A pastor asked his congregation to write down and turn in to him a list of what their fears were. He consolidated 525 different fears into seventy-three categories. Some of these were the fear of the dark, water, fire, not finding God's will, helplessness, loss of memory, MTV, sadness, judgment, not being worthy of God's love, old age, change, the unknown …. One person's handwriting was undistinguishable — was it fear of creatures or preachers? A staff member read it as well and said there really wasn't much difference in the two.
We all have fears; some we keep hidden but some we share with others. Do you fear job loss, that your kids will make mistakes with grave consequences, disease? Do you fear the death of a loved one — as I write, it is the anniversary of the death of our grandson Jake. I know that fear well.
A wave of fear is sweeping across America today. Someone once said, "Fear is a dark room where negatives develop." We look at life through a negative lens. So let's examine fear.
A message throughout the Bible is that we not be afraid — "Do not fear, for I am with you." The angels announced the birth of Jesus with "Fear not!" After Jesus' resurrection, He said, "Do not be afraid." When He was with the disciples, He said, "Do not be afraid."
One of our children's books says, "What makes you quiver and shiver and shake? A tiger, a mouse, a very long snake? If you crawl in the blankets and cover your head and wonder what's hiding right beneath your bed, if you think something's waiting out in the hall when nothing is out there and nothing at all, then you better sit down and hold on to your hat for you get the prize as the biggest scaredy cat." After reading this to the girls, they were still afraid at night.
A man purchased one million dollars in flight insurance prior to boarding his flight. Before entering the plane, he decided to weigh himself on scales that provided his fortune. His fortune was, "Your recent investment will soon pay off." He had a hard time boarding after that!
We live in a dangerous world in which we are constantly bombarded with "psychofacts." Psychofacts are items the media gives us that, if you focus on them, will scare you to death. Speaking of death, they've even calculated the odds of dying in certain situations. For example, I looked and the odds of dying were 1-in-437 if you are between 34-44 years old. The odds are 1-in-4,500 for a policeman to die on the job. The odds for dying while giving birth are 1-in-9,100 and dying in an airplane crash are 1-in-167,000. Lightning has a death rate of 1-in-2 million. If you are a 36-year-old pregnant policewoman flying for work in a thunderstorm you might be a little nervous. Now let's add some fog to the flight. Science tells us that a dense fog one hundred feet deep and covering seven city blocks is composed of less than one eight-ounce glass of water. How many wrecks do you suppose that eight-ounce glass of water has caused? Life has a way of being foggy.
I was once on a plane surrounded by so much fog I couldn't see the wing and smoke appeared to be coming out of the air conditioning ducts. Then I heard a weird noise. The fear on the plane was as thick as the fog outside of the plane. People were wondering if the take-off and landing would come out even. (By the way, this is a great time to witness.) I was getting a little tense myself. I confessed sins I just thought about doing, and even thought of some of you and confessed your sins.
Then we heard a voice. "This is the Captain speaking. I know all of you can see the fog, but we are flying by instruments. Some of you have reported seeing smoke in the air conditioning vents. That is coming from the high humidity and what you see is water vapor which will taper off as the cabin dries out. The noise you heard was the landing gear. I have a new co-pilot who was demonstrating to me how well he can operate the landing gear. We won't let him do that anymore. Everything is on schedule, and we will be in sunny Florida in two hours."
The whole plane relaxed because we had a word from the Captain. When life is foggy, you see smoke, and hear strange noises, relax because the Captain of life says, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
Florence Chadwick was a great swimmer who was the first lady to swim the English Channel in both directions. After completing that feat, she planned to be the first woman to swim from Catalina Island to the California shore. Faced with horrible conditions of dense fog and numbing cold, she said she wanted to get out of the water. Her trainer and mother told her that she could make it. She got out of the water anyway and discovered that she was only one-half of a mile from shore. She said the cold water didn't stop her, the fatigue didn't stop her, but what did stop her was that she couldn't see land. The fog prevented her from seeing the goal, and she lost her focus. What is your focus? Do you see Christ in your life? Is he the Captain and is His Book your instrument panel? The answer to these questions may determine whether you sink or soar?