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The Reality of Fear and our Response to Fear

socialmedia@cityrise.org November 1, 2021 sermons, cityrise, Crosspoint Church - Bellaire, Fear Not, Psalms, Roger Patterson, West U Baptist,

The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Kirby Follis on Sunday October 31, at our West U Baptist Church campus. To view the sermon in full, please visit our YouTubpage.

In January 2021, Chapman University in Southern California surveyed adults across the USA about different fears they were currently experiencing…Here is some of their findings:

  • #1 Fear in 2020/2021 – Corrupt Government Officials – 79.6%
  • #2 People I love dying – 58.5%
  • #3 A loved one contracting COVID19 – 58%
  • #4 People I love becoming seriously ill – 57.3%
  • #5 Widespread Civil Unrest – 56.5&%
  • Here are some other legitimate fears people have: #14 Not having enough money for the future – 48.6%, #51 Sharks – 29.5%, #59 A devastating flood – 28.3%, #67 Reptiles – 24.7%, #89 Zombies – 9.3%,

Do you remember the last time you were really afraid?

On Easter Sunday, I was to preach at 8, 9:30, & 11am. As some of my friends say it, “Hey Pastor, Easter is your Super Bowl. Are you ready?”

It’s a big day. So, I got up early that morning to prepare and as part of my preparation that day, I decided to go for a run.

Now, it’s about a mile from my house to Crosspoint. Then, it’s a mile back. So, I run a 10-11 minute mile (yes, slow and deliberate is my speed), and I have budgeted just over 20 minutes to get going. I wanted to be fully alert and awake for that 8 am service.

So, I got after it. I started my stopwatch on my watch. I start jogging and I turn the corner from the house and see a couple of guys coming my way. It’s really dark. We say hello, and they head in the other direction. And from there, I didn’t see another soul all the way to Crosspoint. Again, its just a mile down the road.

I turn around, look at my watch and I’m feeling good about my time. I’m moving along at about a 10:15 or 10:20 mile pace.

I am about a third of the way headed back in the other direction and I hear this rumble behind me. I have my ear buds in, but it’s not so loud that I can’t hear this old truck. It’s an old truck…and it rumbles and rumbles and rumbles.

Now, when I run, I run on the opposite side of the street. In other words, I run against traffic so that I can see them and they can see me.  So, I’m on the opposite side of the street, and I quickly realize this guy should have already passed me by now. But he is just idling right behind me.

So, I get up on the sidewalk and keep moving. If he is going to run me over, he is going to have to jump the curb to take a shot at me.

As I get up on the curb, he steps on the accelerator and passes me. And about two houses from where I am, he turns into a driveway where there is a deep circle drive. This is a deep lot and he turns in at the near drive and circles his truck and parks right at the far end of the driveway…right at the edge of the sidewalk. And he sits there idling.

I’ve got my worship music playing. I’ve been praying on my jog. I’ve been getting my mind ready, because it’s Easter Sunday…my Super Bowl…and I’ve got some preaching to do.  And I now have to navigate this truck and some crazy guy who at a minimum wants to get in my head…and at a maximum, may want to do some damage to me.

So, I see this truck idling there as I jog along the sidewalk.

At this point, I decide to cross over the street. I cut across to the other sidewalk and pick up my pace.

And do you know what comes to mind?

This verse…It’s Psalm 34:7.

Psalm 34:7

The angel of the Lord encamps
    around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Now, I had forgotten that last phrase in the midst of my fear. I had forgotten the, … “and delivers them…” part.

But I was saying the verse as I crossed the street and got up on the other side of the sidewalk. I was saying it over and over again.

As I keep jogging, this guy pulls out of the driveway and he keeps tailing me all the way to the stop sign at Evergreen. I am thinking, “Am I about to get shot in the back?” And then I think, “Lord, it’s Easter Sunday and I have to preach three times today, I really don’t have time for this.”

I run through the intersection at Evergreen and Avenue B and as I get through the intersection, this guy turns right. And I think, “Hallelujah.”

He starts to head for the feeder road at 610, and I start to think about what’s next. I’m a half mile from the house. Quickly, I realize that he still has a shot at me if he wants it. He may stop and turn around and come back to mess with me. Or, he may make a loop around the freeway to come back this way at me.

Honestly, I had no idea what he was going to do. But I knew immediately what I was to do. I picked up the pace as I didn’t want him to gather some resolve and come after me.  So, I got moving.

Now, some of you have commented on my weight loss. Thank you for your kind words on that. Some have asked, “How did you lose that weight.”

My answer, “I changed my relationship to both food and running. I used to eat a lot and run a little, now I run a lot and eat a little.”

