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Monday 6 April 2020

That Which We Fear Will Rule Us

How are you all feeling right about now? This is a strange time. We are being asked to go about our lives, in a way, we are not super used to.

There are some great aspects to this social distancing situation. Families are being brought together to spend more time with each other. By government decree we are less busy and made to stay at home more. And thankfully we are in the one of the safest countries in the world, with the one of the best possible hospital systems to prepare for any medical crisis.  

I have to admit, I am not overly concerned about the virus. If you look into the figures, this is not the existential threat that it is being made out to be. Sweden have not locked down their country, and they are in good shape. Some countries around the world are re-opening, and no longer considering this a pandemic. The long-term danger of this virus, is looking lower than initially predicted.  

But the danger to the economy is likely to be devastating for some time to come. Entire countries have ground to a halt, not because of the virus, but because of fears about the possibility of the virus. Initially I thought some of the lockdown measures put in place were good things. Limiting who could travel here from overseas seemed wise. Shutting the nation’s borders seemed wise. But now we are in a very severe lockdown, that is going to, and already is putting an extreme strain on businesses, services and all other aspects of our economy. A lot of people think the government can pick up the slack, but where does the government get money to pay for everything it does? From us, the citizens, our buying and selling makes up the economy. So, without going into detail, we are going to learn in the next few months, if the government’s cure for this virus, mass lockdowns of society are better or worse than the virus itself.

So, there are many reasons why people might be anxious, afraid, or otherwise worried at this time. The future is always uncertain, but at least we had our plans right. Well now they are almost entirely out the window. So, this morning I want to speak into the topic of fear. Last week I mentioned the verse: 2 Timothy 1:7 - “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” But now I want to explore the importance of not giving into fear, because, and this is very important, that which we fear will rule us. I want us to hear God’s word on this issue and have him refresh our minds.

1.   Do Not Be Anxious (Matthew 6:25-34) – Now I know there are people out there with anxiety disorders, and who are on medication for it and I know that being told: just don’t be anxious doesn’t work for you, I get that. But still I want us to hear Jesus’ words this morning: “25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
1.1  Ok, we’ve heard Jesus’ word, now let’s ask some questions: does being anxious help us in anyway? I think there is one, and I will get to that in a moment. But the general answer is no.
1.1.1       Anxiety steals from us in the moment. Anxiety is damaging our present, to worry about our future. How many of us have seen a person tapping their fingers, glancing constantly at their phones as though waiting for a call, or losing their temper, and acting all in a huff, simply because they are anxious over something that is not certain.
1.1.2       As Jesus says, “27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Does anxiety improve our experience of good times or bad times? Indeed, bad times are made more bearable, and indeed even instructive, by seeking to learn from them, rather than worry in the midst of them.
1.1.3       I personally am in disagreement about these social distancing measures, and I have even spoken and written various different arguments against them online and in person. But I also have actively taken the time to think of all the good things this forced sabbath is doing to us.  Think about this, all our good clothes are going to last a whole extra year. Cause we aren’t going out anywhere.  More seriously, I like not having to be so many places. About three weeks ago, I felt like this year was already getting on top of me, now, not so much.  There will be different challenges, but I am thankful for the good things that are happening.
1.1.4       What would be the point of me worrying, I can’t change the Prime Ministers mind, I am just a small time Baptist pastor.
1.2  What Jesus says here, is about to become more real for a lot of us: “25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?... 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
1.2.1       As westerners when we worry about what we eat, it’s usually more to do with our fussiness rather than our hunger. But this financial crisis is going to put new strains on our ability to acquire the things we like, and the things we might even need.
1.2.2       An ancient Israelite though, hearing this, would have been familiar with hunger. And familiar with being in need. All it takes is a cursory glance at the waste bands of the average Aussie, to know that we have a while to go before we are experiencing their level of need.
1.2.3       But Jesus promises to provide for us.  Let me share a personal story with you. At various times in our ministry, I have taken roles, not knowing how much I would necessarily earn, joyfully. Ministry is more to me than the pay-check. But God has provided for us in various ways. He has been good to us.  Do not be anxious, trust him, he will provide.   
1.3  There is one way in which anxiety can help us: Anxiety can tell us that we need a change of environment, job, or relationship. From time to time in ministry I come across people who are suffering from anxiety, many of whom are on medication, and once you get to know them a little better, you understand why they are anxious.
1.3.1       One woman I knew who had anxiety was living with a very toxic, bullying roommate. After she moved out the anxiety faded. She was also on meds for the anxiety, but my money was on the moving being what really helped it – because I saw how it changed her.  
1.3.2       Another person I knew had been married for over a decade and never had sex. That was a damaged relationship. I understood why this person was anxious.
1.3.3       Sometimes it is abuse, sometimes it is toxicity in a relationship, it can be many things. Strife leads to anxiety, as Proverbs 17:1 says, “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.” Or, Proverbs 22:10 – “Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease.”
1.4  Other than being a warning sign, anxiety doesn’t add to our life, and even in a hard time, we are better to look to what we can learn, rather than let our fear rule us. Because if we let fear rule us, then that is when things can get gnarly.

