Living with too much fear can cause us to become self-absorbed, distracted, and overly protective. So how do we keep fear from controlling what we say and do?
- On a scale from 1 to 10, how fearful do you consider yourself?
- When fear comes your way, what is your go-to coping mechanism?
- Our internal fears influence the decisions we make. When has fear helped you make a good decision? When has it led you to make a decision you later regretted?
- Describe a recent situation in which you’ve felt more fear than usual.
- If you grew up in or around Christianity, did you ever hear that God cares about your personal circumstances? Explain.
- Fear is a part of everyone’s life. What role would you like it to play in your life? What could you do to make this happen? Could “casting your doubts and fears on Jesus” make a difference?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
So, we are in Part Five of our series, You’re Not the Boss of Me, and the subtitle kinda says it all. This is kind of a how-to-series, How to say “no” to the Emotions That Compete for Control. Because all of us have emotions that compete for control of our lives, that compete for control of our mood and they compete for control of our mouth. Our mood and our mouth. And our mood and our mouth can get us in trouble and certainly undermine the relationships that are most valuable and most important to us.
So, in this series, so far we’ve talked about guilt. We’ve said, “Guilt, you’re not the boss of me.” We talked about envy. We said, “Envy, you’re not the boss of me.” And today, I wanna talk about something that Jesus actually talked a lot about. I want us to talk about how to keep fear from becoming the boss of us. None of us want fear or worry or even anxiety to be the boss of us. And for many of you, fear has never been the boss of you. In fact, for some of you, the people closest to you are like, “You could use a little fear.” Okay, you could use a little worry, you’re just so optimistic. You just kind of blaze a trail and, you know. But for most people, there is an element of fear or worry that plagues us and from time to time, and relationship to relationship, or in some specific environments, or in some particular area of our life, fear easily becomes the boss of us.
Fear, as you know, it robs us of opportunities, fear interferes in our relationships, it impacts how we parent, it impacts our marriage, it keeps us up at night. But the interesting thing about fear, before we jump into how to keep it from being the boss of us, and this is so important. Fear is obviously not always a bad thing, you already knew that, but here’s the cool thing about fear. Fear is actually a byproduct. Fear is actually a byproduct of something that is so important that none of us would wanna give up what creates fear. Fear is the byproduct of our ability as human beings to accumulate knowledge and project that knowledge into the future, that’s what allows us to fear.
But this is one of the greatest gifts that God has given humanity and this is what, in fact, sets us apart and in some ways this is what makes us human, that we are able to collect information and pass it along generation to generation to generation so that this information and knowledge base builds, and builds, and builds so that we’re able to make progress.
This ability, the ability that sort of underscores or allows us to fear is also the ability that allows us to imagine, right? It gives us the ability to hope, it gives us the ability to dream. Without it, you couldn’t look forward to anything. You would never say, without this ability, you would never say, “Well, I can’t wait!,” because I can’t wait is, you’re anticipating something good based on what you know right now.
But it also creates the potential for fear [chuckle] because it creates an endless series of what-ifs. Because what-if is what about the future based on what I know about the present. Now, as you know as well, sometimes fear is a good thing, sometimes fear is a parenting strategy, I’m not recommending that but every parent has used a little fear from time to time, right? But you don’t want, and I don’t want fear to be the boss of me, right? There’s a place for fear, but we don’t want it to run or ruin our lives. It always puts us off balance. In fact, whenever we allow any of these emotions to take control of our lives, we are immediately off balance, which means we’re always distracted, we’re overly protective, and fear in particular causes us to become very, very self-absorbed.
Now, what’s so fascinating to me and I hope to make this fascinating to you, is Jesus said so much about fear. In fact, Jesus’ entire ministry, especially with his 12 apostles, part of the journey was to teach them how not to be afraid because the bottomline for Jesus’ teaching when it came to fear like Jesus just give us the bottom line when it comes to fear, here it is. Alright. Fear not! Stop it. [LAUGHTER] Just quit being afraid.
Thank you, Jesus. That’s so helpful, I hadn’t even thought about that. I’ll just stop it. In other words, to use our terminology, He would say, “Don’t let fear or stop allowing fear to be the boss of you!” Right? I mean, this is his message: “Stop! Stop being afraid.” Which, of course, is easy to say, but virtually impossible to do. And his first, this is what’s so interesting, his first century followers, especially the 12 apostles, they felt the same way because Jesus would say, “Fear not, don’t be afraid. Fear not, don’t be afraid.” And during their time with Jesus, they believed him, but what does that mean? How do you do that? And isn’t that seem a little bit naive? Right?