I have a treadmill and I have been doing interval training. That’s where you increase your speed and then pull it back. You push for a time and then you rest.  You get the heart rate up and then you bring it down.

Well, there was no bringing the hear-rate down. No, I pushed myself hard because I was afraid.

As I near Horn Elementary, I realize that there are some headlights off in the distance behind me. I do a quick look over my shoulder and decided to push my speed even more. Right before I get to my street, I realize the headlights are gone, as they turned toward the feeder road as well. My house is just around the corner now…and I can finally rest that I will have that opportunity to go to our Easter Services and preach three times.

And as I pull up to the house, I quickly turn to my stop-watch and stop it.

I use an app and ear buds that take your heart rate and measure your fitness level and assess how you did. It’s a British company called Jabra.

I stop the watch and see that I have just finished my two mile run with a 9:30 minute mile. The app quickly flashes a note that I have just run my fastest mile all year.

Then, the British woman, who usually says, “Your fitness is below average and declining…” says, “Your fitness is below average and improving.”

Fear is tough, isn’t it? It kicks us into fight or flight mode…or it paralyzes us.

Whether it’s a story where you are jogging and got afraid, or you have an undertow of fear that keeps pulling at you, we need to know what we are to do when we find ourselves fearful. More than that, as we consider those statistics I shared a few moments ago, clearly, many are fearful these days.

Those next door to you, your co-workers. People sitting next to you in traffic.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a follower of Jesus or not, whether you are on campus or watching online… We all haver fears about our lives and our future.

What are some of your fears? What makes you anxious or worried?  And what do you do with these fears?  That’s the real question on the table today: What do we when fears are pressing in / When we’re afraid?

The good news is that the Bible isn’t silent when it comes to fear. As a matter of fact, the most repeated command in Scripture is to “FEAR NOT.” Fear is mentioned over 500 times in the Bible.

Psalm 118

Coincidentally on this Reformation Day (Sunday, October 31—the anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses), we are studying a Psalm that happened to be Luther’s favorite psalm.

Of this psalm Luther wrote…

“This is my own beloved psalm. Although the entire Psalter and all of Holy Scripture are dear to me as my only comfort and source of life, I fell in love with this psalm especially. Therefore I call it my own. When emperors and kings, the wise and the learned, and even saints could not aid me, this psalm proved a friend and helped me out of many great troubles. As a result, it is dearer to me than all the wealth, honor, and power of the pope, the Turk, and the emperor. I would be most unwilling to trade this psalm for all of it.”[1]

You are going to see this for your life as well. Psalm 118 helps us deal with our fears, as it gives us some handles to grab hold of and action steps to take when we find ourselves battling fear.

Let’s being by looking at Psalm 118:1-5.

Psalm 118:1-5

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
    the Lord answered me and set me free.

Here’s the BIG IDEA today, the take-a-way…want to get it out front early today. Here it is, when Fear Comes Your Way…

Fear God More

When Fear Comes Your Way, Fear God More!

Fear God more. Whatever has me afraid, full of fear…whatever has me cowering in the corner….whatever has my spirit troubled, stirred up – Fear God more.

Let’s go Back to our list – what’s happening in the country…my loved one’s dying…COVID…sharks, finances…reptiles…zombies…guys in pick up trucks trying to interrupt your Easter Sunday… – We have to Fear God more than we do the external things that come against us.

Solomon, one of the wisest people ever says it this way in Proverbs 9:10.

Proverbs 9:10

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

What does it mean to fear God?

Michael Reeves says,

“The fear of God is not a gloomy fear marked by anxiety but a heartfelt and happy enjoyment of God as Creator and Redeemer.”[2]

Paul Tripp says,

“Fearing the Lord is to have a deep awareness, awe, and reverence for the power, holiness, wisdom, and grace of God.”[3]

R.C. Sproul borrows from Luther to make a great distinction when we talk about “fear” of the Lord. This is going to be lengthy quote that I read to you, but I believe it is going to be helpful.

Sproul writes…

“We need to make some important distinctions about the biblical meaning of “fearing” God. These distinctions can be helpful, but they can also be a little dangerous. When Luther struggled with that, he made this distinction, which has since become somewhat famous: He distinguished between what he called a servile fear and a filial fear.

The Biblical Meaning of Fearing God

Servile Fear

            Filial Fear

The servile fear is a kind of fear that a prisoner in a torture chamber has for his tormentor, the jailer, or the executioner. It’s that kind of dreadful anxiety in which someone is frightened by the clear and present danger that is represented by another person. Or it’s the kind of fear that a slave would have at the hands of a malicious master who would come with the whip and torment the slave. Servile refers to a posture of servitude toward a malevolent owner.

