Jesus Speaks to Us About Fear
November 24th, 1985 @ 10:50 AM
JESUS SPEAKS TO US ABOUT FEAR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Matthew 10: 26-31
11-24-85 10:50 a.m.
It is a joy for us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas to welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who share this hour on radio and on television. This is the fifth and last message in a series of five, concerning the answers to a vast survey, concerning the problems of human life. They were five as they were enumerated. One of them was on loneliness, and the first message; Jesus Speaks To Us About Loneliness. One of them was about hopelessness; and the second message was Jesus Speaks To Us About Hopelessness. One was on purposelessness; Jesus Speaks To Us About Purposelessness. One was on emptiness; Jesus Speaks To Us About Emptiness. And the last one was on fear; Jesus Speaks To Us About Fear. So the message today is the last in that series “What Jesus Would Say to Us,” what the Scriptures would avow to us concerning fear, worrisome fear. Not for you to turn in your Bible, I will just do it here.
Oftentimes from the lips of Jesus, you would hear the words: “Fear not, fear not.” For example, in the fifth chapter of the Book of Luke, when Simon Peter fell at his knees saying, “Depart from me, Lord; I am a sinful man” [Luke 5:8]. Jesus answered and said, “Fear not. Fear not, you have been catching fish as a vocation and an assignment for all of these years of your life, from now on you will catch men. Fear not” [Luke 5:10].
I turn again to the Book of Luke. This dear, sweet child had died, and the Lord said to the father, “Fear not, believe only” [Luke 8:49-50]. I turn again in the Book of Luke, this time in the twelfth chapter, “Fear not; little flock.” What a beautiful appellation! “Fear not, little flock; it is your Father’s good [pleasure] to give to you the kingdom” [Luke 12:32]. So on the lips of our Lord, as in the whole Word of God, more than three hundred-fifty times in God’s precious Word does the Lord admonish us, “Do not be afraid, fear not.” If I could call this precious Volume I hold in my hand one thing, among many others, I could call it this: it is a service manual on how not to be afraid.
As an introduction, listen to what Paul writes to his son in the ministry. Second Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” God hath not given to us the spirit of fear. Then the fear and the worry that I sometimes fall into doesn’t come from Him. It must come from my enemy and my adversary. It comes from the weakness and sin in my life, and it comes from Satan. He makes us afraid, and he fills us with worry, and our sins confirm it:
When Adam heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the cool of the day: he hid himself.
And when the Lord called, saying: Adam, where art thou?
The first man replied, I have hid myself, because I am naked and am afraid.
And the Lord God said, Who told you that you are naked? Have you transgressed and eaten of the tree I forbade you to eat?
It makes us afraid: fear—not of God, ever—it comes out of dereliction; it comes out of weakness; it comes out of sin; it comes out of Satan. Always, worrisome fear is not of the Lord, it’s of us.
In reading and preparing for the sermon, I read from a medical journal. And these things always surprise me because I don’t live in that kind of a world. But this medical journal said that ninety percent—ninety percent—of all of the illnesses of mankind are psychosomatic. They arise out of emotion and out of stress. And reading from another doctor, he said, “Eighty percent of all of those who come into my clinic are diseased, ill, not because of organic illness, but because of functional illness.” They are ill in their hearts. They are ill in their heads. They are ill in their souls, and it finds repercussion in their physical anatomical life.
Isn’t that an amazing thing what worrisome fear does to us, inside, outside, all around? It’s a hydra-headed monster; it hurts our health, it shortens our days, it beclouds our vision, it saps our inner strength. And it’s easy to fall into. I read where a fellow in a clinic said, “When I feel good, I feel bad because I know after I feel good, I’m going to feel bad.” Dear me! It’s around and around, and we need deliverance from it.
Now before I begin speaking of the deliverance of God from our worrisome fears, may I first say and may I first speak of fear that is good and blessed? Fear can be a friend as well as a foe. It can be beneficial as well as baneful. There is a healthy, good fear. Now may I illustrate it in this mundane life before we lift our hearts up to heaven?
A speaker, Zig Ziglar, was ten minutes late. You’re never late, but he was ten minutes late. And when he stood up, he said, “I was caught in the traffic and rather than be ten minutes early into the other world, I thought I’d better be ten minutes late in this one.” Now that’s a good fear!
A surgeon, because he is afraid, will sterilize his instruments and scrub his hands and so many other things—he’s afraid of infection: a good fear. When you see these contractors building these skyscrapers around our church, every man on the job will wear a hard hat. He is afraid of an accident. When you go into these buildings that they are erecting, they will have sprinkler systems in them, and they will have fire escapes. He is afraid of fire; good fear.
