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Craig Smith - Fear

Craig Smith - Fear
TOPICS: Potholes, Fear, Fear of God

Welcome to Mission Hills. So glad to have you with us for a week number four of our Potholes Series where we’re taking a look at wisdom from the Book of Proverbs about how we avoid those destructive potholes in the road of life that we all encounter. So far, we’ve dealt with apathy, anger, and pride. Today we’re gonna tackle the pothole of fear. And I wanna be honest with you, I’m not necessarily someone who I think struggles with a lot of anxiety and paralyzing fear, but at the same time I’m also in a stranger to it. In fact, our family is dealing with something right now that’s caused us to experience that pothole. And I know what it’s like to be awake in the middle of the night thinking about, does anyone else do this? You think about all the worst possible scenarios, how something could play out, right?

And then there’s this weird part of our brains that not only is like we know we’re imagining it, but our brain partly feels like, “If I can imagine it must already be true,” right? And there’s that tension and there’s the panic that begins to rise. And so I know what that’s like. I’ve experienced it in the past, dealing with a little bit right now in our family. And also recognize that for some of you it’s not an occasional pothole. For some of you, fear is such a regular part of life that it doesn’t feel like a puddle. It just feels like the rhythm of the road. But whether we have dealt with it occasionally or consistently, fear can be a paralyzing thing. It can keep us from moving forward with God and keep us from being on mission with God and all that he has for us. And so we need to deal with it.

Now, as I was getting ready for this message, one of the staff sent me a link to one of my favorite preachers, Andy Stanley, on fear. And I’ll be honest, I was afraid to listen to his because like it’s gonna be a whole lot better than mine. But I always wanna make sure that I’m giving you what is absolutely best and didn’t need to always come from me. And so I listened to it and he had an insight that I think was powerful enough that I really wanna share it with you. He said, ”Honestly, we’re probably never gonna be completely free of fear because to get rid of fear would also be to get rid of hope.” And I thought, “Well that’s kind of interesting.” And then he went on to explain, he said, ”Because fear and hope both come from the same place. They come from our imagination.” They come from our ability to picture a future that’s different than our present.”

And I thought that was an important insight and if I can be so bold as to add to Andy Stanley’s thought, I would say that what happens is fear populates the future with demons and disaster. Hope populates the future with angels and anticipation. Which means ultimately, check this out. It means ultimately, that dealing with fear is about taming our imaginations. It’s about putting the bit and the bridle that you put on a horse that you can tame all that power and use it for good. It’s about taming our imagination so that they don’t keep us trapped where we are, but allow us to move forward into everything that God is calling us to. That’s what we’re gonna talk about today. How do we basically tame our imagination?

So why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible, start making your way to the Book of Proverbs, Chapter Three. I think the first thing we need to deal with when we talk about getting a handle on fear is really, it’s recognizing this. It’s that fear isn’t always a bad thing. Okay? Fear isn’t always a bad thing. There is such a thing as healthy fear. Having the right fears for the right reasons and to the right extent can actually be a force for good in our lives, right? It really can. Check this out. This is Proverbs 3:7. ”Do not be wise in your own eyes. Fear the Lord and shun evil.” And I would argue that’s a healthy fear. We’ll unpack that in a little bit, in a second. But, “Don’t be wise in your own eyes. Fear the Lord and shun evil, ” stay away from evil, “And this will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”

I love this proverb because it says two things about a healthy fear. Number one, it says that a healthy fear leads us away from bad things, right? In this case it says, a healthy fear of the Lord leads us away from evil. Now, I realize that that might be an odd thing to hear even that the idea that fearing the Lord is a healthy thing. And so there’s people saying, ”Well, wait a minute. I mean, God’s a god of goodness and of love, and doesn’t The Bible even say that perfect love casts out fear, why then does the Bible in both the Old and the New Testament consistently say that we are called to fear the Lord?” We’re going to talk about that. I’ll explain that. Understand though, it’s not necessarily about living in terror of, and we’ll unpack what that means, but for now just understand this. It’s a healthy fear.

