I don’t know if there is a worse taunt when you are a kid than being called a scaredy cat.
Having my friends think I was afraid to do something was a major embarrassment for me as a child and probably got me into more trouble and has caused me to shed more blood than any other thing.
Because the proper response to that taunt is “I’m not scared of nothing”, and then you would endeavor to prove that. Not always with the best of results.
Nobody likes to be thought of as a scaredy cat, but not all fear is wrong.
Not only is the statement, “I’m not scared of nothing” bad English it is also an impossibility.
An article in one Medical Journal stated, “The man who knows no fear is not only a gross exaggeration, he is a biological impossibility.”
Fear will always be with us, and it’s not just limited to the human animal but is instinctive and crosses throughout the animal kingdom. You might even say that fear is a gift from God, it keeps us alive. Leonardo Da Vinci made this comment, “Just as courage imperils life; fear protects it.”
Through the past month we’ve been unpacking the reality of “After the but . . . comes the truth”
The word ‘but’, is a small word, just three letters, and the definition we’ve been using makes it seem relatively simple.
Collins English Dictionary defines ‘but’ this way: But: conjunction (coordinating)
1. contrary to expectation
I.e. he cut his knee but didn’t cry
Or, after the but . . . comes the truth.
I like to think that ‘but’ is the hinge that swings a statement the other way.
For example, Pastor Craig Groeschel wrote, “We may claim to believe in God,
but we don’t want to believe so much that it makes
us different.” After the but, comes the truth.
And that brings us to this week’s ‘but’ which we find in 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
And at first glance it would seem that Paul is telling Timothy not to be a scaredy cat, but knowing not all fear is wrong we need to dive a little deeper into this.
We are told that the four greatest impelling motives in life are fear, hope, love and faith. We are also told that the greatest is fear, that its first in order, first in force and first in fruit.
Of course, that isn’t true for everyone, but those in the know say it’s true for the majority of people. And the Bible talks about fear, the word fear is mentioned 266 times and the word afraid is mentioned 223 times. The first-time fear is mentioned is in Genesis 3:10 and the last time it’s seen is Revelation 19:5.
But, when the word fear is used, it doesn’t always mean what you think it means, kind of like “inconceivable.”
Now we’ve gone down this road before, but it bears repeating. If you hadn’t noticed the English language can be a little confusing at times. There are rules and then exceptions to the rules, like “I before e except after C”, makes sense, right Reid?
The other thing is that sometimes we assign multiple meanings to one word. Or there are words that are spelt the same way that are pronounced differently and have different meanings.
So Read rhymes with Lead, and Read rhymes with Lead, and Red rhymes with Led, but Lead doesn’t rhyme with Read and Red is spelled different than Read.
My favourite word with multiple meanings is the English word “Fast”.
And you may be thinking, “Well sure Pastor, fast means fast.” Really?
It’s a simple word, how many meanings can the word fast have?
Well if you were to make a boat fast it could either mean that you make it quicker or you tied it up.
If you said a person was fast, it could mean they were quick or that they had loose morals.
If you said a colour was fast it would mean that it doesn’t run as opposed to saying that Bruce was fast that would mean he does run, but if he was fast asleep, he wouldn’t be moving at all.
If a pool table is fast, it means that the balls bounce well when they hit the edge.
Fast can also mean to go without food and it can mean that your watch has gained time.
Before digital cameras, fast meant that a film was designed for a short exposure time.
It can also mean that a person is a close friend.
More recently fast has become an acronym for the signs of a stroke, not to be confused with the acronym for an organization called “Federation against software theft.”
And fast doesn’t even make the top ten list of words with multiple meanings.
The number one word on that list is the word “Set” and in dictionary.com there are 430 different ways that the word set can be used.
I said all that to say that in the New Testament there are actually seven different Greek words that are translated as fear in the English language and we are going to focus on three of them this morning.
The first word that is used is Phobeo and it means to be in awe of, or to revere or respect something. This is a natural fear. In the Bible it is used of the Fear of God, or fear of death.
Columnist Dave Barry wrote “All of us are born with a set of instinctive fears–of falling, of the dark, of lobsters, of falling on lobsters in the dark, or speaking before a Rotary Club, and of the words “Some Assembly Required.”
