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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - When We Are Fearful

Charles Stanley - When We Are Fearful

Charles Stanley - When We Are Fearful
TOPICS: The Source of My Strength, Fear

Fear and anxiety have plagued the human race from the very beginning of time. Think about this, the first recorded conversation between God and the first man was like this: man, in that conversation said, "I was afraid". And all down through the history of humanity, people have been saying, "But I'm afraid. I just have fear. I am anxious". And all through the Old Testament, God's response has been, "Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid". In the New Testament, over and over and over again, "Do not be afraid". For example, when the angel spoke to Mary, he said, about the coming of Jesus, she was to be His mother, "Do not be afraid". To Joseph, "Do not be afraid". To John the Baptist's father, Zacharias, "Do not be afraid".

When Jesus was speaking to the multitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, He said to them there on the hillside, "Don't be anxious about anything". Three times He said that, "Don't be anxious. Don't be afraid". To the apostles out on the sea, in the storm when they were scared to death, He said to them, "Do not be afraid". The apostle Paul, at one time in his life, undergoing real difficulty, and God said to him, "Do not be afraid anymore". And I was so glad he had that part in there because it made me realize that the apostle Paul, even he experienced times of anxiety and fear. "Do not be afraid anymore but go on speaking".

John the Beloved, who wrote the Revelation, at the vision of the Lord Jesus Christ and he falls on his face and he is absolutely petrified in the presence of Jesus. And what did He say to him, the Bible says He walked over and touched him and He said, "Do not be afraid". And what is the admonition all through the scripture? God said through the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy chapter 1, verse 7, He said, "I have not given you the spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind". The apostle Paul, again, said, "Don't be anxious about anything". And anxiety is simply fear of the future. "Don't be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and supplication with faith," and he says, "let your requests be made known to God".

All through the scriptures, God is admonishing us not to be afraid, not to be anxious because, as His children, we have no basis for fear. That does not mean that something may not happen and, for that moment... for example, if you walked out and someone stuck a revolver in your face, you would have some fear and anxiety at that moment. Now, what I want to deal with in this message is something a little bit more subjective than that. And that is, I want to deal with those fears that oftentimes we're not even aware of. And even when we are experiencing them, we can't put our finger on why they're there or why they keep cropping up in our life. And what's their origin? What's their root?

So, I want you to turn, if you will, to Isaiah chapter 41. This is one of those verses that I tell you that you ought to underline, put a circle around it, whatever you need to do because I believe this is one of those anchor texts in the Bible that God's people should be very much aware of, and especially in light of what we're going to talk about in this message, and that is: the source of our strength: when facing fear or when fearful, the source of our strength when fearful or anxious. And anxiety is simply the fear of the future. It may be the fear of the next minute, the next day or the next hour or the next month, the next year, the next ten years.

And so, Isaiah chapter 41. Look, if you will, in this tenth verse. He says, "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand". Here is an awesome promise of assurance for all of us who are going through fear and anxiety. And listen to what He says. He says, "Do not be afraid". But secondly, He gives us a word concerning an attitude here that, oftentimes, we're not aware of. He says, "Do not anxiously look around you".

Now, that is one of Satan's most subtle and successful traps. And that is to get our focus off of God, looking at our circumstances, and what happens? The more we look at them, the more anxious we become. So that we are a part of and we are, oftentimes, the cause of our anxiety, and that is, looking at circumstances, trying to evaluate and weigh what could happen, what might happen, what has happened, what do they say will happen and whatever. He says, "Don't look around you anxiously. I'm your God. I'll be with you. I'll help you. I'll strengthen you. I'll uphold you with My righteous right hand".

Now, what I want to do is I want to deal with those root causes of fear and anxiety. Well, let's look at some of these. And the first one is this: a feeling of being inadequate. What happens is there's a tape going on in your mind that says to you, somewhere back yonder it got planted, that is, "You're inadequate. You can't do it. It won't work. You're not going to succeed at that. Don't even try". And what happens is our imagination begins to function when we get this offer, this opportunity. And what happens is, instead of imagining yourself to be successful, that you can do it, it's a wonderful opportunity and you're going to move ahead in life, your imagination plays this trick on you: it begins to play an old tape, and the old tape says, "No, you can't do that. Some other people can but you can't".

