Do Not Be Afraid Series Sermon 1
~Do Not Be Afraid~
Tyson Graber, Herscher Christian Church
December 4, 2011
“Do not be afraid,” is a phrase most have heard before and it is something many of need to hear again.
What Causes You to Be Afraid?
Growing up I heard those words, “ Do Not be afraid” at times when I felt like it was perfectly legitimate to be a little bit scared.
Or maybe worse of all, every year Tiffani asks me to start the taxes, or to get down the Christmas decorations. (Don’t be afraid)
To be honest, some things in life are just a little scary to deal with, and if I am not focused, they make me afraid.
For me, in these situations, I can get a little frustrated with those people who say no to whatever you are facing..., its not a big deal... “Do Not be afraid.”
Please hear me today. I realize some of the things many of you are facing are scary. But understand, as we move forward today it is a not me, but the Lord speaking to you. “Do not be afraid”
With that said, I wonder what brings fear to your life? Right now, at this minute, “What could lead you to be afraid?”
If you were to face those things some of you would need most of us encouraging you to not be afraid. You would need to hear it. For some it would, and for others it would not make a difference.
[Illustration of Zip-line Adventure]
This past summer at a family reunion, Tiffani, the boys, and I all had an opportunity to go on a zip line. It begins by jumping off a 50 foot tower into a valley on a pulley and cable, for a ride going down a total of over 150 ft. drop over a quarter of a mile in just a few seconds. For many it is very scary.
I told the boys, “I promise, you will be safe. Don’t be afraid, I will go with you. Deiken said, “OK.” and we went. He loved it! But when Dawson heard both of us scream..., he was done, and he wasn’t going to do it, no matter what.
Now, for the rest of the day, Deiken was 'living large', having taken his dad's word and trusted it to experience the thrill. Dawson, however, did not enjoy that experience, but let's not beat up on him aboout it...
Too often, we try to figure it out how to get through tough situations on our own instead of trusting the words of our father. Our FATHER’S words will be fulfilled and can be trusted. “Do not be afraid.”
God wants you to hear today, “No matter what you are facing, Do Not Be Afraid!”
Today’s theme is, “Don’t Be Afraid, our father God fulfills His word...”
Let’s begin to see how God fulfills His Word through the Christmas story today in the life of Joseph. Turn with me to the Gospel of Matthew.
Joseph's Heritage and The Promise
Verses 1 to 17 give us the genealogy of the Jesus Christ, proving without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus had the right to the throne of David, that through his earthly father He had the right to be the King of the Jews. He was the rightful heir to the throne.
From study of the Old Testament we know that, for centuries, faithful Jews waited for the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah was coming to console them, to deliver them, to be the fulfilment of all God’s prophecies, and ... to deliver them from Roman rule.
They were looking for a King, yet in Matthew's gospel we see the fulfilment of all of God's promises found in a little baby lying in a manger in Bethlehem. Paul explained it like this:
God promised that He would send a deliverer; God foretold the coming of Christ in the prophecies of the Old Testament. What we find in the beginning of Matthew's gospel is that no matter how long it takes, no matter how many generations pass by, God always fulfills His word at just the right time.
What Matthew's telling us, throughout all of his gospel but especially here at the beginning what at first glance may seem to be a bit boring is really most amazing! God fulfills His promises, God never fails and His Word will always be fulfilled.
Isaiah proclaims that in Isaiah 55:11 This is many years before much of God’s word became fulfilled.
This list begins with Abraham, and takes us down all through the generations to King David and then finally to Joseph. Matthew's desire is to show that this Christ is indeed the true King of Israel in the line of David, who was designed to show us God's purpose. He has come! He has been eagerly awaited, and He is now here!
So, what I want you to see before we go on any further, is that Matthew's account of the nativity is not simply an account of Jesus' birth and childhood so that we should be able to re-enact it on Christmas day. It is really here to show how God's purpose that was declared in the Old Testament was coming to literal, actual, specific, 100% perfect fulfilment in the birth of Jesus Christ.
