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Mark Finley
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Hope for Troubled Times

Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety

Mark Finley

Copyright


Copyright © 2020 Middle East Publishers, Beirut, Lebanon

Hope for Troubled Times Series

2) Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety

Authored by Mark A. Finley

Manuscript edited by GC Publishing Department

Translation by Adventist Commons

Cover and Layout Design by Adventist Commons

Cover Image by GC Publishing Department

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Text


Someone has said that fear, worry, and anxiety are our greatest enemies. Recently I read a fascinating story: “According to an ancient legend, a peasant man driving one day to Constantinople was stopped by an old woman, who asked him for a ride. He took her up beside him, and as they drove along, he looked at her, became frightened, and asked, ‘Who are you?’

“The old woman replied, ‘I am Cholera.’

“Frightened, the peasant ordered the old woman to get down and walk, but she persuaded him to take her along, upon her promise that she would not kill more than five people in Constantinople. As a pledge of the promise she handed him a dagger, saying to him that it was the only weapon with which she could be killed. Then she added: ‘I shall meet you in two days. If I break my promise, you may stab me.’

“In Constantinople 120 people died of the cholera. The enraged man who had driven her to the city searched for her. When he found her, he raised the dagger that she had given him to kill her. He shouted, ‘You promised that you would not kill more than five people, and 120 died.’

“But she stopped him, saying: ‘I have kept my agreement. I killed only five. Fear killed the others.’

“This legend is a true parable of life.” Disease may kill thousands of people, but thousands more die because they are overwhelmed by fear. When we look to the future with fear, expecting the worst rather than with confidence expecting the best, we become crippled with anxiety and paralyzed with worry. From the time we are born until the day we die, fear often casts its dark shadow on our lives. Fear crushes our spirit, breaks down our immune system, weakens our will, and renders us powerless in our battle with the enemy. Fear strangles our joy and destroys our dreams.

Fear is a strong emotion closely related to anxiety and worry. It often occurs as the result of some threat, situation, or danger that is apparently unavoidable. One thing we learned from COVID-19 is how suddenly a pandemic can strike fear in the heart of an entire nation. People became fearful that each person they met might be carrying the coronavirus and infect them. Each cough created anxiety that they might have the virus. Every time they sneezed, their hearts beat faster. They continually asked themselves, “Do I have the virus? And if I do, is it my death sentence?”

Dealing With Fear

What can deliver us from our worst fears, or it might be more accurate to say who can deliver us from those fears? The ancient Scriptures are filled with more than 3,000 promises of God’s love and care. Many of the Bible’s promises are specifically encouraging in times of crisis. Clinging to the promises of God, we are filled with hope when we face catastrophes. We confront them with confidence in Christ, who stands by our side. We have the assurance of the One who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). One of the great Bible stories on overcoming fear takes place in an oft-forgotten story tucked away in the Bible’s Old Testament. The king of Syria had surrounded the Israelite city of Dothan. The king’s intent was to capture Elisha. Every time the King of Syria had made a battle move, the prophet Elisha had warned the captain of Israel’s armies. The Syrian king was furious. The only way he could win the battle was to capture and kill Elisha. He brought all the forces in his mighty army to surround the city so that escape was impossible. When Elisha’s servant woke early in the morning and saw the city surrounded by the enemy armies with hundreds of horses and chariots, he was seized with fear. Worry filled his heart. Death seemed inevitable. Trembling with terror, he came to Elisha. He was so worried that it was difficult for him to speak, but finally the words came out: “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15). Elisha’s answer is classic. It provides a life-changing principle for all those who are gripped by fear. It gives comfort to those who are consumed by worry and anxiety. Elisha simply stated, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (verse 17). Despite an almost impossible situation, God was still in control. He was still on His throne. He had a solution where there appeared to be no solution. He could make a way where there seemed to be no way.

Elisha prayed that his young servant would see what he saw—the angelic armies of heaven surrounding them, protecting them, and eventually delivering them. Miraculously God struck the Syrian armies with blindness, and Elisha and his servant escaped. God has a thousand ways to deliver us from our worst fears. If our eyes are focused on the problem, fear will overcome us. If our eyes are fixed upon Jesus, the emotion of fear may still be present, but it will not cripple us. Fear will no longer dominate our lives.