Having a fear of the Lord as a healthy fear because it leads us away from bad things, right? It leads us away from sin. It leads us away from evil that ultimately will get its tendrils into us and it’ll lead us ultimately to a place of disaster and destruction. And so having a healthy fear of the Lord is actually something that keeps us away from bad things. I mean, even think about it very in practical terms, right? I mean, a healthy fear keeps us from stepping off the curb into a busy intersection. A healthy fear keeps us away from the edge of the crumbling cliff. A healthy fear keeps us from buying things that we can’t afford and getting into the place of crippling debt, right? Healthy fear leads us away from bad things. But this proverb also says that healthy fear does something else, and that is that healthy leads us into good things, right? It says, “This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”

And it means basically that in the deepest parts of us, down at the core of who we are, healthy fear can actually lead us to a place of peace and contentment that allows us to experience joy and meaning and significance. Healthy fear actually leads us into good things, and that’s true on a practical sense as well. I mean, if you’re afraid of being alone, that might cause you to push into becoming the kind of person other people wanna be around, which means that not only are you not alone, but it means that you have meaningful, significant relationships that are life-giving to you. You might be afraid that you’re gonna end up in divorce and so you decide to pour into your marriage and not only do you save the marriage, but you end up transforming the marriage into something that is a place of joy and it’s a life-giving thing.

Our Re|Engage ministry at Mission Hills has had story after story of people who came in just basically going, “We don’t wanna get divorced, but that’s where it’s headed. Can you save us from a divorce?” And they’re not only not divorced, they’re actually at a place where their marriage has become a life-giving source to them, a source of joy and peace and contentment and security. Listen. Healthy fear can lead us away from bad things and into good things. But, not all fear us healthy, fear, right? Not all fear us healthy fear. And unhealthy fear actually does the exact opposite of that. Unhealthy fear leads us away from good things and into bad things. That’s the fear we need to deal with today.

So several years ago, Coletta’s brother and his wife were really generous than they took our family on vacation with them to Italy, and they had this house rented in the hills of Umbria and it was just a gorgeous place. I can’t even begin to describe it. Fantastic house on top of this hill, had it’s own private pool and from the pool you could look down into this valley that Hannibal invaded with the elephants all those years ago. This is the place of history. It’s just, it was idyllic in a way. I can’t even begin to describe. It only had one dark spot and that is it had a big lavender garden in front of the house. And some of you understand. Others of you are going like, “Why is that a dark spot?” And the answer is the big lavender garden, massive lavender is beautiful, but it was buzzy. It’s filled with bees. And I hate bees. That’s not actually true. I am terrified of bees. Okay? Absolutely. Like, and I’ve got a good reason. Can I be honest with you. I have a good reason.

When I was a kid, I was at my grandmother’s house and it was the winter and I got under the sheets of her guest bedroom and some bees had gotten them through the air conditioning and they’d made a nest. And I like slid into them. I know, right? And I know I’ve messed up your whole day at that point, and you’re gonna like, huh? I have a phobia of bees now, right? Yeah. I have a reason. Okay. But I also realized that in some level it’s an irrational thing, and so I, you know, I’m at this house in Italy and it like, I know that the bees probably don’t care about me. Part of my brain is like, “They’re not even noticing.” Part of my brain is like, “Uh-uh. They’re plotting against you. They’re all gonna...”; But I’ve learned enough that like I could, like I can walk through, appear calm, cool and collected. I’m sweating like I can’t even begin to tell you. And inside my heart beats going crazy and I got this little voice going, But I could deal with it.