As in Isaiah 7, it was prophesied that He would be called Immanuel - you have that verse quoted here in Matthew, and then you have the fulfilment. What Matthew is showing is that all the Old Testament prophet said ... Is fulfilled in Christ!
Isn't that wonderful? Now, there are many other themes that run under the surface of Matthew's gospel in the Nativity scene, but the overwhelming theme that I want you to understand today is this: God fulfills His Word. Did you hear that? God always fulfills His word.
That is the background of where we will go into this nativity story today.
Read Matthew 1:18-25
This is not just the story of the fulfilment of God's promises to Israelites, its also a personal history of the individuals that were involved. They’re real people with real fears - Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, and others.
As far as Joseph was concerned, he didn't know this situation was all put in place by God and made possible through the Holy Spirit at first. He didn't know this was an immaculate conception. He didn't know this was the fulfilment of Isaiah 7..., no one had let him in on the secret! To Joseph, this would lead him to become afraid.
God wanted Joseph to hear, “Do not be afraid,” even in the middle of what Joseph would have had to have thought was an impossible situation. He was in what WE would consider an impossible situation. Do you hear that? Joseph was in what we would consider was an impossible situation. That's why I believe Matthew's account is told from Joseph's standpoint while, when you look at Luke's account, it's told from Mary's standpoint.
Now, as far as Joseph was concerned, he didn't know the baby was of the Holy Spirit. He didn't know this was an immaculate conception. He didn't know this was the fulfilment of Isaiah 7, no one had let him in on the secret!
When we look at Luke's gospel, we find that Mary knew because Gabriel the angel had appeared to her and told her ..., but Joseph did not know; he was in the dark. We know, Matthew tells us, that this child was from the Spirit of the Lord, but as far as Joseph was concerned: he didn't know where this child had come from. He didn't know this woman in a sexual way. As far as he was concerned, no one else knew her, she was engaged to him to be his wife and his wife alone. How could this thing be? As far as we are concerned, I think if you put yourself in Joseph's shoes, he was in an impossible situation.
I believe here the great lesson is to be found in Joseph's reaction to what had taken place in his life. In all likelihood the first thought that came into Joseph's mind was the first thought that would come into your mind - “What else would it be? She has been unfaithful to me.”
Let's be real, What would you think if you heard that your engaged girlfriend was with child?
What would be the first thought that would come into your mind? What would you do? How would you feel? How would you cope with what would seem to be an impossible situation like this?
If we just think about it for a moment, regarding Joseph, this situation could have resulted in the stoning of Mary. If you think back to Scripture, in John 8:1-11 you will remember there was a woman caught in adultery, and she was pulled out before religious people and they all lifted stones ready to stone her, to destroy her. Joseph could have very well been right in the law to do away with her (it says 'he was a righteous man'), to make this sin known, and the law would have condemned her to death.
Joseph, it says, was a righteous man, and that means that Joseph knew that he couldn't sweep this sin under the rug. He knew that it had to be dealt within a right way; but Joseph, being a righteous man, was not a cruel arrogant man. He was not a legalistic man, he was a kind man. We read here that he was righteous - though he didn't want to make a public example of her and he was thinking about this thing. He knew it was right for him to put her away publicly, in other words ‘to divorce her’ but being a kind man, being a loving and a sympathetic man, he didn't want to bring public disgrace upon her.
I think Joseph is one of the most underrated characters in the Bible... In these noble thoughts and actions we see a glimpse of the type of King he would have been ..., much like his ancestors King Solomon and King David.
He knew he was right, but was choosing to still be gracious.
Many of us here know all too well what it is to be right, but do we know what it is to be right in a gracious way? Let's face it, Joseph was in the dark regarding what was going on in the womb of Mary.
As far as you and I are concerned, in the circumstances that we go through, some of them seem to be impossible situations also it seems at times that we're in the dark as well. For some of you, that is right where you are today; you don't know what's going on, you don't know what God's doing!
You ask the questions, “Why did this happen?” “ Why did it happen when it happened?” “Why did it have to happen the way that it happened?”