So, on one occasion, Jesus has just identified his 12 apostles. There’s all these… Again, if you’ve been with us everywhere Jesus went there was a crowd, there was a crowd and then there was a smaller group in the crowd called disciples. John calls this group “the disciples,” and this is the smaller crowd that went everywhere Jesus went. And then within the disciples, there were the apostles, the men that Jesus chose specifically to be his closest group. And so, he gets them together and he says, “Okay, let me tell you what’s gonna happen. “Here’s the good news, now that you’ve signed on, let me tell you what the contract reads. I’m going to send you out like sheep among wolves, and you’re going to be arrested and you’re going to be beaten.” And then he says, “Don’t be afraid!”
And they’re looking at each other like, “Okay, did we miss part of the message? I mean, is there anything between that?” It’s like you’re gonna send this out, we’re gonna… And eventually, they were sent out and eventually they were all arrested. And eventually, they were all beaten, and many of them were executed. But just saying at the end of that, therefore don’t be afraid, not only did it not take away their fear. That doesn’t even make any sense. So Jesus, and this is the part we miss. Jesus took them on a field trip.
And this was the field trip Jesus set up to teach them a lesson about fear. And as soon as I start this story, many of you will rush to the end because you grew up hearing the story. Then the text says, Matthew tells us that Jesus got into a boat and his disciples followed him because they’re his followers. He gets in the boat, they do what Jesus did. Jesus is in the boat, they get in the boat. They row out to the middle of the Sea of Galilee, they were heading across, not the whole sea but down across a part of the sea and the text tells us, Matthew tells us, that “Suddenly,” because this was not unusual for the Sea of Galilee, “Suddenly, not a storm, not just a wind, a furious storm.” this was an unusually furious storm, suddenly appears out of nowhere, came up on the lake so that the waves swept over the boat.
Now these are not very large boats, okay. And so this is everybody, and again, don’t picture flannel graph and don’t picture Sunday school, let’s just picture reality. They’re on a very small boat. They can’t see land in either direction because of the clouds and the rain is sideways and they are soaking wet, they’re not pretty. This isn’t rock star Jesus. Nobody is pretty, okay? All their hair is matted and wet to their face, okay? And it’s loud. Many of you have been out on boats in storms. It is loud. To talk to anyone, you got to right up in their face, or you have to yell. And then Matthew says, and Peter would come along later and basically say, “Yeah, this is exactly how it happened.” Jesus was sleeping, which is almost impossible. I think maybe he was faking. [LAUGHTER] Jesus is laying down, soaking wet probably, and as this roaring wind and all of the storm goes on and the disciples went to him and again, they didn’t wake him up like, “Jesus.” [LAUGHTER] You know how you wake up your children. No, no, no, that’s not like that. It’s like, “Jesus!” Remember, I don’t wanna yell all of this.
Everyone is yelling. You can’t be heard on this boat unless you’re yelling. They said they went and woke him up and they said, “Lord! Save us! We’re going to drown! Lord save us! We’re going to drown! Lord save us, we’re going to drown! Wake up!” And Jesus props up on one elbow, he doesn’t even get up [LAUGHTER] and he says loudly, “You of little faith. You… ” And they’re like, “What?” “You of… ” [LAUGHTER] “There’s hair in our face.” “No! You of little faith.” He’s having to yell this it’s so loud. And I think he’s grinning because they are panicked, okay, with Jesus in the boat. “You of little faith.” And then here’s this ridiculous question. No one would make this up. “Why are you so afraid?” “What?” “Why are you so afraid?” [LAUGHTER] “We’re afraid because a furious storm just came up on the sea and the boat is sinking and water is flooding the boat and we may drown, and when you may drown, you are afraid. What a silly question. That’s why we are afraid.” [LAUGHTER]
But this isn’t a miracle story to show that Jesus had power over nature. He’s teaching them about fear. And look what it says, then this is the best part. Then, when he finally got up, he didn’t panic. God doesn’t panic. Your Savior doesn’t panic. Your Heavenly Father doesn’t panic. Isn’t that good to know? We panic. We panic because we project into the future based on what we know and what we’ve seen and what we’ve experienced. But God who created time doesn’t panic. This is what Jesus wants them to see. Perhaps this is what Jesus wants you to see and me to see. This is so powerful. Then he got up and he rebuked the winds and the waves. He spoke to them. And it was completely calm. Now, it’s not unusual for this region of the world for these storms to come barreling down through the valley and to create havoc in the Sea of Galilee. And then after a few minutes or a little while the storms move on through. But for whatever the reason, as soon as Jesus started talking, the storm moved on through and what happens next is the point of this whole incident, and the men on the boat with Jesus were amazed.