And before long, instead of imagining yourself to be successful to achieve or to do that, you begin to imagine yourself as failing. And then that sets up a whole domino effect and you begin to come up with all the reasons that you don't really think it'll work and that you can do it and it won't happen that way. And so what happens is you live in anxiety and fear. That has nothing to do with reality. It is something preconceived in our thinking. And we don't realize how often we are programmed in our thinking that is in error. And so, we feel inadequate to meet certain people and to do certain things, and especially opportunities in life. So, often, those opportunities come and we let them go by because we don't feel adequate.

A second, I think, subtle reason, root cause of our fears and anxieties is this: we somehow don't believe that we can reach the standard that we've set for ourselves. And all of us have set certain standards. You have moral standards, you have standards in your work as far as your performance and so forth, and some of you are very committed to doing a very good job no matter what, whatever it might be. And so, you've set very high standards for yourself. Well, if you set standards that are unrealistic, standards that God didn't allow you to set, you set them for yourself, sometimes we set standards that are beyond our capacity. And what we do is we look around to see what other people are achieving and what they are doing and they are saying, "Well, if they can do that, then I can do that".

And what happens is, we set unrealistic standards for ourselves, then we can't meet them. Then we go through life trying and we fail and we keep trying and, you know, "I've got to prove it to myself and I've got to prove it others. And what are they going to think if I don't match up and if I don't achieve"? And so, we live with the anxiety that won't be able to measure up. Well, there's a third, I believe, root cause of these things, and that is this whole attitude of a sense of guilt. And that is, if people live with a sense of guilt, that somewhere along the way, they've either done something or somehow God's displeased, they live with anxiety.

And you see, that kind of person will oftentimes come to this type of situation in their life where they begin to succeed in life! And just over and over and over I've seen this happen. They begin to succeed in life, they begin to move on, and what happens? Right when they're just about to really take off and succeed, they have a setback. Well, they sort of get over that and they'll keep moving on again. And next time you see them, they've had another one. Why?

Now, here's the reason. Psychologically they've already decided, "I don't deserve to succeed". Why don't you deserve to succeed? "Well, back yonder in my life," or "I was born this way. I was born that way. This is my background, and I didn't have this," or, the... or, "I was told this about myself". Or, "This is what I did back yonder in life". And it's amazing how many people will not succeed in life because they don't feel worthy of succeeding. They just don't feel like they deserve it! Well, what is the grace of God? The grace of God is the goodness and love and mercy and kindness of God to us, not because we deserve it but because His love for us does not pour out upon us on the basis of what we deserve but on the basis of His character. And His character says He loves us unconditionally.

And so there's that sense of guilt. That is no way to live. But you see, these are the root causes of a lot of our fears and anxieties. Now, that's not all of them, but that's some. Let me just mention one other, and that is: attitudes that we grew up with. And let me just give you an example. For example, attitudes that we grew up with, let me just say that all of us were born with a tape recorder right here. And it's been running since the moment we were born. What's on those tapes?

Well, I'll tell you what's on that tape. It's a lifelong tape. Everything that came your way that was good, the wonderful things that your mother said to you or your father said to you early in life, that's on there. All the things on there that you wish you'd never heard, they're on there. All the ways that you were treated as a child growing up, that's on there. All the abuse you took, all the difficulties, hardships, trials, criticism, rejection, all of that stuff's on the tape. Now, the difference is that all of our tapes are different. But I'm here to tell you there's one going on in your mind.

