NASHVILLE, Tenn., (BP)–The country is on alert for terrorist attacks. The economy is gasping for life. Thousands of America’s sons and daughters are shipping out to the Middle East.
National fear is spurring the sales of duct tape and plastic sheeting, and sending people to their stockbrokers for encouragement and to their knees in prayer.
But fear is nothing new, said Ed Young Jr., senior pastor of Fellowship Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Grapevine, Texas, and author of a new Broadman & Holman book, “Know Fear: Facing Life’s Six Most Common Phobias.”
In fact, three years ago, before the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, Young preached a sermon series on the subject.
“When I did that series, I discovered how many people were dealing with different phobias and who had huge fears,” said Young, who acknowledges a fear of public speaking in his book. “A lot of people don’t talk about them, but they have them.”
Young outlines six types of fear in his book: Fear of helplessness, fear of the future, fear of commitment, fear of failure, fear of loneliness, fear of death and fear of God.
Young said attendance at his church has increased since Sept. 11, a factor he attributes to escalating national fear. Attendance at the five weekend services he preaches topped 16,500 recently, compared to 13,000 before the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks.
Many people who attend Fellowship suffer from “scenario sickness,” Young said, a fear where they worry about calamities striking them or family members, though the threat is remote.
“I was talking to a stockbroker friend of mine recently, and he was telling me about the fear he faces,” Young said. “He’s afraid of flying and of something tragic happening to his family. It’s very, very real to him.”
Young said people try to mask their fears in various ways — by acting tough, by spending money, by staying busy or by using alcohol and drugs to numb their nerves. Young, however, said he is optimistic about recent world events. Many times, fear is what drives people to Christ, he said.
“We come to realize we’re missing something — we’re facing a Christ-less eternity and that fear fuels us to put our knees down and allow Jesus to infiltrate our lives,” he said. “Through facing our fear, we have to look at it and then step out in faith.”
Young said he believes God is trying to tell Christians that they need to rely on him and realize that he is their source of comfort, strength and peace. Those who put their faith in the material world are going to be seriously disappointed, he added.
Faithfulness that Christ is in charge helps people understand that about 99 percent of what they worry about will never happen, Young said. Without that faith, people become so laden with fear they fail to take positive steps to overcome it.
Likewise, Christians who live in fear hinder the gospel message, he said. During times of uncertainty, it is easier to fall into a routine that usually translates into socializing with other Christians, likely at church, he said.
Talking to others about Christ is frightening, he said. Rejection when sharing the gospel is a huge fear.
“The great churches are those that face that fear individually and collectively,” Young said. “And they go out and become salt and light and leaven to a world tainted by sin.”
In “Know Fear,” Young outlines six reasons why Christians can remain hopeful during times of uncertain economy and security:
— Christians have been pardoned. “Christ took the punishment once and for all. It is over, signed, sealed and delivered,” he wrote in his book.
— Christians have the power to change. “Simply by being plugged into Jesus Christ, we have the power to make life-altering changes, to become better people, to break free of the sin that entangles us.”
— Christians have a purpose for suffering. “God does not promise an exemption from pain and suffering in the Christian life. Our suffering loosens the grip the world has on our lives because it gives us a longing for heaven.”
— Christians have freedom from our fears. “If you are outside of Christ, life can be scary. If we are in Christ, we have freedom from our fears.”
— Christians have unlimited resources. “Trust him with every aspect of your life. Don’t hold back in any area, and you will be able to tap into the unlimited resources of an adventurous and exciting life of faith.”
— Christians have eternal security. “I think if the Bible told us more about heaven and how great it’s going to be, we would be doing irrational things to get there in a hurry.”
Broadman & Holman is the trade book division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. The book can be purchased at LifeWay Christian Stores or online at www.lifewaystores.com.
LifeWay entered an agreement last fall with Fellowship to co-develop resources for church leaders and laypeople. The partnership is part of LifeWay’s New Ventures initiative to develop alliances with influential churches and authors.
As part of this venture, LifeWay will use the creative products and content developed by Fellowship Church to develop Bible study curriculum, children’s programs, software, worship service planning elements and other resources for churches.
LifeWay, on the Web at www.lifeway.com, is one of the world’s largest publishers of religious materials, producing 180 monthly and quarterly products and more than 210 new undated products annually.