Sermons.love

Andy Stanley - Fear



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, they 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 wanna 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. 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, you could use a little worry. You're just so optimistic, you just kinda blaze a trail". But for most people, there is an element of fear or worry that plagues us, and from time to time, 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.

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. We are where we are today because the human race has been able to accumulate knowledge, build on that knowledge, build on things according to that knowledge, and then project into the future. This ability, the ability that underscores or allows us to fear, is also the ability that allows us to imagine, right? It's the ability that gives us the ability to hope. It gives us the ability to dream. Without it, you couldn't look forward to anything. 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.

And I don't think any of us would be willing to give up that ability if that's what it took to get rid of all fear. Our ability to imagine has more upside, has way more upside than downside, because this thing that God has given us has allowed us to invent, it's allowed us to make the world a better place, it's allowed us to improve our lives, it's allowed us to improve our world. But it also creates the potential for fear, 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. But what Jesus said about fear seems so naive if you listen to what Jesus said about fear in isolation. One of the problems with how the Bible has been presented to many of us, and this isn't anybody's fault, this is just the way of the world, is that we drop in into isolated events from the life of Jesus and we sort of look at them, we kinda bookend them, like once upon a time, the end. But 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 bottom line for Jesus' teaching when it came to fear, like Jesus, just give us the bottom line when it comes to fear, hear it is, all right? "Fear not, stop it, 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"! This is his message, "Stop, stop being afraid". Which of course is easy to say, but virtually impossible to do. And 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? Doesn't that seem a little bit naive, right?

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. Jesus has just finished choosing the apostles. I mean, how amazing is that? You got to be one of Jesus' inner circle. So he gets them together and he says, "Okay, let me tell you what's gonna happen. Here's the big picture, here's the whole narrative, here's what's gonna happen. Okay, I'm gonna send you out like sheep among wolves".

Now to us, that's just a figure of speech. In that day and age, they had seen that. This does not end well. When you send the sheep out among the wolves, that is a bloody, gory mess. All that's left are hooves and a little bit of mess, and everything else is devoured, okay. So Jesus said, "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". Then he says, "Don't be afraid"! They're looking at each other like, "Okay, did we miss part of the message? Is there anything between that? It's like, you're gonna send us out," 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. Now, you are very familiar with this field trip, but when you read about the field trip, you didn't think it was a field trip. You just read it as an isolated incident in the life of Jesus and his disciples. But everything Jesus did was so purposeful, it was all going somewhere, it was all connected. This was the field trip Jesus set up to teach them a lesson about fear. As soon as I start this story, many of you will rush to the end because you grew up hearing this 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 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, and these are people who were very familiar with this region of the world, so this wasn't hyperbole, this wasn't an exaggeration, this was an unusually furious storm. Suddenly, appears out of nowhere, came upon the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.

Now, these are not very large boats, okay? Again, don't picture flannel graph and don't picture Sunday School, let's just picture reality. They are 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 are not pretty. This isn't rock star Jesus. Nobody's 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 gotta get right up in their face or you have to yell. 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. I don't know how in the world, but they thought he was sleeping. How do you sleep in a situation like this? Jesus is laying down, soaking wet probably, as this roaring wind and all of this storm goes on. And the disciples went to him, and again, they didn't wake him up like, "Jesus," you know how you wake up your children. No, no, no, it's not like that. It's like, "Jesus"!

Remember, I don't wanna yell all of this, everyone is yelling. Remember, you can't be heard on this boat unless you're yelling. 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". Jesus props up on one elbow, he doesn't even get up, and he says, loudly, "You of little faith"? And they're like, "What? There's hair in our face"? "No, you of little faith," he's having to yell this, it's so loud. I think he's grinning because they are panicked, okay, with Jesus in the boat, "You of little faith". Then here's this ridiculous question, no one would make this up, "Why are you so afraid"? "What? What are you so afraid"? "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".

But this isn't a miracle story to show that Jesus had the 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. The 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 create havoc on the Sea of Galilee. 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, or used to be a church person, or you went away, or you've never considered Christianity, this is the question. I mean, how did God create the world and is there a Creator, and how big is the universe, 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. When Peter told Mark this story, he said, "And we feared a great fear". This was Mark's version. He used the same Greek word twice in the sentence. This sounds like somebody who's trying to, I don't know how to put this into words, 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. 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. For just a moment, in this moment standing there in the boat, their confidence in Jesus and what Jesus was capable of overwhelmed their fear. 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 is 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 you know, 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". So here's what he says to the guys. "Look, don't be afraid". 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. There is a you that goes beyond the you that we can 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".