The Biblical Meaning of Fearing God

Servile Fear — a prisoner in a torture chamber has for his tormentor; dreadful anxiety in which someone is frightened by the clear and present danger that is represented by another person.

 Sproul continues…

Luther distinguished between that and what he called filial fear, drawing from the Latin concept from which we get the idea of family. It refers to the fear that a child has for his father. In this regard, Luther is thinking of a child who has tremendous respect and love for his father or mother and who dearly wants to please them. He has a fear or an anxiety of offending the one he loves, not because he’s afraid of torture or even of punishment, but rather because he’s afraid of displeasing the one who is, in that child’s world, the source of security and love.

 The Biblical Meaning of Fearing God

Servile Fear — a prisoner in a torture chamber has for his tormentor; dreadful anxiety in which someone is frightened by the clear and present danger that is represented by another person.

Filial Fear — the idea of family; the fear that a child has for his father; afraid of displeasing the one who is, in that child’s world, the source of security and love.

 In short, I’m advocating that we choose Filial Fear over Servile Fear.

If I can boil it down to one word to remember – fearing the Lord this way is to WORSHIPto believe that God’s way and truth are more valuable than man’s way or opinion. It’s not just singing songs, or attending church. No, worship is my whole life believing that God’s ways are higher, stronger, and better, and when I fear God through Worship, I am given a foundation of faith upon which I can stand with great Confidence!

I worship God first…I give him weight and worth first. I prioritize his thoughts and ways first!

Reformation Sunday — Martin Luther Story –

Now, Luther can help us this way because he lived it.

Again, it’s reformation Sunday. 504 Years Ago today, Luther took a stand.

Martin Luther was intelligent and had a bright future ahead of him, having earned his master’s degree and having begun a law degree when, in 1505 on his way home for a visit, he was caught in a terrible storm. After a lightning bolt hit nearby, he cried out to Saint Anna and promised to become a monk if saved from the storm. Two of his lawyer friends had recently died, but before they passed, had shared doubts about their salvation. Luther carried similar doubts, even as he entered God’s service.[4]

Luther attempted to earn his salvation through his own righteousness, prayer, and worship, but failed to experience God’s peace and instead felt wretched. He began to teach at a university and then began his doctorate studies. In studying Paul’s letters, he finally realized it was not his efforts, but Jesus’ work on the cross that saves a person. He found peace in God because it is faith, not works. Instead of a demanding God of judgement, he saw a God of infinite grace. He now feared God because of God’s sovereignty, not because He was supernaturally cruel.[5]

Viewing his priestly duties through a lens of faith, not works, he began to see how the practice of indulgences in the Catholic church was not supported by scripture. When hearing confessions, parishioners would pull out indulgences they had purchased before committing the sin to “cover their costs.” He also realized many who thought they were absolved of sin through payment were not and would face God at their death guilty. Luther knew it was a travesty for the church to give its people a false sense of eternal security.

As a good academic, he put up a notice for a debate, written in Latin. These Ninety-Five Theses, which were nailed to the door of Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany (on October 31, 1517), was intended for other priests to consider and then debate at a later date. He also sent a humble letter to his archbishop explaining how indulgences were being misused in the archbishops’ name. What Luther did not know was that this archbishop was pushing the sale of indulgences to raise funds for his own indulgence to Rome. He also did not know that someone would translate the Ninety-Five Theses into German and distribute it to the people.

This latter surprise, due to the relatively new invention of the printing press, spread the debate as far as England while Luther tried to cool the embers he had lit. However, attacks from the hierarchy in the Church became severe and Luther realized he must stand for the truth he knew in scripture, then stay silent and let people go to hell who think they are saved.[6]

When encouraged to recant, he stated his views were from scripture and that if he could be shown through scripture, not tradition or the Pope, he had erred, he would readily recant. When told he could be killed, he stated he’d still have heaven, unwaveringly steadfast in his fear of God rather than fear of man.[7] The harder church hierarchy attacked him the more he clung to scripture and found ways they were adulterating God’s commands. Even as his followers rebelled against the Church causing damage to church property, he reprimanded them based on God’s instructions in scripture. He feared God alone.

So, what can we learn about living a life of worship from this text?

Look at verse 1 – David writes this Psalm, and Spurgeon places the timing as David uniting the northern and southern kingdoms and the ark being restored.. David leads the people of God to worship. He says in Psalm 118:1 …

Psalm 118:1

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever

  • Give thanks. Yada in the Hebrew. It means to praise.

