Freedom from Fear” is a Lenten series created by Pella Reformed Church in Adams, Nebraska. Throughout the gospels Jesus tells his followers or those around him, “Do not be afraid.” Yet today fear plays an enormous part in our lives. We spent the season of Lent looking at the times where Jesus says, “Do not be afraid” and discovering what fears Jesus is releasing us from today.
A song you may choose to use for the whole series is “Don’t Be Afraid” LUYH 429 by John L. Bell of the Iona Community
Fear of Inadequacy
What role does fear play in this story? Simon is afraid that he is inadequate and unworthy. He tells Jesus to go away because he is sinful, and he doesn’t feel he deserves to be in his presence. Jesus then does two things: he tells Simon not to be afraid and gives him a mission. Notice that Jesus doesn’t disagree with Simon when he says he is unworthy. Basically Jesus says, “Yes, you are unworthy, but even so, do not be afraid.” Even in our unworthiness we don’t have to be afraid.
The mission Jesus entrusts to Simon is to fish for people, to share the good news. This unworthy man, regardless of his own inadequacies, is being given a mission to spread the gospel. How often do we hide behind our own inadequacies? We use them as excuses to not listen to the calling of God. But Jesus tells us to not be afraid, even when we are inadequate.
“For Freedom Christ Has Set Us Free” LUYH 679, SNC 66
“How Firm a Foundation” GtG 463, LUYH 427, PH 361, PsH 500, TH 94, WR 411
Fear of Circumstances
This is another story of Jesus calming the fears of the disciples. This time they are in their boats in the midst of a storm, and Jesus calms the storm. Then he asks them, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
The disciples are filled with fear because of the circumstance they find themselves in. Waves are crashing, drowning is a real possibility, and the disciples are beside themselves. Even though Jesus was with them, they were still filled with fear because of what was in front of them. The big storm that was right in front of their faces overtook their minds, and they forgot who was in the boat with them.
Like the disciples, when we face difficult circumstances in life, it’s easy for us to lose faith and to forget who is in the boat with us. We get so caught up in these circumstances that we can’t see anything else. Jesus reminds the disciples, and us, that his presence is near, and we do not need to fear. Interestingly, the passage ends with the disciples being terrified. But, their fear is no longer of the waves and the wind, it is of Jesus. Fear of the Lord is something altogether different!
“If You But Trust in God to Guide You” LUYH 407
“Mighty to Save” LUYH 611
“The Same Love” by Michael Rossback and Paul Baloche
For this series, we made a simple felt banner that hung on the pulpit. Each week we added the name of the fear we were discussing that day. On Easter Sunday, we took the banner down during worship as a symbol that we were free from all those fears. (Note: We had a guest preacher during Week Four who did not follow the theme, so “The Unexplainable” didn’t make it onto our banner.)
Fear of Death
In this passage, Jesus raises the daughter of Jairus, a synagogue leader, from the dead. Here Jesus confronts one of our biggest fears – death. Jairus has received the news that his daughter is dead, and it had to be heartbreaking. He had come to Jesus with the hope that Jesus could heal his daughter, and he now believes that all hope is lost. But Jesus says otherwise. He tells Jairus, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” He then proves his power over death by raising Jarius’ daughter from the dead.
We fear death immensely. We don’t like to think about it or talk about it, and we spend thousands and thousands of dollars trying to avoid it. But Jesus frees us from that fear. Jesus shows us that in the face of death, he brings hope and peace and life.
One of the difficult aspects of this story is that there are so many other similar stories that don’t end this way. Not every little girl is saved. There is pain and death and tragedy that plays out in our lives. Jesus doesn’t promise here that there will be no death, but he does give us hope that even in the midst of unspeakable pain, we don’t have to be afraid. We don’t have to fear because Jesus brings hope, peace, and life even to the darkest of places.
“Where, O death is your victory, where, O death, is your sting?!” (1 Corinthians 15:55)
“Abide with Me” GtG 836, LUYH 466, PH 543, PsH 442, TH 402, WR 521
“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” GtG 223, LUYH 175, PH 100, PsH 384, TH 252, WR 261
“Oh, to See the Dawn” LUYH 177
Fear of the Unexplainable
The Transfiguration is a well-known yet mysterious story in the gospels. Peter, James, and John are with Jesus on a high mountain, and there they are suddenly met by Moses and Elijah! To add to this, a sudden bright cloud appears, and they hear the voice of God. This leaves the disciples face down on the ground, terrified. But again, Jesus comes to them and says, “Don’t be afraid.” When they look up, they see only him.
If we put ourselves in the disciples’ shoes, we realize that they’ve had quite a night. There has been a lot they don’t understand, and it all culminated with hearing the voice of God speaking from a bright cloud. You can almost see them trying to make sense of what is happening. Peter does this by trying to set up tents, but ultimately it is not an experience to be explained, it is one simply to be experienced.
