How Can I Overcome Fear | 8.13.23 | Oh No He Didn’t Pt.6
Pastor Drew Williams
To get started, I wanna tell you a little bit of a story when my daughter had just been born. This is my first child for Megan and I, and so we were brand new parents, I was a brand new dad, and I had no idea how tired I would be all the time. And some of you who have raised kids have an understanding of that experience of just how much everything about you changes when you are that sleep deprived.
And she was maybe three days old, and I think we had started getting into the rhythm of having to wake up every couple hours to feed her. And something that you might not know about me is that I’m a very light sleeper. And so whereas other spouses might be able to kind of sleep through one or two of the sessions at night, moms usually don’t get that privilege. I was always up with Megan because I just woke up and I was gonna be with her and help out anyways. And so I’d be sitting there like a zombie being like, “Okay, I’ll change the diaper now,” or things like that. But we’ve gotten a couple days into this, and I was so sleep deprived and so tired and exhausted that when we went to bed that night, I’m pretty sure I fell asleep before my head hit the pillow. I think it was on the way down I fell asleep, and I slept like a rock that night. And there was something in the middle of the night, a sound that caused me to start to stir. And some sound came in that all of a sudden I woke up in tons of adrenaline and breathing deeply and I popped out of bed because there was someone breaking into our house. I had heard the sound and I knew it was someone or something and I didn’t know, and I was listening intently and all my blood is pumping and my eyes are looking very, very intently and my ears are straining and I’m moving along the foot of the bed by where the baby is over on Megan’s side so that I can put my body between the door and my family that I need to protect of whatever’s gonna come through that door. And just when I’m ready to listen and say, “What is on the other side of that door?”
I’m like, “It’s a mini hiccups.”
And my brain registers that the baby hiccuping was the sound that I had heard.
And it was a hiccuping baby that woke me up out of a dead sleep, ready to beat something up to protect my family. And it’s at that moment that I realized that I probably deal with anxiety more than I realized and I’m a little bit more prone to panic than I had originally realized.(…) But I wanna know, when was the last time that you felt afraid?
I mean, maybe did you get your adrenaline going?
Did you feel a little bit more on edge? Did your mind immediately rush to the worst possible outcome? Maybe you were acting a little bit more erratically than normal.
Maybe you acted like this gal who fell asleep in the passenger seat of her car. I want to show you a clip.
We’re gonna start it again so you can hear it.
Okay, so there’s a truck getting towed and it looks like it’s coming back. I see my mic’s just leaving. So we’re gonna see if it’s carrying on.
Babe, wake up, it’s trucking!
I’m sorry, it was funny. It was my turn.
It was getting towed.
As you could probably figure out by now, today we are talking about fear.(…) And so in our Jesus story today, we’re gonna see how people normally react under the weight of fear. But we’re also gonna see how Jesus reacts differently. And Jesus gives a different expectation for his followers. Because fear is a natural part of life, right? Like adrenaline, alertness, feeling your body get prepared when something is a threat. That is the way that we are designed to react. That is a good thing.(…) But how is a follower of Jesus supposed to react when worry always seems to be looming?
How is an apprentice of Jesus supposed to handle the fear of being betrayed by someone we trust?
How should a Christian react to a scary illness or a big diagnosis that seems to spell doom? Well, we’re gonna look at these types of questions as we learn from Jesus together today. So let’s open up to Mark chapter four.
And if you’re using the Black Seatback Bible, it’s on page 29 or 30, Mark chapter four. And we’re gonna start with verse 35.(…) Let’s hear together the word of the Lord this morning.
“On that day, when evening had come, “he said to them, let us go across to the other side. “And leaving the crowd behind, “they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. “Other boats were with him. “A great windstorm arose and the waves beat into the boat “so that the boat was already being swamped. “But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. “And they woke him up and said to him, “‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’
“He woke up and rebuked the wind “and said to the sea, peace be still.(…) “Then the wind ceased and there was a dead calm. “He said to them, why are you afraid?(…) “Have you still no faith?
“And they were filled with great awe “and said to one another, who then is this “that even the wind and the sea obey him? “And beloved, this is the word of the Lord. “Thanks be to God.” I invite you to keep those Bibles open to follow along as we go, because if you’ve been around church for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard this story before, or maybe many times before. But if we lean in, the word of God never fails to teach us something new and invite us to follow Jesus deeper. So I want us to be paying attention to what is gonna stand out to you today. And it might be different for each of you. But what’s standing out? What is God maybe trying to say to you? And how is he inviting you to take that next step of obedience and following Jesus? Now, our story starts at the end of a long day of teaching. Jesus has been teaching the crowds. At one point, he even gets into a boat right there on the shore, so he can speak to the crowd more and actually speak to them with a little bit of distance, so that more people can hear him and say, “Oh, he’s crowding around.” And he’s demonstrating his superior knowledge, his supernatural wisdom about the way life works and the way that life is supposed to work.(…) But now it’s time to finish up the day. And so he suggests that they take the boat and head across the lake to the other side.