The answer to crippling fear is not that we will never be afraid—it is rather that we have One with us in our fears, strengthening us to go on no matter how we feel. We have One who is larger than our fears, bigger than our worries, and greater than our anxieties by our side, and He has practical, down-to-earth, real solutions to our problems. The sense of the presence of God is the antidote to fear. We were created to live by faith, not be consumed by our fears. E. Stanley Jones, a popular twentieth-century preacher, once said, “I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt, and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath—these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely—these are my native air.” We were created to live a life of trust in the One who made us. Look beyond your fears to the Christ, who cares for you more than you will ever know.

Faith Versus Fear

There is another fear breaker found in a story on the stormy sea of Galilee that teaches us the importance of faith, not fear. The Sea of Galilee is about 13 miles long and eight miles wide. At times fierce winds blow in and quickly turn the once-calm sea into a torrent of raging fury. As Jesus’ disciples crossed the sea on a starlit night, the waters were calm. Suddenly inky-black clouds filled the sky. The winds whipped the waves into a fury. Huge waves crashed against the boat. Matthew’s Gospel puts it this way: “But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea” (Matthew 14:24, 25). The fourth watch of the night is between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. in the morning. They set sail in the early evening. They could have made it across the sea in two or three hours, but they battled the wind and waves for eight long hours. Evidently the wind blew against them, and they were no closer to their destination than when they started. They were weary, tired, and exhausted. They felt they could battle no longer. Their strength was gone. There are times in life when the battle is fierce. The storms rage all around us, and we are so exhausted with the battle that we feel we cannot fight any longer. Here is the incredible good news.

Where was Jesus during this time? What was He doing during their intense struggle? He was praying for them. He was asking the Father to increase their faith, to give them strength to face the storm, to give them the courage to go on. Jesus knew what they did not know: the cross was coming, and the storm that they were going through now would increase their faith for what would lie ahead. In the storms of life that we face daily, Jesus is preparing us for greater crises that will break upon our world in the future.

The disciples saw the storm; Jesus saw them. Their eyes were fixed upon the waves; Jesus’ eyes were fixed upon them. To the disciples everything seemed out of control, but Jesus was still in control. Amid the storms of life His eyes are upon us. When the thunder roars and the waves are high, He is still mighty to save. In the darkness He is our light of life.

In verses 25, 26 the scripture says, “Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear.” The Greek word for “fear” translated in verse 26 is an extremely strong word. It can be better translated “terrified.” Here is the problem. The disciples feared what they did not know. They saw what they thought was a ghost. Belief in evil spirits was common in first-century Palestine. The idea of ghosts, goblins, and phantoms was widespread. These disciples had spent years with Jesus, but in a time of storm their fears overtook their rational thinking processes. The unknown often creates fear, and the problem is that sometimes our worst fears come true. There are those who say, “Don’t worry about it. Everything is going to be OK.” But you and I know that everything may not always turn out as we desire, so we play the “what if” game: What if I do have cancer? How will I handle it if my physician tells me I must begin treatment immediately? My husband was not home for supper at 5:00 p.m., and it is 7:00 p.m., and he has not called. What if he has been in an accident? My company is making severe cutbacks. What if I lose my job and can’t pay my bills? My teenage son is on a camping trip. It has been three days, and he has not called. What if he is lost in the mountains?

The “what if” questions must give way to the voice of Christ, who proclaims in the midst of the raging sea, the blowing winds, and the overwhelming darkness, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” (verse 27). Have you ever noticed how many times Jesus says, “Be of good cheer”? Throughout the Gospels Jesus uses the expressions “Be of good cheer” and “Do not be afraid” repeatedly.

Jesus is the answer to the overwhelming fears that consume our energy, rob our joy, and ruin our health. Fear must give way to faith as we adjust our focus. Fear is an emotion. We cannot necessarily control our emotions. Emotions come and go. They often suddenly sweep over us. Faith is an attitude. Faith is trust in God as a well-known friend, believing that He loves us and will never do us any harm.

