UnkNOTed – Untying the knots of life through the NOTS of Christ! – “Fear Not”
Matt 14:26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” Who would make a statement like that? (Author Stephen Hunt) There have always been thrill seekers, but Frank Farley, past president of the American Psychological Association has spent 30 years researching this kind of person. He labels them as type “T” personality – for Thrill seeking. Type T personalities require an increased level of stimulation to maintain their energy levels. Type “T” people are drawn to high risk situations… easily bored, love extreme sports, mountain climbing, para-sailing, sky jumping, space jumping. (Farley writes a blog, “The People’s Professor”, for Psychology Today.)
But I suspect that most of us are type “F” personality… Fearful! (Phobia.net has some 530 phobias categorized.) Do Not Fear is the second most repeated expression in the Bible, and there are 366 Fear verses in the Bible which encourage us to fear not – one for every day of the year! Matt 14 is a story about the interaction of Fear and Faith. Earlier in the story John the Baptist has been beheaded, and Jesus withdrew to a private place to be alone with God. But a crowd gathered, they stayed, they got hungry, and Jesus told his disciples, “You feed them!” And incredible miracle followed, and their faith was on a high! Five thousand men were fed and the disciples saw the glory of Jesus on display. He asked them to pick up the leftovers as a testimony of His provision for all the disciples. It was a faith expanding experience for the disciples. But then…
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (NIV)
The Sea of Galilee is known quick changes wind direction and speed because the cool air at the mountain tops surrounding it would then tumble toward this lake several hundred feet below sea level. The disciples were, “Against the Wind” – typical of life is it not? John’s gospel adds that they had rowed for several miles against the wind. Mark mentions that it is between 3 and 6 a.m. in the morning. They are straining at the oars… How often have you felt buffeted? Progress is slow and laborious. Like Lewis Carroll’s character Alice in Alice in Wonderland when she says, “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”
(Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was better known by the pen name Lewis Carroll, English author, mathematician, logician, Anglican clergyman and photographer. His most famous writings are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass)
The disciples are exhausted when Jesus walks to them on the water, and they cried out in fear! :25-26. Fear captured them, fear controlled them. Interestingly, they were not frightened by the wind or the waves, but by what they assumed was a ghost walking on the water! They had just seen Christ’s care for the 5 thousand in a significant way, but their experience on land did not carry over onto the water! How many times to we seem to learn the same lessons over and over again only in different settings in life?
Our frames of reference do not carry over well when it comes to spiritual realities. And here is our first take away from the story:
Fear distorts reality! This couldn’t be Jesus, it must be a ghost. They couldn’t believe what their eyes were really seeing. (Like the spies coming back from the promised-land. The fruit was huge, but there are also giants in the land! 10 spies exaggerated and distorted the situation.)
Some fears are very real, but most of our fears are tied to some area of phobia or exaggerated experientially driven events. People look at the same data and see different conclusions. Some of the top 100 phobias in the world:
- Arachnophobia – The fear of spidersaffects women four times more (48% women and 12% men).
- Ophidiophobia – The fear of snakes. Phobics avoid certain cities because they have more snakes.
- Acrophobia – The fear of heights. Five percent of the general population suffer from this phobia.
- Agoraphobia – The fear of open or crowded spaces. People with this fear often wont leave home.
- Cynophobia – The fear of dogs. This includes everything from small Poodles to large Great Danes.
- Astraphobia – The fear of thunder/lightningAKA Brontophobia, Tonitrophobia, Ceraunophobia.
- Claustrophobia – The fear of small spaces like elevators, small rooms and other enclosed spaces.
- Mysophobia – The fear of germs. It is also rightly termed as Germophobia or Bacterophobia.
- Aerophobia – The fear of flying. 25 million Americans share a fear of flying.
- Trypophobia – The fear of holesis an unusual but pretty common phobia.
- Carcinophobia – The fear of cancer. People with this develop extreme diets.
- Thanatophobia – The fear of death. Even talking about death can be hard.
- Glossophobia – The fear of public speaking. Not being able to do speeches.
- Monophobia – The fear of being alone. Even while eating and/or sleeping.
- Atychiphobia – The fear of failure. It is the single greatest barrier to success.
- Ornithophobia – The fear of birds. Individuals suffering from this may only fear certain species.
- Alektorophobia – The fear of chickens. You may have this phobia if chickens make you panic.