Then it'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 that 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 was 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".

It's like, wait, wait, so God cares about nature? Jesus is like, "Of course he did, he created it, it's his". Even, he says, "But hey, let's not talk about sparrows, let's talk about you for a minute. And even the very hairs," he's talking to his guys, "on your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid," 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 lives. He knows what's going on and he cares".

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 was 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's 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". Jesus is like, "Hey, hey, I got an idea, you feed 'em". They're like, right, okay, we need to send these people... No, Jesus is like, "No, no, you guys feed 'em". They're like, "We can't feed 'em. Do 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 'em".

Then Jesus finds the little boy's lunch, remember that? And he prays over it. Then Matthew says, "Guys, I was there. Jesus actually broke up the little boy's lunch and split it up between us 12, and said, okay, feed 'em. And I don't know how to say it 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". 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, then, again, this isn't a coincidence. This isn't just, hey, this is what happened next because they couldn't think of anything else to say. 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, it's a really interesting little Greek word, anagkazo, it means he coerced them, he forced them. This was not an invitation like, "Hey, maybe we should get in the boat". No, he said, "Guys, come here, no, no, no, come here. Don't pay attention to the crowd. You pay attention to that crowd, your head's gonna get too big. Come here, you guys," he forced them, "you get into the boat". Now why did he have to coerce them and force them to get into the boat? 'Cause they remembered the last boat ride. It's like, "No, we're not getting into any more boats with you". "You get in the boat". Peter, "I'm not getting in the boat. You remember what happened last time, we had to wake him up, we almost drowned. I tell you what, Jesus, we'll just walk". But the text says, he had to force them to get... Some of these guys were fishermen.

Now, when I was studying this, I couldn't help but think about a story that happened years ago in my family. I'll tell you real quick. It has nothing to do with the message, but I don't know, I just think maybe there's a parallel. I'll let you decide. Years ago, Sandra's grandfather, his name was Walter, he's since passed away, he was about 89 years, he was at Sandra's family's house in Dublin, Georgia, and Sandra's mom and some other family were talking about Aunt Nanny Lou. Now, Aunt Nanny Lou was Walter's brother's wife, so it was his sister-in-law, but Walter's brother had since passed away, and Aunt Nanny Lou was like 94. She was still living by herself in her house, but her memory wasn't good, things weren't going well, and so the family is trying to decide how do we talk Aunt Nanny Lou into leaving her home and go into an assisted living facility? Basically, they were trying to figure out how to get her there because she didn't wanna go. Of course, nobody wants to go. None of us are gonna wanna go.

So they're having this conversation in front of Walter who's almost 90 years old, and they're not even sure he's paying attention. One of the ladies said, "Well, I got an idea. Maybe we just go over and get Aunt Nanny Lou and say, Aunt Nanny Lou, we wanna take you to lunch, bring your purse. Yeah, and then after lunch, we just take her over to the assisted living place and we just drop her off and leave her". They're kinda laughing, you know, they're trying to figure this out. All of a sudden, Walter pipes up. He says, "Well, I'll tell you something, ladies. You invite me to lunch, I'm not going". Yeah, it's like now I know what you're up to.

Well, now the apostles know what Jesus is up to, it's like, "No, no, we're good, we feared not. In fact, we're feared not and 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". 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, they were young and strong, but they were still rowing. Oh, come on, against the wind, right? So they're out there, I mean, they're just committed, we're gonna do it, but I mean they're on a rowing machine, they are sitting still. Then, shortly before dawn, which means they've been out there for hours, we're gonna do this, 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 you used to be, I understand what maybe goes through your mind at this point. It's like, "Okay, calming the storm, maybe, maybe not, maybe the storm was just over. But see, Andy, this is why I can't be a Christian, all right? So now you're gonna tell me I have to believe that Jesus walked on water".

