“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself;” maybe the most popular quote about fear spoken by the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Fear. Is there any more pervasive or powerful motivating force in human experience? Many of us would argue that Love is, but Tupac said, “Fear is stronger than love.” Was he right? Marianne Williamson said that, “Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.” I think I’d have to agree with Marianne the same way I believe that we are not born of many races but of the human race, and racism is what we learn here. Whether you agree with Tupac or Marrianne about the status of fear; I think we can all agree that fear is real and it’s used against us in our daily lives in politics, economics, and even religion.
The G.W. Bush Administration’s agenda was fueled by a politics of fear stemming from the attacks of 911 where the American people were scared straight into 2 wars that left us in debt as a country and in death as a military. Until 2011 you may notice when you travel that the alert level for imminent threat in our airports was perpetually at “orange;” the 2nd to highest level of threat of terrorist attacks. It had remained there since the 911 aftermath until they realized that the alerts did nothing for citizens other than make them afraid. Fear. The stock market fluctuates up and down as a result of conflict in different markets around the world, causing us to frantically shift our assets here or there. Fear. Even we as people of faith use the fear of Hell as our personal jail to condemn “ungodly” behavior as if somebody made us judge. Fear. Fear is prominent in our psychology, so much so that an entire branch of clinical medicine is dedicated to the study, diagnosis, and treatment of fear or phobias. There’s a phobia for everything ya’ll. There are very common phobia’s like acrophobia- the fear of heights. And there are very uncommon phobia’s like Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia – fear of the number 666: The number of the Beast, associated with the Revelation of the Beast in the 13th Chapter of the Book of Revelations. There’s my greatest fear: maniaphobia- the fear of losing my mind. My mind is the greatest gift God gave me and when I no longer have control over my mind I no longer have anything to contribute. Then there’s one of my least favorite phobia’s: Gamophobia – fear of marriage, commitment; I’ve probably been diagnosed more than once with this one by a young lady or two but that’s another sermon. Fact is, fear is present in a wide variety ways.
Based on a 1977 study from “the book of lists” a survey was taken among 3000 Americans asking them to name their greatest fear. 44% named glossophobia – fear of speaking in public or of trying to speak as their #1 fear. Glossophobia. And to this day the #1 named fear among Americans is still the fear of public speaking; ahead of the fear of heights, and deep water, and even the fear of death, or thanatophobia. Now this study doesn’t necessarily suggest that a person would really rather die than give a speech, but it does suggest that when asked to identify our fears in our immediate consciousness, we worry about things like public speaking and heights and finances and sickness, more than we worry about dying. Perhaps it’s because these are all things we can expect to encounter in our daily lives more so than death; although those of us in Chicago could probably argue otherwise. The irony is however, death is the most definite of them all. You can go about life avoiding public speaking although that would be difficult. You can navigate life intentionally evading heights, but that would be a challenge as well. You can even earn billions of dollars in your lifetime, never having to worry about finances, but that too is easier said than done. One thing’s for certain though: you can’t beat death. Death is inevitable. I only know of one Person who beat death and even He was dead for 3 days. Bottom line: we all got to get out of here one day ya’ll. So why is it that we fear these false idols over the truth of our earthly mortality? I suppose it makes sense to not worry about that which we can neither control nor avoid. But the truth is…the human condition doesn’t allow us to ignore that which we cannot control. If it did we’d be a whole lot less stressed out, Amen? So no matter how much we name or prioritize these other fears over death, we greatly fear it. We fear the mystery in how we’ll die. We fear the uncertainty of when we’ll die. We fear dying.
Jesus understands this about the human condition. He understood it in the Gospel this morning where he explains to his disciples that,
24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!
26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.[a] 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[b]
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
Jesus understood fear. The fear of death. The fear of man, in other men. He understood the fear of death in his disciples as he sent them forth into eminent danger with no money, shoes or clothes and more importantly no staff for protection. Jesus recognized that fear had the potential to throw a monkey wrench in his entire mission. But instead of keeping his disciples in darkness about the dangers of the mission they were to embark upon, he’s very honest and forthright about the threats of this call to discipleship, and he offers comfort in the shifting of fear from man, to fear of God. My brother and sisters in Christ on this 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, I want to preach just a few moments on the subject: Man, Mission, and Martyrdom – 3 things Jesus teaches us about displacing fear of death/men in order to do mission in which we are at risk of martyrdom. 3 points and I’ll take my seat.
Reason #1 as to why we should not fear can be found in verse,26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. In other words “there is nothing covered that will not be revealed.” (John 3:19) Light has come into the world, but people love darkness instead of light because their deeds are evil. Evil people love darkness but 1 Corinthians 4:5 the Lord “will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and reveal the counsels of the hearts” “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in the ear, proclaim from the housetops” (v. 27). Jesus calls the disciples to proclaim boldly and publicly that which he has taught them in private. We are not to tiptoe around the truth in the fear of inviting persecution.
The 2nd reason not to fear is verse 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Do not be afraid because the power of our opponents is limited. They can kill the body, which will die soon anyway, but they have no power over the soul. Only God has power over eternity.”Rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell” (v. 28). Scripture often speaks about fear of the Lord (Psalm 2:11; 15:4; 19:9; 22:23; 25:12, etc., etc., etc.). We prefer to think of God’s love rather than God’s judgment, and have lost our sense of awe in God’s presence. It is appropriate, however, to fear the Lord, because God has authority over body and soul throughout eternity. (Mention Civil Rights activists and others who endured for a cause). (10:8-11)They are to undertake their mission in complete vulnerability and dependence on God even knowing that they go as “sheep in the midst of wolves,” face arrests and beatings, opposition even from family members, and hatred and persecution (10:16-23).
The 3rd reason not to fear is because of God’s compassionate love. Verse 29 asks, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” God cares even about tiny sparrows, birds that become in this verse a symbol of inconsequential value. (v. 30) “but the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” We are reminded of a new mother whose baby is so precious that everything about it seems wonderful –– each finger and toe seems like a separate miracle. God loves us in that kind of detail.
Conclusion: Pick up your cross and follow Jesus.
“Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice.” Will Smith in After Earth
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” –Plato
“I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.” -Thomas Paine
(End with symphony analogy)
Even when I have nothing…I have everything in God. God is my everything!