Overcoming Our Fears

2 Timothy 1:7; Psalm 23:4; Psalm 27:1

In the dark days of 1933, when the banks had to be close temporarily because people
had lost faith in their institutions and in each other, the President, Franklin D Roosevelt
in a radio address said: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

That is still true!

Even before the age of nuclear bombs added to our fears, Basil King, in an autobiographical study
called, The Conquest of Fear, came to the same conclusion concerning the universality
of fear when he wrote: "Everyone is living or working in fear…
We are not sick all the time; we are not sinning all the time; but all the time all of us
– or practically all of us – are afraid of someone or something
."

Fear is an universal emotion.
It is worse for some than for others, and if there is any relief from our fears,
we should want to discover it.

We must remember that fear is not all bad.
There are constructive fears, as well as destructive and paralyzing ones.
Constructive fears have a good purpose, and have helped people throughout human history.

A modern psychologist reminds us that: "Fear is the mother of prudence,
and it is the prudent who survives and the foolhardy who perish.
It is those who learn what to fear wisely who survive.
"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread
."

The fear of disease is a great benefit to mankind.
Despite the fact that fear of losing one's health can easily become abnormal
and cause someone to suffer from many diseases which he does not have.
The fear of illness serves a worthy purpose.

Our willingness as citizens to be inoculated and vaccinated against all sorts of contagious
and preventable diseases are due to our fear of what will happen to us
and to our family if we do not take these precautions.

The fear of the opinion of others may intimidate us and frighten us,
and yet, regard for the opinions of others is the basis for respect and for seeking the goodwill
and understanding of other people.

When we face real danger fear sets in motion a physical fear mechanism
which we share with the animals, and which often provides a way of escape.
If there is a sudden danger, it provides extra strength to meet the emergency that we face.
In the presence of danger, the glands of our body immediately begin to function
so that our weakness is gone and we have extra strength to do things
that we didn't know that we could do.

Fear is nature's own protective device, but may easily become abnormal and destructive.
The tragedy of habitual anxiety and dread is that they constitute a continuous emergency alarm
in the absence of real danger and the possibility of an appropriate physical response.
If this happens over a period of time, the secretions that produce the extra power for deliverance
from a sudden danger, can become poisons that tend to destroy our physical and emotional health.

Man's imagination has a way of dwelling on the things about which he knows little
so that life can become terrible and terrifying in the presence of an overworked imagination.
Think of the fears that terrify ordinary people.

There is the fear of losing our job -- that is frightening.
Then, there is the fear of inadequacy, of not being able to do the thing that is expected of us,
and of not being able to live up to the responsibilities that are placed upon us.
Some are afraid of the dark.
There are people who are afraid of open spaces, while some are afraid of closed spaces.
There are people who afraid to go down into the earth, and there are others
who afraid to go up high into the sky.
Many individuals suffer from stage fright when called upon to stand before a group.

All of us have some fears.

Some people are even afraid of losing their minds.
And the people who are most afraid of losing their minds seldom do.
If we're worried about that, perhaps we can afford to dismiss it as one of our irrational fears.
There also some natural fears such as the fear of falling and the fear of a loud noise.
Some people have a fear of snakes.

We have are acquired many of our fears.
And because we have acquired them, then there is hope that we can unlearn them.
Fear is a system of habit, and we can change any habit and any thought
though some are more difficult to change than others.

Discovering how we acquired our fears is one of the best ways to get rid of them.
Many times just knowing the reason for our particular fear will enable us to be rid of it.
We will discover that it is irrational and we have no reson to fear it.

Oftentimes, our fears come from something that is happened in childhood.
We have forgotten the experience, but the fear we had then is still with us.

The fear of failure oftentimes grows out of the fact that as a child
too much may have been expected of us.
We ought to expect great things of our children, but we ought not to expect them
to accomplish that which is beyond their level of experience and ability.
This is particularly true when there is more than one child in the family.
We sometimes feel sorry for the only child, but there are also liabilities
in having brothers and sisters, especially if some of them are older.

The second child in the family often is not as good a student as the first child.
There are good reasons for this.
The younger child should never be allowed to feel that he is in competition with the older.
The fear of failure comes because we are expected to do something that in 5 or 10 years
we would be capable of doing, but that which now is beyond our ability.

There are some fears that we just catch, as we may catch a cold.
Fears are very contagious.

A young woman not able to sleep at night without looking under the bed and in the closet
and checking again to see that all the doors and windows were locked.
She was afraid of burglars.
This was exactly the way her mother had behaved when she was a child.