Of course they were, and they asked the perfect question. In fact, this is the most important question anyone can ever ask. They asked the perfect question. This is the question that if you’re not a believer or used to be a church person, or you went away or you’ve never considered Christianity, this is the question: How did God create the world and is there a creator, and how big is the universe? And is it… How many billion? Those are fun things to talk about. This is the question. What kind of man is this? Well, he’s a Superman obviously, right? What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him. They were amazed. Mark, who got his information from Peter, we think Peter was probably illiterate and so when he told his story about his time with Jesus, he told it to Mark and Mark wrote it down, that’s why it’s called the Gospel of Mark, but the information probably came from Peter.
And Peter, when Peter told Mark this story, he said, “And we feared a great fear.” This is Mark’s version. It’s like, “We were afraid, and then we were really afraid. We were afraid of the storm and then we realized who we were in the boat with, and we couldn’t get much distance. We feared a great fear.” This is so important for somebody here today or watching or listening. Their latter fear was greater than their former fear.
Their fear of what had just happened, their fear of whose presence they were in was greater than their fear of the storm and for a fleeting moment, this is so important, and for a fleeting moment their confidence in Jesus overwhelmed their fear, but just for a moment. In other words, the lesson that Jesus was trying to teach them was simply this: That you do not have to allow fear to be the boss of you, you do not have to allow fear to overwhelm you because there’s something more overwhelming, you don’t have to allow fear to become the centerpiece of your life, the centerpiece of my life because there’s something more capable and more powerful than fear.
So then while it was still fresh on their minds, they get back and they kinda get back to business and a few days later Jesus comes back around to this topic and He’s like, “Okay, let me talk about this, we had a field trip, it did not go so well, everybody failed but now that it’s fresh on your mind let me give you an illustration from nature.” And so here’s what He says to the guys, “Look, don’t be afraid.” They were like, “Yes, we heard that, we got that.” “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body.” Can I kinda tease this out a little bit I think what Jesus would say? I don’t wanna put words in Jesus’ mouth, he doesn’t need my help. Don’t be afraid of anything that can kill your body. Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body. Don’t be afraid of things that threaten your body but cannot kill your soul.
In this moment, Jesus underscores what many of us grew up believing that there is more to you than meets the eye, and there is more to you than your body, and there is a you that goes beyond the you that we can’t see, Jesus believed that. Don’t be afraid of those who can only kill the body and can’t do anything to the soul. If you’re gonna fear something, if you’re gonna play something at the center of your heart and your emotions, you should be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell. It’s like hyperbole, he’s like, “Hey, if you’re gonna fear something you should fear God. If you wanna fear somebody, you should fear the one that controls your soul not just your body.” And then he’s like he was saying, “Look, don’t you remember that boat ride? Let’s review the boat ride. Remember what happened? You were afraid of the wrong thing. You were fearing for your life, you were fearing a storm and it wasn’t, then there wasn’t anything to be afraid of. There was something to be afraid of but there was something or somebody you should have been more afraid of, you should have been more dialed into, that’s the point.”
Then he says this, “Are not two… ” And this is so personal, so personal. He says, “Guys, aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny?” To which we’re like, “I don’t know,” and they’re like, “Yeah, this is just their world they lived in, sure they are.” Yet not one of them, these sparrows that are basically worthless, yet not one of these sparrows will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs,” he’s talking to his guys, “on your head are all numbered so don’t be afraid. You,” this is it, “don’t be afraid.” Why? Because you are worth more than many sparrows. Don’t be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows. Don’t be afraid, God considers you extraordinarily valuable and this was Jesus’ way of saying, yes, God is a personal God, God knows your name, God knows your circumstances, He is concerned about your personal life.
He knows what’s going on and He cares, and for many of us in the deepest valley, for many of us facing the thing that just overwhelms us with fear, to know with confidence that God knows what you’re going through, to know with confidence that God knows you and many times that’s all we need and Jesus says, “Rest assured God knows and God cares even when bad things are happening, even when your prayers go unanswered you can trust Him, He knows and He cares.” Wow! So finally, they’re starting to get it, it’s like, “Okay, I think we got it. So we were afraid because there’s something to be afraid of but we got our eyes off what we should really fear and you’re with us and you know our names and you’re tracking with us through the circumstances of life.” And Jesus is like, “Okay, I think you’re getting it. How about another field trip?”
