus Himself. Then Jesus directed their attention to the kingdom of heaven, to the presence of the Father, and to a time when there will be no more pain, no more sorrow, and no more worry about the future. What a beautiful healing session! Jesus tells the painful truth of His imminent departure but immediately takes the minds of His disciples to the ultimate experience of being with Him forever!
In conclusion, another of Jesus admonitions comes to mind: “Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” Matthew 6:34). How much less mental and physical discomfort people would experience if they followed this advice!
In the Philippians it is often observed that the people hold to the belief that tomorrow will be better. Typhoons and electrical storms are common during the rainy season, and they become particularly intense during September and October of each year, causing varying degrees of damage and sometimes taking human lives. But after the rain and the wind pass, people who had lost their homes are seen walking around with a smile and saying, “Tomorrow will be better.” This attitude is a part of the culture is a great safeguard against anxiety. The Filipinos applied this to small and great things. It helped them to bear the pain of today and avoid anxiety about tomorrow’s pain, which might never materialize.
If your basic needs are being met and you aren’t experiencing pain and you are safe, I invite you to thank God for your current blessings. If you’re thankful about events in the past, include them in your praise too. And since you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, let Jesus take care of your worries about what might happen then.
Next week we will be dealing with the subject of stress.
Lesson 2 part a
The summer I was fourteen years old I had the opportunity of visiting the Boundary Waters. For those not familiar, the boundary waters are a series of rivers and lakes dotted with islands that separate Canada from the State of Minnesota. This was to be a weeklong trip. It took a day and a half of canoeing to get to base camp which was right on the border between Minnesota and the Canada. We spent three days there, taking day excursions from base camp to visit other areas of this beautiful wildlife area.
We had been warned by a forest ranger that the area we were going back too had been having problems with bears, but we paid little attention to such warnings. On Friday, we started back and on lake Agnes we canoed against wind and three and a half foot waves. I kid you not, the waves were three and half feet high and the wind had to have been at least 25 mph. But if we wanted to make it out on time and still have time to explore another area of the preserve, then we had to cross Lake Agnes.
Lake Agnes is not all that long, being perhaps a mile and half or two miles in length, but when paddling against wind and against three and half foot-high waves was scary but not nearly as scary of what was coming.
That Friday evening, tired, sore from all that comes from paddling a canoe, we camped at the mouth of the Nina Moose River where it opens up into Moose Lake. It was a beautiful place to camp. With our group being big enough, we had to split our camp into two groups with the second group being about one quarter of a mile away.
When Saturday morning came we ate breakfast and decided that we would not venture far from camp because, well our arms and backs were tired and sore from the day before. We all came back together about two in the afternoon to eat and just after finishing up the meal, before we had a chance to hoist the food packs back up in the tree, you guessed it a bear came into camp.
Our first response was to pray and so pray we did yet we were all very frightened. One tent was smashed down by the bear, but strangely the food packs had not been disturbed by the bear before we managed to frighten him away.
Fear is a very strong emotion that produces agitation at the presence of danger. Anxiety is similar in its effects, but quite different in that it is centered on future uncertainties. In other words, anxiety is fear, not of a blazing fire or a roaring earthquake that one is actually experience, but of things that might happen in the future.
Scripture mentions fear and anxiety in quite a few places. Some describe the emotional state of Bible characters; other provide reassurance (“do not be afraid”) to men and women who face the unpleasant consequences of these emotions.
The word fear, afraid, frightened, and terrified occur 591 times in the New International Version of the Bible. (Some of these passages refer to “fear of the Lord,” which is quite different from plain fear.) The words “do not fear” convey one of the most important messages God wants people to understand. He’s interested in freeing His children from such debilitating emotions. Because He loves us, He invites us all to come to Him, submit our anxieties to Him, and experience peace. Peter tells us, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (I Peter 5:7).
Human beings experience fear and apprehension from the very beginning of their life. A group of researchers from the Semmelweis Medical University in Budapest and the University of Texas Medical School in Houston studied the facial expression of human infants. They determined that baby girls as young as three and a half weeks old and boys four and a half weeks old exhibited fear when presented with frightening stimuli. And mere months later, the first form of anxiety, appears-separation anxiety, a developmentally appropriate distress reaction that emerges in infants between six and twenty months of age. At this age, they recognize their primary caregiver/parent, are aware of their environments and the people around them, and cry when taken to a new place, introduced to a stranger, or separated from their primary caregiver.
Here is a sample of fears and anxious experiences that may occur in the coming years:
Virtually everyone in all locations at all different stages of existence experiences fears in one form or another. Some fears are rooted in a haunting past; others are about the here and now; while still others pertain to the future. Some are real, and some are imaginary. Some are truly important; some are trivial. But since the inception of sin, fear has always been present.
The man and woman who came from God’s hands were perfect. They had no physical shortcomings and were perfectly balanced mentally. Before their disobedience, they did not and could not experience fear or anxiety because they were fully cared for by their omnipotent Father. Furthermore, they hadn’t observed this adverse emotion in any other creature, so they didn’t know that such an experience could exist. They were perfectly happy, in part because they weren’t afraid or anxious. They knew that God watched over them and that they would be cared for in the future.
But things changed radically when Eve ate the forbidden fruit and gave some to Adam. The story in Genesis 3 tells of two immediate consequences of the transgression. First, their eyes were opened (verse 7), and they had, for the first time, a general awareness of evil as well as of the good. Their innocence – their lack of knowledge of good and evil – vanished. They now knew sin and felt the consequences. They knew the before and the after of sin. What a difference!
Here is how I have heard it described. “The air, which had hitherto been of a mild and uniform temperature, seemed to chill the guilty pair. The love and peace which had been theirs was gone, and in its place, they felt a sense of sin, a dread of the future, a nakedness of soul.” Notice that the immediate result of their transgression was not lightning and thunder or anything outwardly observable. It was internal distress a sense of guilt, a feeling of being exposed.
Second, when they heard God’s footsteps, they hid behind trees (verse 8). Their hiding was a specific consequence, a particular behavior. We know the motive for their action, for when God called, “where are you?” Adam replied, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid (verse 9, 10). Thus, the fear of the consequences that would result from being found out, the uncertainty about what would happen next, was a clear, immediate results of sin.
Adam’s and Eve’s eyes were now opened. They were aware of the tension between good and evil. This made them subject to worry, dread, and anxiety – emotions they hadn’t experienced before. Many people declare, “information is power, “and “Knowledge opens doors.” But that wasn’t true of the knowledge Adam and Eve obtained by sinning. Humankind would have been better off without the “knowledge of good and evil.”
In His mercy, God may at time conceal information from human beings because it would bring them too much pain. That’s why, while God has revealed much to us, He keeps some things secret. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
Animals, even the most intelligent ones, are protected from excessive fear and anxiety. Only in the presence of threatening stimuli can they experience these emotions.
Some dogs suffer from what vets call separation anxiety. When the owner of the dog leaves the dogs have problems until the owner returns. Some have even come home from work to find their house an absolute mess because the dog was so upset at the owner leaving.
Animals short-lived fear of abandonment contrasts strongly with the way we human experience such fears. We worry about threatening events to come, endure them with fear, and, for a long time after them, live in fear or anxiety that they will happen again.
In our next post we will look at some Biblical examples of fear. So join us Sunday Morning January 14th at 8 am central time.