So, let me give you 3 Reasons to Worship God, even when you are afraid.

#1: He is good.

3 Reasons to Worship God

  1. He is Good.

God’s very nature is goodness. This doesn’t change.

What He created, He declared Good.

When we see the majesty of His creation, it’s GOOD. We are in awe!

Lightning Illustration…

When I see lighting, my automatic reaction is wow!  And Julee is like, “haven’t you seen lightning before?”

But I can’t help it. It just flows off my lips. I say “Wow!”

David looks at how God has brought him through, and He says, “He is good!”

David has in mind God’s goodness in saving him from Saul, who pursued him and surrounded him, yet God protected David. He is knows that God’s character is one that is full of mercy, kindness, forgiveness and restoration to people. We need to have in mind restoration- how God has restored to us our lives through the gospel.

In Matthew 19 there is the story of the Rich Young Man came up to Jesus and said…

Matthew 19:16-17

“’Teacher, what good deed must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good.’”

This man is concerned with what good thing can I do to inherit the favor of God, eternal life, salvation.

Jesus says, you don’t yet get it. It’s not about something you can DO to be saved. There’s no good thing you can do to be saved. It’s about WHO is good and there’s only One. He’s generous. He’s kind. He’s compassionate. He’s caring. He’s forgiving. He’s good.

  • For David – thinking on God’s protection, his restoration when he’s messed up, His guidance and provision…

Where can you point to the goodness of God in your life? Worship God for His goodness!

3 Reasons to Worship God

  1. He is Good.
  2. He has Steadfast Love

 He has Steadfast Love – 4 times he mentions the Steadfast Love of the Lord (vs. 1, 2, 3, 4)

  • In the middle of your fear, worship him by thinking about his goodness and by thinking about his steadfast love.
  • This is the loyal love of God. It means God’s love is constant. Perpetual. Continuous. Unceasing. This is mind-blowing to me, this type of love.

The Message says translation says…

Psalm 118:1-5, MSG

“Thank God because he’s good, because his love never quits. Tell the world, Israel, “His love never quits.” And you, clan of Aaron, tell the world, “His love never quits.” And you who fear God, join in, “His love never quits.”

This is great news.

  • God’s love is not and never will be, you mess up, and the relationship is over.

In the Prodigal Son Story, we see the Steadfast love of the Father in this story. The boy comes home expecting the worst from his dad, full of shame, but instead of shame receives steadfast love! Why? Because the Father’s Love never changed.

So, David is saying…

“Worship the Lord because he loves us at our best and he loves us at our worst. No change. His love is not conditional…It’s all the time, through our good, bad and ugly. There’s nothing you can do to cancel God’s love for you.”

Where have you/are you recounting his Steadfast Love in your life?

3 Reasons to Worship God

  1. He is Good.
  2. He has Steadfast Love
  3. He Answers Prayer

He answers prayer – In the middle of your fear and worry, worship God by recalling that He answers prayer.

Verse 5 says…

Psalm 118:5

Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
    the Lord answered me and set me free.

David took his distress to the Lord. His troubled heart. David called upon the Lord in his condition, and testifies that God answers prayer.  Set him free. Helped him.

What prayers has God answered in your life? What prayers do you need him to answer?

In essence David is saying in the middle of your fears it’s essential to worship. To Fear God more. He’s saying it’s really hard to worry when you’re worshipping.

So, get your gaze upon God and not on your fears.


There’s a famous story in Matthew involving Peter.

Matthew 14:22-33

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Peter began to sink because he took his eyes off of Jesus, the One who walked on the water. The One who made the water.

He focused and fixed his eyes on his fear/things that threatened…the wind. And we beat him up for this, don’t we?

But, what did he do as he was sinking? He called out to Jesus. And Jesus caught him.

When you find yourself in fearful times, and you will, Jesus will catch you, you must call to him. He’ll say, why are you doubting – I’m here! I’m bigger! I’ve got you! Do not be afraid. Fear me more. Worship!

That’s the call today. Worship. Fear God more. Can you do that?

Have fears – here to pray with you.

Let’s Pray.














Exerpts from “Not God Enough” by JD Greear

[1] This quote is attributed to Martin Luther by James Montgomery Boice in his commentary on Psalms 107-150.

[2] https://www.ligonier.org/store/what-does-it-mean-to-fear-the-lord-paperback

[3] https://www.paultripp.com/wednesdays-word/posts/what-does-god-ask-of-you

[4] Eric Metaxas, Seven More Men: And The Secret of Their Greatness (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 15.

[5] Ibid, 18.

[6] Ibid, 24.

[7] Ibid, 26.