We want to know all the details to the story of our lives, and if we're honest with ourselves and honest with God, we find it very difficult having faith in Him without knowing exactly what is going on. We won't trust God until we know everything. We have to know that it's going to turn out all right; we have to know everything is going to work together for our good without just taking God at His Word and trusting Him even though things seem to be absolutely impossible.
It seemed so impossible! Even though he was compassionate, as a righteous man he still felt that his hand was forced, and he had to do something with Mary. That's why we find in Matthew 1:20, when he thought on these things he didn't want to make her a public example, but he was of a mind to divorce her privately.
He wasn't going to do what the Pharisees would have done, that is bring her out into the square and make a public example and have her stoned , but he was going to do what he thought was the righteous thing, and divorce her privately. No one outside the family, would know about it, but he had to do what was right. So we find this statement, 'Do not be afraid', in the midst of Joseph’s feeling that he was in an impossible situation. He was going to have to do something if he was going to be right. So, while he thought on these things... He heard, “DO NOT BE AFRAID!”
What is usually the result when we think upon impossible things, things outside our control, when we think about things that we don’t understand or are bigger than we are? We ponder our problems, we consider our crises and the result is ... all of all of our thinking over these things in our minds produces — what?
FEAR! We become afraid.
You know what it's like: your back is to the wall, everybody seems to be against you, you don't know how this situation is going to be resolved - what do you do about it? You do what Joseph does: we think about these things. I believe we do more than think about them. The Greek word for 'consider' lends the definition as ‘to meditate,’ to ponder our problems or to stew over the situation, and the result of mulling over all of these things in our minds produces what? What does it produce? FEAR!
We begin to believe nothing good can come out of it, and we become afraid.
'How am I ever going to get out of this? How am I ever going to get through all of this mess.’ We think about all the bad possibilities instead of focusing on God’s goodness, grace and peace. That's why Paul says:
We are not only not to be worried about things, not be fearful, but we are to commit all those bad things to the Lord in prayer, and seek what is good and what is according to His will.
That may seem too simple to work and some of you won’t try it, but here is the truth that we all must accept. When you leave God out of your impossible situations, they get worse. The fear gets worse, the anxiety gets worse, the nervous thoughts get worse, because God is not in the picture of your situation, you've left God out. I know it seems impossible, but the God that we are dealing with is the God of the impossible, as Joseph would come to see.
As he was considering the impossible, like lightning! Unexpectedly! Immediately, at that moment of fear, the angel of the Lord appeared, and said unto Joseph, 'Do Not Be Afraid! Fear not'. All of a sudden, because of the word of the Lord in this man's life, what happened? His plans were redirected, his life was interrupted, his fears had been confronted. How often that happens in our own lives. Doesn't it? Our plans are changed and maybe even stopped, because of God's divine purpose.
Things may seem to be over for us according to our plans, but God may not be done.
Turn with me to Proverb 16:9
Do you find yourself today in an impossible situation? Joseph was in a situation, I would say, more impossible than yours because there was no other conclusion than that Mary had been unfaithful to him. But all of a sudden, what he had removed God from, God broke through that resistance! God declared Himself as the God of the impossible, and Joseph took God at His word, believed Him, and had faith!
Now you might say, “That's OK for Joseph, sure, an angel told him in a dream.” Well, I'll grant you that, but remember what the angel told him. The angel told him an explanation that had never ever been seen in all of human history, a child had come there from the Holy Spirit - it never had been heard of before.
When people saw an unmarried woman, there was only one possible explanation, and that was unfaithfulness - or that he was telling a lie, and it was his child, he could be accused of fathering the child.
The angel told him in a dream. If you went to a friends house in the morning and said hey, I had a dream last night and an angel told me that even though my situation looks terrible I am going to be alright', your friend would have some trouble believing you at first. That's the way we are; we're skeptical, aren't we? They might ask, “What did you drink before you went to bed? Are you on medication?” That's what people would say to you, isn't it? '
Understand, most, if not all, people would not have believed him. Was the angel going to go and tell Joseph's family? Was the angel going to tell Joseph's Rabbi, and Joseph's town? What do you think they would think? Is that not enough reason for Joseph to be afraid? But the angel said “Do Not be Afraid.”