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 and resurrection, he told us so. They were all three eye witnesses, and they were all three there, and they're like, "Look, I know, I'm just telling you this is what happened". 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, and I've told you, I've talked about this before, but I'm gonna bring it up again, I promise, because 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 a 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. One of the things, one of the reasons that people who've rejected the gospels and rejected Christianity because they just stayed 30,000 feet away, the reason so many of them have become Jesus followers once they begin to actually engage with the details of the text is they bump into this, and they realize, "Wait a minute, these accounts of the life of Jesus don't make the heroes of the story look like heroes. They make them look normal, they make them look sometimes less than normal. They're just as much afraid and just as much doubters as everybody else".

So sure enough, not only do they tell us that Jesus walked on the water, the men who were there also tell us how they responded. And no one would have invented this, and here's why. Because when the gospels were written, when the gospels were written, these men were still alive and they were still ministering in Judea and in different parts of the world, and then coming back to Judea and Jerusalem, they were within the Christian community, they were the rock stars. John who was with Jesus, Peter who was with Jesus, Andrew who was with Jesus, Matthew, oh my goodness, Matthew the famous... These guys were the guys. No one, I mean, if anything they would have left these embarrassing details out. Nobody would have invented a detail that would undermine the credibility of these guys.

So why would they include their embarrassing response to what Jesus was doing, especially after Jesus has told them over and over and over, "Fear not". So here's what happened, here's what we're told because here's what happened. And who could blame 'em? 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, I mean you've spent your whole life on the water. "I know, I know, it's so embarrassing". Mark's going, "You sure you want me to include this, Peter"? "Yeah, put it in there, it's what happened". Nobody would make this up.

Then you know what happened. Jesus said, "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' 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're thinking, "This is it, this is the moment we've been waiting for". They get to Jerusalem, they are welcomed by the crowds, chanting his name, hosanna, it turns political, he's gonna be the king. They hang around in Jerusalem for about a week. Then they have a Passover meal together, and Jesus says, "Okay, listen carefully, guys. John, write this down. I'm establishing, I'm inaugurating a brand new covenant, a 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 ekklesia, my assembly, my congregation. I've already told you that nothing's gonna stop it". They're thinking, "Oh my goodness, this is it. I'm glad we didn't leave early". And he said, "I'm gonna step into the law, I'm gonna step into the role of Moses here, and I'm gonna give you a new law, a new command".

This was it, this is what they'd been waiting for. I mean, feeding the five thousand, 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 that it would happen in their lifetime, that the Messiah, God's Messiah, would show up and reestablish the nation of Israel and the kingdom and throw the Romans out. Then later that night, he's 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. 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".

Along with everything else Jesus taught, it's over, because Jesus said too much about himself, and we can't keep this dream alive, we can't tell these stories because nobody's gonna take them seriously because no one can take Jesus seriously. Remember on the boat that day, guys, when we said, "What kind of man is this? What kind of 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. Then they peered into an empty tomb. 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.

When Jesus rose from the dead, suddenly for the first time, this is why reading the gospels can 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, the resurrection is about Easter. For them, the resurrection was about everything. For us, sometimes the 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. Jesus resurrection validated everything he had taught, especially what he said about fear. 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's no parallel in our lives. And they willingly faced down the very men that 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. Years later, second century medical writer, Claudius Galenus, writes in a journal. He had the opportunity to go out into the arena and examine the bodies of dying Christians during the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Back in those days, it was illegal for doctors to examine dead bodies. Once a body was dead, you had to bury it immediately. You couldn't do autopsies. It was illegal to open up a dead body to learn anything about how the body worked. It's one of the reasons it took so long for medicine to advance, especially during a period of time when you couldn't examine a dead body.

So their best hope, they would wait, this is so gross, they would wait on the sidelines of the arena, and once the animals were taken out of the arena and once the gladiatorial games were over, these doctors could go out and examine dying bodies. It was their only opportunity, but once the body died, they couldn't touch the body anymore. This particular medical writer had that opportunity. Here's what he said about Christians. "For fearlessness," this is his observation, "for fearlessness of death and the hereafter is something we witness in them every day". What changed this was the resurrection of Jesus, because when you worship a risen Lord, when you worship someone who has mastered life and conquered death, and when he says to you, "Fear not," you realize I can fear not, not because there's nothing to be afraid of, but because I have fastened my affection and my attention on the one who deserves so much trust, and all my reference and all my fear.

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. 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 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. Cast all your cares on him, why? Because I can speak with authority, Peter would say, 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. 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 psalmist, "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. In this way, my friends, the life of Jesus, it's an invitation and it's a promise. It's an invitation to follow and it's a promise that you can 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".
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