June 17, 2015

Faith Overcomes Fear (Proper 12)

Fear can be a good thing if it warns us of danger or motivates us to take action to protect ourselves from the storms of life. Fear can also be destructive if we worry about our finances, our health, not being liked or even death. Fear of death and separation from God is the power Satan has over those who do not know the Good News of forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ. Fear can block our spiritual life by preventing us from taking the risk of Faith and depending on Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Readings give us examples of other people of faith who overcame their fear and grew in Faith.

 1. The storm of life is a test of faith
If everything always went smoothly we would never learn anything. We would never have to trust God. Fortunately, we have all had times in our lives when everything seemed to be going seriously wrong. We all know the steely grip of fear on our lives. The Gospel story of Jesus calming the waves (Mark 4.35-41) reminds us that we all need to cry out to Jesus for help at some time in our life:

  • Lucille and I experienced this in a profound way when we were on the wrong side of a lake in a small sailboat when a sudden storm came up
  • Like the Disciples we learned that Jesus would intervene and give us the calmness and skill we needed to get safely home
  • It was miraculous how we worked together to do all the right things to keep our tiny 3 metre boat upright and on course
  • Experience of fear increased our Faith
These fears are sometimes Gods’ way of getting our attention. “I did it my way” is not a very comforting song to sing when you have terminal cancer. The good news is that when we do cry out, God shows up. Usually it is not exactly what we asked for. Usually it is more like what we really needed. This “God who shows up” is unique to Christianity. This is the Good News we are to proclaim.

2. David and Goliath is the story of faith overcoming fear
In ancient times armies sometimes had real giants. They were a lot bigger and could sometimes scare the enemy into running away. As the story tells us (1 Samuel 17) the Israelites were then able to slaughter the Philistines as they ran away.

  • David had learned to trust in God when he was protecting sheep
  • David overcame his fear and learned how to use the simple weapons that he had – Faith had empowered him
  • David saw himself fighting for God against the enemies of God and God’s people – “God and I” is an unbeatable force
  • A spiritual battle being fought in the physical world
  • David grew in faith and was able to survive a very dangerous situation where Saul later became jealous (Spirit of Jealousy) and was trying to kill him
3. Paul models faith without fear to First Century Christian
Unlike most people Paul was not afraid of hardship, pain or even death. He sees death as a gate to go through on the way to being more fully alive with Jesus. Paul knows this will be a better life. He looks forward to it with joy. This faith gives him the courage to face persecution, insults and rejection without fear.

  • In Pisidian Antioch I had a powerful sense of the courage of Paul in proclaiming salvation in Jesus in a hostile environment
  • The more Paul suffered, the more he learned to depend on the Holy Spirit to show up, guide and protect him
  • What he endured to proclaim the Good News encourages us in our Faith – helps us believe it is really true
  • Helps us understand how we can have sorrow and joy at the same time
  • We can be attacked or struck down but not killed
  • We can be ridiculed and have more self-respect than those who ridicule us
The challenge is to grow in faith as we overcome our fear
We live in a culture of lies which tries to avoid conflict at any cost. We are often afraid to speak out for fear of offending others. But if we really love Jesus and our neighbour we need to overcome our fear of ridicule and proclaim the Good News of God’s grace, Love, Forgiveness and healing to our neighbour.

  • We will be amazed at the way the Holy Spirit shows up
  • We will overcome our fear of what other people think
We will grow in our relationship to Jesus – and have joy!

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