It is thus with our Lord. There are fears that are acceptable in His sight: here’s one of them. In the thirty-third Psalm: “Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him” [Psalm 33:8]. That fear is one of reverence, standing in the presence of God in awe. “Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy” [Psalm 33:18]. What a beautiful thing, that a man made of the dust of the ground, in the presence of the great Creator, looks up to Him in wonder, and amazement, and awe, and reverence, the fear of the Lord! As so often in Psalms and Proverbs, it’s the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom [Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, 9:10]; a righteous fear, a beautiful, beautiful response to our Lord. John writes:
There is no fear in love; perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment, but he that feareth is [not] made perfect in love.
[1 John 4:18]
Let me say that in a mundane context: every one of us ought to have such a reverential fear for God that we would draw back, we would hesitate about disappointing Him and hurting Him. And where it comes to pass in our lives is in peer pressure. So often times, and especially with young people, there’ll be a girl who will be led into a compromise she would never, ever do. But peer pressure forces her into it. There will be a boy, fine boy, who would never think of doing thus and so. But he bends before the possibility of being called a sissy or a coward, and he bends. What needs to be done in the life of the young man and the young woman, and what needs to be done in all of our lives, is that we love God so much more than we love the accolade, or the praise of accommodation of our peers and of people, that it would be unthinkable for us that we would bow in acquiescence to them and then hurt the great Lord God whom we love. It is a magnificent way to live: that I love God, first in my life, and that love casts out fear; not fear anything else.
I read this week of an English nobleman, and the sentence said he so feared God that he had no fear of man. What a magnificent tribute to a noble English gentleman! He so feared God that he never feared man. And when we don’t fear God, we fear a thousand other things. A good fear—and this is an awesome one:
Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul:
but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Ah, a man made a comment that there never was a time in the Christian faith when the fear of judgment was so absent from religion. And I think of my own self and my own ministry. Rarely, rarely have I prepared a sermon on judgment, and on damnation, and on hell. And yet, that is one of the fears that ought to characterize our lives. Think of the eternity away from God. The life is but a moving moment, and the eternity is so everlastingly unending, and to spend an eternity in torment, in fire and brimstone and hell [Matthew 10:28]—O God! Shall my soul not tremble? “Fear Him who can cast soul and body in hell.” Lord, save us. We cast ourselves upon Thy divine grace and mercy.
Having now spoken of fear that is beneficial—that is friendly—let me turn now to the fears from which God delivers us. Fear is a tragic, tragic, tragic concomitant of life, and all of us are a part of it. Worrisome fear, dreading or worrying for tomorrow; that’s why I chose the psalm that I had you read together, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in the Lord” [Psalm 56:3], casting our care, and our anxiety, and our fears, and our worries upon Him, letting God deliver us from it; all right, I name them—just some. One, the fear of death:
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death, His death, He might destroy him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil;
And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
The fear of death; death is so awesome! I have been a pastor fifty-eight years. I live in a world of death, and yet after over half a century, I am as aghast before it as I ever was. I somehow cannot realize the incredibility that this wonderful man and my friend and fellow servant or this wonderful woman and prayer partner, lie there. And no matter how the mortician may be genius, he can’t keep that corpse from looking dead. Death is such an awesome thing; it is an interloper, God never intended it. It is the result of the sowing of Satan in our lives, in our humanity; death. And as we face it, who can but cringe before it? And yet that is one of the things that Jesus does for us, “Be not afraid” [Mark 6:50]. As we face death, He is with us. Out of the martyrdom of three of God’s great missionaries in China, one of the surviving wrote this poem:
To feel the spirit’s glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace,
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid? Of that?
. . .
Afraid to see the Savior’s face,
To hear His welcome, and to trace,
The glory gleam from wounds of grace,
Afraid? Of that?
. . .
A flash—a crash—a pierced heart;
Darkness—Light—O Heaven’s art!
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid? Of that?
. . .
To do by death what life could not—
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid? Of that?
[“Afraid? Of What?” E. H. Hamilton-quoted by John Thompson before martyrdom]
The martyrs; and just before one of our great, mighty, wonderful Baptist pastors died—just before he died—he wrote these words:
This isn’t death I’m facing, but it’s life forevermore.
It’s not the end I’m nearing, it is entering heaven’s door.
The way ahead is fairer than it’s ever been before,
For it’s glory, glory over there.
There is no fear in thinking I soon will meet Him face to face,
The One who proved He loved me by His dying in my place.
And how I long to thank Him for His mercy and His grace,
For it’s glory, yes, it’s glory over there.