Now, the other side of the lake is a Gentile region of the lake. And so we don’t know what the disciples thought of that plan. Maybe Jesus had a plan to go over there, because it wasn’t necessarily close to where they called home.(…) Maybe Jesus has a plan, or maybe he’s just so peopled out that he has to get away from anyone he knows, so he can decompress. But in any case, they load up and they head out across the lake as the sun goes down. Now, fishermen were accustomed to fishing at night. So this wouldn’t have been weird or scary at all to be out on a boat at night. And a few probably tried to find a spot to rest, while the other few kept the boat going straight.(…) But then the calm night becomes chaos,(…) because a huge windstorm comes up suddenly, and the waves are so high that it threatens to capsize the boat.
Now, something that I learned while preparing for this message is that the Sea of Galilee sits in a sort of basin, because of all the hills surrounding it. And so that means it can become kind of a wind tunnel, and a sudden windstorm can pop up very unexpectedly often. For any of you who visited Chicago recently, and you get near the lake and feel that huge gust of wind come off the lake and push you over, you know exactly how quickly and unexpectedly that can happen on a day that wouldn’t otherwise show any signs of a storm or anything like that. Now, in today’s speech and science, we understand that windstorms and storm systems are caused by barometric pressure, right? You get a low pressure system colliding with a high pressure system, and one pushes the other one down, and that causes a drop of the dew point and an increase in humidity, and it could even be rainstorms or all these things.(…) But back then, in the first century,
people didn’t understand that, and they were way more superstitious about the way the world worked. And so the common belief was that deep water represented a dark, powerful force of evil,(…) because you didn’t know what kind of monsters lived down in the deep water, and there is no controlling air or water when it turned on you. And some people actually believed that there were gods that governed the water and the wind. And so fishermen and sailors would often make offerings to these gods to ensure safe passage whenever they go across.(…) Even good Jewish fishermen, like the few that were with Jesus that night, they would know that there’s only one God, but they would still have been raised around all that folklore and superstition. And so they still wouldn’t take lightly the power of the deep black water under the boats. And they had even grown up hearing the stories from the Hebrew Scriptures about the Leviathan, or the whale that swallowed Jonah whole. And so a healthy fear of deep water was something that everyone had.(…) But when a sudden storm fell upon them in the middle of the night
well, panic sets in,
because maybe they had angered a god.
Maybe they had crossed over into Gentile territory and were trespassing.(…) Maybe they were going to die.
And as they’re trying to bail out the water that’s pouring on the sides of the shallow boat, someone notices that Jesus isn’t there. Where’s Jesus? Did he fall overboard? Have we lost our master?
And someone notices him sleeping in the back of the boat under the little platform where they would steer from. And so in their panic, they shake him awake, and they say, “Don’t you care, Jesus?(…) Don’t you care?”
And isn’t that what always happens when someone is freaking out, right? When someone is panicking, they try and bring everyone else into their panic. They try and pull everyone else down into their fear.(…) Like, have you guys seen those pictures of like a haunted house or like a corn maze, and they’ll snap a picture right when the scariest part happens? Have you seen those pictures like on Facebook or anything like that? And if someone is looking at a couple, you can look them up after the sermon if you want for a real good laugh, because often it’ll be right when the scariest part happens and they’ll flash a picture, and you’ll see the one person who it hasn’t even set in on yet, and they’re going like,
because something’s popping out of them, and three other people are pulling on them and screaming, going, “Oh, no, please!” And the person who’s being pushed to the front is like, “Don’t push me to the front, I don’t wanna die.” And someone else is grabbing onto the group and trying to get out of the way of whatever thing is jumping out of them and that moment. And if we had put together Jesus’ disciples for a picture in that moment when the storm came upon them, you would have seen all the disciples cowering in fear and jumping, and Peter would have been jumping into Andrew’s arms. And at the front of it, though, Jesus would have just been standing,(…) completely calm and serene.
Because unlike the lady that got woken up in the passenger side seat of her car,
when Jesus is thrust into a chaotic situation from just being asleep and now suddenly being woken up with water everywhere, with people screaming,(…) he doesn’t join in with the fear.
