“I Will Not Fear”                                                                           June 8, 2014

Psalm 3

 

SI:  We finished Colossians a couple weeks ago and we’re going to spend

   the summer in the Psalms, about 12 weeks.

There are 150 Psalms, I’ve preached on 38 of them, some more than once.

   My goal is to take a few at a time, here and there over the years,

   and eventually, we will read and study them all.

We can never spend too much time in the Psalms.

   Other parts of the Bible tell us what to believe, the Psalms show us belief

   worked out in prayer and worship.

 

John Calvin called the Psalms, “The Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul.”

   “[In the Psalms the] Holy Spirit has drawn all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares,

   perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be

   agitated . . .  all lurking places are discovered, and the heart is brought into the light.”

Don’t you love that last phrase:  “All the lurking places.”

   Do you have any lurking places in your heart? 

The Holy Spirit, through the Psalms, brings them out into the light

   so that the Lord can deal with them. 

 


 

INTRO:  When I was in St. Louis week before last, the professor read an email

   from a friend of his who is the pastor of a church in Sudan.

The email was about a congregational meeting his church held the previous Sunday,

   which would have been this past May 25.

The purpose of the congregational meeting was not to approve the budget,

   or elect church officers, or decide what color to paint the church.

It was to deal with a pressing question that was every member of the church asking.

   Can you guess the question?  It was this:

   Are there steps that may be taken to overcome fear?

 

The reason church members were asking that question is that a Sudanese court

   sentenced a Christian woman to hang for apostasy. 

She was raised as a Christian by her Christian mother after her Muslim father

   abandoned them.  But because her father was a Muslim, she is considered one too.

And so for her to call herself a Christian is a crime worthy of death.

   You may have seen this in the news.

 

Also, the court convicted her of adultery because she married a Christian man.

   Muslim women cannot marry Christian men.  Their marriage is not recognized.

   So she is an adulteress and the sentence for that is 100 lashes.

She was pregnant with her second child when she was sentenced.

   So she was put in prison pregnant, along with her toddler. 

   She just gave birth a week ago.

And as soon as her child is weaned, both her children will be given to a Muslim

   family and she will be lashed and hung. 

Her husband from Sudan, he’s also a naturalized American citizen.

   His name is Daniel.  Her name is Miriam.  We should pray for them.

 

That court decision was like bombshell to Christians in Sudan. 

   Members of this pastor’s church were afraid.

   Husbands fearful for wives.  Wives terrified children might be taken from them. 

The pastor who wrote the email admitted:

   “I must confess and acknowledge that I am still struggling with fear.”

He mentions another church building nearby was bulldozed by the government. 

   And he tells how one of his cousins, who is a Muslim, told everyone at an

   extended family gathering that he should be killed.  The pastor says:

“At one point I thought God had totally delivered me from fear, but I discovered I still struggle

   with it.  That was tested when a security officer called me at 10:30 pm to say he was coming

   to my house to get some information.  That got me scared.”

So the pastor is scared.  The elders and deacons scared.  Members are scared.

They called a congregational meeting to consider the question:

   Are there steps that may be taken to overcome fear?

I’m sure you want to know the outcome of that congregational meeting.

   At the end of my sermon, I’ll tell you their conclusion.

 

But I want to use the situation of these Sudanese believers to introduce Psalm 3.

Because this Psalm is about fear—

   the cause of fear and how it is overcome by God’s grace.

But you don’t have to be a Christian in Sudan under death threats to be afraid.

 

Because fear takes different forms.

   For us it mostly takes the form of anxiety. 

   We toss and turn at night, worrying about the outcome of situations in our lives

   or the lives of people we love.  Or we live with a sense of dread or worry. 

And all of us at times have to comfort people who are afraid—

   our children, our friends, sometimes even our parents. 

   What are you going to say that is true and real and not just cliches?

 

Let’s look at Psalm 3 and see what God’s Word tells us about fear.

We’ll study it under two points, two things you must know.

   1.  You must know the sources of your fear.

   2.  You must know the solution to your fear.

The causes and the cure, why fear overcomes us and how we overcome it. 

 

 

 


 

MP#1  You must know the sources of your fear

Why are you sometimes afraid?  Why are you anxious?  Why are you worried?

   You need to identify the causes before you can apply the cure.

David shows us that our fears basically operate at two levels—

   there is a material aspect and a spiritual aspect of fear. 

 

The material aspect is simply that something threatens you.

Look at verse 1.  “O Lord, how many are my foes!  How many rise against me!”

   Foes.  Threats from the outside rising up against you. 

Who were these foes?  We’re fortunate this Psalm has a historical introduction. 

   There are only 13 of these scattered through the many Psalms of David

   that tell us the circumstances in which he wrote particular Psalms.

 

This one says:  “A psalm of David when he fled from his son Absalom.”

