How do I overcome my fear of the future? It’s an ancient question for God’s people who have always been tempted to worry about the unknowns. God knows we struggle here. And overcoming this fear is a matter of getting a right view of God and of his providence over every detail of our lives. Pastor John explained why in a 1993 sermon on Isaiah 41:1–13.
Listen to me in silence, O coastlands;
let the peoples renew their strength;
let them approach, then let them speak;
let us together draw near for judgment.
Who stirred up one from the east
whom victory meets at every step?
He gives up nations before him,
so that he tramples kings underfoot;
he makes them like dust with his sword,
like driven stubble with his bow.
He pursues them and passes on safely,
by paths his feet have not trod.
Who has performed and done this,
calling the generations from the beginning?
I, the Lord, the first,
and with the last; I am he.
The coastlands have seen and are afraid;
the ends of the earth tremble;
they have drawn near and come.
Everyone helps his neighbor
and says to his brother, “Be strong!”
The craftsman strengthens the goldsmith,
and he who smooths with the hammer him who strikes the anvil,
saying of the soldering, “It is good”;
and they strengthen it with nails so that it cannot be moved.
But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant,
I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Behold, all who are incensed against you
shall be put to shame and confounded;
those who strive against you
shall be as nothing and shall perish.
You shall seek those who contend with you,
but you shall not find them;
those who war against you
shall be as nothing at all.
For I, the Lord your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I am the one who helps you.”
‘If You Have God’
Now, I say that those four glimpses intensify the five pillars of fearlessness in Isaiah 41:10. Let me try to put it all together for you. The God who judges all the earth and calls the coastlands to give an accounting, the God who rules over the rulers of the nations, the God who calls the nations into being, the God who calls his people from the nations and elects them for himself, that God says to you this morning, “I am your God. I am with you. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” And only now does he say, “Therefore.”
- Therefore, because I judge the nations;
- therefore, because I rule the rulers;
- therefore, because I call nations into being;
- therefore, because I choose my own freely;
- therefore, because I am your God;
- therefore, because I am with you;
- therefore, because I help you;
- therefore, because I strengthen you;
- therefore, because I uphold you,
- therefore, for the rest of your life, do not be afraid.
It isn’t hanging in the air as a burden; it’s a doorway into a life of freedom on massive pillars of divine enablement. Let me change the image, if I may. God, please get it home to you. Try five prepositions or five spatial relationships that God has to you.
- “I am your God” — that is, “I am above you. I am over you with my mighty hand.”
- “I am with you” — beside you.
- “I will help you from whatever angle the enemy may come (or the attack or the threat). I am all around you as your help.”
- “I will strengthen you from inside out. I will be your strength.”
- “And I will uphold you from underneath you.”
“I only have one message: if you have God, you don’t need to be afraid.”
“I am over you, I am beside you, I am all around you, I am inside of you, I am under you. You don’t need to fear. You don’t need to be afraid.” Choose your image. Do not be afraid. There is one great ground for fearlessness: God. “I am your God. I will be with you. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you.” I only have one message: if you have God, you don’t need to be afraid.
Your God Who Is Stronger
And I call you this morning to believe that the most crucial factor in the future of your fearlessness is not your family of origin; it is your God. I call you to be free from the limitations that so many put upon yourself in a kind of fatalistic rootedness in where you’ve come from. You have a God who is infinitely more powerful than anything in your past, and he can break whatever bondages you feel to be in because of it.
The Bible holds up a God who is stronger than your personality, who is stronger than your past track record of timidity, who is stronger than your perceived identity as a nobody who could ever accomplish anything with courage for God. And I plead with you to accept the fact that it is God who makes the difference, and not you or your parents or your friends. It is God who makes the difference.
I just appeal to the one among you right now who feels absolutely and totally inadequate to do anything of worth this week. I appeal to you to stop thinking about your inadequacy and why you’ve got to be that way. And I plead with you to look at God. He is God. He is God. Do you believe him? Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God” (John 14:1).