A message presented Sunday, July 19, 2020 at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH:
This has certainly been a year to end all years. The year of 20/20 Vision. What has been true about this year is how everything that we do and how we are living comes into greater focus.
Everything was sailing along and then we were warned of a new scourge called Coronavirus. People were initially sent home from work and it became “work from home.” Some were furloughed and wound up working on their homes. Some had more time on their hands, which led to time to reassess where things stood. There was more time with family members. More time for relationship building. More time for relationship development. More time for looking at life itself. More time for reading and studying the Bible. More time for prayer. More time devoted to what matters most. It’s amazing how God allowed a pandemic to change the way we saw life, people and God Himself. We became more aware of others, we prayed more and even worshiped God more through the online church opportunities that presented themselves.
Now, while there was a considerable change in how life presented itself, we are conscious of how the pandemic affected the entire world. It upended the lives of millions of people. In the United States there were over 2 million people who contracted Coronavirus, and over 125,000 people in the United States died from it. It was indeed an invisible enemy, and it is by God’s grace that we are all here. It’s not completely gone, of course, but we can now begin to get back to a place where we can leave our homes, return to jobs and of course, in all of this give God the praise and glory.
Well, what was the primary concern about Coronavirus? It was a great unknown. It was something that could not be seen. It was a big deal because of the method of transmission, and that it was impacting the elderly and even the black community because of the comorbidity factor, which means that people are more vulnerable to the virus if there are existing health concerns.
Plain and simple, there was a fear factor with the concern. When we deal with the unknown, we can be fearful.
Do you realize that Satan, in his ongoing effort to promote confusion, wants to see God’s children confused? He already impacts the world, but a confused believer can become a fearful believer, and fear is a barrier for the believer in faithfully seeking after God.
God reminds us in His Word that we are not to operate in fear. We are to operate in faith and trust that God will protect us and deliver us.
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV
…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Isaiah 41:10 ESV
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.
Philippians 4:5b-7 ESV
5b The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
These are not hollow words or statements by any means. How do you fight an unseen enemy? Let’s put it this way. How well do you do in an unfamiliar place when there is total darkness? I remember a time—it was a long time ago now—when I was at work at my office in Beachwood. It was the end of the month and I had to run a number of month-end reports, and it was after hours. Well, I remember that I was on the phone with my bride at the time, and it was while all of the office lights were on. All of a sudden, all of the lights abruptly shut off. They were on a timer, and I didn’t know it until I found myself in total darkness. No computer lights, no overhead lights at the desk. Nothing. Well, during the day, when you can see, you can move about freely. At night, in total darkness, you really, really need to be careful with your movements, especially in surroundings that are not as familiar as being in your own home. When it is really, really dark, it takes more than just a minute for your eyes to adjust to the lack of light. I had to literally feel my way out of the office through the hallways and to the elevator to go to my car and get out of there.
Being in total darkness was a little scary. When we are in moments of darkness—and not just a lack of light, but darkness due to situations in life and circumstances, it can be more than just a little scary. It can be outright terrifying. A number of people have had a very hard time with this pandemic. There has been an uptick in depression, and even suicides nationwide.
Life today has been more than just a little scary. It’s been very scary. For some of us, even terrifying. There is little out there that has given us comfort and peace. It’s more than time to give thanks to the Lord, our Shepherd, for His comforting and caring presence.
Psalm 23:4 ESV
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
All of us are in what we can easily call an unfamiliar place. We have been up against an unseen enemy. On our own, we are vulnerable and in the dark as we don’t know what to expect. We have had to operate with caution because of this unknown enemy. We have had no choice but to seek after the protection of our homes and rely upon the extra protection of the Holy Spirit through your relationship with Jesus Christ.
One of the most difficult things that we do is to rely less upon our own understanding and more upon having faith and trust in Jesus. When we face uncertainty, our certainty is in Jesus Christ.
Psalm 34:4 ESV
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
So now that we have learned, with our own life experiences, the importance of faith over fear, we need to ensure that we continue to build on our faith and rely less upon what we see, because what we see as time goes along may not always be very pleasant.
It takes faith to bring us to a place where we can see Jesus at work.
Hebrews 11:1 ESV
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Life’s difficulties demand assurance. Jesus meets that challenge with His loving presence.
Now that many of us have more time on our hands, we need to use our time wisely. Without being overly dramatic, we need to prepare ourselves for any eventuality. The best way to overcome fear and uncertainty is to grow in our faith and continue to seek Jesus Christ with our very being.
How are we to grow in our faith?
We grow by living in the Spirit each day, and we don’t let up.
As a reminder for some of you, we are to live in the power of the Holy Spirit by living in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). God created men and women in His own image and likeness, and He also provides additional insight as to what this represents for each of us who serve Jesus Christ and desire to live in the Spirit as He helps us to overcome fear:
Matthew 5:48 ESV
You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.
In order to live in His image, we need to become more like Him. It is in this way, and this way alone, that we can face our fears and overcome them. It is how faith overcomes fear.
It always involves a personal assessment of where you are putting your present focus. It often requires a change to get you to experience the help of the Spirit. Obedience to Christ requires a change from your own way of doing things to His way of doing things. This can be uncomfortable, but it is often necessary. Without this change, faith is a missing ingredient. What changes am I referring to?
Colossians 3:8-10 ESV
8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Ephesians 4:21-24 ESV
21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
This is all about your ongoing transition of living in obedience to God where you can be successful and overcome any issues of fear or uncertainty.
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
We live in His image with the five foundational steps that represent this faith-based IMAGE living. We start with reading, studying and investigating Scripture each day. The I in IMAGE is to investigate Scripture. Not just read it, but go deeper in the Word. If you are uncertain about something, you have to go beyond mere reading. You need to investigate the meaning behind God’s Word.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
The M in IMAGE is meditation. After your daily reading, you need to devote time to meditate upon what you have read. It takes practice to do it and faith to trust what you are being taught. But the effort in your meditation is important in your success to overcome fear.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
A change from being fearful requires focus on those things that draw us nearer to Jesus Christ.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
The A in IMAGE is to act according to God’s Word. It is your commitment, in living as Christ would have you to live, to be obedient to Him.
“But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.”
Your actions are to reflect your faith—not contradict it.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
1 John 5:3-5
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
The G in IMAGE is for growth. It is your ongoing progression as you remain faithful to Jesus and His Word. He teaches you, guides you and inspires you in the power of the Holy Spirit to see past your fears and see Him at work in your life.
1 Timothy 4:15
Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.
The E in IMAGE is to endure. If anything, we are learning to endure all of the changes and hardships that have taken place, but this represents much more. We have to endure the opposition. Fear does not come from the Father. It comes from Satan. We must endure by resisting the devil and fleeing from Him (James 4:7), and then draw upon the Spirit to move forward day after day.
Ephesians 6:11-12 ESV
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Are you fighting the good fight? Overcoming fear is most certainly a spiritual battle. To live for Jesus Christ is to live in His image and to have faith in Him and trust His guidance to move beyond your fears.
What are you afraid of? It’s time to turn that over to Jesus Christ. Speak to Him about it, and see what He gives you in return. Remember, you are already victorious as you trust in Him through everything that comes your way.
1 John 4:15-19 ESV
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 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.
Give your fears and concerns to Jesus. Faith overcomes fear.
Faith over fear. Let the love of Jesus prevail in your life. Live in His image.
Praise the Lord for His mercy and grace because He loved us before we even knew Him.