Christmas Day: The Fear Factor

Among all the things I love about Christmas is the music. What a thrill to walk through a store and hear “Joy to the World, the Lord has come” played over the public speaker system. One of my favorite Christmas carols is “Oh little town of Bethlehem.” The line that intrigues me is, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” That line struck me with the truth that Christmas deals with our fears.

That first Christmas was when God revealed His Son to the world. Making up the drama of that event was the convergence of characters who represented the hopes and fears of all humanity. There, in the tiny village of Bethlehem, the hopes and fears of all the years met in a Baby lying in a manger.

If you go to the very beginning of the bible, you will see that the Old Testament begins with these words, Adam saying, 'I'm afraid,'.  But then notice how the very beginning of the New Testament begins.

In the Christmas narratives, there are several "fear not's."

  1. There is the "fear not" of salvation: " And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: For, this day, is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David." (Luke 2:10, 11).
  2. There is the "fear not" of the humanly impossible: "Fear not, Mary, … the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee: …For with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:30, 35, 37).
  3. There is the "fear not" of unanswered prayer: "Fear not, Zacharias: Fear not, Zachary, for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John:" (Luke 1:13).
  4. And last but not least is the "fear not" of immediate obedience: " Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife. … Then Joseph … did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him" (Matthew 1:20, 24 )

One of the first things we read that happened to Adam as soon as he sinned, and when God came and spoke to him, was that he got afraid. It's the first time that fear is mentioned in the Bible. When God came to Adam and He asked where he was hiding, Adam said, 'I was afraid,' and ever since that day sin and separation from God brought fear. And since that day, all of these six thousand years of man's history, man has been living with fear.

I don't know how many of you realize that Jesus was as much against fear as He was against sin. A lot of believers who are determined to root out sin from their life are not as equally determined to root out fear. That's because they think of sin as bad, but fear as a weakness, or something we have to live with. There are lots of other believers who think that sin is something they've got to live with, and so they live with sin. And if you think fear is something you have to live with, you live with fear. The same Jesus who told people, 'Do not sin again,' also said so many times to people, 'Fear not. Don't be afraid.' The same God who said 'don't kill' said 'don't be afraid'. Is that a suggestion, or is that a command?

When He said don't commit adultery... What's that? Do you take it seriously? Don't commit adultery. Don't murder. Don't steal. Don't be afraid. Why are we selective? It's a command, and it's a command that most believers disobey. And when they disobey, they don't even feel convicted about it. If they disobey the command about murder, they'd be convicted about it. If they disobeyed the command about adultery, they'd be convicted about it, but when they disobey Jesus' command saying, 'Don't be afraid,' they're not even convicted.

All fear comes because of lack of faith.

When fear comes into the heart, whether you know it or not, faith has gone out. Faith and fear cannot live in the same heart. When faith comes in, fear goes out, and that's one way you know that faith has come in. So at least from today I hope you will never treat fear as a friend or as an innocent pet in a house or something like that. It's a snake, it's a wretched thing that destroys man's relationship with God. As we have already seen, the Old Testament begins with these words, Adam saying, 'I'm afraid,'. And then we saw that the New Testament begins repeatedly with that phrase, 'Fear not - don't be afraid, don't be afraid, don't be afraid,' and Jesus throughout His life kept on telling His disciples, 'Don't be afraid, it's Me, I'm here,'. And I believe we live in a day when we need to hear that word from Jesus till our hearts take it to heart. Think of what Jesus said in Luke Chapter 21 about the last days, (verse 26), 'Men's hearts will faint from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world,' and all of the things that have happened in the last few years have produced so much fear even among believers. Fear of death, fear of terrorism, fear of war, fear of a financial crash at any moment. So many fears, and Jesus said it would happen. Jesus said to His disciples, 'And when these things,' (verse 28) 'begin to take place (and we can see they are already beginning) when men's hearts are fainting from fear, straighten up and lift up your heads, for your redemption is drawing near.'