Interestingly enough, somehow I transmitted this fear to my youngest daughter, Lynae. She’s never had a bad experience with bees, but she is terrified of them. And it was interesting, for a while she wouldn’t go to the pool whenever we all head out to the pool and she’d be like, “I just can’t do it. I cannot walk through that, that buzzy field of lavender.” Which tells you that unhealthy fear can keep you away from good things, from experiencing good things that God has for you. But one day she finally, “Okay, I’m just gonna do it.” And so she started off, she’s trying to be calm and cool and collected, but by the time she gets to the middle of the garden, she’s going 100 miles an hour. She is booking it. She comes, she comes screaming out of the garden onto the driveway, which was gravel. She caught her foot, she tripped, she did a superman dive into the gravel, left a three-foot trough behind her. And she came up, she’s scraped and cut and she’s bleeding and she’s in pain and she’s crying. And I’m like, yeah, that’s unhealthy fear, right? It can keep us away from good things and it could lead us into bad things.

So how do we deal with it? How do we deal with unhealthy fear? Well, the first thing we need to do is we need to have some understanding of what fear is exactly. And there’s a great Proverb that I think gives some very powerful insight into this. This is Proverbs 13:13 says this, ”Whoever scorns instruction, whoever ignores it, whoever doesn’t pay attention to instruction will pay for it.” There’ll be a price for that. ”But whoever respects a command is rewarded.” Now, you might go, “Wait a minute. Where’s the fear? Like, there’s no fear word in that.” And in English that’s true. And in most English translations there isn’t. But in the original Hebrew, the word that’s being translated here as respect is actually the Hebrew word for fear.

So literally what the Proverb says is whoever scorns instruction, whoever doesn’t pay attention to instruction will pay for it. But whoever fears a command will be rewarded. And I think that’s really helpful because you can understand when you see it like that the writer of that proverb, God isn’t trying to tell us, “Hey, whenever you hear a command, you should shriek,” right? He’s not saying whenever you see a command, you should be terrified. He’s not saying, whenever you hear a command, you should break into a cold sweat. No. What he’s saying is that there’s a certain amount of respect that comes from the power of the one who is issuing the command. They have power in your life and to ignore the command, they’re not paying attention to it, it’s probably going to have negative consequences. And so you need to respect the command. Ultimately, you need to pay attention to the command. Don’t just ignore it.

And I think that’s really helpful because I think it begins to help us understand this. It’s that fear is paying attention to the power of something. Does that make sense, church? Fear is paying attention to the power of something. It’s fear that’s paying attention to the power of the cars that keeps us from stepping out into the busy intersection, right? That’s paying attention to the power of those cars zipping by. It’s paying attention to the power of gravity that keeps us off of the edge of the crumbly cliff, right? It’s being aware of and paying attention to the power of crippling debt that keeps us from going into debt to buy things that we really don’t need and we really don’t even have the money for, right?It’s paying attention to the power of something. And I think, by the way, this us to understand why it is, the Bible talks so much about fearing the Lord and what exactly the Bible means by that, because when the Bible talks about fearing the Lord, it’s not saying that we’re supposed to be terrified of God.

So that’s why we’re supposed to live in a constant, you know, expectation that God’s just gonna come and get us and zap and punish us. I mean, honestly, we serve a God who loves us so much, he sent his own Son to pay for our sin, right? That’s not a God that you need to live in terror of. But it’s a God who has enough power that we need to be paying very careful attention to him and do his Word and do his commands and do his instruction and what he says about how we live life. And so ultimately it’s this. Fearing God basically means that we’re paying attention. But the problem of course is there’s all these other voices that speak to us, right? There’s all these other voices going, “I’ve got power in your life too and you need to pay attention to me. What about me over here?” You know, we’ve got relationships and we’ve got money and we’ve got all these kinds of things that are saying, “Hey, I’ve got the ability to make your life better or more difficult and you need to listen to me.” And ultimately to fear God, check this out. To fear God is to pay more attention to God than all the other things that call for our attention. That’s what it means to fear the Lord. That’s what the Bible is talking about.

