ˇ°WHEN I AM AFRAIDˇ± By Pastor YAU
Text: Genesis 32:1-12 February 2, 2014
1) The reality of fear: When we live and grow to a more mature age and face many facets of life, there are times and things we naturally feel fearful, regardless if we are honest to admit or not. Fear is part of everyday life to all of us on different level in different things. Some people were born with less power to face life and have more things to fear. Some are afraid of their past, things in the past they don't want people to know. Some are afraid of today that they feel incapable to face life. Some are afraid of the future, not knowing what may happen. Wayne Dyer, author of Your Erroneous Zones deals with the problem of fear in our everyday life. Some said that fear is like our shadow, it follows us day and night where we are.
2) The definition of fear: Among other entries, this one is easier to understand: Fear is a painful emotion caused by impending danger, evil or loss, real or imagined. It is a state of alarm, dread or anxiety. Here we see several important parts that constitute fear: Fear is an emotional state that is painful; it has to do with impending danger of evil or danger or loss; it causes the sense of alarm, dread, anxiety in out mindset, be it real or imagined. If we are honest to face life, all of us live in some degrees of fear at all times.
FEAR FROM THE WORLD:
1) We live in a world of evil: ˇ°The Lord saw how great the wicked-ness of man on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.ˇ± (Genesis 6:5) Remember this is only the 6th chapter in Genesis, very early in the history of man and it was already so bad, so evil. How much worse our world has become today and how much more we need to feel afraid in our everyday life. We have fear to live in this world because this is a terrible place to live. Think about it: If all the people in this world are good and kind. No one will lie, steal or cheat. No one will hurt anyone else, much less murder anyone. If all the people we know are gentle, always care, loving, forgiving. If all are driving within speed limit, all cars were made with honest labor, no defect parts, all food we buy are clean and fresh. If there are no suicide bombers, no guns, no need of police or courts or judges, how nice life would be to live. But our world isn't like that.
2) We inflict fear on our own: ˇ°Today, you are driving me from this land and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.ˇ± (Gen. 4:14) This reflects the fear in Cain's heart: He was afraid that some one will kill him when he finds him. Why did he have that fear? He was afraid of being killed because he had just killed his brother Abel. Because Cain had committed a crime against his brother, so, he was afraid someone would do the same to him. Some of the fear we have is from the wrongs we did in the past: we are afraid some one may find out, or will do the same to us. Sin and fear are like twins, they go hand in hand, side by side, all in our life.
3) We are unable to save self: ˇ°What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?ˇ± (Romans 7:24) Although Paul was mourning on the hopelessness in his human power to conquer the power of sin in his inner being, this is also true in all aspects of life in conquering the power to sin and fear. We were born with that sinful nature, and sin always brings the shadow of fear in our hearts. Many people try to overcome the power of sin and fear in many different ways, but none has succeed in any way. Even the most powerful, and the richest have fear in their hearts.
4) We have no one to help us: ˇ°Do not put your trust in princes or in mortal man who cannot save.ˇ± (Psalm 146:3) As king himself, King David realized how fragile and powerless kings and princes were when we need them to feel safe and secured. Many people try to find security or safety in man with power, position or wisdom. This is so true particularly in politics. Many people believe in powerful figures in politics, in business or in wealth. The Bible says: ˇ°When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that every day their plans come to nothing.ˇ± (Psalm 146:4) No one in this world may save us from the fear of life.
FEAR IN PERSONAL LIFE:
1) Safety or security: This is on the top because it is the first of five basic elements of survival listed by all sociologist. Among others, the need of safety is on the top. This is true from the most primitive to the more sophisticated, people concern about their safety. Safety of personal life, of living environment in the community, political and economic condition, all are important to us. Living in anything that lacks security causes us to feel fearful and scared. In America, billions were invested to keep us feel safe. We need to feel safe in political system, in society, in neighbor-hood. Companies want to invest in countries that guarantee the safety of their investment and their personnel.
2) Physical health: Health is a huge subject in feeling good and secured. Physical health is more than just a business, it is personal at all time. This is also related to medicine, health care, food, life style and environment. Lots of people lose their sense of security and feeling fearful because of their health condition. Any time we are sick, particularly serious condition, fear is part of the package.
3) Job and finance: Job security and income are closely related and they are very important to all of us. Anytime, we face problem in one of them, fear will creep into our mind if not our heart. Having a secured job and steady income is very important in feeling safe for the family. Losing a job and income, particularly in extended period of time is a scary situation.
