SERMON NOTES FOR SUNDAY, 01 MAY 2016
By Abri Brancken
MAIN SCRIPTURE VERSE:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” - Isaiah 41:10
Chapter 41 deals with the importance of putting our confidence in God.
CONTEXT OF ISAIAH 41:
In the previous chapter (Ch 40) there were general reasons given why God’s people should put their confidence in God - arising from the firmness of his promises, the fact that he had created all things; that he had all power, etc. Now in chapter 41 the Jews are encouraged to practically put their full confidence in their faithful and all power God and not to fear their menacing circumstances.
These words of Isaiah are addressed primarily to the exiled Jews during their long and painful captivity in Babylon; and the idea is, that they who had been selected by God to be his special people had nothing to fear. The Babylonian captivity or exile refers to the time period in Israel’s history when Jews were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. This captivity and the return and restoration of the Jewish nation were fulfilments of Biblical prophecy. God raised up the Babylon as His agent of judgment against the Jews for their sins of idolatry and rebellion against Him.
They were now close towards the end of their 70 year captivity. As prophesied in Scripture, the Jewish people would be allowed to return to Jerusalem after 70 years of exile in Babylon. That prophecy was fulfilled in 537 B.C. King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jews to return to their home land and begin rebuilding the city and temple. Although it was almost time for the Jews to return home, a lot of uncertainty stared them right in the face. They had reason to fear their circumstances and therefore they needed comfort and reassurance that everything will be ok. God was their protector, and of whom should they be afraid? ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’
I want us to focus on the words, “do not fear” in Isaiah 41:10.
MOST FEARS ARE NOT VALID:
As in Biblical times, fear is one of the major causes of failure and disobedience among God’s people. In fact, fear can keep us from being used by God because fear paralyzes its victim. Studies have shown that over 90% of our fears are not grounded or valid. Only about 4 % of all the fears that you will experience in your life is valid. I have come to realise that FEAR is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real.
FEAR KEEPS YOU IN BONDAGE:
The devil often uses fear to control us and to keep us in bondage. Fear can be a very powerful force. It is so powerful that many people obey the thing they fear. Sadly, so many people choose fear as their friend and even their master, and what a poor master it is, because that fear “opens the door” and is closely connected to other negative emotions such as anxiety, worry and stress. We all experience fear at some stage of our lives. It is what you do with those fears that is important. Just like the Jews in Babylon, God wants us to confront our fears and put our trust in Him. While in Babylon, the Jews saw kingdoms rise and fall, a very scary experience indeed. They did not know what to expect next and knowing this, God comforts and encourages them so that their faith and trust in God can be restored.
WHAT FEAR DOES TO YOU:
Here are some of the effects that fear has on you.
It causes you to see your problems as bigger than God’s ability to solve them.
Fear magnifies itself as well as the problem and diminishes God within your situation. God knows this and therefore He tells the Jews to keep their eyes on Him and not the present and coming circumstance.
Fear causes you to resist positive change
Fearful people seek the easy way out of a situation instead of the right one. The fear of change also causes them to resist important and often positive change because they fear uncertainty. For this reason, God told the Jews that He would strengthen them (v10).
Fear paralyzes you so that you cannot make the right decisions.
People who are passive or paralyzed by fear will often refrain from making a decision that will steer them towards facing their fears and therefore they would rather pull back from life. Fear not only causes you to choose the way of least resistance, but it is also one of the major causes of disobedience among Christians.
Fear causes you to want to control things and people
The fear of change, mistakes and failure can cause you to always try to take matters into your own hands. The wiser decision or option is to trust the Lord. The Jews could not deliver themselves, they needed God to do it. They had to let go of any ambition to deliver themselves and had to trust in God’s mighty hand to do it.
Fear causes you to relive past hurts and disappointments on a regular basis.
Fear breeds suspicion
Fearful people tend to be suspicious of everyone because they fear that people might cause them harm or work against their own self-centered interests.
You might not be aware of this, but one of the most repeated commands in the Bible is “fear not.” It is only when you begin to truly understand the greatness of God and His involvement in your life that everything else becomes very small, including your fears.
THINGS THAT WE OFTEN FEAR:
Sometimes we fear that God will not provide for us and take care of us. We doubt His character and nature. Sometimes we fear the unknown, worrying that we will have to deal with whatever comes our way on our own. Sometimes we fear the repeat of negative or traumatic events of the past. We try to avoid going through them at any cost and therefore we make decisions that are not always correct. Also, sometimes we fear people’s opinions of us, what they think and say of us.