When the Bible says fear God, not live in terror, but to pay more attention to God than to all those other voices that are calling for attention. And please hear me. I’m not saying that those other voices are lying and that they have no power. They do, but they don’t have as much power as God. Honestly, they don’t have as much power as God to bring difficult things in your lives, but much more importantly, they do not have the same power that God does to bring blessing into your life. They cannot give you what they claim that they will give you. And I think this really begins to help us understand what exactly constitutes an unhealthy fear. An unhealthy fear is paying more attention to something than its power justifies. It’s not saying it doesn’t have any power, but it’s saying it doesn’t have enough power to justify the amount of attention that I’m giving it. That’s unhealthy fear. Paying more attention to something than it’s actual power justifies. But we have these things that we give so much attention to, right? I think in our culture, one of the most common is money. We look to money, we hear the voice of finances speaking in our lives going, “Hey, if you really want a happy life, if you really wanna be secure, if you really want good things, then you’ve gotta do what’s necessary to get money because it’s so, so important and it’s so, so powerful,” right?

It’s interesting to me that one of the number, it’s usually in the top four or five lists of fears that people have, is financial fears. And by the way, that’s true about people who have very little money and people who have lots and lots of money, we all have the same fear. And what that says is we are believing that money has the power to secure our lives. And yet, listen to this. This is Proverbs 23:4. “Do not wear yourself out to get rich.” Don’t give it that much time. Don’t give it that much attention. “Don’t trust in your own cleverness in getting wealth. Cast at a glance at riches, and they are..” – what’s that word, church? They’re gone. They will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. Wealth doesn’t last. Ad the trust that we put in wealth is temporary. The power that wealth has in our lives is transient. But when we pay so much attention to it, we’re ultimately giving it power in our lives that it wouldn’t otherwise have, and yet Bible over and over again says, understand this truth.

This is Proverbs 15:16. “Better, a little,” better, a little wealth, “With the fear of the Lord,” with the fear of something that really does have power, “Than great wealth with turmoil because it’s not a secure foundation.” But maybe that’s not you. Maybe money’s not the thing that you pay more attention to than it’s power deserves. Maybe for you it’s, how about the opinion of other people? Can I get a little support here? Like, that’s not just me, right? How many of us struggle with what other people think of us? Online, if you want to just type, “That’s me too,” that’d be awesome, because I don’t wanna be alone in this. But I get it. I mean, I understand that, you know, it’s so easy to get to this place where you feel like what other people think has a lot of power, that it really, really matters.

And I’ve experienced what it looks like to be in that place, and then finding that, okay, it’s hard to make the right decision. It’s hard to do the right thing. Sometimes it’s even hard to discern the right thing because I’m so worried about what other people think and that’s such a paralyzing place to be. And yet so many of us struggle with it. Check this out. This is Proverbs 29:25. “Fear of man, fear what other people think of us, “Will prove to be a snare.” It’ll trip us up. It’ll take us off the mission, it’ll hold us back. “But whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe,” or we could even say whoever fears the Lord is kept safe. Fear of man is a trap. It’s a snare. What’s interesting is that whether it’s money or the fear of other people’s opinions or any of those other things that we kind of get locked in on and we hear their voice saying, “I’ve got power in your life,” and we give them more attention than their power actually deserves, all of those things, here’s an interesting reality.

It’s a little bit ironic. But the more attention we pay to something because we think it has power, guess what? The more power it actually has in our lives. You hear me, church? The more attention we pay to something because we think it has power, the more power we’re actually giving it in our lives. And when we think that money has the power to secure our lives, we’re giving it the power to at least shape our lives. It doesn’t have the power to secure them, but it absolutely does have power when we give it to it to shape our lives. When we think that the opinions of other people have the power to secure our lives, we’re giving to other people the power to shape our lives, and typically for the worse. Yeah. It’s such an interesting truth.

I think this is why kind of an interesting Proverb. Proverbs 10:24. It says this. ”What the wicked dread will overtake them.” What the wicked fear will come the pass. What the wicked are focused on will actually be what undoes them, what takes them down. But what the righteous desire will be granted. So interesting, isn’t it? Because what we’re paying attention to, we’re actually giving power in our lives. I mean, the principle here is basically this, is that we drift towards what we focus on, right? We drift towards what we focus on. And we’ve seen this at play in our lives. We all know that one guy or girl who was so paranoid that their boyfriend or girlfriend was gonna break up with them, that their jealousy and paranoia led their boyfriend or their girlfriend to break up with them. “I can’t be around this person. They’re insane.”