No pain and no frustrations through all the passing years,
No death nor sorrows present, and no terrors and no fears.
For He Himself has promised He’ll wipe away our tears,
For it’s glory, glory over there.
Come quickly, O come quickly, this blest day for which I pine,
When faith will turn to vision and each promise will be mine,
And with His hosts of heaven in His presence I will shine,
For it’s glory, glory over there.
[“Glory Over Yonder,” Dr. H. H. Savage, FBC Pontiac, Michigan]
That’s what God has done for us in Christ; He has taken the sting out of death and the terror out of the grave [1 Corinthians 15:54-57]. He is our great champion and victor and as I face death, I am not to be afraid—a fear from which our Lord delivers us.
In the most amazing couplet, in the twenty-first chapter of the Apocalypse, “But the fearful, and unbelieving . . . shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” [Revelation 21:8]. The fearful and the unbelieving; what a couplet! “The fearful and the unbelieving,” and as you think of it and ponder it, it becomes very apparent what the Lord is saying to us. The man who hesitates, publicly and openly to commit his life to Christ, he’s fearful. And he can name, “I’m afraid I can’t live up to it.” Or, “I’m afraid I would be a hypocrite to say this and to do the other.” Or, “I’m afraid Christ can’t deliver me.” Or, “I’m afraid Christ can’t save me.” Or, “I’m afraid I would fall away from grace.”
Fear, fear, fear—trepidation, intimidation—dear me! It keeps us from the Lord. It keeps us from Christ; it keeps us from our Savior. And what we need to do is to forsake and forget our fears and our hesitancies. And by God’s grace, here I stand; this moment, I respond. Instead of looking at you, oh, what a sorry prospect, looking at us! What a poor vision down here in this world.
This world is nothing but a place to bury our dead in. It’s a charnel house; it’s a pilgrimage that always ends in the same abyss. The downward look is always tragic! I need the upward look; I need to look at Jesus, not at me. And in my commitment, the last thing in the earth I ought to do is to examine my faith, or examine my response, or examine all that I think I’m capable or able of committing. No! Let me examine the Lord, like Thomas, “Come and handle Me and see” [Luke 24:39; John 20:26-28]. Let me look to Him! When I look at myself, I am filled with trembling and with fear. But when I look to Him, I can be strong and courageous. “And preacher, on the first note of that invitation, I’ll be there, standing before the Lord, looking up to Him.” That’s salvation!
There is one other fear from which the Lord delivers us, and this one I have placed into three parts: the answer to it, in the Lord. We are consumed, all of us, with wearisome fears about the morrow, about tomorrow. It can be health; it can be job security; it can be home, or house, or children, or age, or illness. It can be anything, but we are all consumed by them, worrisome fears, fears of the tomorrow. Little ants, little ants can clean a carcass cleaner than a mighty and bold lion, and those little, worrisome, nagging fears can simply destroy our lives. We are conditioned—we condition ourselves—for that kind of worrisome fears. We just, that’s life!
May I point it out to you just for one example? Do you do as I do? If you come out to the parsonage at night, those doors are double-bolted, locked. There are lights on the outside that burn all night long. There is an alarm system. And there are ornamental bars over the window. Used to be, for the first thirty-eight years, I was gone all the time, and the wife was afraid, so we did all of those things to help her feel secure. Got an automobile out there at that house, too. This is a statistic: in 100,000 population, 100,000 people, there will be 7 assaults, or burglaries, or break-ins, or whatever, 7. But in that 100,000 people there will be 28 that are slaughtered on the highway. Now when I go to the house, oh! I’ll be sure I turn that alarm on before I go to bed. And I’ll be sure those bolts are double-locked and the lights are on, all of that you may be very sure. But when I go to that automobile—pat, pat, pat, love, love, love, goodness alive, never think anything about—and it’s 5, or 6, or 10 times as dangerous as the house. I’m conditioned to do that. Could I say it another way? There are far more people who are hurt in a bathtub, falling in a bathtub, or tripping over a rug, or choking on a steak, than there are who are ever hurt in an automobile. We are conditioned to that. We are conditioned to that. We are taught and educated to be afraid, that’s a part of human life.
Do you remember Aesop’s fable? He said—Aesop said—that there was a mouse who lived next door to a magician. And the mouse was afraid of the big cat. So the magician turned the mouse into a cat, so he wouldn’t be afraid. But he was still afraid—the mouse, now cat—was afraid of the big dog. So the magician turned his mouse-cat into a big dog so he wouldn’t be afraid. But he was still afraid. The mouse-cat-dog was afraid of the tiger. So the magician turned the mouse-cat-dog into a big tiger. But the tiger was still afraid. He was still afraid of the man with his bow and his arrow. And the magician said to the mouse, “You just turn back into your being a mouse because you are always going to be afraid. You’ve got a mouse complex.”
