Fear: Not A Virtue But The Enemy Of Faith

Text: Matthew 8:23-27

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

If asked, most of us would say that we have strong faith. After all, it is easy to say that we have strong faith, when things in life are going well.  

Take the disciples, for example. That day when they got into their boat with Jesus, they would have most likely said that they had strong faith as well. And the reason why?  Subconsciously, their hearts trusted in a calm sea. The weather looked good, and they trusted in their boating experiences as good fishermen. And so, they would have most likely said that they had strong faith.  What they could see, touch, feel, and experience was good at the moment. Ah, but how that changed later that night when the going got tough.  

You see, later that night, a tremendous storm erupted. It was like an earthquake in the sea. And, just like that, fear exploded in the disciples – they became faithless. They became faithless because their so-called faith was not connected to Christ and the Kingdom of God, but instead, it was connected to what they could see, touch, feel, and experience. And what they could see, touch, feel, and experience at that moment was not good. It was not good at all but very bad. It was dangerous, thus the reason for little faith and a lot of fear.  

Now, it might be a bit of a surprise to you and me, but when the disciples woke Jesus up, Jesus did not immediately comfort them. He did not make everything better saying, 

“Here, here, my dear cupcakes, I will take care of all things.” 

 No, instead, Jesus rebuked them. He harshly said to them, 

 “Why are you fearful? Why are you faithless? O you of small and tiny faith!”

I am not sure that we Christians fully understand the implications of what Jesus is saying here. He is saying that the opposite of faith is fear. Yes, fear is the opposite of faith. And so contrary to what many believe, fear is not a virtue but sin. Let me say that again, to be perfectly clear - fear is sin. It is a sin because it is the exact opposite of faith. Christ rebuked the disciples for their timid fear and their dreadful lack of faith. He did not excuse their fear but condemned it as wrong and sinful.

But we might be tempted to push back against this. After all, it was a great storm, one in which the disciples could’ve died.  And so, wasn’t fear an appropriate response? Yes, it was a proper response - for unbelief – but not faith.   

As I mentioned before, fear has been made by some into a virtue. In fact, it is not uncommon to see fearful people peddling fear to get others to be fearful like them. As they say, misery loves to have good company. Nonetheless, one is hard-pressed to find any portion of the Bible promoting fear as a virtue, as if it is a good thing. The only exception, obviously being the fear of God.  

Let me shoot straight; faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. In other words, faith does not look to the harsh winds, large waves, and the threatening seas of life. Faith does not look at every experience, every circumstance, and every threat of life. 

No, that is what fear does. Fear looks at the threats of life. Fear looks at the problems of life. Fear looks at everything temporal and then produces timidity, dread, and faithlessness.  

But again, we may push back against this, saying, 

“We do not hold to blind faith, do we? We certainly do not hold to a naïve kind of faith where we pop our heads in the sand?” 

No, we do not.  And truth be told, these are bad questions. For questions like these show that we do not understand faith correctly.  

Dear friends, it is easy to misconstrue what faith is. We can misunderstand that strong faith with no fear is being a spiritual muscle-head. We can misunderstand that having no fear and being full of faith is to be confident, bold, strong, and above all the other fearful minions in life. But this is not correct. 

You see, the problem with fear is that it is something that occurs in your mind and body. When the disciples saw the wind, waves, and mighty water, they let the wind, waves, and mighty waters enter their minds. They allowed these threats into their bones. And once these threats got into their minds, into their hearts, and into their bones, well… they were rattled with fear. They were no longer sober in the moment but drunk on fear and foolish with dread. And that is the problem with fear. When fear gets into us, and once it takes root, it drives out faith, and it makes us irrational, stressed out, neurotic, and emotional. And frankly, fear is completely powerless to fix the threats around us. And so, instead of being sober-minded, alert, and ready, we are doubly damned. We are not only surrounded by threatening things in life, but through fear, these threatening things have entered our mind making us drunk on fear, paralyzed with dread, and empty on faith.   

Dear friends, consider for a moment; when has it ever been good, right, and salutary to allow a mind, body, and soul to be ravaged by dread, timidity, and unbelief? That is never healthy. Sure, it is healthy to be wise stewards with our lives, it is good to be smart with our health, and it is beneficial to be wise with our resources, but to let fear invade our minds, souls, and body? To let fear get into our bones? No, that is never healthy. Fear will never give peace and rest, not even for a single minute. Fear is sinful because we are called to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Besides, we are to have only one fear, and that is a godly and reverent fear of God and God alone.  

Perhaps I should’ve stated this months ago. Perhaps I was too fearful myself to say it. Nonetheless, it needs to be said. Over the last two years, the Christian Church has let itself be dominated by way too much fear – fear from Covid, fear from politics, fear of the economy, and fear from everything else that has consumed our news cycle. We should expect the world to promote fear and consume fear as a daily diet, but not the church! 

Lord have mercy!

Dear friends, how we must repent of this fear. We must repent of letting fear dominate our thoughts, words, and deeds, for this is not who we are as Christians. Never forget that you and I were redeemed not unto fear but into faith.  

Baptized Saints, listen up! Faith looks to the promises of God despite your predicament. Faith trusts the Lord’s Word of forgiveness, not the condemning words of mankind. Faith looks to the kingdom that comes, not the failing kingdom at hand. Faith says, “let your will be done,” not, “I hope my will, will be done.”  And so, faith relies on that which is anchored. 

Faith is attached to an immovable rock. Faith does not cling to the winds, waves, and raging seas of the world, but it clings to Christ, who does not cringe, fear, or react to anything.  

Dear friends, mark this, none of your fears will add a day to your life, but it may subtract many days from your life with added stress and strain on your body. Furthermore, not having fear is not the same as being reckless or naïve. But instead, having no fear is to have faith.  Not an empty faith, though, but a faith that is given and sustained by Christ. It is the kind of faith that says, 

“I will row as hard as I can. I will scoop water out as fast as I can. And in the end, my boat may still sink, and I may drown, but Christ is with me, and I trust Him no matter what happens. I will not fear, for He is with me.  I am forgiven.”   

Baptized Saints, while the world will indeed flee from sin, death, and the Devil with fear; faith, on the other hand, will stand before sin, death, and the Devil, saying, 

“Come hell or high water, I cling to Christ, and Christ holds me even stronger. Sting as you may death, condemn as you try O sin, and hiss as loud as you want O Devil, for Christ is bigger than you, has defeated you, and has all authority over you.  My health may fail and my heart may grow weary, but the Lord remains the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Baptized Saints, do not fear. You are not alone in a scrappy little fishing boat but in Christ’s scrappy little church. And you are not alone, no matter how big the waves, how strong the winds, and how deep the waters are. You have Christ, He has forgiven you, and He creates and sustains you in faith. 

Be steadfast in the faith, dear flock, for Christ is faithful to you and chases your fear away.  

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

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