It does not matter what your fears are, God says to us just as He said to the Jews in Babylon, fear not, for I am greater! We need to learn to rest in the fact that God is in control.
GOOD FEAR: THE FEAR OF THE LORD
The fear of the Lord is a good type of fear that we are encouraged to have throughout the Bible. This spiritual fear (reverence) of God brings about tremendous blessings in your life. The fear of the LORD is the absolute acknowledgement and surrender to all that God is and what He is capable of doing. It is to believe what God says about Himself in Scripture. His attributes are beyond our understanding and honouring Him for being exceedingly great assists us in walking humbly before Him. Those who fear the LORD can definitely experience life and peace in their lives, even though menacing circumstances might present themselves.
The Bible plainly teaches that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. The world is filled with people who think they are very wise, yet they do not fear the LORD. The Bible calls such people foolish, not wise, no matter how many degrees they have and how clever they think they are. Psalm 110 verse 10 reads; “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments;” (NASB).
The fear of the LORD does not imply that you live your life expecting punishment all the time, but rather a holy reverence of whom He is. When you learn to fear God above all things, you will never have to fear anything else again. When you learn to love God above all things, His love will cast and drive out all fear in your life (1 John 4:18).
HOW TO OVERCOME FEAR
1. Get to know the character and nature of God.
When you begin to understand that God is all powerful and all knowing. He holds the universe in the palm of His hand. When you get to know the real abilities of God, then you will look at life from a different perspective. Remember this;
- God have made the heavens and the earth by His great power and by His outstretched arm! - Jer 32:17
- He put the boundaries for the seas and said, thus far and no more. - Job 38:8-11
- The God determines the number of the stars, He calls them each by name and He put each star in its place and caused it to spin in its orbit. Psalm 147:4
- He formed the vast expanses of the earth? - Job 38:18
- Everything that is in the heavens and the earth falls under His dominion - 1 Chronicles 29:11
- He is the One who establishes times and season – Ecc 3:1
- He raises kings up and brings them down – Dan 2:21
This is the God we are serving!
2. Keep your eyes and focus on God.
When we behold His greatness, we can look at everything else in the right perspective. Your problems and things that cause you to fear becomes small compared to who God is in your life. Looking at the things that cause you to fear all the time will cause you to become dismayed.
3. Know where your strength comes from.
You might be lacking in your own ability, but God is all powerful. Just like the Jews in Babylon, the LORD want us to know that great things can be achieved in His strength. He will fight on our behalf; He will make out paths straight when we acknowledge Him in all our ways; He will scatter our enemies and establish us in a land flowing with milk and honey. Because the all-powerful God is with us, we need not fear anything.
4. Change your habitual fearful thinking habits.
Rom 12:2 says; “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Learn to think and operate from the Kingdom’s reality. Stop your stinking thinking.
5. Express your fears to the LORD.
Tell God about your fears and ask Him to give you His perspective on that which causes fear in your life.
6. Face your fears
Don’t run away from your fears, face them. Don’t allow yourself to be paralysed by fear, but in God’s power, stand up against it.
7. Remember, God is ultimately in control and you are not alone in life.
Jesus said that He will never leave nor forsake us (Matt 28).
Fear itself fears that you will not fear it! God is bigger than your fears.
SCRIPTURES ON FEAR:
Psalm 111:10 - “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all they that do his commandments: His praise endureth for ever.”
Proverbs 1:7 - “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge; But the foolish despise wisdom and instruction.”
Proverbs 9:10 - “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom; And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Isaiah 41:10 - “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Psalm 56:3 - “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
Philippians 4:6-7 - “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
John 14:27 - “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”
2 Timothy 1:7 - “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
1 John 4:18 - “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Isaiah 43:1 - “But now, this is what the Lord says…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”
Psalm 23:4 - “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Joshua 1:9 - “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Matthew 6:34 - “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Isaiah 35:4 - “Tell everyone who is discouraged, Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…”
Deuteronomy 31:6 - “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
I have written a short and easy to read book to help believers deal with fear in their lives. You might benefit from reading it. It is entitled “HOW TO BE FREE FROM FEAR” and is available as an eBook on Amazon.com and Lulu.com