We like explanations for what happens in our lives. Explanations give us a sense of control, a sense that we are directing the events of our days. When confronted with things that have no explanation, we get scared! We make up explanations, we try to fit them into categories so we don’t have to simply live with the mystery. Jesus frees us from having to explain and understand everything we experience. He invites us to not always have to explain life, but sometimes to just simply experience it.
“I Stand Amazed” LUYH 174, WR 277
“I Stand in Awe of You” WR 53
“Meekness and Majesty” LUYH 157, SNC 109, WR 97
Fear of Hell
Jesus here is giving warnings and encouragements to a gathered crowd. In this particular section, Jesus both frees them from a fear and tells them to have a fear! He tells them not to fear those who can kill the body, but to fear the One who has the authority to “throw you into hell.” Initially, this doesn’t sound like Jesus is freeing us from anything! Hell is a topic that raises anxieties almost instantly. We fear being “thrown into hell.” Maybe even on a deeper level we fear that God wants to throw us into hell, that God is just waiting for us to mess up, that all it takes is one mistake for God to be done with us.
It almost seems like Jesus anticipates that fear, and he speaks to it immediately. After telling them to fear the Lord because he has the power to throw them into hell, Jesus tells them that not a single sparrow is forgotten by God, and that we are worth more than many sparrows.
What does this mean? It means that though God has the power to throw us into hell, he does not have the desire to do so. We are worth so much to God, God values us and loves us so immensely, that he does not desire one of us to be lost. We have major fears about not doing enough to “get into” heaven. We fear that God wants us to mess up and won’t forgive us when we do. Jesus came to set us free from that fear. Jesus reminds us that God desires our good, desires our salvation.
“In Christ Alone” LUYH 770, SWM 208
“His Eye is on the Sparrow” GtG 661, LUYH 441, TH 618
“How Firm a Foundation” GtG 463, LUYH 427, PH 361, PsH 500, TH 94, WR 411
On Palm Sunday we gave kids and adults palm branches as they entered the sanctuary and invited them to wave them during the opening songs. During the final verse of the opening song, they all came and laid their branches across the front of the sanctuary. These branches were used as a visual aid during the sermon.
Fear of Conquest
Even in this familiar story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem, we are told to not be afraid. Here it takes the form of a prophecy from Zechariah brought to mind when Jesus comes into Jerusalem.
Before the prophecy from Zechariah comes, we must understand the context of what is happening. Jesus was in Jerusalem, just before the festival of Passover. There were people gathered from many nations, and the excitement surrounding Jesus was at a fever pitch. It was rumored and said that he was the Chosen One, the Messiah, the One Israel had longed for!
When Jesus rode a young donkey into town, he was essentially identifying himself as the Messiah, the one spoken of in Zechariah. Israel longed to be set free from the Romans. They longed to no longer live in fear of conquest, so the sight of their Messiah coming into Jerusalem was the most welcome sign imaginable.
We don’t all live with the fear of conquest today, but each of us does live with different levels of fear in our lives. Sometimes those fears and anxieties become so great they threaten to overtake us. They overtake our relationships, our joy, our purpose. Whatever fears we find ourselves locked into, we can take heart that our King is coming!
“Lead On, O King Eternal” GtG 269, LUYH 328, PsH 555, TH 580, WR 508
“Beautiful Savior” LUYH 17, PsH 461, WR 105
“Man of Sorrows, What a Name” LUYH 170, PsH 482, TH 246, WR 301
On Easter Sunday as people entered worship, we gave them a purple piece of paper. Throughout the service we reviewed the fears we’d talked about throughout Lent, as well as the fear of the unknown we see in the resurrection story. We encouraged people to write their fears on the sheet of paper.
At the end of the worship service, we brought in 150 white helium balloons and gave one to each person. They were invited to tie their purple pieces of paper to the balloon’s string. We then went outside and released our balloons all at once to symbolize Jesus freeing us from our fears.
(Though maybe not as symbolically rich, for environmentally friendly alternatives to a balloon release go to tinyurl.com/hoboqq7.)
Fear of the Unknown
Even in the resurrection story, fear plays a role. And again, we see Jesus offering reassurance, freeing the women at the tomb from the fear they are experiencing.
The fear the women are experiencing is understandable because they are talking to a dead man! We call this the fear of the unknown. The women have no way to understand and comprehend what they are experiencing, so they are filled with fear. Jesus understands this and speaks peace into their fear. He also reassures them with his presence, physically, as they clasp his feet.
But once again, as we saw in week one, Jesus not only speaks peace into their fear, he gives them a mission. He actually sends them out INTO the unknown! We are always on a mission. Jesus appoints the women to be tellers of the good news to the other disciples. Which of your fears is Jesus speaking peace into today? What mission is he sending you on?
“See, What a Morning” LUYH 181
“Hosanna” SWM 29, WR 266
“Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” GtG 245, LUYH 182, PH 113, PsH 388, SWM 132, TH 273, WR 288