    2. That Which We Fear Will Rule Us – “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Classical tyrants like to take power over their people with fear. Like the Ozymandias of Shelley’s poem, they often saw themselves as great and invincible in their days. Ozymandias was the Greek name for Ramesses II, who considered himself to be a mighty one.
2.1  Percy Shelley’s Poem, titled, Ozymandias is sonnet teaching us this message: even the mightiest kings, and their works, return to dust. He may have thought all should despair at his works, but now they are ruins.
2.1.1       Kings great and small of old, and often the elites of our day, like to instill fear in people, to condition people to listen to them, obey them, and not challenge them.
2.1.2       Because they know, that which we fear, will rule us, because fear conditions us to respond a certain way –
2.2  Drill sergeants use a combination of fear, exhaustion, pressure, and making cadets feel like fools, to break men down, and turn them into soldiers.
2.2.1       The bouncing back and forth of feeling afraid, what did I do wrong? And of feeling foolish, how did I stuff up? Condition the cadet to hang off of every word of their instructor.
2.2.2       This is vital if they are going to listen to commands in battle. The mind must be conditioned to not question, but to obey. The reason it must be conditioned this way, is because the natural state of our minds is to question man, rather than obey man.
2.3  Abusers do the same thing: Abusers use fear, exhaustion, things like drugs, and other stuff, to keep their victims off balance and loyal to them. Moira Greyland talks about this in her book the Last Closet.
2.3.1       Even though both her mum and dad had abused her, she was loyal to them, and would even defend them. Right up until her early 20’s. This is common for abuse victims, because they have been conditioned by fear to listen to those who harm them. To seek to please them. Or seek to show themselves worthy of them.
2.3.2       It took her a long time to break out of this. And even longer to heal.
2.4  Our elites use fear today to condition us. Things like the news, social media, and other things, can be used very well to make us fearful, and respond in a certain way. Remember these lyrics from The Skyhooks Song: Horror Movie: 
2.4.1       Watch horror movie right there on my tv
Horror movie right there on my tv
Horror movie right there on my tv
Shockin' me right out of my brain
Shockin' me right out of my brain

It's bound to get ya in, get ya under your skin
Hit you right on the chin, oh yeah
It's bound to be a thriller, it's bound to be a chiller
It's bound to be a killer, oh yeah

It's a horror movie right there on my tv
Horror movie right there on my tv
Horror movie and there's known abuse
Horror movie, it's the six-thirty news
Horror movie, it's the six-thirty news
2.4.2       In other words, the Skyhooks told you the purpose of the news decades ago: to use fear to condition you, so you respond how they want in a time of crisis. “Horror movie and there’s known abuse, Horror movie, it’s the six-thirty news.”
2.5  The elites of the world, use fear to condition their populations. Fear of all sorts of things. This is not new. It is not radical. It is not even controversial, whether it is Ozymandias, Caesar, or our modern governments, elites, exist to instil fear in their population to control, as Romans 13:3-4 says, “3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.”
2.5.1       To a certain degree they have even been ordained with this power, to instil fear in the wicked, for the good of their populations. But the problem is, somewhere along the way, they worked out, that populations conditioned by fear are easier to control.  So, they provide us with a constant stream of it. Because they know: That Which We Fear Will Rule Us.  Governments of all stripes desire compliance. Even, as we have seen recently, nice, softer western ones. The nature of government, the nature of media, the nature of elites, is to instill fear.

      3. This Is Why We Are To fear God Alone – This is why the Bible says over and over again, in probably a thousand ways and more, that we should fear God, and God alone.
3.1  I only really started to understand this fully recently. What we fear, is what rules us, so the commands to fear God really are about where we put our allegiance, not about actual fear.
3.1.1       Don’t misunderstand me, if you are not saved, God is a terror, a consuming fire. But if you trust in him, that fear is more like an awe of what he can do, rather than a fear of what he might do to you.
3.2  Let’s look at a few ways the Bible teaches us this:
3.2.1       Matthew 10:28-31 –“28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
3.2.2       1 John 4:17-19 – “17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.”
3.2.3       Exodus 20:18-20 – “18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”
3.2.4       Proverbs 1:7 – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
3.2.5       Proverbs 8:13 – “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.”
3.2.6       Proverbs 9:10 – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
3.2.7       Proverbs 14:26 – “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.”
3.3  All these passages are teaching the same thing: put your fear, your allegiance not in great kings like Ozymandias, or petty kings like our modern bureaucratic democratic leaders, but in the Lord God, who can destroy both the body and soul in hell.
3.3.1       I would summarize the fear of God this way: To fear the Lord is to know what he would do to you in judgement, if you were not one of his children, and being in awe of the grace he gives you instead.
3.3.2       Like a lion, who chooses to make you its protected vassal, instead of its meal – like Aslan.
3.4  What we fear rules us: do you fear the Lord, or do you fear the things of this world? Because it’s either or, you will be controlled by one or the other.

      4.So How Does This Apply Now? There are several applications for our current situation:
4.1  God tells us to follow just laws of the land – scripturally governments have the right and power to enforce quarantines in times of pestilence. I personally think our nation has gone too far. But this is irrelevant. As a law abiding citizen, I will obey, and I suggest you do to.
4.2  The government does not however, have the right to command us to do unrighteous things. This lockdown is for the good of society, it is society wide, and therefore we should adhere to it. If however, they were shutting down churches, and leaving pubs, clubs and strip clubs open, then I would say we should civilly disobey.
4.2.1       However, that is not our situation. So, until such a time as that changes, we have a biblical duty to be good citizens.
4.3  But we also must remain skeptical. We as Christians need to never forget, that the spirit of Ozymandias resides in all governments to one degree or another, and we need to be prepared to follow God’s way, over the world’s way, when they collide.
4.4  Lastly, clear your home of all sources of worldly fear. Whether that is the news media, or people on social media pushing fear, or negative fear pushers in your life. You’ll do yourself a world of favours by shutting them off and ignoring them.

     5. Conclusion - We are people of the victorious king. Whether this whole situation blows over, and turns out to be another blip, or whether it turns out to be worst case scenario, at the end of the day, our hope is in the immortal God, who has given us to share in his immortality. Our hope is in him. We will be victorious my friends, one way, or the other. Praise God. Let’s pray.

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