Now, I can't illustrate yours because you wouldn't want me to do that, so I'll just have to illustrate mine. So, let me give you an example. When I was coming along, as I mentioned before, my father died when I was about nine months of age. And so, my mother and I moved seventeen times the first sixteen years of my life. That certainly did not build any security within me. One thing my mother would say to me when I was a kid growing up, "Now, don't you go out there and get hurt. Don't play in the street. Don't get run over. Don't fall down. Don't work too hard". And the message to me was, "Don't, don't, don't, don't, don't".

Now, I know what her genuine, loving motive was. "I want to take care of Charles because he's all I've got now". And I'm sure that in those early years, I was not only her son but I was it. In other words, I represented my father to her, and so she didn't want me to get hurt, didn't want me to work too hard, didn't want me to do this, that, and the other. "Don't play rough now. If you all are going to play football, don't play rough". No other way to play but rough. And so, but that's the way she felt. And then of course, what she would say to me, "Now, you don't want to fail God. Mmm, you don't want to fail God. You just want to be obedient to Him. You don't want to fail God".

Now, those were messages I got on the tape recorder. Now, I got a lot of others, but I got those. And so, what did that do for me? Because you see, if it came from my mother, it was law! It wasn't a question of whether I wanted it on the recorder or not, it got on there. I didn't ask to be told those things. It was something that I was told. I caught some things, then I was taught some things. Every single one of us has been taught and we have caught a lot we didn't ask for, too young to understand what in the world was going on, but it was going on. And so, the tape was playing. What was the tape? "Don't take any risks in life. Oh, don't take any risks. You may get hurt. Somebody may take advantage of you. You may get killed. You may lose. Mmm, don't do that".

And so, what happened? The tape is, "Don't be courageous. Don't be bold. Don't hang out there and do it. Just be real careful. Watch out. Watch out. People'll take advantage of you. Watch out, be careful". Tape going on and on and on. One of the tapes that went on was... you know, when you don't have much, the tape that goes off is, "You don't have much. Be careful with what you have. Be very careful because you may lose it. If you lose it, you may not get it back". One wonderful thing is what balanced that tape off is still watching my mom give when she had almost nothing to give! And somehow that balanced it, but she would say, "You don't want to get in debt. And you don't want to waste your money". And she would make me give an account for my money, which was a good idea.

And the very idea of going into debt was absolutely a horrifying thing. It would never have been done. No matter what you had or didn't have, you just didn't do it. So, listen, on that tape, while there are some things that have caused me some problems, there are some absolutely wonderful things on that tape. That's a whole 'nother series of sermons. Some wonderful things on that tape that I wouldn't ever, ever, ever want to deny in any way. But, the causes of fear and anxiety, and then of course, when she said, "You don't want to fail God". Then what's the tape that goes off? "Watch out! Watch out. Be sure you're being obedient. Be careful. Don't sin against God. Don't be doing anything you wouldn't want to be doing when Jesus comes".

And so, what happens? I grew up with this tape going off. And these tapes are, "Don't take any risks. Watch out for God. Or be careful what you have," all of these things. Now, what I want you to see is this: there's a way to deal with this. But if you don't realize you've got a tape going and you don't identify it, then it's not going to work. So, let's look, for just a moment, at what are the consequences of these fears and these thought processes that are just laying in there under the surface, just waiting to be ignited by some circumstance and erupts in fear and anxiety? Well, there are several consequences.

For example, when a person is living with that, oftentimes their judgment is clouded and they don't make wise decisions because they have cloudy judgment. Why? Because permeating all of their rationalization, their reasoning is fear and anxiety, "But suppose this and suppose that? But if this and what if"? Secondly, those persons, oftentimes, are not as productive as they could be for the simple reason that their minds are so clouded and they are indecisive and they are not productive because of fear of failure. Which brings me to another problem and that's procrastination.

See, a person who's a procrastinator is person who waits until they think they can do it perfectly before they try. And so, because they fear failure so badly, and the feelings of not measuring up to what is expected of them, and the feelings of the possibility of rejection because they don't measure up absolutely paralyzes them. I see it over and over and over again in people's work habits. A person who is a procrastinator, they're waiting until they can do it perfectly. And so, there's what happens. They had rather wait and they had rather get behind, they'd rather get themselves in a real difficult situation and, oftentimes, maybe even lose their job than to face the pain of not being able to do it perfectly and measure up to their own set of impossible standards.

