Fear: friend or foe?
(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)
This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
What do you do when your transmission fails, your basement floods, and the teacher wants to speak to you after school about your son (…again)? Or when your house is broken into, your contract isn’t renewed, and you’re awaiting medical results? Or when your livestock is stolen, your employees are killed, your kids all die, and you get an itchy skin disease?
Let’s start off with some questions.
1. Have there have been times in your life that you did not take the next step because of fear?
2. Is your fear often rooted in the truth or in a lie?
3. Did you grow up in a home that used fear as an unhealthy tool for discipline?
4. The greatest thing that you fear today is..... ?
In part 3 of our summer series, Heart Conversations with God, we looked at Psalm 49. This series is intended to enrich our language of prayer, and to expand our thinking on how we can pray. The Psalms were used in the liturgical worship of the Jews. As they recited, sang or listened to these Psalms, their language was enriched and their theology was deepened.
The big idea that we looked at was, fear can be a friend and fear can be a foe. Fear can act like a warning system that tells us what is to be avoided and what we should flee. It can also be an enemy that restricts us and confines us. Note what one writer says about the pervasiveness of fear:
“All anxieties are in some form rooted in fear and many people never
get past their fears and live restricted lives because of their fears.”
Is fear your friend or foe?
V.1-4 - Who is the writer addressing?
Proverb - a condensed but memorable saying embodying some important fact of experience that is taken as true by many people
Riddle - A perplexing saying or question - so we should expect to find a question perhaps.
What is riddle?
Where is the proverb in this text? Check out v.12, 20
Notice that while the audience may be broad in v.1-4, the writer focuses in on two types of people - let me introduce them to you:
• Mr. Yikes (as in “Yikes! I’m scared!”)Note the contrast thus far. Mr. Yikes has fear, Mr. OTW has no fear.
We find him in v.5. The writer is asking a question that, no doubt, is meant to address some in his audience who were fearful. Notice how v.16 illustrates that there were those who “feared” (were overawed by) the rich. The writer is saying he has no fear as a means of encouraging those who have fear.
• Mr. On Top Of The World
We are introduced to him in v.5b and 6. Mr. OTW represents the wealthy who have chosen to use their wealth to oppress and deceive the Mr. Yikes’ of the world. They are on top of the world because they have all they want, all they think they need and can do whatever they want. At least that’s what they think!
What does the writer of the Psalm attempt to do?
How does the writer attempt to dismantle, to diffuse the fear of Mr. Yikes?
How does the writer attempt to instill some healthy fear into Mr. OTW?
Based on the proverb (v.12, 20) and the whole context, what is the lie that Mr. Yikes is believing? How would you state it? On Sunday I stated it this way,
“My oppressor has ultimate power, a power that I need to cower to.”
Would you agree that fear often can find its life blood, its nutrition and sustenance from a lie. It is parasitic. It sees something we believe (that isn’t true) and attaches itself to that lie and grows. Thus the object of our fear has power over us that is unfounded and not rooted in reality. If you dispel the lie, you dispel the fear even though the object might still be very real.
What lies often feed our fears? Can you identify with Mr. Yikes? If so, in what way?
Now think of the proverb and the overall context from Mr. OTW’s perspective. What lie does it reveal he believes? This is how I would state it.
“My ‘stuff’ is my god and it will sustain and define me.”
If he believes the proverb, fear is not dismantled but infused and planted in his heart. He will come to the realization that what he has been trusting in is faulty. Healthy fear (reverence, worship) will lead him to the true God.
Know anybody that needs a little healthy fear in their life?
Do you see the contrast of these two characters? For Mr. Yikes, a lie is feeding his unhealthy fear. Fear is a foe! For Mr. OTW, a lie is preventing him from having healthy fear. The writer wants fear to be his friend and lead him away from that which will cause him to perish like the beasts.
Finally note that both are experiencing a hindered relationship with God:
• For Mr. Yikes, the fear of man has skewed his relationship with God. Fear inflates the object to such a great degree that God gets lost in its shadow. The writer of this Psalm is trying to help Mr. Yikes get perspective. Notice v.15 - who is the redeemer? “To redeem” means to buy back someone from slavery or from incarceration as a prisoner of war. Note the contrast with how money cannot redeem (v.7-11). I think that for Mr. Yikes the writer is attempting to not only remove fear as a foe-fear based in a lie, but to reestablish some healthy fear (reverence, awe) of God. Have you ever found that fear rooted in lies can distort your relationship with God? This is what was happening to Mr. Yikes. Fear was a foe.Let me challenge you to pray for Mr. Yikes and Mr. OTW this week. There are many in our world who need to be released from fear that is rooted in a long list of lies. Many Christ-followers have had their relationship with God deeply impacted by unhealthy fear. There are also many in our world who could be seen as identifying with Mr. OTW. They need a good dose of healthy fear to move them away from building their life on faulty foundations and draw them to the Savior.
• How about Mr. OTW? Is his relationship with God distorted? Again notice the contrast. Mr. OTW, needs some healthy fear to cause him to renounce his faulty faith foundations and embrace the fear (worship, reverence) of God. The writer is trying to scare the “stuff” out of Mr. OTW so he will fear God. Fear, if embraced, would be Mr. OTW’s best friend, saving him from peril. Know anybody whose relationship with God is hindered, nonexistent or low on the priority list because they have bought the lie that “stuff” can satisfy? Do you need to pray for anyone that God would scare the “stuff” right out of them?
If you think about these two characters, they should really switch names.
• Mr Yikes should be “on top of the world”, for the Lord is his redeemer.
• Mr OTW should be “yikes” for the Lord says of him he will perish like the beasts.
Fear: Friend or Foe? Which is it for you?
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