Phobeo is what keeps you from driving 200 kph on a back road or stepping off a twelve-story building. This is not an unnatural or unhealthy fear.
Of course, you can overcome this.
Jumping out of an airplane with nothing between you and the ground but a square of silk and a bunch of strings should inspire Phobeo, but skydivers overcome that fear.
Race car drivers have learned to overcome their fear of speed.
Nelson Mandela wrote, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
We’ve all met people who are afraid of something and yet they have risen above their fear. Those in the know tell us that 30% of the population are afraid of flying, and yet many of those people will fly when they have to.
Flying does not bother me in the least bit. I used to say that I had never been afraid in a plane that I have been flying or that anyone else has been flying. And then I flew in Africa. I forget what the official name of the airline was, but I will never forget that one national told me that it was known unofficially as “Coffin Air”.
But even with that experience I still find it difficult to understand the fear of flying. On the other hand, Angela hates to fly, if it was up to her, we would drive everywhere we go, regardless of the distance.
Luckily there was an ocean between here and Australia. But every year we fly south. She doesn’t like it, but she does it.
She is able to overcome her fear in order to do something she wants to do.
If you know me at all, then you know I don’t like snakes and my father was terrified of snakes.
Years ago, I read an article that stated, “Many people suffering from a specific phobia have at least one phobic parent.”
I would agree, Dad passed that on to me and when it comes to snakes, I don’t like them. But there was a time that I was terrified of snakes. Thanks Dad.
To a certain degree that changed on our first trip to Florida in 1988. Angela and I visited a place called Gatorland, Angela wanted to go because in the brochure it said that you could have your picture taken with a four-foot boa constrictor and that type of thing shakes Angela’s tree.
I mean she could hardly wait to hold that monster. Well, the night before we went to Gaterland, I laid awake most of the night trying to figure out what I was going to do.
I had been preaching about conquering your fear and was feeling that maybe it was time for me to put my money where my mouth was, so to speak. Besides, I didn’t want Angela to think I was a scaredy cat.
On the screen you will see a picture of Denn with a four-foot boa constrictor wrapped around my neck. Yes, I know the collar is up on my leather jacket, but the snake is still there. I am still don’t like snakes, but I have conquered the fear, it will no longer rule my life.
If you were to bring a snake up to me, I could touch it, I could even hold it, but I ain’t ever gonna like it.
Which worked out well because if I hadn’t gotten that fear under control I might never have moved to Australia where they have 7 of the 10 most poisonous snakes in the world.
Which by the way if you haven’t heard our big snake story, on one of our trips we ran over a snake on the road. I know that’s not all that unusual, however the reason we ran over this snake was because it was stretched across both lanes of the road. Not a word of a lie.
The next word used in the original language is the word Phobos and it means exceedingly afraid or terror. It’s where we get our word Phobia. It is a paralyzing fear.
If Phobeo is a natural fear, Phobos is an unnatural fear.
If Phobeo is what keeps you from driving your car on a back road at 200 kmph then Phobeos is what keeps you from driving at all. If Phobeo is what makes you a little nervous about allowing yourself to be strapped into a hollow metal tubes with wings and propelled into the air at several hundred km an hour, Phobos is what prevents you from flying at all.
If you were to go to the website, www.phobialist.com you would find more then 500 human fears labeled alphabetically.
This type of fear is a crippling fear, a paralyzing fear. It brings about a feeling of terror and dread in our lives.
When Paul wrote to Timothy and told him God has not given us a spirit of fear, he didn’t use either one of these words.
Instead the word he used was Deilia which means, timid or fearful. Deilia actually comes from the Greek word Deilos which means faithless.
And the context of this word is being afraid to do things or for that matter even to try things, specifically Paul is warning Timothy about the failure to do things for God.
If the first type of fear keeps us living, and the second type of fear keeps us from living, at least from living a full life, this third type of fear keeps us from accomplishing anything while we are living.
This is the fear that makes us live mediocre ordinary lives. Never taking chances, never trying to change anything, content to simply drift along.
This is the spirit of average, and you know what average is don’t you? The best of the worst and the worst of the best. When you are average you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.
And that brings us to today’s scripture, 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
And so, as Paul writes to this young preacher who is about to embark on the great adventure of serving God he says, don’t be afraid to try things for God, don’t be afraid to attempt great things for God.