So, they have another field trip, this time it starts off really well, another story that you’re very familiar with, this time they’re out in the middle of nowhere, Jesus has preached too long, maybe that’s where we get that and anyway, the sun is starting to go down and these people are hungry, you know the story and Jesus, somebody one of the disciples or apostles comes to Jesus and said, “We need to send these folks home, they’re gonna starve, they’ve been out here all day and you went a little bit long.” And Jesus is like, “Hey, I got an idea, you feed them.” They’re like, “Right, okay, we need to send these people.” And Jesus is like, “No, no, no, you guys feed them.” They’re like, “We can’t feed them. You know how much money it would cost? In fact, there’s not even enough food in this region to feed all these people.” Jesus is like, “No, you do it, you feed them.”
Then Jesus finds a little boy’s lunch, remember that? And He prays over it and then Matthew says, “Guys, I was there, Jesus actually gave, broke up the little boy’s lunch and split it up between us 12 and said, ‘Okay, feed them.’ And I don’t know how to say it in any other way but we performed a miracle, it was amazing! We actually started distributing this food and then all these people were fed and it was like, ‘Oh, my goodness.'” And now, the apostles, their confidence is at an all time high, look what Jesus did, look what Jesus did through us, who is this man? This is amazing and then you may remember this. the text says, immediately, as in, as soon as it dawned on everybody what had happened, immediately Jesus made the 12, the disciples get into the boat.
Now, why did He have to coerce them and force them to get into the boat? ‘Cause they remember the last boat ride. It’s like, “No, we’re not getting in any more boats with you, you get in the boat, Peter you. I’m not getting in the boat. You remember what happened last time, we had to wake him up, we almost drowned… I’d say well, Jesus, we’ll just walk”.
Well, now the apostles know what Jesus is up to, he’s like. No, no, we’re good, we fear not, we’re fear not, we’re smarter than that, we’re not gonna get in the boat and Jesus literally coerces them into getting into the boat, immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and he said, “Look I’m not even going with you”. They’re like, “Oh, this is not gonna go well”. [LAUGHTER] So, he’s helping push the boat off the sand into the sea, and he waves, he says, “You go on ahead of me to the other side and I’m gonna go dismiss the crowd”. So he pushes them off. They start rowing over to where he’s supposed to meet them. The sun goes down, next thing you know, hours and hours have gone by and they are stuck in the middle of the sea of Galilee, and they’re rowing into a headwind and they’re rowing against the wind, they’re rowing against the wind.
Shortly before dawn, the text tells us that Jesus went out to them walking on the lake. Now, If you’re not a Christian or used to be, I understand what maybe goes through your mind at this point is like, okay, calm in the storm. Maybe, maybe not, maybe the storm was just over, but see, Andy, this is why I can’t be a Christian, alright? So now you’re gonna tell me I have to believe that Jesus walked on water? So let me just say something about this real quick. Christians don’t believe Jesus walked on the water because the Bible tells us so. It is way better than that. Matthew who was there, told us so. Mark who got his story from Peter who was there, told us so. And John, who was with Jesus throughout his ministry, from the days of the Jordan River, all the way through the Crucifixion, resurrection, he told us so. They were all three eyewitnesses, and they were all three there, and they’re like, “Look, I know I’m just telling you, this is what happened”.
And not only do they tell us this is what happened, they tell us something else. They tell us their embarrassing response to what happened and here’s why that’s important. I’ve told you, talked about this before, but I’ll bring it up again, I promise ’cause this is a big deal. Literary critics, literary critics use a device referred to as the criteria of embarrassment. The criteria of embarrassment goes like this: If somebody is writing the story about a revered or respected person, they are not going to invent stories, that make that person look bad. So if there is an account in a story that makes the person who’s revered look bad, it’s probably authentic because no one would have made that up, not only would they not have made it up, they would probably, if it was true, have left it out.
So here’s what happened, here’s what we’re told, because here’s what happened. And who could blame them when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, fail. They’re terrified they’re terrified and they said “it’s a ghost” and they cried out in fear. It’s like Matthew. Is that what happened? “Yeah, I was there. We just freaked out it was like ‘Ah!’ you know?” Peter you spent your whole life on the water. “I know, I know, it’s so embarrassing” you sure… Mark’s going “you sure you want me to include this Peter?”. “Yeah, put it in there it’s what happened”. Nobody made this up. And then you know what happened? Jesus says, “Aah” Jesus says, “Take courage. It is I. Guys, don’t be afraid.”