So, this is the time when your faith is going to be tested to see whether it's real, to see whether you believe that there's a God in heaven, ruler of this universe, who controls all of this universe, and who is your Father. It's in the practical situations of life that we discover whether our faith is real or not. I believe it's in this area of fear that our faith is going to be tested in the days to come, and we need to have a clear answer to this: Why is there so much fear in the hearts of believers? Now, we can understand why there's fear in the hearts of unbelievers, because they have no living connection with God. They don't know God as their Father. But why in the hearts of believers? When Jesus said words like this, (Matthew Chapter 10,) 'Do not fear,' (verse 28), 'Do not fear,' but he said on verse 28, 'Do not fear those who kill the body, but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell,'. He put two fears in contrasting. One is the fear of man, and the other is the fear of God. He said don't fear man, but fear God, and then He said, 'Aren't two sparrows sold for one cent, yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father? But the very hairs of your head are all numbered, therefore, do not fear. Again and again, and again do not fear, do not fear, do not fear. How much are two sparrows sold for? One cent. So what is the worth of one sparrow? Half a cent. In Luke Chapter 12 in verse 6 Jesus said in the parallel passage, 'Aren't five sparrows sold for two cents?' Even that one doesn't fall to the ground without your Father knowing about it. That worthless sparrow which the seller of birds just throws in for nothing. It doesn't fall to the ground without your Father knowing about it. And that's where He said, 'Don't fear,'.

Fear and anxiety are the weapons in which Satan enters our spiritual growth and hinders our effectiveness for God and His kingdom.

You can progress in the Christian life, you can read the scriptures, study the scriptures, pray the rosary, fast, be full of the spirit, and then if you live in fear, it's like driving a car with our foot jamming the brakes all of the time. All of the progress and the power that we get from the thrust of the engine is neutralized by the brakes, and that's exactly what's happening in the life of lots of Christians. They should have gone from here to there, but they've gone only twenty five percent of the way because they are being pressed most of the time by some fear, some anxiety, and they've never taken this matter seriously enough to deal with it because they've never treated it as seriously as they would treat some other sin in their life. So, I believe this is something that we really need to consider seriously.

In Isaiah Chapter 8 in the last part of verse 12 it says, 'You are not to fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.' We are not to fear what the people in the world fear, or to be in dread of what they are in dread of. Verse 13 goes on to say 'Let the Lord be your fear and let him be your dread. Or to paraphrase those two verses, 'If you fear God, you need fear nothing else,' and that's such a lovely verse. The only way to get rid of our fears is to fear God. It's when you don't fear God enough that we have all of these other fears: fear of men, fear of sickness, fear of death, fear of what will happen in the future, what will happen to our children, what will happen to our life, what will happen to our finances. The world lives in these fears because there is no fear of God in their lives. And, until we recognize that it is because we do not fear God sufficiently that we have these other fears, we will not take this matter seriously. Many of us think we fear God quite a lot but test your fear of God with this statement: 'If you fear God, you need fear nothing else'. Then why do we fear other things? Perhaps we're fooling ourselves that we fear God. There are two types of fear of God. One is the fear that God may hurt me, and the other is the fear that I may hurt God. And there is a lot of difference between these two fears. Most people in the world have the fear that God will hurt them, but a true disciple of Jesus doesn't have the fear that God will hurt him. He lives in the fear that he may hurt God by something he does, something he says, some attitude, some motive, would hurt God's heart. He lives in that fear, and because he lives in that fear, he's delivered from other fears.

Have you heard that story of the two birds talking to each other? One bird tells the other, 'Why are these human beings always so anxious and fearful and their brow is wrinkled most of the time? We don't seem to be like that,'. The other bird replies, 'Well, I don't know why they are so anxious, but perhaps the reason is, they don't have a Heavenly Father like you and I have. Maybe that's the reason. We've got a Father who cares for us, but perhaps these Human beings don't have a Father like that. Maybe that's why they're so worried and anxious, and have their brows wrinkled while we birds are so happy because we've got a Father who cares for us. He provides us our meals, we don't have bank accounts, we don't have a barn, we don't have anything, and He cares for us everyday. It's wonderful to have a Father. I wish these Human beings would have a Father like we have,'. Do the birds say that about you when they look at your life in different circumstances? You know, it's in those situations when we discover whether we truly believe that God loves us and that we need not fear.

Jesus said, 'If you being evil know how to do good things for your children, how much more your heavenly Father?' Until God's time comes, nobody can arrest me. Until God's time comes, nobody can throw me over a cliff and kill me. Nobody can kill me with anthrax, nobody can kill me with cancer, nobody can kill me with anything until God's time comes!

Do you live in fear of these things? A lot of people are living in that fear today, and it's going to be much worse in the days to come. And Jesus said, 'When these things begin,' (and they are beginning), ' take place, straighten up, life up your heads,' recognize your calling, see who you are, see what God has done for you!