Anytime you are involved in the work of the Lord you can be overcome by fear.
- Perhaps God speaks to us powerfully or calls us to do something special. This can make us afraid.
- Perhaps God asks us to do something that is really hard or involves risks. This can make us fearful.
- Or perhaps we are serving God and are going through trials and hard times. This can cause us to be afraid.
Fear isn’t good. It doesn’t help anything
- When we are afraid we become reactive so that we make quick, impulsive decisions; we can’t think straight or hear God.
- When we are afraid our mindset becomes distorted; we just see the problems around us.
- When we are afraid we just want to retreat or give up.
In short, fear will keep us from doing what God wants us to do.
For all who are feeling fear this morning, God is calling us to faith, which is the opposite of fear. It’s not that there aren’t things to be afraid of, it’s that we are called to trust ourselves into the hands of the one who can lead us through anyway.
And so we have to release our fear into God’s hands, so that we can hear God and what he wants us to do, so that once we have heard from God – we can move forward in faith.
This threefold pattern of releasing fear, hearing from God and acting in faith shows up in three examples from the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke. I want us to look at these, and the first one is –
The story of Zechariah: Luke 1:11-20
- Something happened to him. v. 11 says, “And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.” Gabriel, was his name (v. 19).
- And this caused him to be afraid. v. 12 says, “And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.” Surely the presence of the angel could cause anyone to fear and maybe he even thought he was in trouble with God.
And what is the first word given to him from God? 1. “Do not be afraid” – v 13. You can’t hear God or do what he wants when you are overwhelmed with fear. So step one is to set aside your fear.
What’s next? 2. He listened to what God had to say. Gabriel goes on to say that he and his wife Elizabeth will have a son, even though she has been unable to and they are older. And this son will play an important role in God’s plan; he will be a great prophet – John the Baptist.
And once the message is heard, 3. He was to act in faith. Now, at this step, Zechariah doesn’t fully measure up. In v. 18 he asks several questions that reveal doubt in his heart. How can they have children? And because of this he is sentenced to not be able to speak until the baby is born.
And so here we have a warning that we should act in faith when God speaks to us, or at least with more faith than Zechariah demonstrates.
Next is –
The story of Mary: Luke 1:26-38
- Something happened to her. v. 28 – Gabriel (the angel) greeted her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you.”
- And this caused her to be afraid. v. 29 – “She was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.” There is an angel, and, given the greeting, it sounds like God is about to ask her to do something special. And so she is afraid.
What is God’s first word to her? 1. “Do not be afraid Mary” – v. 30.
What’s next? 2. She listened to what God had to say. Gabriel told her that she would have a son, even though she was a virgin. And that her child is the promised Messiah.
Once the message is heard, 3. She acted in faith.
Interestingly, in v. 34 she also asks questions, about a virgin birth. But these did not come from doubt. And her faith rings out loud and clear in v. 38 – “Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
The final example is –
The story of the shepherds: Luke 2:8-20
- Something happened to them. v. 9 says “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shown around them”
- And this caused them to be afraid. v. 9 says, “And they were filled with fear.” What’s going on? What does God want from us?
And what is the first thing that the angels said to them? 1. “Fear not” – v. 10.
And then, 2. They listened to what God had to say. The messiah has been born and they are to go and see him; to be witnesses of this amazing event.
3. They acted in faith. 16 – “And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.”
What about us?
- Well, sometimes things happen to us, hardships and trials.
- And like in all these examples, our temptation is to be afraid.
But what do you think God’s first word to us is? 1. Do not be afraid. Don’t let fear and anxiety overwhelm us so that we can’t hear God, so that all we see are the problems, so that we just want to give up.
We must release our fear to God and choose to trust God, knowing that whatever happens he will take care of us. Yes, we don’t have all the answers, we don’t know the future and there might be a basis for fear and concern. But despite all this, we choose to trust and to put ourselves in a place to be able to hear from God and then move forward with whatever he says.
And 2. We need to listen to what God wants to say. This involves praying and listening to God. It involves seeking wisdom for what God wants to say to your situation. What does he want for you? What is the path forward?
3. Then we must move forward in faith. Move forward based on what you hear God saying, with trust and boldness.