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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wrestling with Fear

Fear is an interesting physical response. The web site How Stuff Works describes it like this:
Fear is a chain reaction in the brain that starts with a stressful stimulus and ends with the release of chemicals that cause a racing heart, fast breathing and energized muscles, among other things, also known as the fight-or-flight response. The stimulus could be a spider, a knife at your throat, an auditorium full of people waiting for you to speak or the sudden thud of your front door against the doorframe.
Some apparently find this experience enjoyable, either by reading books or watching horror movies, but few would choose the real life circumstances that induce fear. We would like to know how to deal with the experience of fear that can often be paralyzing, preventing us from doing what we know is right, or preventing us from really being able to live.

I’ve always found this verse fascinating when it comes to thinking about fear.

1 John 4:18 (ESV) 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Obviously, a greater experience of and knowing the love of God is important. But how does that happen? I believe prayer is the bridge that helps us cross from terror to really living in spite of fear inducing experiences. For a person who knows God, the scriptures give real ways of wrestling with God through fear. The primary tool for that is prayer.

This Sunday at Bethany Place I am beginning a four-week series on the subject of prayer called Learning the Language of Faith. I think that learning to pray can be very much like learning to speak a foreign language. Though according to Philip Yancey,  “. . . more Americans will pray this week than will exercise, drive a car, have sex, or go to work. Nine in ten of us pray regularly, and three out of four claim to pray every day.”  Yancey, Philip (2008-09-02). Prayer (Kindle Locations 211-213). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Many would say that prayer is really important. But how would you judge your experience with prayer? To what extent are you able to face a terrifying experience through prayer and come out the other end of that with a genuine sense of peace under circumstances that would make most people crumble? Do you hear stories about men like Martin Luther or George Mueller who literally prayed for 3-4 hours per morning and just shake your head saying, “How?” if not, “Why?”

I will conduct this short investigation from the book of Psalms. I think that we underestimate the potential of learning how to pray through the use of this book. This collection of songs and prayers covers nearly every imaginable human emotion and gives real life examples of a how person lives life with God.

You can see the text and outline of Sunday’s message below.

Wrestling with Fear

Psalm 56, April 15, 2012, Bethany Place Baptist Church

1.    Ask for grace

Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.

2.    Preach to yourself

When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?

10  In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
11  in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

3.    Be specific and intense

All day long they injure my cause;
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
They stir up strife, they lurk;
they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life.
For their crime will they escape?
In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!

4.    Know that experience with God builds faith

You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.

5.    Obey God in response to his grace

12  I must perform my vows to you, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
13  For you have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God

Questions for individuals, families, or groups
What do you fear? How do you deal with fear? Are you able to admit when you are fearful? 
What is the difference between complaining and telling God what troubles you?
What do you think that it means to preach to yourself? What do you need to preach to yourself? 
In what ways can you use scripture to learn to pray? Do you know of specific scriptures that address your unique fears? How can you discover them?
How could scripture memory help you preach to yourself?

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