God told him, “Do not be afraid,” and that is God's word to you today - "Do not be afraid!"
"Do not be afraid," yet many of you are afraid of many unknowns even now and I'm asking you, coming up to Christmas, which can be a very difficult time for many I know: what are the fears that you are pondering, the fears that you're analyzing, that you're running over again and again like playback in your mind as we run up to Christmas?
This Greek word used here for 'afraid' is the word 'phobos' and is where we get our English word 'phobia. To name a couple of phobias: claustrophobia - fear of closed in spaces; arachnophobia - fear of spiders; photophobia - fear of light; xenophobia - fear of strangers; we could go on and on and on, but that suffix 'phobia', could be put onto your fear, and my fear, and every fear that is conceivable - that which is robbing us of the peace of God in our heart. Now Joseph had a social phobia: 'What would people think of me in my impossible situation?'. Yet, he didn't question, he didn't argue with God. You've got questions, you've got problems, but he just had faith an angel gave him commands to wed Mary and to name her son Jesus, and he obeyed. That's faith.
Joseph was in what we would consider an impossible situation, but the reason why Joseph overcame that impossible situation was that Joseph was faithful to the God of the impossible, and God provided the miracle to make it work. This God of the impossible is still working today doing miracles.
Sometimes we're looking for the miracle, we're looking for the flashing light, or the Red Sea to be parted in our situation, and that miracle may not come! Even when it doesn’t we still have the God of the impossible. You know, this wasn't a unique situation. It was in the sense that this was a conception where no man was involved, but if you remember Genesis 18, the angel appeared also to Sarah and told her in old age that she would bear a son. What did she do? She went into her tent and she laughed! 'At my age? In my nineties - and my husband, he's so old! How are we going to bear a child at this stage in our life?' - and what did God say to Sarah? 'Why do you laugh Sarah? Why do you laugh? For nothing is impossible with God!'.
I know everything seems to be going wrong for you at this moment, and you're saying 'It's not meant to be like this, how can God sort out a mess like mine?'. 'DO NOT BE AFRAID', God says...
In Luke, in the same Christmas story, we find the same words spoken:
READ Luke 1:34-37
The God of the Impossible
This is God's word! Now here's God's word to you today: 'Do not be afraid. I am the God of the impossible. Nothing is impossible with me.’
I know it's easy to say it, but what God's word is saying in this situation is: When it seems most improbable, even impossible, for God to fulfil His word; then is when it is most expected. God loves to do the impossible.
God did the seeming impossible in Jesus. He sent Him to be with us. Emmanuel, ‘God with us', Jesus has been born. God has come to be with us at our side! I know everything seems to be going wrong for you at this moment, and you're saying 'It's not meant to be like this, how can God sort out a mess like mine?'. 'Don’t be afraid!', Keep looking to Jesus.
History has it that, one evening a wealthy wool businessman spent the night with a shepherd watching sheep on the Texas prairie. During the middle of the night a large group of coyotes could be heard crying in the darkness, and their cries in the air created much fear.
The shepherd dog's growled and looked into the darkness, not knowing where the noise was coming from. The sheep, which had been sleeping quickly got to their feet, alarmed, and afraid. The shepherd began tossing more logs unto the fire, and the flames shot up. In the glow, the businessman said that he looked and he saw thousands of little lights all around the prairie - and those little lights were the reflection of the fire in the eyes of the sheep. When he realized that, he said that in the midst of the danger, “I observed that the sheep were not looking into the darkness like the dogs, but the sheep were keeping their eyes set in the direction of safety, they were looking to the shepherd the one that could protect them in this impossible situation.”
In the midst of your mess and your impossible situation where are your eyes focused on?
Do not be afraid. God’s word has been fulfilled Jesus has come and will return for those who have been saved. In this dark time keep your eyes on Him and DO NOT BE AFRAID!