Hello everyone! Welcome to the first week of our Fear(Less) Bible Study! Before we get started, I want to lay out how the online study will work in case you missed it on the Bible Study homepage. Each study is broken down into 4 different sections enabling you to complete each session over a period of time, or in one sitting if that's what you'd prefer.
s was mentioned in the video, we’re going to spend the next six weeks talking about fear. Fear can take a variety of different forms as we noted. Spend a few moments thinking about some of your fears or the times you have been afraid. Also, think about the thoughts and emotions that are connected with that experience.
Fear is a very real force in the world. It’s been around from the Fall of Adam and Eve to the present. Early human beings feared predators that were able to kill them if they weren’t careful. These same people had to be fearful of the weather and the catastrophes that it could bring about. A little later in history, people came to be fearful of other clans and tribes and even kingdoms that might invade, enslave, or kill them and their families. Today we deal with the specter of drug-resistant diseases, terrorism, and war. We become fearful of what will happen if the economy falters, whether we’ll be able to put food on the table, of whether there will be a roof over our heads. All of these things frighten us, and these fears are not unfounded. It might be why the Bible contains the command to “be not afraid” 80+ times. It’s why we’re dedicating this Lenten season to uncovering why we should be fearless in spite of whatever our fears my be.
Fear is connected to doubt. Think back to the fear you identified at the beginning. It is likely that this fear was coming from our lacking confidence at the time. This could have been doubt in our ability to achieve something, maybe God’s willingness, even ability to provide for us, whatever our need at that moment of fear may have been. Regardless, in the end, a great many of our fears are simply derived from our doubt. That being said, there seems to be something that we can about it.
As Christians, we are a people of faith. Jesus proclaimed the radical gospel of the forgiveness of sins. If we are to live into this faith that has been handed down to us for the past 2000 years, we have to address our fears, and the relationship of fear itself to our faith. Fear seems to stem more from our animalistic tendencies than it does our reasoning abilities — think fight or flight. How does this relate to our faith? Is fear as opposed to faith as it seems to be?
Check out this video and respond to the questions that follow as you’re able.
- Are fear and love opposites as the video claims?
- Do you feel that the human brain feels only two emotions fundamentally and that all other emotions are derivative of one or the other?
- Is this adequate or is it an oversimplification?
- In 1 John 4:8, we read:
Whoever does not love does not love God, for God is love.
- Based on 1 John 4:8, if God is love, then what is Satan? And is Satan’s number one tool fear?
- What might it look like if this is the case?
II. Digging into the Text
Read Isaiah 43:1-3 (Below is the passage from the NRSV). Feel free to read and reread slowly in your preferred translation until you feel as though the passage has totally sunk in.
But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Now that you’ve read the passage at least once, what truths about God are on display here?
What questions does this passage bring to mind?
In this short passage, we have a considerable amount of material to draw on. I’d like to highlight the very first statement. The opening introduction of this passage states: “But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, Jacob, and formed you, O Israel (My emphases).” In this short statement we find God’s immanent presence. God created Israel, and just like he created him/them, God has also created you as well. In the same vein, God also formed you just like God formed Jacob. The God who created the universe and who rules it intimately created and formed each of us. This is a powerful truth that cannot be overstated.
The consequence of this initial statement is found in the first three words that God speaks: Do not fear. The fact that God is so intimately involved in our creation and formation should give us freedom from fear — God has everything in his control. The next section elaborates more on why we should not fear. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” God calls each of us by name, and in this way, God offers us his reassurance. The following statements offer examples: the waters won’t carry us away and the fire won’t burn us. The point becomes clear — even that which can kill us, God has our best interests and our very lives in his control.
The next statement is equally important. God is establishing himself as Israel’s God and Savior. The fact of the matter is that God owes humanity and Israel nothing. In the historical context of the book of Isaiah, the Israelites are about to be exiled by the Babylonians for their disobedience. Even in the midst of their punishment for disobeying God, he is making it clear that he will still redeem his people. It’s important to note a difference between what might be our Christian understanding of this portion of the text and that of the Israelites that would have been engaging with this text. We, as Christians, might see Jesus being referenced here as the coming future savior. While this isn’t wrong, I’d also like to dig in and see how the Israelites would have interpreted this idea of God as savior during that period.
The ancient Israelites that would have been engaging with this idea would have either been under siege, in the process of being exiled, or, ultimately, living in exile in Babylon. They weren’t necessarily looking for God to save their souls, they were looking to God to save them and their fellow Israelites physically. They were captives in a foreign land, and some of them were looking to the future when they would return to Jerusalem in order to worship God in the Temple, and have an independent monarchy once again.
Truths about God this scripture demonstrates:
- God is faithful
- God intimately knows us
- God wishes for us to not be consumed by fear
- God’s redemption is continually working in some form throughout history
What other truths about God can you think of that this passage demonstrates?
2 Timothy 1:7
For God did not give us a spirit of fearfulness, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
When we read 2 Timothy 1:7, we find that God created us to be without fear.
Given the discussion above, how does 2 Timothy 1:7 change or reinforce what Isaiah 43:1-3 says?
Before listening to the podcast below, I’d like for us to take some time to engage with one another in conversation as best we can with what we’ve covered so far in the first two sections.
Now that we've listened to what Pastor Dan, Dave, and I have had to say about this week's topic, I think that it would be good to, again, engage with one another since we all bring something unique to the table based on our life circumstances.
IV. Life Application
So by this point, we’ve thought about our own fears and looked at how they made us feel and what they made us think. We’ve also seen what God has to say in several different passages about our fear. Since we, as Methodists, consider scripture as true and worthy for teaching as the Apostle Paul writes, what does all of this teach us? What implications does any of this have on our day to day lives? I know that for me, personally, having the knowledge that God is near and is with me allows me to reassess my fears and how much I let them affect me. I, like many people, have a fear of dying. Knowing that God is with me through everything is a comfort to counter that fear. While this is my takeaway from this passage, I’m curious as to what yours has been. I’d like for us to share with one another what each of your takeaways has been from this text. Feel free to be in dialogue with one another as best as this technology allows. We will all get the most out of this with a rich variety of perspectives.
I’d like to conclude in prayer.
God our Savior and Redeemer, thank you for this time together that has allowed us to engage more fully in your word. We appreciate the gift of technology that allows us to do this when time and distance might not allow us to otherwise. May you bless this time that we have had together that it might bear fruit in each of our lives. In your name, we pray. Amen.