- Enochlophobia – The fear of crowdsis closely related to Ochlophobia and Demophobia.
- Aphenphosmphobia – The fear of intimacy. Fear of being touched and love.
- Trypanophobia – The fear of needles.
- Anthropophobia – The fear of people. Being afraid of people in all situations.
- Aquaphobia – The fear of water. Being afraid of water or being near water.
- Autophobia – The fear of abandonmentand being abandoned by someone.
- Hemophobia – The fear of blood. Even the sight of blood can cause fainting.
- Gamophobia – The fear of commitmentor sticking with someone to the end.
- Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – The fear of long words. Believe it or not, it’s real.
- Xenophobia – The fear of the unknown. Fearing anything or anyone that is strange or foreign.
- Vehophobia – The fear of driving. This phobia affects personal and work life.
- Basiphobia – The fear of falling. Some may even refuse to walk or stand up.
- Achievemephobia – The fear of success. The opposite to the fear of failure.
- Theophobia – The fear of Godcauses an irrational fear of God or religion.
- Ailurophobia – The fear of cats. This phobia is also known as Gatophobia.
- Metathesiophobia – The fear of change. Sometimes change is a good thing.
- Globophobia – The fear of balloons. They should be fun, but not for phobics.
- Nyctophobia – The fear of darkness. Being afraid of the dark or the night is common for kids.
- Androphobia – The fear of men. Usually seen in younger females, but it can also affect adults.
- Phobophobia – The fear of fear. The thought of being afraid of objects/situations.
Phobias involve the experience of persistent fear that is excessive and unreasonable.
A group of Hebrew soldiers under Saul’s reign camped out at the Valley of Elah. Every morning they would see across the valley a giant called Goliath. He would come out into the Valley and call out the Hebrew soldiers to do battle. And the soldiers through to themselves, “He’s so big, we could never kill him”. And then one morning a young shepherd boy named David came out. The youngest son of Jesse came to the valley of Elah and he heard Goliath and he saw him taunting not only the armies of Israel but also the living God. And He thought something different: “He’s so big, I can’t miss! Some people see God through the lens of their circumstances, others see their circumstances through the lens of who God is.
Fearful people see giants, people of faith are giants. Fearful people see obstacles, People of Faith see opportunity. Fearful people discourage others, people of Faith inspire others. People of fear shrink God. When fear rules, our perspective is distorted.
Hear Jesus speaking to us as he spoke to them: 14:27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Notice Jesus response is immediate! 27 But Jesus immediately said to them… 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
Hear the progression: Take courage, Fear Not, It is I! (If it is you” in Greek is phrased in such a way as to suggest Peter knows it is him…) “Tell me to come, and I will obey”. Ends with Peter getting out of the boat, walking on the water, and coming to Jesus.
2nd Take away: Faith risks are the result of obedience, and are not nearly as risky as disobedience! Not everything that is risky is of Satan. Now Faith is not the same as “risk”, because inside the love of God there are no real risks. We step out when there is a change in our belief about God’s presence and plan for us.
3rd Take away – As we walk in faith, more of our fears will be revealed and removed.
We often find ourselves forced to leave the security of the boat. Things that did not impact us in a previous setting are now experienced in a different way. The status quo is interrupted and we feel our security blanket has been misplaced. Peter demonstrated faith in stepping out of the boat, but there was more to be learned as he continued walking! The same is true in our walk of faith. New lessons, new seasons of trust, new winds and waves to ignore and endure with our eyes on Him. We are continually moving away from fear, driven by God’s love.
1 John 1:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Too often when we repeat this story is seems to focus on Peter’s lack when he began to sink. But their were 11 spectators still in the boat! 11 men watched while 1 man walked! Do you know anyone else in the history of God’s people who walked on water? Even for a few steps?
John Ortberg writes: “The worst failure is not to sink in the waves. The worst failure is to never get out of the boat.” – (If you Want to Walk on Water, You’ve got to get out of the Boat)
We all have that fear of change. The tragedy is when we stay in the boat while Jesus is calling us to walk with Him on the water. Peter realized that Jesus was on the water, not on the boat. More than anything else Peter wanted to be in the company of Jesus.
UnKNOT those things in your personal life that has you bound up, paralyzed, fearful. List three things you are afraid of and talk to God about them. Then pray that Jesus would use your new lack of fear to impact someone else’s life in his name.