A Personal Illustration

Let me give you a very personal illustration of trust. It was necessary for me to get some medical treatments for a particular condition I am facing. One of the treatments my medical team recommended was hyperbaric oxygen. This necessitated being placed in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for about two hours per day for 35 to 40 treatments. When the owner of the clinic explained the treatment to me, he said the problem many people have going into this chamber is not claustrophobia; it is trust. After you are placed in the chamber, there is no way you can get out alone. You must have absolute confidence that the chamber operator will get you out when your treatment is over. If you trust the operator, you will be fine. When I entered that hyperbaric oxygen chamber, I placed my trust in the medical technician. I had no fear, because I had confidence in the one who was operating the machine. I believed the one in charge knew what he was doing. As we enter trying experiences, as fears arise, as anxiety threatens our joy, we can have absolute confidence in Christ. He is the one in charge, and He knows what He is doing.

The answer to the fears in our life is faith—faith that Jesus is there in the storms of life and will take us through any situation and get us out the other side. Fear is an emotion. Faith is an attitude, and focus is a choice.

Peter did not allow his fears to overwhelm his faith so that he would lose focus. Amid the storm and the raging waves, Peter cried out to Jesus, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water (verse 28). Faith leads us out of the boat. Faith leads us to walk on the stormy seas with Jesus. Faith leads us to face the winds and rain with our eyes fixed on the Master of the wind and the Lord of the heaven and the earth. Faith triumphs over fear. Trust triumphs over our trials. Faith overcomes the obstacles in our way and enables us to walk on stormy seas with Jesus.

Jesus responded to Peter’s request with one word: “Come” (verse 29). Jesus never says, “Stay away.” Jesus never says, “You deal with it.” Jesus never says, “That’s your problem, not Mine.” Jesus never says, “Stop troubling Me with that. I have got enough big problems to deal with in the world.”

Jesus says come... step out of the boat. Come by faith and walk on the water. Come, My arms are strong. You are not going to drown. Peter responded to Christ’s invitation and stepped out of the boat. He ventured out into the unknown with Christ. He flung himself into the jaws of death. In the face of the howling wind, Peter did not allow his fears to paralyze him. What are your greatest fears? What do you worry about most? Christ is greater than our fears. He is bigger than our doubts. He is larger than our questions. He invites us to come to Him in the stormy seas of life.

When Peter kept his eyes fixed on Jesus, he walked on water, but something happened to him that often happens to us in the storms of life. Peter lost his sense of focus. Verse 30 adds: “But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid.” When Peter kept his eyes fixed upon Christ and trusted His word, he walked on water. When he focused on the waves and the treacherous situation he was in, he sank. Either we look at our difficulties from an earthly perspective with our human reason and weakness, or we look through the eyes of faith at the promises of God.

When we are dominated by fear, we sink, and the sinking of our spirits is the result of the sinking of our faith. We fear when we forget. When Peter began to sink beneath the stormy sea, there was only one thing that saved him. It was not his skill as an experienced fisherman. It was not his knowledge of the Sea of Galilee. It was not his wisdom in solving problems. It was not his ability to swim back to the boat. As Peter began to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” (verse 30).

Matthew: An Eyewitness of a Miracle

Matthew was an eyewitness of this miracle. He writes from firsthand experience. Matthew was in the boat watching the entire scene play out. He writes, “And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him” (Matthew 14:31).

When Peter cried out, Jesus immediately responded. Jesus is there in the storms of life. He is there when the waves are high, and the night is dark.

Did you notice in these passages there are two cries? The cry of fear and the cry of faith. When the disciples saw what they believed was an apparition, according to verse 26 they cried out in fear. When Peter was sinking in the waves, he cried out in faith.

We can have absolute confidence that Jesus never turns away from those who cry out in faith. His arm is strong to hold us up. David describes this beautifully in the Psalms: “Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed... with the saving strength of His right hand” (Psalm 20:6). We are safe in the hands of Jesus.

Now, notice what Jesus does not say to Peter. He does not say, “Peter, where is your faith?” or “Peter, you have no faith.” He says, “O you of little faith” (Matthew 14:31). A little faith is better than no faith. It reminds me of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 17:20: “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain”—this mountain of difficulty, this mountain of problems, this mountain of trouble—‘Move...,’ and it will move.” When we exercise the little faith we have, our faith in Christ’s power to get us through the storms of life will grow into a mighty force that enables us to walk on the stormy seas of life’s challenges.