And the disciples are even trying to shame him into joining their panic, aren’t they? They say, “Don’t you care, Jesus? “Why are you just laying there? “How could you sleep at a time like this? “Why aren’t you freaking out with us? “Don’t you care?”
But Jesus, if you notice, doesn’t get defensive, and he doesn’t rebuke the disciples for treating him like that. Instead, he gets up and he rebukes the wind
The word that’s used here is meant to make us think of the type of tone that you use to get an animal to stop.(…) Like Jesus turns on his dad voice, and he says, “Down, bad dog.”
And then he speaks to the sea, and he says, “Peace, be still.”
The two words use peace, means keep silent, make no sound, be still, the closest translation to that that we have in English is muzzle it,(…) tie your mouth shut.
And so in essence, Jesus says, “Be quiet and stay quiet.”
And like an obedient animal in the presence of their master, the wind and the sea obey.
Everything gets quiet, everything gets calm.
And then he turns to his disciples, and he says,(…) “Why are you afraid?
“Why are you acting cowardly,(…) timid? “Why are you lacking confidence?”
And then he says, “Have you no faith? “Do you still not have confidence in me?”
Jesus is pointing out that they are still living as if their superstitions about the deep dark are actually more powerful than Jesus. Even though they’ve been with Jesus and seen him do incredible miracles and give incredible, amazing teaching, and they’re even starting to believe that he might be the one sent by God, the savior sent to save the world.(…) But apparently, they didn’t believe that he was able to overcome the gods of the water.(…) Or at least they hadn’t taken those fears out and held them up to the light of God’s presence to see how small they are in comparison.
And so if we pause, we’ve gotta ask,(…) what do we assume is more powerful than Jesus?
Like what have we encountered in life that leaves us feeling hopeless and helpless?
Now I’m not talking about jump scares or that tingling in the back of your neck when you’re walking down a dark hallway, no. Because Jesus wasn’t telling his disciples that they were wrong for getting freaked out at the scary storm, no, no. He was asking them why they assumed there was no hope.
They had gone into despair.(…) They had woken him up not for him to lift them out of danger, but so that they could pull him down into their fear.
And so what do we assume is more powerful than Jesus?
Is it the uncontrollable worry that we always feel? Always worrying about our family’s safety? Always worrying about the next shoe that’s gonna drop?(…) And when people tell us to stop worrying, you know, we laugh at them, because I mean, I can’t just stop worrying. And then we start telling them all the things that they should be worrying about to pull them down into our worry cycle.
What do we assume is more powerful than Jesus?
Is it all those uncontrollable aspects of life?(…) Like we never know when the weather is gonna do a number on the crops.
We never know when the economy is gonna take a nosedive.(…) And so we’re working the angles. We’re trying to control the contingency plan. We’re trying to manage the stress of the unknown.
We keep people at arm’s length so that they can’t betray us and hurt us. We control as much as we can because you can’t fully trust anyone to be there for you. And so we’ve gotta be the ones who do it.
What are you afraid of that you haven’t taken to Jesus? Because whether you said it out loud or not, you’re functionally living as if it’s more powerful than Jesus.
See, the disciples had already seen Jesus do a lot.(…) They had witnessed him cast out demonic power. They had witnessed him heal all kinds of sick people. They had seen him overcome skin disease and crippling energy and help those people become reconnected to the families and communities they had previously been cut off from. They had heard him confront the religious elites and make the big scary laws not seem as big or as scary or as shaming or separating from God.(…) They had seen him captivate crowds of people but not succumb to the popularity game. They had heard him teach about the kingdom of God in a way that was equally captivating and confusing and yet at the same time made them feel in their hearts that he was teaching them secrets from heaven itself.(…) And all of this happened in like the first four chapters of Mark.
And yet,(…) this big dark world of doubt and uncertainty(…) was starting to become a little bit easier to navigate because Jesus was lighting the path for them.
But today,(…) they had stepped off the path into total darkness.(…) It was a new level of fear and danger.
I mean sure, maybe Jesus is a skilled teacher and maybe he can heal some broken arms and stuff but can he go up against the Leviathan?
Maybe you have a memory as a kid when you were scared of the dark of using a flashlight in your room to keep the dark away. And a flashlight is great in a dark room because it could light up the room even a little bit and you know that the light can shine all the corners and stuff. But if you take that same flashlight and you step outside(…) and you shine it into the empty field next door,
or you shine it back into the woods in the back of your house,
that lone beam of light doesn’t do much to inspire confidence in you when you’re gonna hear wrestling out there because the dark is too big for the flashlight to overcome.