I see it with parents all the time. I see parents that are so afraid of their kids not liking them, of not having a friendship with their kids that they never discipline their kids and their kids end up growing up to be the people who are so self-centered and immature that they’re not capable of having the relationship that their parents were trying so hard to protect. We drift towards what we focus on. I remember reading a story about the guy who lived through the Great Depression and he was so afraid that the market was gonna crash and he would lose all of his savings and he kept it all in cash hidden in his house, which caught fire and burned it all up. We drift towards what we focus on. So I wanna ask you a question. What I’d like you to do right now is I’d like you to think of something you’re afraid of. Think of a fear of you’re struggling with, and it can’t be bees. Okay? It doesn’t need to be a phobia, like nobody should pick clowns. It’s okay to be afraid of clowns. That’s totally justified, okay? Because it’s not what we’re talking about here.

I want you to think of one of those fears that has that potential and maybe in the actual experience of, It’s there when you wake up at night, it, maybe it keeps you from falling asleep and it keeps circling back around that that fear that is causing you to populate the future with demons and disaster. Maybe it’s a relationship. Maybe it’s something to do with your work. Maybe it’s a health concern. Whatever it is, I want you to think about it and then I want you to ask us if a very difficult question, begin the processing, and this is the question. Is this something that actually has as much power as I’m giving it? The amount of time I’m spending thinking about it, the amount of influence that I’m allowing it to have on my decision making, my thought life and all those things. Is this something that actually has as much power as I’m giving it? You may not be able to fully answer that question right now, but it’s an important question to begin wrestling with.

Okay. So unhealthy fear is paying more attention to something than it’s power actually justifies. So what do we do about it? How do we keep from being caught and paralyzed and trapped and kept away from good things and trapped in bad? How do we do it? Three things. Number one, we’re gonna remember that fear isn’t the problem. The problem isn’t fear. It’s what we fear. Okay? As Andy Stanley say, we can’t be rid of fear completely. We don’t even want to because that would require getting rid of the imagination that fuels hope, okay? Fear can’t be gotten rid of, but that’s okay because the problem isn’t fear. The problem is what we fear. And we have a struggle with this in our culture I think in part because we have this famous quote, President Roosevelt gave it back during the Great Depression, and I hear it all the time.

People use it all the time to say, “No, the problem really is fear.” You can probably finish the quote for me. “We have nothing to fear but…” Wrong. This is not true. It’s not even what he meant. What he meant was actually that we drift towards what we focus on. What he’s saying was, the problem is everybody’s so afraid the economy’s gonna crash, they’re taking all their money out of the economy. They’re not putting it in the banks. They’re not making investments. They’re not buying anything. They’re holding onto it. And the problem is that they’re so afraid the economy’s going to crash, they’re taking their money out and they’re causing the economy to crash. That’s what he was talking about. He wasn’t saying that fear is the problem. He was really saying, no, you’re afraid of the wrong thing and your fears are bringing to pass the very thing that you’re afraid of. It’s not that we have any fears, it’s what we have fear of, just, we’ve already talked about this one, and I think it speaks the truth so clearly.

Proverbs 29:25. ”Fear of man will prove to be a snare. But whoever trusts in the Lord or fears the Lord is kept safe.” Right? The right fears can be very good. The wrong fears are the problem. Does anybody remember? Maybe you still have them, but years ago there were all these tee shirts and belt buckles and jeans that had it printed on them and bumper stickers and jackets, and they said, “No fear.” Anybody remember those? It was from the No Fear Company. Anybody heard anything from the No Fear Company recently? Yeah. Which is interesting because at a certain point in their cycle, they were actually, they were making $200 million a year telling people to have no fear. And now they’re gone.

