Faith and Fear

By The Rev B. Adolfo Moronta, Guest Preacher

Faith and fear are opposites; they cannot exist together. While faith moves us to belief that God is constantly working behind the scenes in every area of our lives, on the other hand, fear, simply stated, is unbelief or weak belief. As unbelief gains the upper hand in our thoughts, fear takes hold of our emotions.

In the name of one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

Good morning brothers and sisters in Christ      .

There are two main topics in today’s readings, faith and fear. Fear began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned and hid themselves from the Lord. The Lord called out for Adam, and Adam replied, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Gen. 3: 10). Many of the earliest followers also struggled with fear from Abraham to Moses to the Disciples. In our texts today, if we look closely, we see that the cure for fear is faith.

Faith and fear are opposites; they cannot exist together. While faith moves us to belief that God is constantly working behind the scenes in every area of our lives, on the other hand, fear, simply stated, is unbelief or weak belief. As unbelief gains the upper hand in our thoughts, fear takes hold of our emotions.

Faith is a gift of God is not just believing in Christ is much more than that. It requires our action. Paul in his letter to the Romans says: “Faith without works is dead, but faith with works is living faith.” Faith is the evidence and proof that God exists and that he will keep his promises. In the letter to the Hebrews faith is defined as the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

There are two types of fear in the Bible, the first one is fear of the Lord this first type of fear does not necessarily mean being afraid of something. Rather is reverential and brings many blessings and benefits. The second type of fear is the spirit of fear. Which overcomes us, and to overcome it we need to trust in and love God completely. With faith we can overcome fear but when we open our hearts to fear, fear can be an obstacle in building a strong faith.

What are the fears that you are facing today? Perhaps some of your fears on a Personal level – are about what do I do if I get sick?  lose my job?  can’t provide well for my family? don’t live up to my own expectations for myself? Family level – what if a family member gets sick or injured?  My child gets into trouble?  I can’t make my payments? Community level – I worry about crime?  Pollution.  the quality of schools and services. National level – I fear terrorism (ISIS), epidemics (Zika), war (middle east), and sometimes our own government.

God comes to us today, speaks to us and says, “Fear not, For I am with you always.” Jesus came once to the disciples when they were in a storm and said “Fear not, it is I.”

365 times the phrase “Fear not” or “Do not be afraid” show up in the bible. You can google it. With this God is reminding us that he is in control. That you are going to be ok. “Do not be afraid” is an order not an option. God knows that fear is so much a part of our human experience, and that we struggle with fear in our daily lives. God knows what keeps us up at night. That is why when we are facing fear Psalm 23:4 reminds us: “Even when I walk through a valley of deep darkness, I will not be afraid because you are with me. Your rod and your staff—they comfort me.”

In 2012, after completing my studies in Virginia Theological Seminary, I went back to work to the Dominican Episcopal Church which was a big change in ministry. In the Dominican Republic, the role of a priest is very different from the U.S. – a major change. A Dominican priest is a people’s advocate, hero, and pillar of the community. The priest is the voice of the voiceless. We advocate to authorities for needed services like roads, water systems, healthcare, and for justice. We find funds to repair and built houses, to get food so that the poor can eat, and buy prescriptions and other necessities. In our interpersonal relations, we mediate disputes, encourage and discipline children, and comfort the afflicted.

Upon my arrival in the country I was told by my bishop that I was going to be the rector of three congregations and that this special assignment also included supervising the construction of the building of one of them; but that was not all he also warned me that among the three there was one congregation that needed “extra care”. I was in total disbelieve I was thinking I just graduated couldn’t I at least start as an associate?

When I stepped out of his office I said out loud: “How in the world I am I going to be able to do all this? Clearly, in that moment fear stepped in but at the same time faith came into my heart and gave me a peace which I had never felt before. Immediately I visited all 3 congregations and sadly found out that the one that needed extra care was a congregation that was about to close. That congregation had just two members the lady in charge of cleaning the building and another who helped her. Thus, the challenge was to grow this faith community from virtually nothing.

With Christ as my lead, I developed a strategic plan for growing the church.   I visited former members of the congregation and possible new members. I organized weekly prayer group meetings in the parishioners’ homes. I scheduled sports activities to attract the youth. As a faith community, we shared the weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist. With a lot of prayer and effort I immediately started seeing results after the second week. Within three years, there were more than 90 active members in the congregation. During my second year we completed the new church building and the bishop proudly dedicated it.

Throughout it all the voice of fear always visited now and then, she would stop by whispering in my ear: “do you know what you are doing? you are not capable or equipped to do this. why don’t you just tell the bishop that you can’t do it? This is too much just let it go. It was only with my constant prayers and trust in the lord that I was able to overcome my fears and I remember that every day I kept telling myself: “I work for the Lord and He is going to be with me.”

People of God the key to overcoming fear, then, is total and complete trust in God. Trusting God is a refusal to give in to fear. It is a turning to God even in the darkest times and trusting Him to make things right. This trust comes from knowing God and knowing that He is good. We can overcome our fears, by facing them and not by running away from them.

It makes me wonder – fear is constantly with us, it’s a part of life.  Fear can either paralyze someone to inaction, or it can motivate one to overcome it and accomplish something.  Isn’t overcoming fear one way that faith works in our lives?  If I have to deal with my fears, I don’t want to do it alone and having the Holy Spirit beside me makes it a lot easier.

So how do you deal with fear?  I found a good quote from Nelson Mandela that I would like to share with you: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but triumph over it. I felt fear myself more times than I can remember, but hid it behind a mask of boldness. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”  Isaiah 41:10 encourages us, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Often we fear the future and what will become of us. But Jesus reminds us that God cares for the birds of the air, so how much more will He provide for His children? “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). Just these few verses cover many different types of fear. God tells us not to be afraid of being alone, of being too weak, of not being heard, and of lacking physical necessities.

In summary I would like to end with the words that the psalmist writes in Psalm 56:11: “In God I trust; I will not be afraid.” Regardless of what happens in our lives, we must always trust in God and in his power and remember Jesus promises to us: “…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of time.”