But the good news is that Jesus isn’t a flashlight.(…) He’s the light of the world.(…) He’s not just a teacher and a healer. He’s God in the flesh and he proves it to his disciples by asserting his authority over any other force of darkness or fear that seems powerful
See, no matter what force in our life seems too powerful for us to handle,
Jesus is more powerful,(…) period,(…) full stop.
And you might read that statement. You might agree with it. You might even believe it in your heart.(…) But it doesn’t change the fact that when the storms come in our life,(…) those waves are really big.
That wind is really loud.
That diagnosis is terrifying.
That phone call left us feeling crushed and alone and small and wondering why God wasn’t there to fix it for us and help us. And don’t you even care, Jesus?
Like I know you’re there.
Or at least I think you are.
But this is really big.
Now I’ve been there myself.
Anxiety and fear is something that I’ve been battling in a new way for over five years now.
And there’s something that I heard from a pastor once that was really helpful. And I wish I could remember his name. I’d love to credit him. But he showed a picture of a car and an air freshener. It was a picture like this. I wanna show you this picture.
See, looking at this picture
it almost seems like the air freshener is bigger than the car, doesn’t it?(…) Like held up next to each other, you could take the air freshener and you could squash that car. You could flatten it into tiny smithereens. Now I know in my head that the car is bigger than the air freshener. But looking at it right here, that air freshener could squash that car, no problem.
And I wonder too if you’re understanding the point.
The only reason the car looks smaller is because it’s farther away.
See, if you’re closer to the air freshener, it looks bigger than the car. It seems more powerful than the car.(…) And so let me tell you this. If your problems seem more powerful than God, maybe it’s because you’re closer to your problems than you are to God.
Maybe it’s because you need to go to Jesus to see how powerful he really is.(…) Because that’s what the disciples did. The storm was huge.(…) The waves were going to drown them. The wind was so loud and so powerful, they couldn’t even think. But when they went to Jesus,
then his power was on full display.
Jesus is more powerful than anything in life that seems like it can scare you and keep you afraid.
Jesus is more powerful, period. So what is it that you are afraid of?(…) What makes you cower?
Do we worry about the safety of our kids when they’re playing on tall play equipment?
Well, Jesus is stronger than our worry. His presence can help us keep a watchful eye as well as a calm spirit.
Do we stress about a spouse or a family member betraying us?(…) Jesus is more secure than any human relationship. And when our identity is found in him, rather than in someone else’s opinions of us, we can weather any relational storm because we’re connected to the rock that will not move.
Maybe you’re facing a big illness,(…) a scary diagnosis.
The cancer has come back.(…) And when we’re facing a huge enemy like that, it’s really easy to feel despair and depression because it’s too big for us to beat on our own.
But when we realize that Jesus is more powerful than anything we can face, the sooner we realize that we can’t face anything on our own anyways,
and then the sooner we realize that he has promised to be with us through all of it so that we’re never alone.
Now maybe this brings up for you the question of, well, why do bad things happen to good people?
If Jesus is with us, why doesn’t he stop it from happening in the first place?(…) And that is a good question.(…) And don’t ever be ashamed for asking that question.
But the gospels aren’t about Jesus stopping bad stuff from happening.
The gospels,(…) the story of God that we read in the Bible,(…) it’s about Jesus meeting bad stuff head on(…) because he’s not afraid and because he’s more powerful.(…) It’s about what happens after people come to Jesus.
It’s about what happens when we ask for help.(…) It’s about what happens when people finally submit and stop trying to control every outcome, but just release and rest in the trust that he is more powerful.
Jesus is more powerful and he’s inviting us to come to him.(…) He’s inviting us to get closer to him than we are to the things that are keeping us in fear.
And that’s what I want to encourage you to do today in response to this message. Now I started by saying that you’re gonna be paying attention for what might stand out to you because God might be saying something to you and he’s gonna be inviting you to do something in response to it.
So if there’s any fear in your life, if there’s any stress or worry,
go to Jesus.
If you have doubts,(…) if you have uncertainty looming over you right now, you need to go to Jesus because he’s inviting you right now.
He’s inviting you to bring your doubt and your fear and your stress and to bring it close to him so that we can truly see that he’s way bigger and way more powerful than we thought.
Jesus is the one that can handle whatever we bring to him.(…) He won’t get sucked into our worry or our panic.
See, in the face of danger, he’s dreaming in the back of the boat.
While we might be racked with worry, he’s rooted in his identity.
And whatever’s making us feel panicked, he’s peaceful and poised. And when we’re feeling anxious, he’s anchored in his authority because he is more powerful.
And he’s inviting us to come to him,
to bring our fear, to bring our brokenness so that he can show us just how powerful and how truly good he is.
And isn’t that good news?