Here’s the interesting story of why it happened. There were three founders and as they tell the story of what happened, they said, “The three of us had slightly different ideas about how the company should go.” Not massively different, just one or two degrees off of each other. But the problem is, you know, one or two degrees off, carried out over enough time, takes you to very different places, right? They just said, “We just weren’t as aligned as we needed to be.” And ultimately that led to the destruction of the company, the complete dissolution of it. And when they were interviewed about like, well, why didn’t you get alignment? Why didn’t you come together? And their answer was, “Because we were afraid of having an awkward conversation. We are afraid that it would be hard on our friendship. We were afraid that it would be uncomfortable. We were afraid that it might affect our relationship, and so we never had the hard conversation.”

Interestingly enough, it killed their friendship too. Very thing they were afraid of came to pass. But here’s, do you understand the irony of this, church? This is a group of guys that they were totally fine with taking their motorcycle and jumping across canyons. But having a hard conversation? Now, that’s scary. Let me say, I’ve come to understand and leadership that most people, I really believe this now, most people are one hard conversation away from a breakthrough. But we’re so afraid that we don’t have it. The problem is not what we fear… The problem is not fear itself. The problem is what we fear.

Okay, so what do we do after we realize that? And the answer is, number two, we cultivate healthier fears. We cultivate healthier fears. There are fears that are good for us, that lead us into good things and away from bad things. Proverbs 14:26. Check this out, ”Whoever fears the Lord,” whoever pays attention to the Lord more than all these other voices calling for our attention. “Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for their children it will be a refuge.” It’s not only a place of safety and security for them, but for others around them, others that they have the ability to influence. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life. It’s a source of refreshment and encouragement ,of peace and of joy and contentment, turning a person from the snares of death away from bad things and into good things. So we cultivate healthier fears. How do we do that? Honestly, for the most part, it’s simply a matter of deciding which voices we’re gonna act on. We can’t stop being afraid of those other voices. We can’t just get rid of that emotion, but we can choose not to continue to give them power by acting on them.

In 1996, Coletta and I were in ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. We’d been married three years. We’d been at that church for three years, and I was the youth pastor and God was just doing some incredible things. We’d seen kids come to Christ. The youth group was growing, families were being transformed. It was awesome. And then God spoke, and then he began to, to make it clear to us that we were being called away from that ministry and to come to Colorado and go to seminary, which is a really scary thing because, well, it was a scary thing for a lot of reasons. First off, we had paychecks. We had that magical thing where every month they sent you money for doing things that you loved and were meaningful. I mean, that was amazing. I was a youth pastor, Coletta was a teacher. We loved the ministry and the way we were on mission with God and all the, what he was doing, we were getting paid for it. All of our family was in Ohio. Our friends were in Ohio. We’d just bought a house. Like, less than a year before God began to call us to Colorado, we’d just bought a house. And let me tell you, the housing market in Cincinnati compared to the housing market in Denver, not the same thing.

We didn’t know how we were gonna pay for seminary. We didn’t know how we were gonna pay for housing. We didn’t know anybody. And honestly, everybody told us we shouldn’t do it. “It’s not wise, it’s not smart.” And we were like, “Yeah, I get it.” That, like, yeah, but God was continuing to call and to stir and to confirm in different ways and we had to make a decision. Ultimately, we had to make decision, which voice do we listen to? And we made a decision ultimately that they boiled down to we’re gonna cultivate healthier fears by paying more attention to God’s call in our lives than all of these other voices. That was really hard, but we have never regretted it. In 2004, I quit another full-time job, which was the only full-time job that we had at that time because Coletta was now, she was homeschooling our kids, and I quit a full-time job at a church in Castle Rock because God was calling us to form a nonprofit.