Notice this point: Peter had enough faith to get out of the boat, but not enough to get through the storm. Jesus often allows the storms of life to blow upon us to increase our faith. If we would believe more, we would doubt less. The work of faith is to resolve our doubts, so we place our confidence in Christ and Christ alone.

Whether we are consumed with fear or filled with hope all depends on where we are looking. If we are looking at our problems or the problems of this world, our hearts will be filled with fear. Jesus says, “Look up!” Why? When we look to heaven’s sanctuary, we see Jesus and discover strength in His promises. In Christ we find confidence. In Christ we experience assurance. In Christ we are lifted above life’s uncertainties and concerns, and our hearts are filled with security in the One who loves us with an everlasting, undying, unfathomable, exhaustless, endless love.

Trusting God’s Promises

The Bible says “Do not fear” or “Fear not” repeatedly. Although I have not personally counted the number of times the Bible uses this expression, one author has counted 365 times that “fear not” or similar expressions are used throughout the Bible—that is one for every day of the year. God has the entire calendar year covered. He invites us to rest in His love, trust in His grace, and rejoice in His power.

In one of the Bible’s most reassuring promises, Isaiah encourages us by echoing the words of our Lord: “Fear not, for I am with you.” Why don’t we fear? Jesus is with us. Whatever we must go through, He is by our side. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). When we see sickness and suffering and disease all around us, we need not fear, because Jesus is with us. Earlier in the book of Isaiah the inspired Word states, “Say to those who are fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you’ ” (Isaiah 35:4). Why don’t we need to fear? The reason we are not afraid is not that we believe we will never get sick. We are free from paralyzing fear because we believe that whatever state we find ourselves in, Christ will be with us. You remember that Job experienced a terrible pestilence that horribly afflicted his body. During his suffering he cried out in confidence, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25). Job had the absolute assurance that a better day was coming and that one day he would see God face to face. Until then with hope and assurance he could exclaim, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). Job lived a life of trust in the God who promised that He would be with him each moment of the day and who promised him that a better tomorrow was coming.

Even if we develop a life-threatening disease, our faith clings to His promise that one day Jesus will come again to take us home. Like Job, we believe that one day we will see Him face to face. Jesus speaks these reassuring words to us: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3). One day Jesus will come again. And on that wonderful day we will be caught up in the clouds in the sky to meet Him in the air. Sickness and suffering will be eradicated forever. Disease and death will be eradicated in the presence of our loving God.

One of the major reasons we do not live in fear is that we know the end game. We know that sickness will not have the last word: Christ will. We know the coronavirus, or any other virus, natural disaster, calamity, or nuclear war, will not destroy all life on Planet Earth. We have the promise of Jesus’ return. We see famines. We see earthquakes. We see distress of nations. We see the rise of nuclear war. We see the potential of nuclear disaster. We see climate change. We see pestilences taking the lives of thousands.

We see these things, but we have a hope that enables us to thrive in life’s toughest times. There is a sense of confidence that takes us through, because we’ve read the last chapters of the Bible. We know how the story ends. In Revelation 21:4, 5 John writes, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ ” We believe in the blessed hope in Titus 2:13 that Christ is coming again. So we look beyond what is to what will be. We look beyond today to tomorrow. We look beyond sickness to health. We look beyond the pestilences that are carried through the air to the pure air where there will be no more pestilences.

God has a purpose in permitting these calamities to occur. He is calling us to totally, completely depend upon Him. He is revealing to us that there is no certainty in the world we live in. Christ is our assurance. He is our security. He is our Savior, our Redeemer, our Deliver, our coming King. What does this virus do when we see it spreading so rapidly? It calls us to our senses.

This world is not all that there is. Christ is speaking to you and to me. Our lives are fragile. Every single one of us lives in these fragile earthen bodies. But beyond what is, there is something better yet coming—and that is the glory of Christ. There is something worth living for beyond this life, and that’s Jesus Christ. Allow Him to fill your heart, to take away your fears, strengthen your resolve, and prepare you for His soon return.

BackCover


The world’s medical top priority was a race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. Many are placing their trust in this solution to return the world back to “normal”.

Yet, there is something far more deadly than the Coronavirus. The virus of sin. Often the effects of this sin virus are not evident, just like COVID-19, until it is too late. Read about the true remedy and the Divine Physician who is longing to heal us from our deadly sins.

2. Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety

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