This fear is actually a lack of faith in what you are able to achieve. A lack of faith in what God might be able to achieve through you and it shows up as a couple of different things.
First it is The Fear of Failure. You won’t try because you’re afraid if you do try that you won’t succeed or that you will fail. And yet the greatest guarantee of failure is when you fail to try. It was Wayne Gretzky who said, “You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
One of our guilty pleasures is watching America’s Got Talent, we’ve been watching it for 14 years. And you wonder if there are people out there who are even more talented, but we’ll never find out because they are afraid to try.
They decided that they didn’t want to risk pursuing their dream, because they were afraid they might fail. And that’s exactly what happened, because they failed to try, they failed to be all they could be.
Where would this world be today if people hadn’t been prepared to take risks, to try new things? We’d still be living in caves or under trees.
And so, for just a minute I want you to ask yourself this question, “What would I try and accomplish for God if I knew that I could not fail?”
You have to try, if you fail, it doesn’t mean the game is over it simply means that you’ve discovered a way that doesn’t work. And so, you get up, brush yourself off and do it again.
I am convinced that the reason some people never commit their hearts to Christ is because they are afraid they might fail.
If that’s you, then I’ve got news for you, you probably will.
But failing in our Christian life is no more the end of the story then failing in our personal life is. We have a God who is there to help pick us up, help brush us off and help us to start again. If we ask.
That’s why the Bible says in Philippians 4:13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
This is another one of those verses that’s great out of context. Paul is not saying that you will be able to fly, or you will discover the cure for cancer or that you will win the Olympics, you might but it won’t be, just because you claim Philippians 4:13
If we look at the verse before this one it says, Philippians 4:12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. Now let’s add the next verse, in context, Philippians 4:13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Maybe you need to dream of what you could do with the help of Christ who gives you the strength you need.
The second thing that keeps us from doing the things we know we need to do is The Fear of Rejection.
When I first started out as a pastor, a little over a hundred years ago, I was counseling a young couple before their wedding, and as we chatted getting to know each other I asked about their hobbies, and what they enjoyed doing.
The bride to be informed me that she was a writer. Being curious and courteous I asked her what she wrote, and she told me that she wrote poetry and short stories. I asked her if she had ever been published, that seemed to be a natural question. And she told me that she had never submitted any of her work, because she was afraid it might be rejected.
I have a friend in the same situation. He is actually a very good writer and has written a couple of books, but he has yet to submit it for the same reason, he’s afraid it will be rejected.
They both feel that if their books are rejected that somehow means they have been rejected.
I understand that, I have submitted several different manuscripts for various book proposals, through the years and they have been rejected a couple of dozen times.
And do you know what a publisher does when they reject your manuscript?
That’s right, they come to where you live, they beat your kids, they burn your house and they trash your car.
No, that isn’t what they do. What they really do is, they send you a letter. And they lie to you and tell you that your manuscript has merit, but it doesn’t fit in with their current publishing schedule and they encourage you to continue writing. And if you get enough of them you can cover part of your office wall, I know.
And while the fear of failure and the fear of rejection are the reasons why many people never attempt to do great things for God, they shouldn’t be, because God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity.
But if God didn’t give it to us, and yet we have it, where doe it come from?
It comes from the devil because he doesn’t want us to do great things for God, he wants us to be a defeated people, but the promise of God is that we will be victorious, if we want to be.
What are you afraid of today? Whatever it is, God has this word for you from the book of Isaiah 41:13 For I hold you by your right hand— I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.
So where are you at today?
In closing this morning, I want you to bow your heads and close your eyes, now cup your hands in front of you. Now I want you to visualize the fear that is keeping you from being everything that God would have you to be.
The fear that keeps you from doing everything that God wants you to do. It might be the fear of rejection, or the fear of failure, or maybe the fear of losing control. Now I want you to open your hands and let it go because it is not of God.
You understand God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity.
And maybe you are thinking, “Denn, what about the but?” Oh right the scripture says, 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. I’ve run out of time, but I’ll get to the ‘but’ in my next message.
This morning let me leave you with the words of Jesus, his promise to you for today, May 4, 2019, John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
Let’s talk to God.