And so I entered into a period of life where I had kids. I got more people than ever depending on me and I was eking out a living between some part-time work at the church where I stayed on teaching at the seminary some, starting to build a speaking ministry, which some days brought in a little money and a lot of days didn’t bring in much at all. But God spoke into our lives and he confirmed it and we had to make a decision between these other voices and God’s voice. And we made a decision to cultivate healthier fears by listening to his voice above all the others. We’ve never regretted that. 2014, I came off the road because our church in Castle Rock was in a really bad place. The senior pastor was leaving and they’d decline than it was. It was in a difficult place and they said, ”Hey, would you become the interim pastor?” And I went, ”Oh. I don’t know that I really wanna do that.” But I think it was the right thing to do. It was a scary thing, but we made a decision to cultivate healthy fears and do what we thought God was calling us to.

2016 again, God began to call us to Mission Hills. And I can’t even begin to tell you how scary that was. 2016 we had been at our church in Castle Rock for 20 years. It was our family. It was our friends. And I may have shared this before, but the day that I finally left, the day that I closed my office door and locked it and left for the last time, I felt like the kid who’s gone off to college and on his way out to the car, he realizes there’s a for sale sign and his parents are selling the house and buying a one bedroom condo and there’s no way to ever go home again. There’s not even into where to go back to. That’s what I felt like. It was scary. But we’ve spent a lifetime ultimately deciding on a regular basis, we’re going to cultivate healthier fears. And here’s what I’ve come to understand, and you need to make sure you get this. God’s power is poised not to punish you, not to discipline you. I mean, he loves you too much not to do that if it’s necessary, but God’s power is poised to bless you. God’s power is waiting to bring you into meaning and significance and to peace and to joy. And that’s not saying no bad things will ever happen, but to do that with God and in the confidence that you are present in his will and you’re living in obedience for what he’s called you to do, God is poised to bless you. And the fear that keeps us from listening to his call will keep us out of so much good. This is what I’ve come to understand. So we cultivate healthier fears.

The last thing we do is we pursue wisdom and righteousness. This is our greatest antidote to unhealthy fear. It’s the pursuit of wisdom and righteousness. Check this out. Proverbs 3 starting verse 21. ”My son, do not let a wisdom and understanding out of your sight.” Laser focus in on it, lock in on it, move towards it. “Preserve sound judgment and discretion. They will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck and then you will go on your way in safety and your foot will not stumble when you lie down.” Check this out, church.” When you lie down, you will not be afraid.” When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. The pursuit of wisdom is an antidote against unhealthy fear. And then it begins to go on and he talks about, you know, wisdom and righteousness, pursuit of righteousness and what it does for us. It says, ”Have no fear of sudden disaster of the ruin that overtakes the wicked for the Lord will be at your side and we’ll keep your foot from being snared. Do not withhold good….”

This is what it looks like to practice righteousness. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due and it’s in your powered act.” Don’t say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you,” when you already have it with you. Don’t plot harm against your neighbor who lives trustfully near you. Do not accuse anyone for no reason when they have done you no harm. “Do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways for the Lord detests the perverse, but he takes the upright into his confidence. The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous.”

Listen, our best defense against unhealthy fear is the pursuit of Godly wisdom and righteousness. Three questions. Question number one. What unhealthy fears am I giving power in my life? Hopefully we began that process when I asked the question earlier, but you need to push in it. What unhealthy fears am I giving power? What fears am I paying more attention to than their power actually justifies or deserves? Second question is this. What’s one step I’ll take this week to cultivate a healthier fear? What’s one choice that I’ll make to move forward in faith rather than being paralyzed by fear that I’ve given more power than it really deserves? Maybe that’s a hard conversation, and maybe there’s a breakthrough waiting on the other side of that. Maybe it’s an awkward, it’s willing to deal with awkward and uncomfortable to get to a place of health. Maybe God’s calling you to something. Honestly, maybe some of you, it’s not so much that, you know, I’m in an unhealthy place or I can’t have this but, there’s something in your life right now that God has planted there. There’s a seed of something that he’s beginning to give you a vision for and you’re scared to take that step of faith. You’re scared to move forward. And so maybe it’s to take a step of beginning to trust him, to get after that thing that he’s planted there. But what’s the one step you’ll take this week to cultivate healthier for fears?

