Shohoiya Yokowai spent 28 years of his life in prison. It was not a prison of bars and locks and wardens, but a self-imposed prison of fear. He was a Japanese soldier on the island of Guam during World War II. When American forces landed on the island, he fled into the jungle and found a cave in which he hid for 28 years because he was afraid of being captured by the Americans. He learned that the war was over by reading one of the thousands of pamphlets dropped into the jungle. But he was afraid, fearing it was a trick. So for 28 years he lived in the cave, coming out only at night to look for roaches, rats, frogs and mangoes on which he survived. Finally some natives found him and convinced him that it was safe. We think, “What a waste! Imagine spending all of those years living as a prisoner of fear.” Yet, many of us are prisoners of fear.
We have fears about our finances
We have fears about our future
We have fears about our health
We have fears about our family
We have fears about other people
We have fears about death
We have fears about serving or obeying God
There are two kinds of fear:
1. Positive fear. This fear warns us of a hot stove and dangerous traffic. It is a good thing to protect us.
2. Paralyzing fear. This fear is negative, and hinders our relationship with God, others and ourselves.
Let me mention four effects of paralyzing fear, and some of the implications of that fear:
1. Fear keeps us from obeying God.
We’re fearful of what to say or what others might think of us, so we don’t tell others about Jesus.
We’re fearful that we won’t have enough money, so we don’t give or tithe.
We’re fearful of how our lives might change, so we don’t trust Christ.
2. Fear keeps us from trusting God.
We’re fearful of the “what if’s”, so we don’t trust God.
We’re fearful of what might happen rather than praying and trusting God to intervene in our lives.
3. Fear keeps us from experiencing God.
Because of fear we often miss out on the “God moments” and “God things” of life. Simon Peter walked on the water towards Jesus but began to sink. However, he is the only other person besides Jesus to ever walk on water. The other disciples missed out on that experience. As John Ortberg said, “Fear is the #1 reason why people refuse to get out of the boat.”
We experience God through faith. Fear is the opposite of faith.
4. Fear keeps us from enjoying God.
After falling into temptation, Adam said to God: “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (Genesis 3:10). Adam and Eve were enjoying God and His presence, but once they sinned, they began to fear God. So, they did what we do: we hide from God. We run from Him.
So rather than enjoying God, we fear Him. We fear He is against us, and not for us. We fear He won’t come through when we need Him.
So, how do we overcome our fears? Let me give you two ways:
1. Focus on Christ (not on your circumstances)
When Simon Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus, he became afraid. He was focusing on the wind. However, when he was beginning to sink, he cried out to Jesus, “Lord, save me.” We tend to do the same…we concentrate on our circumstances rather than Christ. We can get so anxious and overwhelmed because we’re focusing on the wrong thing. It’s amazing how fear can disappear in the presence of Jesus.
2. Trust in Christ (He’s in control)
“Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught Peter…And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” (Matthew 14:31-33)
Peter and the other disciples learned a valuable lesson that day…Jesus is in control. He was in control of the wind and the waves. And He’s still in control today.
Even when your finances are low, Jesus is in control.
Even when your health is weak, Jesus is in control.
Even when your future is uncertain, Jesus is in control.
Even when the world is falling apart, Jesus is in control.
We all struggle with fear. It’s a common part of life. Perhaps that’s why God commands us to “fear not” 365 times in the Bible…one for every day of the year! As God reminds us to trust Him: “Fear not, for I am with you…"