4) Love and respect: This is about our emotional needs. From early days of our life, we need love from our parents and family. Later on, we need love and respect from our friend classmates, neighbors and people in school and at work. Acceptance and community help us feel the sense of belong and support.
5) Separation by death: Some of us may think we are not afraid of death, that is because we have never reached that stage yet. The fear of death is real when it comes to us and we have no power to resist. The fear is not death itself but the separation from our loved ones by death. Separation by death is final and irreversible, it is that final fear we will go through. The only thing that can ease this fear is the assurance of eternal life in Jesus Christ.
TAKING STEPS TO FACE FEAR: (Genesis 32-33)
1) Identify the source of fear: ˇ°Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.ˇ± (Gen. 32:3) Decades ago, Jacob cheated on his father Isaac and brother Esau the blessing of the first born (Gen. 27) that triggered hatred of his brother wanted to kill him. (27:42) Decades later the fear of Esau and his possible revenge still robbed the peace in Jacob's heart. Jacob finally needed to face his brother to settle the account of his sin and be ready to pay whatever it takes to make peace with Esau. Before we can find ways to face our fear, we need to know what is the fear and where does it come from. If we don't know the source of fear, it is hard to solve the fear. Do not just feel fearful or numb, get to know what it is so you can do something about it.
2) Don't misinterpret information: ˇ°When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said: We went to your brother Esau and now he is coming to meet you, and 400 men are with him. Jacob was in great fear and distress.ˇ± (Gen 32:6-7) Yes, Esau was on his way to meet Jacob with 400 men, but he wasn't coming to kill or hurt Jacob but to protect him on his journey. Jacob became greatly afraid of his brother because he misinterpreted the report from his servants. It is very important that we get accurate information about our situation so we may take appropriate actions to face fear the best we know. In fear, rumors and words of hear-say can greatly distort the truth to cause us to be panic that we may do some irrational and stupid things we normally won't do.
3) Seek ultimate protectION from God: ˇ°Then Jacob prayed: O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me: Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper. I am unworthy of your faithfulness and kindness you have shown your servant... Save me, I pray, from the hands of my brother Esau for I am afraid he will come and attack me.ˇ± (Gen 32:9-11) Be open, honest and lay back to God how fearful it is in your heart and ask God, the only sure protection we may have in time like this. Jacob did all he could do to save his family, or part of his family. But he realized that it is God, his God and God of his fathers, who can ultimately keep him safe.
4) Eradicating the root of fear: ˇ°Jacob himself went on ahead and bow down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him, and they wept.ˇ± (Genesis 33:3-4) Before Jacob went to meet Esau his brother, He was afraid and planned for the worst in case Esau came to attack him and his family. He tried to show his remorse for the wrong he did by sending teams of gifts, a sign of making peace. He also taught his servant what to say and how to say words to his brother, hoping to ease the feeling between the brothers. Finally it is him who has to do his best to show Esau his humility, seeking forgiveness for the sin he did decades ago. Showing remorse and humility for the wrong we did and seek forgiveness are the right steps to eradicate the root of fear. Nothing is better than making peace with those we have offended. Once the root is gone, there is no fear.
5) Never forget God in time of peace: ˇ°And Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan. There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.ˇ± (33:18, 20) It is very important that God's people never forget God after their time of fear and peril. We always need to remember that it is God and his mercy that protect us from harm and fear. Abraham built an altar and worshiped God when arrived in Canaan. (Gen 12:8) Isaac did the same thing when God protected him from harm and blessed him with great harvest in Gerar. (Gen 26:25)
APPLICATION OF TRUTH:
1) The bright side of fear: Some compare fear in our emotion to pain or fever in our body: certainly fear, like pain and fever, is not all bad. Certain amount of fear may help us live longer, happier and in less trouble. Fear of traffic police may slow us down when driving. Fear of gaining too much weight may help us control our BMI to keep us healthier. Fear of being exposed may keep us from living a reckless life style. People who are fearless are more likely getting into lots of trouble and regrets. Thank God for fear.
2) Leave fear to the Lord: God understood human emotion so he sent his angels to comfort Joseph and Mary when they were in emotional struggle. Jesus understood the fear in the hearts of his disciples so he comforted their troubled hearts. After he was raised from the dead, he first gave his brokenhearted disciples peace. He assured us: ˇ°Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.ˇ± (John 14:27) ˇ°There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.ˇ± (1 John 4:18) In God there is no fear.