“Okay, how many times we’ve done field trips We’ve done sermons we’ve done miracles. Stop being afraid as long as I’m here, there’s no need to fear, as long as I’m with you, there’s no need to fear, as long as I know what’s going on in your life and you know that I love and care for you, there is no need to fear. Listen, even when there’s something to be afraid of, you do not have to allow fear to be the boss of you.” But once again, it didn’t stick. This is encouraging to me. It didn’t stick. They feared right up till the very end. At the end of Jesus’s ministry you know this part I hope he’s on his way to Jerusalem, they’re going with him, they’ve just, raised Lazarus from the dead. They hang around in Jerusalem for about a week. Then they have a Passover meal together. Jesus says “Okay, listen carefully guys, John, write this down. I am establishing I’m inaugurating a brand new covenant, brand new relationship between God and men” they’re thinking “This is it”.
I’ve already told you guys that we’re starting a brand new movement. My Ecclesia, my assembly, my congregation. I’ve already told you that nothing’s gonna stop but they’re thinking, “Oh my goodness, this is it. I’m glad we didn’t leave early” and he said, “And I’m gonna step into the role of Moses here, and I’m gonna give you a new law, a new command”. This is what they’d been waiting for. They were feeding 5000 that was one thing, this was the moment they dreamed of this was the moment their parents had told them may one day happen but they didn’t dream and that it would happen in their lifetime that the Messiah, God’s Messiah would show up and re-establish the nation of Israel and the kingdom.
And throw the Romans out. And then later that night he is arrested. And what did they do? Stand by their man? No they panicked. They hide, they lie. They deny. Then they watched him dragged to Golgotha and he’s crucified. And when they knew that Jesus was dead boom it’s over we don’t know who he was… We thought we did, this was so exciting, but it’s over and along with everything else Jesus taught, it’s over because Jesus said too much about himself, we can’t keep this dream alive we can’t tell these stories, because nobody’s gonna take them seriously because no one could take Jesus seriously remember, on the boat that day guys, when we said… ” What kind of man is this, what kind of man is this?” “And we were convinced that this was a man that had to be from God, but clearly Rome can’t crucify God’s Messiah”. “We were wrong, everything about him, everything, we believed was wrong. Everything he said about himself, either we misunderstood or he lied.”
And then they peered into an empty tomb. And then they met their living friend. And they were back in business. Because, listen, the resurrection punctuated every single thing Jesus taught and everything he said about himself and when Jesus rose from the dead suddenly, for the first time this is why reading the Gospels, could be so confusing suddenly for the first time, it all made perfect sense, especially what Jesus had to say about fear. Don’t miss this. For us sometimes resurrection is just an Easter Sunday, for them, it was every single day, it was the source of their confidence, it was the source of their boldness, it was the source of their strength. The world would continue for these guys to be a very scary place but they didn’t have to be a-scared because they feared, they had the greater fear, they finally got the lesson of the boat rides they finally got the lesson of the sparrows they finally got “Fear, not, Fear not, I am with you”.
And they feared not and they came out of hiding. This is amazing, we can’t imagine this, we can’t imagine there is no parallel in our lives. And they willingly faced down the very men that had had Jesus arrested, beaten, and crucified. And then they went on to change the world. Because “fear not” is what changed the world. A generation of men and women, the first generation of Christians lost their fear of death, and when someone has lost their fear of death, it is very difficult to threaten them.
Now, fear is a permanent part of the human experience. It just is, and there are lots of ways to cope, but none of us want fear to be the boss of us. And Peter, Peter, this is so amazing, Peter, who failed both boat rides, Peter who denied he even knew Jesus after that Passover meal, Peter who basically did everything, who panicked during Jesus arrest, that very same Peter who lied when questioned, who hid, years after the resurrection, he would dictate a letter to Christians, first century Christians, those like us who have believed but have not seen Jesus. And here’s what he says to you, and and here’s what he says to me based on his experience with Jesus, he said, “Let me tell you what to do. Let me tell you what you have been invited to do. Cast, throw, hurl, heave, all of your cares on Him.” Why is that gonna help us Peter? Because let me tell you what I know that he wants you to know, because he cares for you.
Literally transfer all of your worry, transfer all of your fretting, transfer all of your anxiety, transfer all of your fears to Him because He cares for you, and Peter should know because he faced things we can’t even imagine. He eventually died in Nero’s Rome but he was confident that the promise Jesus made him, he was confident that the promise Jesus made the disciples and the apostles was a promise that He’s made you as well. That He would say with the Psalmists, “Though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, fear you are not the boss of me.” I already have a boss who conquered life who conquered death, He is who He claimed to be, He is worthy of my followship and He is worthy of my worship. And in this way my friends, the life of Jesus it’s an invitation and it’s a promise. It’s an invitation to follow Him and it’s a promise that you could follow without fear. Follow me, fear not. Fear not even when there’s something to be afraid of because I am with you and I care for you. Fear not.