"Feed Your Fears" Pastor Gus Lohrum

Feed Your Fears Genesis 15:1-6 March 17, 2019   Let’s begin with reading the passage for today from Genesis 15:1-6.
The first three words of this passage matter.  The scripture says, “after these things…” The question needs to be asked, what things?  Before this vision from the Lord comes to Abram, Abram had rescued his nephew Lot.  Lot had been kidnapped by some regional kings.  Read chapter 14 and you learn Abram led a band of men to overthrow a regional leader. This regional leader had kidnapped Lot while overtaking some land and plundering some towns people.  Abram learned of the kidnapping, then organized a war par party and returned Lot safe and sound.  It was moment when Abram demonstrated courage.  He didn’t send his servants to try and free Lot.  Abram led the military mission himself.  Warfare at that time was barbaric, brutal hand to hand combat.  Abram led the way into that type of battle.
Yet, our story in chapter fifteen opens with a word from the Lord telling Abram, “do not be afraid.”  If Abram could be brave enough to lead men into battle, it hard to understand what caused Abram to be afraid.     Point 1: Fear is inevitable part of life.
A story like this just goes to show that everyone fears something, and it
might be surprising to learn what other people fear. (Sources AARP, Fred Cohn, 8/21/17) Whoopey Goldberg – flying Oprah Whenfrey – gum Richard Branson (Virgin Airlines) – public speaking Donny Osmond – Malls Billy Bob Thorton – clowns and 15th century furniture Adel – other singers
 Everybody fears something.
When I worked in the recovery field for people with addictions, we worked with people who wanted to get sober, but some resisted because they feared what their lives would be like without their drinking or their drugging.
Verses 2-3 tell us what kept Abram up at night was that he was worried and fearful he would not have an heir to pass on the inheritance of land and the promise God had made that through Abram would come a great nation.  So, Abram is fearful God is not going to keep his promise.  
The positives of fear. Let’s first acknowledge that fear can have many positives and cause us to plan, protect and provide for ourselves and others.  
Fear can also have a negative impact on our lives. Fear can cause us to isolate from others. Fear can cause us to be very rigid in our expectations in various aspects of our lives.  Much has been written about the “Depression Era” generation of people who refused to throw away anything because their experience of scarcity during the Depression made them want to hang onto anything. Fear sometimes keeps people from saying what they really want to say. Fear can keep us from making a decision we really need to make. Fear keeps people from                  and you can fill in the blank.
Everyone has at least that one major fear factor to face; but it is how we include God with our fears that can make the difference.
Point 2: Fear without directions, blinds. V.3
Fear itself is not the problem.  Spiritually speaking in our relationship with God it is how we respond to fear that can lead to problems.  Abram is a good example where he allows his fear to steer him away from the vision and plan of God.  Verse three Abram tells God, “You have given me no offspring, so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.”
Translation – “God I have given you a chance to come through like you promised, but you haven’t so I am going to do this my way and the best I know how.”
I have had those conversations with God, haven’t you?
See by this point of the story God had promised Abram three times, (Genesis 12:2, 12:7, and 13:6) that Abram will have offspring or, children.  He will have family to pass on the inheritance of the land God had promised and become a great nation.  
• Abram knew God’s promise and plan.   • His decision wasn’t a matter of not understanding.   • His decision was based on his fear that God was not going to deliver. 
There is some irony here in this story that most of us don’t catch because we are not reading this story from the Hebrew language.  But the Hebrew name for God in this story is “Adonia Jehovah.” This is the first time this name is used in Genesis and Adonia Jehovah is the name for God that means “Mighty covenant-making God.”  Abram was grumbling under his breath, some mighty covenant/promise keeper you are, I am eligible for social security benefits and still childless.  What kind of plan are you running here Lord?   Abram decided on plan B, he will make his servant his heir.  He is no longer seeing it reasonable to trust God. In essence his fear is blinding him to see what God sees. 
To be fair it was the culture of that time that if you had no children you could designate a servant to be your heir.  Abram was dealing with his fear in a socially acceptable way.       I wonder if you can relate to Abram?  Have you ever went forward with a decision that you know on one hand would defy the teachings of scripture and the example of Jesus, yet you pressed on anyway because it socially acceptable, other people do it, you had the green light?
A story like this makes a great point that when we take actions that defy the leading of God which we can also see in the teachings of scripture, we are living by spiritual blindness.  Our fears have lost sight, lost vision of what God sees as the way forward.
God promised a biological heir, Abram just didn’t see how that promise could happen. God promises his plan would be fulfilled, but Abram was making other arrangements.
Point 3: Feed your fears
Notice how God responded to Abram’s fears.   “He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.”  Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Vs. 5-6
Why did God lead Abram outside to look at the stars?
Looking at the stars and challenging Abram to count them was a way God sought to feed Abram’s fear with a reminder of the greatness of God. Once Abram looked up and was challenged to count the stars –he wasn’t just focused on his fear, he focused on the greatness about the reality of God.  
 Abram wasn’t given an instant miracle.  Sari, his wife doesn’t come running out of the house, telling Abram the pregnancy test finally turned positive.  
God fed the fear of Abram with a reason to trust that the one great enough to scatter the stars in heaven was great enough to give Abram an heir.
I hope it is comforting to you that Abram obtained a right relationship with God even though God had to walk Abram through his season of fear.
Feed your soul during Lent Instead of preparing for Easter by giving up something for Lent, Lent could be a time for you tackle a fear.
Could Lent be a time to consider a plan and promise you thought God gave, but you have or are tempted to lean into a substitute plan you have chosen? Could Lent be a time you really need to do like Abram and name the fear; but this time seek to feed that fear with substance that will help you trust God.  
I recently watched a sermon by Andy Stanley, where he used a passage from the end of the gospel of John.  John wrote, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which were not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31 
John wrote of the signs Jesus did that demonstrated the divinity of Jesus, like changing water into wine, multiplying loaves of bread, and raising
people from the dead.  John said the purpose in writing about those signs was “so that you would have life.”  John wasn’t talking about life like go to heaven; but have God, the Eternal One moving in your lives today.  
John wrote of what he witnessed of Jesus to give people reasons to believe who they claimed Jesus was.  
God told Abram look up and start counting stars.
The point from both Old Testament and New Testament is feed your souls, feed your fears with reasons to believe.
Biblical faith is not asking us to believe without cause or just because someone said so.  The Bible contains stories in both Old and New Testaments that give us reasons to trust.  
Genesis 15 is a story of God talking Abram through his fears enough to keep walking by faith.  I heard a great quote recently that said, “The reason why so many people are talked out of Christianity is because they were never talked into it.”  Frank Turek
God talked Abram through his fears.
Too many people are told just have to have faith without being given a basis for believing, which is not an approach the Bible supports based on Abram’s story - one of the Bible’s earliest heroes.
You might be thinking, “But wait, Hebrews says that faith is the evidence of things hoped for the substance of things not seen!
Yes, but there can still be reasons to trust unseen realities like God.  We have been having internet issues here at the church.  Just because I cannot see the internet, doesn’t mean it is not real and doesn’t mean were not dependent on it to communicate.
Just because I cannot see God, doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist and we’re not dependent on him to have “life” now and eternally.
Feed you fears. Feed them by naming them and admitting how they are impacting you just as Abram confessed to God. Feed them with biblical content that reminds you of the greatness of God. Feed them with remembering your first-hand God encounters from the past or people you know.
Perhaps start tonight, weather permitting, and look up at the stars.

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