That can be true of us; it can be true of us. We can live in our fears and in our worries. O Lord God! What of the morrow? What of tomorrow? Well, the Lord speaks to us, and we’re going to look at it in this brief moment. We’re going to look at it factually, and we’re going to look at it pragmatically, and we’re going to look at it spiritually.
Our worrisome fears: first, we’re going to look at them factually. A Proverb: “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death” [Proverbs 14:27]. Forty percent of our fears never happen. Thirty percent are foolish worries about things we can’t change. Twelve percent are needless about our health. Ten percent are petty, miscellaneous matters; and eight percent demand our attention. Why should I be consumed with all of those fears?
All right, that leads me to my second avowal, a pragmatic one. Instead of being worried to death and fearful and anxious, get at it with something! Do something!
He which had received the one talent came and said: Lord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, gathering where thou hast not strewn:
And I was afraid, and went and hid my talent in the earth . . .
Man alive! That’s the last thing you ought to do! If you are worried, if you are fearful, if you are consumed with trepidity and hesitancy, and, O Lord! what all can happen to us; get at it! What are you afraid of? Man alive! Get with it! For us to worry and to fear about things we can’t change is senseless. And for us to worry and fear about things we can change is stupid! Let’s get at it! If we can change it, get with it! If we can’t change it, leave it to God.
Why in the world should I worry about the birds that fly over my head? I can’t do anything about that. They’re just flying up there over my head. Why should I worry about Halley’s Comet plunging into the earth? If it hits the Pacific ocean, the whole thing would splatter out. Ah! It’s crazy; it’s stupid for me to worry about things that I can’t help! I couldn’t help Halley’s Comet if it ran into the earth. I don’t have to worry about that thing. Man, I’ve got plenty of worries that I can do something about. And those are the ones I want to do something about.
I remember as a boy—as a boy, dear me! Nothing in this earth, had nothing! My folks had nothing, my people had nothing, and I wanted to go to school. So I could have sat down and done nothing, just worry about going to school or hoping somebody would come along and give me a handout. What I did was: there were three railroads that crossed in Amarillo. One was the Colorado and Southern-Fort Worth and Denver; one was the Rock Island; and one was the Santa Fe. As we were in the Depression, just at the beginning of the Depression, and they said to me, “There’s no possibility that a boy like you can get a job. No, no! Foolish for you to think about such a thing.”
What I did was, I walked up and down those railroad tracks and any kind of a house, or a company, or wholesale group that abutted the railroad—that backed up into the railroad—I walked up and down those tracks, and I knocked at the door of every one of them and wanted to see the boss-man. And I said to him, “I am poor. I don’t have anything, and I have to go to school. And I want a job.” And J. I. K.’s Threshing Machine Company’s business manager, up there in that town, at that regional office, gave me a job.
Get with it! Don’t sit down and cry, or weep, or lament, or feel sorry for yourself. Move! Do something! It doesn’t matter what you do, do! And the poorer you are, the more opportunities you have to do, I tell you. One summer, I washed—I washed dishes in a restaurant, all summer long I washed dishes, thousands of dishes—and I’m not too proud to do it again. I had no hesitancy then, I’d have no hesitancy now. Instead of lamenting, and worrying, and fretting, and crying, and fearful for the morrow, get with it! Like this man here, who buried his talent, the lord said: “Take it from him, and cast him out” [Matthew 25:28-30]. Do something! It will bless you to do it.
We must hasten. I have one other: how God can deliver us. This one is spiritual:
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
He says that. You know, sometimes things that you read are the most astonishing! Would you believe this, from an editorial in the Chicago Daily News? You’d think the guy was a preacher. From the Chicago Daily News, quote: “There would be much less strain on men and women if they teamed up with God as a daily partner. Indeed, in that event psychiatry would almost pass out of existence. People who try to live independently, and ignore God, are soon overwhelmed with innumerable fears and worries.”
Just take God as your partner and talk to Him. Lay the whole thing before Him. You, your house, your children, your life, your job, your tomorrow, the whole thing, just lay it before the Lord. And ask God to go with you and to bless you in wisdom, in strength, in health. Ask Him. He loves to be asked. And He delights to answer, “And peace I leave with you. Let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid” [John 14:27]. Evidently, He knows something maybe I don’t know. And when I think of my Lord, I can easily acquiesce in that. He has been there, where I haven’t been. And He has come back, and He says to me, “Do not be afraid. I have been there. I have been through it all. There is no syllable of it that I have not read, and there is no part of it I have not felt. There is no experience in it that I have not been through. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid.”