And then finally, what’s my plan for pursuing wisdom and righteousness? Wisdom and righteous is one of the best antidotes to unhealthy fear. But if we just think, “I’ll do it, I’ll pursue wisdom and righteousness,” and you don’t have a plan, you’re not gonna actually get it. You’re not going to experience the benefits of it. You need a plan. Maybe you’re kind of new to church and church is not a regular part of your life and your plan is, “I’m gonna come back,” or “I’m gonna go to church.” We’re not trying to build Mission Hills. I’m not saying come here more regularly. Find a church that teaches the Bible, that teaches wisdom and righteousness from God’s Word and attend more regularly. Maybe that’s your step to do that, or to listen to podcasts from people who teaching God’s Word. Maybe it’s joining a group. It’s a Group Link at Mission Hills. Maybe it’s about getting a group of people around you. All of our groups are, we’ve got Life Groups and men’s groups and women’s groups and hope groups and Sunday school groups and all of those exist to help people become like Jesus and join him on mission, to love each other so that that becomes possible. And a group can be an incredibly powerful place to begin pursuing wisdom and righteousness and beginning to listen to the voices we should listen to and put the others in their place. So maybe joining a group. Maybe that’s what you do. But what’s your plan? Would you pray with me?

God, as followers of Jesus and on behalf of all my brothers and sisters listening from around the world right now, we come to you and we confess to you now that we have often paid more attention to voices that really didn’t have as much power as we were giving them. And though we confess these fears to you and we confess that we have not given nearly enough attention to your voice, even though we know that your voice longs to lead us into good and into peace and into prosperity and contentment and hope and joy., but we confess that and we ask for your forgiveness. I ask that you give us power through your Holy Spirit to move forward in faith.

If you follow Jesus, would you just begin praying with the people around you, for people watching online who don’t have a relationship with God. And if that’s you, I just wanna speak to you briefly for a moment. I made the statement here that one of the biggest antidotes against fear is the pursuit of righteousness and I realize that for some people that actually was a statement that caused fear because you feel like, “Well, if that’s what it means to get out of this place that I’m in, I’m stuck because I’ve tried to be righteous. I’ve tried to be better. I’ve tried to do the right thing and I just keep falling on my face. I just keep cycling back into sin. I can’t pursue righteousness.” And if that’s where you are, you need to hear a truth. You’re right. You can’t pursue righteousness on your own on our own. We will never be good enough. It’s not possible. But we have a God who loves us so much that he did the impossible for us.

Hear me on this. God loves you so much, he sent his own Son to die for you. He took all of our sin on his own shoulders. He paid the price of all of it in his blood because of his love for us. Three days later, he rose from the dead. That’s not a matter of faith. It’s not an opinion. It’s a fact of history. It’s demonstrable by historical fact. Jesus rose from the dead. The faith part comes in when we decide what we’re gonna do about that fact, when we decide to accept from Jesus what he offers. And what Jesus you is mercy and grace and forgiveness. He offers to pay off every wrong thing you’ve ever done. He offers to come into your life, to put the Holy Spirit in you and to begin transforming you from the inside out so that you can actually become the man or the woman that God designed you to be, free from fear and free for a life of meaning and significance, a life of actual righteousness. And he’s offering that to you right now.

And if you don’t have that relationship with God, but you’d like to have it, if you’d like to be free from fear and guilt and shame, and if you’d like to move into relationship with your creator that begins now and goes on forever, if you’d like to have that, would you just slip your hand up right now? That’s awesome. I see those. That’s fantastic. If you’re watching online, please just click the button below me. Let your online host know that you’re making this decision. And wherever you are, this is what you do. Just in your own heart, you have this conversation with God. It’s so simple, but it’s so powerful. Just say this:

God, I’ve done wrong and I’m sorry. I’m so tired of being afraid. Jesus, thank you for paying for my sin on the cross. I believe you rose from the dead to prove that you’d done it, and I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, courage, adoption into the family of God and a new life free from this fear. Jesus, I’m saying yes to you. I’m putting my trust in you. Jesus. Come into my life. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.

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