Oftentimes, the result is a persecution attitude. That is, "Everybody's after me. Somebody's trying to persecute me. They don't like me. They're going to do me in". All of that is a result of what? Just laying down in there those thought processes, just waiting for something to ignite them to cause a person to fear that. And so, when you and I begin to think of how it affects us, think about other people, for example, and how it affects them. Some people, this is why they go to alcohol, pills, and all the rest, why? They just live in fear, and they say, "Well, I've got to have something to get rid of these jitters".

Well, the way to get rid of these jitters and these anxieties is to find out the truth about them and deal with them on in a godly fashion, not taking something out of bottle, whether it's that small or that size. But that is exactly what people do. Think about this, if you're living in anxieties and fears in life, every time you get on your knees to cry out to God, what's the tape going to do? The tape's going to start, "You don't deserve it. Why should God answer your prayer? Look at your life. You don't measure up". And what happens? You get up and you think, "Why doesn't God answer my prayer"? Because you keep listening to the tape, which has the root causes of our anxieties and our fears. We need to get rid of the tape recorder. Get rid of it! You never deal with what's going on, on the inside until you look inside, not outside.

Now, how do we overcome these fears and anxieties in our life? Well, the first thing is very important. Listen, recognize that it is there. Don't deny that you're anxious. You say, "Well, you know, I'm a Christian and I believe God and I trust God and I believe the Bible". Or I could say, "I'm a pastor, therefore I have no fears and no anxieties in life". Well, that would be a lie because there are times when I have to face it just like you do. But I think God is in the process of teaching me how. And so, I want to share it with you because it's working for me. First of all, I've got to recognize it. Now, listen to this carefully. You see, if you don't, listen, not just recognize that you're fearful or anxious but identify it. What is it?

You say, "Well, how do you do that"? Well, here's the best way to do it. The next time you feel anxious or afraid about something, ask yourself the question, stop and ask yourself, "Now what's going on? What's going on around me? What do I think ignited this sense of... is it something I heard? Was it a telephone call? Was it something I saw? What's ignited this? Is it something that's just been growing? What's going on around me so that I can identify the thing that caused me to feel anxious or fearful"? If I can identify it, then I can get back to the root. If I don't identify it, I'll just keep having the same old problem, the tape will keep going.

So, first of all, I need to recognize that I am fearful and identify what's going on, what's happening here? The second thing, very important, is my relationship to Christ. My friend, if you don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you're going to live with certain fears and anxieties in life because you don't have any security. The only thing that is absolutely sure in this life is Jesus Christ. He is the only thing that is certain.

So, if I'm going to deal with any kind of fear and anxiety in my life, I must deal with my relationship to Jesus Christ because He says, "It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgment". And He says, "Whatever a man sows he's going to reap". So I could think of a whole lot of principles that would cause me lots of anxiety and fear. And if you face the truth, you will have a reason to be fearful and a reason to be anxious if you have rejected the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came into this world in order to save you. So, to receive Him by faith as my personal Savior, knowing that my sins are forgiven, past, present, and future, I am a child of God and now kept by His grace, not by performance. Absolutely secure.

First of all, recognize the presence of fear and identify it. Secondly, your relationship to Jesus Christ, be sure that's right. What's number three? Number three is the recorder. Just jot it down, the recorder. What you want to do is, once you identify these anxieties that keep creeping up, what you want to do is say, "All right, that's the tape that's going off. Now, what is the root? Where did that tape come from? How did it get recorded"? Listen, do you realize it may be something that a schoolteacher said and put on your tape, something your father or your mother put on that tape? It may be something that a husband or wife put on the tape. It may be something that your parent put on a tape or somebody you work with but, listen, that root cause of anxiety and fear, listen, it got on the tape!