It finally comes down to this: can I trust God for that? Can I? I’m preaching the gospel, I avow the Lord is incarnate truth, He is incarnate Savior [John 1:14, 3:16], He is incarnate helper. He is goodness, He is everything right. Inherently so—like water is inherently wet, fire is inherently hot, light is inherently reflective—so our Lord is inherently truth and life, and I can trust Him [John 14:6]. And when the Lord says, “You do not need to be afraid, I have been there,” I can believe Him, and I can trust Him [John 14:1].
John, in his first chapter of his wonderful Gospel, in the [sixteenth] verse, John put it like this: “Of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace for grace for grace”[John 1:16]. Sufficient for each day; it’s like manna, not to be hoarded [Exodus 16:16-18]—grace, grace, help, strength, blessing, guidance for each day—grace for grace for grace, an abounding grace, overflowing grace; plenteous. Never, I could not imagine my Lord ever being baffled or poverty-stricken, or without answers, or not knowing. I just couldn’t imagine that. Always in Him, there is everything I could ever need; grace for grace [John 1:16].
Sometimes I think about the day that I die. If you were to say, “Pastor, that airplane in which you are going to fly will fall and crash, and you’ll be dead in five minutes” I would be afraid. I confess, I would be afraid. I’ve been in a situation like that, and it is a fearful experience. If you were to say, “Pastor, when you go out that door and walk into that street to cross it, an automobile is going to strike you, and you’re going to be dead.” I would be afraid of the prospect, that is now, but not in the day that I die. You see, when I die, God will give me dying grace for then. I don’t need it now, I’m alive. I need God’s grace for this day; but when the time comes for me to die; He will give me dying grace. And I’ll just sing that song in my soul:
O precious cross! O glorious crown!
O resurrection day!
The angels, from the stars come down
And bear my soul away.
[“Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?” Thomas Shepherd]
Grace for grace [John 1:16]; what we need for this day, He is all-sufficient, every answer in Him. And as for each succeeding day, Lord, why should I ever be afraid? And that’s our appeal to you, to give your heart and your life in trust, in keeping with the Lord Jesus, to make Him your friend and partner. Let God see you through.
“Today, pastor, God’s spoken to my heart and I’m answering with my life.” Or a family you, “Pastor, this is my wife and our children, and all of us are coming to put our lives with you and these marvelous people in this dear church. As God shall lead the way, make it now.
Our Lord in heaven, what sweetness and what strength and what light and what blessing and what direction are with Thee. We’re poor without Thee, no matter who we are; we’re rich with Thee, no matter who we are. We may not have anything in this world, but I can be rich toward God. O blessed Savior! In the pilgrimage of our lives how many times and in how many ways do we need Jesus? And our Savior, in this moment of appeal, may the Holy Spirit speak words that I can’t even pronounce. And may He woo and draw, and may there be a wonderful willingness on the part of these present to answer with their lives. And may God’s Holy Spirit guide and lead in the whole, vast congregation. Thank Thee, Lord, for the answered prayer, in Thy present, saving, and keeping name, amen.
And for all of us, as God shall speak, “Lord, I answer with my life.” While we stand and while we sing.
JESUS SPEAKS TO US ABOUT FEAR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. “Fear not” heard often from lips of Jesus(Luke 5:9-10, 8:50, 12:4-7, 27-32)
B. The Bible a manual on how not to be afraid
C. Worrisome fear is not of God(2 Timothy 1:7, Genesis 3:8-11)
D. Fear can be a friend as well as a foeII. A right kind of fear
A. Fear of God – reverential awe(Psalm 33:8, 18, 111:10)
B. Love of God casts out fear(1 John 4:18)
1. We ought to have such reverential fear for God that we hesitate to disappoint or hurt Him
C. Fear of hell(Matthew 10:28)III. Fearfrom which God delivers us(Psalm 56:3)
A. Death(Hebrews 2:14-15, Revelation 1:17-18)
B. Holding back from Christ(Revelation 21:8, Luke 24:39)
C. Providence of life – fear of the unknown tomorrow
1. We are conditioned to worryIV. Answers to life, fear
A. Factual(Proverbs 14:27)
1. Instead of being worried and fearful, do something(Matthew 25:24-30)
C. Spiritual(John 14:27)
1. Everything we need is in our Lord(John 1:16)