Not anything anyone could say about the foolishness of such fears was of any value
to the daughter until she came to understand that she had caught this fear
early in life from her mother.

Another woman was so afraid of lightning and storms that she would run around,
in the presence of her children, pulling down the shades and making things as dark as possible.
Then she would get as far as possible from the doors and windows and cringe in terror.
Her children could not possibly escape the development of this fear.

There are practical safeguards that one should take against the dangers of the storm,
but beyond those why should we live a thousand deaths because of that fear?

Some of our fears grow out of ignorance, often coupled with a sense of shame.

Clifford Beers wrote in his autobiographical study entitled, A Mind That Found Itself,
about having an older brother who had epilepsy.
Clifford waited on him when he would be suffering from a seizure.

He had decided that it was contagious, and that if you were around the person
who had epilepsy, then you could develop it yourself.
He didn't dare say anything about it to anyone else because he was ashamed of it,
but he let his fear work on his poor, tortured mind.

After a while, he actually felt he was having seizures also, and that he was on the verge
of becoming an epileptic.
He then tried to commit suicide.
Fortunately, he was saved and put into an institution.
They had to put him in a straitjacket for several weeks.

After about 10 years in an asylum, Clifford because of the help he received, recovered his mind,
and has perhaps done more than any other individual to change the conditions in hospitals
for the mentally ill because of his own experience.

The fear of exposure -- guilty fears, are the kind of fears that are easy to avoid,
but they are very real we allow them to develop.
Suppose, you are one of those unfortunate individuals who has already done something
that you do not want people to know, and you feel a need to conceal it.
Oftentimes, we might not reveal it because of the problems that it would cause other people.
But if we had this experience, we should find somebody with whom we can talk
in order to find release from our guilty feeling.

More than just an awareness of the origin of our fears is needed; we also need courage
and an unselfish attitude.
First, there must be unselfishness and self-forgetfulness.
"Those men and women with perpetual jitters usually are suffering from nothing
but idle minds that go to work on themselves."

Everyone needs a reason for being -- some consuming passion that will help us forget ourselves.

Carrie Nation had a consuming passion.
She was a fanatic which most people would acknowledge.
She would walk into a saloon and deliver a lecture against alcohol,
and then, with her hatchet -- she would break all the bottles of whiskey.
Nearly everybody was afraid of Carrie Nation, but she wasn't afraid of anybody.
She had a great consuming purpose.
That is what we need, although we need not imitate Carrie.

I read of a doctor that was determined to defeat a certain disease
that always caused the death of those who contracted it.
He is in China, and he needs to get the germs back to a hospital in America
where other doctors can help in discovering a cure.

There wasn't any way to get it to this country except by infecting himself.
So he does this, and comes home so that scientists here can study the disease.
He is filled with a consuming passion to help other people.
He is not thinking of himself.
He has no time to be afraid of what may happen to him in the process.

Happy people are those who have learned how to get their minds off themselves.
They are people who lose themselves in some great cause, and in so doing find themselves.
If we do not have a consuming cause -- a great passion for something,
then we need to discover that cause for there are so many things to be done
Then we can meet the needs of others and make our world better.
Such tasks are not easy, but they will give us a chance to be delivered
from the fears that haunt us.

The source of real courage is faith in the living God.

Dr. William Sadler, one of the best-known psychiatrist, has said that
"the only cure for fear is faith."
This is so true.
We have seen many people afraid, but we have never known of anyone who comes out victorious
without discovering God along the way.
We must have faith in a power greater than ourselves.

Faith is not wish-thinking.
Faith isn't a blind leap in the dark, hoping something is there.
Faith is willingness to trust in a God who can do all things and loves us
and is always ready to help us.
Faith means we believe something, and we believe it's so much that we are willing to live by it.

If we want courage in our lives, we must find God.
We must know that God is a God who loved us so much that He sent his son, Jesus,
to die for our sins -- how could we not believe and trust in a God who loves us like that.
It is faith in God that secures our lives.

Many have found "the great rock in a weary land," and we know that it is God.

"Jesus is a rock in a weary land
A weary land...
Jesus is a rock in a weary land
A shelter in the time of storm. Has He ever made a way when you didn't have a dime?
Has He ever stepped in just right on time?
Has He ever picked you up when you were down?
Has He ever put your feet on solid ground?
Then you know He is a rock in a weary land
."

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White