And when you recognize and identify what it is and you trace it back to its root, here's what you can do, you can just take that tape and pull it out and tear it to shreds. "I reject that tape. I don't have to play that tape anymore". Listen, does that mean it'll never go off again? No, it means the next time it starts, you can say, "I don't have to accept that. That's just the old tape playing. I forget that, I tore that up. I'm not listening to that". Which leads me to next step, and that is the idea of rebuking it! Now, there have been times when I've gotten on my knees and crying out to God about something and absolutely, suddenly be overwhelmed with anxiety and fear!

Now, you know, when it hits you like that, it's like a cloud, you're just smothered in it. But I discovered this: all I have to say is, "Father, I want to thank You that's not of You because You said, 'I've not given you the spirit fear or of anxiety.' I rebuke that in the name of Jesus Christ. I reject this feeling and refuse it from this moment on". And I'm here to tell you it will absolutely disappear. Why? Because you have taken authority over a spirit that is not from God and is straight from the devil himself. And what he's trying to do is to hinder you in your relationship to God. You have the power and the authority, as a child of God, to rebuke and reject anything that does not come from God. You do not have to accept it as your own. So, what you do is, you identify the tape. When it starts playing, shut it down. Cut it off. You don't have to listen to it. The next step is to reach for the anchor. What is the anchor?

Go back to Isaiah chapter 41. Now, look at this. All of us need, at some time or the other, those scriptural anchors we can refer to when we are facing fears and anxieties. Now, listen to this. Let's say this is your anchor and you're facing some fear or anxiety. Look at this. "Do not fear, for I am with you". Who's with you? The Almighty, sovereign, omnipotent God. He says, "I'm with you". How long is He going to be with you? Every moment, every step of the way to the end of life. "Do not fear, I am with you; do not anxiously look about you". Don't do it! Listen to this next phrase: "For I am your God". Listen, your circumstances are not your God. "Don't look around. Nobody can do anything to you unless I allow it. They may have evil in mind, but I'm going to turn it in for your good. It doesn't make any difference". He says, "Don't anxiously look about you. I'm your God. That's not your god. They're not your god. He's not your god. She's not your god. Nobody can control your life but Me". "Do not anxiously look about you; I am your God". Next phrase: "I will strengthen you".

Who is that? That's the omnipotent God who will enable us to face in and every circumstance of life successfully. "I with strengthen you, surely I will help you". Now listen, He says, "I will help you. Whatever you are facing, just look right to your right. There I am. I'm going to help you through this". Then He says: "I will uphold you with My righteous right hand". In the scriptures that is symbolical, listen, of God's willingness to divinely intervene in your situation and circumstance. And He says, "I'm going to uphold you. I am reliable and faithful God. I'll strengthen you. I'll help you. I'll undergird you. Whatever you need, surely I will do it".

Now, my friend, how can you get it any better than that? He says, "I'm with you. Strengthen you, uphold you with My righteous right hand". Reach for the anchor. But, listen, get yourself an anchor before you begin to be fearful or afraid. But if you haven't, the next time, go back to this forty first chapter of Isaiah and say, "Okay God, here's what You said, I'm claiming it". What does He want to do? The next thing I want to say, and that is to refocus your attention, because here's what happens. When I look around, I become anxious and fearful and I reach for the anchor. All of a sudden, what's happened? My eye has moved from that which makes me anxious to that which makes me secure. I've refocused my attention upon my circumstances to the anchor.

And what happens? Immediately my faith just goes out of the roof! Why? Because I am reminded that He said, "I'm with you. I'm your God. I'll help you, strengthen you. I'll uphold you with my righteous right hand". And what happens? It is amazing how fears and anxieties absolutely disappear in the presence of the living Word of God. You do not have to be anxious. You do not have to be fearful. And listen carefully, nobody can make you fearful. And no one can make you anxious. You and I have to agree to respond to that. And you and I have Christ living on the inside of us to enable us, to encourage us. And He says, "If you'll listen to Me, you'll dwell securely and you won't dread any kind of news because I am your God".
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