Do you remember that sad story?  Absalom, his most handsome, charismatic son.

   He and David were estranged because of David’s inept handling of sexual abuse

   in the family.  Absalom’s half-brother Amnon assaulted Absalom’s sister Tamar.

David heard, but did nothing.  So Absalom avenged his sister by killing Amnon.

   Absalom then ran.  He took refuge in a nearby kingdom for three years.

   David asked him to return, promised no punishment, but when he got back

   David refused to talk to him, said, I don’t want to see his face.

 

Father and son became so estranged that Absalom stirred up a rebellion.

   It had so much initial support in Jerusalem that David had to flee for his life.

And for a while, the control of the kingdom hung in the balance. 

   In verse 6 he refers to “the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.”

Sometimes when we are afraid it feels like ten thousand are against us.

   But this was not poetic exaggeration. 

   There really were thousands who wanted David dead.

 

So this is where fear starts, on the material level—

   whether it’s threatening people, or threatening disease, or threatening forces

   of nature like tornados, or threatening political or economic forces.

Our fear has a physical aspect, but it also has a deeper spiritual aspect.

The spiritual aspect of fear is that intangible things are also threatened—

   my happiness, my dreams, my comforts, my hopes, my security.

That scares me because those are the very things that make my life worth living. 

 

There was a stock market crash in 1987 called Black Monday.

I think the market lost something like 25% of its value.

   I had just graduated from college at the time and was mostly oblivious.

But a few years later, when I was at my first church, the senior pastor told me

   that Black Monday and the week after it was a significant event in his ministry.

The church was in a wealthy retirement community, Marco Island, Florida.

   And after Black Monday, many retirees were walking around like zombies.

   None of them were going to be homeless.  None of them were going to starve.

   But were so scared their comfort and security threatened, almost catatonic. 

Bruce Fiol, the senior pastor, my boss, grew up as a poor missionary kid in India—

   so he had a different view of relationship of money to comfort and security. 

It woke him up to the real spiritual needs, so knew how to minister. 

 

You may say: OK, I get it.  People are afraid because the things they count on

   for happiness and security are threatened, like their money or health—

   but we’re Christians.  We don’t count on those things.  We count on the Lord.

But not so fast.  Look at the way this played out in David’s experience as believer.

 

It’s in verse 2.  He’s just said, How many are my foes—the material cause of fear.

   Then he says, Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.”

David was running for his life from his son Absalom and the rebellion.

   And people were saying—God’s not going to help him this time.  

2 Samuel tells us about a man named Shimei who followed David out of Jerusalem

   shouting at him:  “Get out, get out you man of blood, you scoundrel.  The Lord is

   repaying you for all the evil you did to Saul’s family.  You are getting what

   deserve, because you are man of blood.”  It shook David to the core. 

His bodyguard said, Let us kill him.  David said, No—He might be right. 

 

And more to the point, as David later reflected on this event, and wrote Psalm

   to trace out the movements of his soul—he as much as admits—

   this is what really got to him. 

He wondered if the foes surrounding him and Absalom’s rebellion were happening

   because God really had abandoned him and that God was out to get him.

 

As a believer the material aspect of fear is not the part that’s hard to handle.

   If it’s something you can fix, fix it.  Get another lock on your door if that helps.

And if you know that God is for you, and that death can’t hurt you, and that nothing

   can separate you from the love of Christ, and he will never leave you, and he will

   supply all your needs in Christ, then you can shrug off any threat.

 

But that’s the heart of the issue for believers, isn’t it?

The reason fear sometimes gets the better of is that we forget all those great

   spiritual realities and start thinking God doesn’t care.  Then we fall to pieces. 

I remember once, years ago, having a pastoral meeting with a woman in our church

   who was falling to pieces over a situation in her life.  Then later that same week,

   another woman came to see me in the same situation and she was a rock.

What was the difference?  They were both believers. 

   But one was putting into practice David’s solution for fear . . .

 

That brings us to the second point.


 

MP#2  You must know the solution to your fear.

What’s the solution?  Well, it’s the rest of the Psalm, verses 3-8.

   David describes in poetic form how he overcame his fear.

   If I could put it in once sentence:  He appropriated God’s grace.

God gives grace to all his people, but we have to appropriate it.

   David shows us three ways that he appropriated God’s grace.

   If you are struggling with anxiety, worry, fear—you have to do the same.

 

First, you preach the Gospel to yourself.

You know I’ve used that phrase numerous times over the years.

   I got it from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 

He often said that the secret of the Christian life is to quit listening to yourself

   and to start preaching to yourself.  Don’t listen to your fears and worries—

   preach the truth to yourself.

 

That’s exactly what David did.  Look at verse 3.

“But you are a shield around me, O Lord, you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.”

David had faced many enemies before, but the reason this one got to him is because

   there was nothing he could fall back on to feel good about himself.

David cou