Text: Nehemiah 3-6 | Listen to Message
The fear of failure.
The fear of losing control.
The fear of missing out.
The fear of rejection.
The fear of shame.
The fear of man.
The fear of pain.
The fear of insignificance.
The fear of death.
You get the point:
We walk through life facing all kinds of self-protective and self-promoting fears on a daily basis. If we’re not careful, we won’t just have our fears, our fears will have us. We’ll be controlled and enslaved by the growing list of things we want to prevent or avoid.
The Bible’s solution to fear is both unique and revolutionary! God says the solution to fear is fear. Wait, what? Yes, you read that correctly: The only way to conquer the fears that control and cripple you is to learn the fear of God.
This is the lesson of Nehemiah 3-6: The fear of the Lord liberates you by putting every other fear in perspective.
The people of God had good reason to be afraid. They were weak and small in numbers, their city wall lay in ruins, and their adversaries were not only mocking them, they were planning their annihilation. It would not do to tell the Jews to take a few deep breaths and repeat some mantra about how their fears were all in their heads. They knew better – and so do you.
Nehemiah offers the true solution to real fears: “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes” (4:14). In essence, he’s saying, “Don’t be afraid of them; fear the Lord instead!” That’s literally what “awesome” means: he’s saying God is worthy to be feared. He’s calling God’s people to remember that over and above their adversaries is an infinite, eternal God whose power and love are limitless – so why in the world would they be afraid?
Fear spirals out of control when you do the thing that’s most instinctive, and you focus on the things that worry and terrify you. The more you focus on them, the bigger they seem – and the smaller God seems. This is how fears enslave us: We give them power by dwelling on them rather than fixing our minds on Christ.
Fixing our minds on Christ – this is what it means to fear God. If you’re his son or daughter by adoption, you’re not scared of him the way a criminal should be afraid of law enforcement. You don’t fear his wrath because you know Jesus bore that wrath for you. So your fear is more like a mixture of awe, worship, reverence, and attentiveness.
To fear the Lord is to walk in the continual awareness of who God is, what God has done, and what God has promised.
So let’s say you’re afraid of failure. You’re worried that your whole life will be a waste because you didn’t succeed at the things that were important to you. You’re terrified that this will be a massive blow to both your reputation and your self-esteem. You’re enslaved to this idea that, if you don’t work hard enough and make all the right decisions, you’re going to be a loser.
How would the fear of the Lord drive out that fear?
First, you’d see that God is big, and powerful, and in control of your past, present, and future. Furthermore, you’d see in Jesus’ death on the cross that God’s love for you knows no limits. Finally, you’d see in His Word promises about his care for those who live for him.
If you walked in the constant awareness that this God was present with you, and was for you, what could stand against you? You’d be free to take risks for his kingdom, his fame, his priorities. And if you fail, so what? You fail. His love for you would still be just the same, and he’d be working even this failure for your good.
Stop slapping on the chains of fear. Fear the Lord and be free.