Had a chance to hear a great sermon the other day*. As a former pastor, I always appreciate a sermon that is well put together and well delivered. The topic was fear and how we as Christians can struggle with fear in our day to day lives.
The text was the parable of the three servants from Matthew 25. You may remember the story in which a wealthy man gave three sums of money to servants for them to invest. The first one received five bags of money and turned them into ten. The second got two bags and turned them into four. The third man got one bag, buried it in the ground and then brought it back to the wealthy man. One of the parts highlighted was verses 24-25:
24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’
The servant was driven by fear. He had a fear of the master. And his fear drove him to a very poor choice. This fear was rooted in a distortion. Note how he described the master: harsh and stingy. Because he believed the master was harsh and stingy, he was afraid, and, consequently, hid the money in fear of losing it.
Then (in the sermon) we looked at three phrases that I believe are powerful as I face my own fears and I walk with others in their fear and anxiety.
The first phrase was “what if?” As I face a circumstance that is fear or anxiety inducing, typically I’m stuck on “What if?” “What if I fail?” “What if I lose my __________? “What if they___________?” “What if he doesn’t _________?”
In the sermon we were encouraged to move on to another phrase, “that would be__________.” If I face this situation and what I fear the most actually happens, that would be ______________. Fill in the blank: terrible, scary, frustrating, etc. In a way, we are taking some of the power away from the fearful circumstance because we are acknowledging it. If I lose my job, it would be terrible. I don’t know how I would feed my family, pay the bills, and on and on. We acknowledge it and then move to the third phrase.
What if I lose my job? It would be terrible. But in moving to this last phrase, we acknowledge God’s presence both in our lives and circumstances (past, present, and future). If I face unemployment, God is there. Just like he is with me now, he is already there. God was with me when I faced trials in the past, he is with me today, and will be with me in this potential tragedy.
There is power in declaring the truth. I don’t believe we can “declare” ourselves out of all of our fear or emotional upheaval, but there is power in declaring who God is, how he has revealed himself to us in the past and present, and (in faith) who he will be in even the worst of times.
So remember these three phrases as you face fear and anxiety and as you care for those who face them, too. What if?.....That would be…….God is.
*A big thanks to Pastors Tim Broughton and Nathan McWherter of New Hope in Wooster for their preparation and delivery of a great sermon!