Yes today we are talking about it’s “In God We Trust.” In God we trust and oh boy we need this message today because I know, I hear from many of you and I feel it, too, especially as we’ve been looking and hearing about in the news. The more we hear and more we see, the more we are afraid. Fear. Fear. We have fear. I know we do. You and I have fear in our lives. Terror. Anybody feel terror? Terrified? Ever? Terrified? And panicked. How am I going to get through this? How am I going to live? How am I going to survive? Fear, terror, panic; fear, terror, panic; fear, terror, panic is all around us, yes it is.
And I’ve had people say to me, oh Sheila, you’re so courageous. And I giggle every time they say that because I know I’m the biggest chicken on the face of the earth. I jump when I see my shadow. I was one of those kids who wouldn’t dare feed the ducks; I was afraid of those big, flappy bills. Someone said they’re soft. I said I don’t care. I’m not going to find out. It would be just my luck to get a duck with a hard bill and lose my finger, you know? No, I’m the world’s biggest chicken. I confess to being afraid and having my own fears.
I recall specifically when my second son Christopher; he had a spiking fever and he was shuddering and we had to take him to the emergency room. And I remember huddling in the bathroom there in the emergency room crying, weeping soundlessly because I could hear my three and half month old baby down the hall screaming as they stuck a big long needle in his back to get spinal fluid to see if he had spinal meningitis or not. And they came back, yes, he did. It was positive. I remember feeling terrified as they took my three and a half month old baby down the hall and we walked through those doors that said pediatric intensive care unit and they took my baby from me. I remember feeling terrified. Terrified. Of course God was with us and we saw it through and today Christopher is a big strapping pastor, just graduated from seminary. But I was terrified at the time when we went through that scare, scary time as a family. That was a health crisis for us.
And we also had our financial times when I was terrified. I’ll never forget it. Jim and I were just newlyweds with.. well not newlyweds, we had a new baby. Jason was just a baby and we went to file our income tax return and we hadn’t had enough taken out all year. Oh wow, did that big bill hit us and we didn’t have the money. We didn’t have it in the bank. I remember being naïve and ignorant not know what I was going to do and I sat there on the step with my baby in my arms sobbing because I was sure they were going to take Jim to jail. Now it’s silly I know. I learned later subsequently you can get a loan or whatever it is you need to do you make payments with, but at the time I didn’t know that. I was panicked. I was terrified. I thought our world had come to an end. Of course it didn’t.
Phone calls in the middle of the night. Probably the most terrifying one I received was the one where I heard that dad had had a head injury in Amsterdam. They didn’t know if he would live or die and if he lived whether he’d be a vegetable or not. I was terrified, panicked, afraid, so afraid and of course God redeemed and rescued my dad.
There are times when Jim and the boys would be late coming home. They were supposed to be home at maybe nine o’clock at night and it had gotten past nine. It was maybe nine fifteen, nine thirty, dark. This was before they had cell phones. And I remember looking out the windows thinking were are they? They’re late. Something’s happened. And the longer they were late, the more I became panicked. The more I became afraid. I began to imagine them dead at the side of the road. I was terrified.
Now some of those fears are rational and some of them are not. Some of those fears were justified. Some of them were not. Some of my panic I was accountable for but some was not. And psychologists like to differentiate between rational fear and irrational fear, but I’m here to tell you that fear is fear is fear is fear. Fear is no fun whether it’s rational or irrational. Fear is miserable. Being terrified is painful. Panic attacks can be crippling. And yet we as a nation, we as a people today have more fear than we ever have in a long, long time.
We will not, people, let us not…let us choose to not, to not let terror steal life from us. Let us choose today to not let fear steal peace of mind from us. Let us as a nation, as a church, as a people, rise up and say we will not give in to terror. We will not give in to fear. We will not give in to panic. It’s really just that simple.
In fact, I don’t usually do this. I don’t know if I’ve ever done this, but you have bulletins in front of you and if you open them all the way up you’ll see a place for message notes. And I’m going to ask you to write down a few things today because I really feel that this is what God wants you to hear today, because there’s so much fear permeating our society, but we can be victorious over fear. And this is what God wants you to know about fear and terror and panic today.
First thing, terror; and you can write this down. Terror is a frame of mind not a state of being. Terror is a frame of mind not a state of being. So that means it’s an attitude, it’s not a circumstance. Ten years after 9/11 if we are feeling terrorized then the terrorists have won. But really, truly we do not need to feel the terror. Terror is just a frame of mind; it’s an attitude. It’s not truly who we are, it’s not truly our circumstance, so separate the circumstance from the attitude, the frame of mind from the state of being. Terror is just a frame of mind not an attitude.
Conversely, courage can be your frame of mind regardless of the circumstance. Regardless of what’s happening around you, regardless of where you find yourself, you can find courage. You can choose terror or courage. Terror or courage. You can choose.
Panic; I encourage you to write this down, too. Panic, panic is a negative assumption. Peace of mind is a positive anticipation. Let me say that again for you. Panic is a negative assumption whereas peace of mind is a positive anticipation. You know there are times and you will find yourself in a.. where you start feeling panicky. Your heart starts to race, your pulse is beating and you’re afraid, and that panic, like a panic attack, it hits you. That’s because you’re having a negative assumption that something bad is threatening you, your life or your loved ones. I had a panic attack while I was waiting for my kids, my husband and my kids to come home. I was negatively assuming they where out there when truly they weren’t, instead of positively anticipating they’re coming home safe and sound. That’s the difference between peace of mind and panic.
I had a woman who came to see me and she was having panic attacks because she had something very horrifying happen to her. She received terrible, terrible news one day and it came with a knock on the door. And so from here on after, every time there was a knock on her door, was it the post man or whatever, whenever there was a knock on the door, she had a panic attack because she associated the knock on the door with this bad, bad news. And so she came to see me because she was just crippling, she was crying and crying. She goes, ‘Sheila, I am so tired of living in fear. I am so tired of living with these panic attacks.’
As I prayed over her, I said to her through prayer, I prayed, ‘Lord, from here on out, whenever she hears a knock on the door, may she envision You on the other side of the door knocking.’ And that simple replacement of the negative assumption which created the panic, with the positive anticipation of Jesus being on the other side of the door, Jesus being with her no matter what, has brought her peace of mind. And she said, ‘Sheila, they’re not completely gone but the panic attacks are so much better. I do just like you prayed for me to do. Every time there’s a knock on the door, I envision its Jesus knocking at my door.’ So panic is a negative assumption where as peace of mind is positive anticipation.
Third point fear, fear. You can write this down, too. Fear is a negative reaction. Faith is a positive pro-action. Sometimes a fearful thought, especially these days as we watch the media and we read the news, fearful thoughts; fearful thoughts trigger fearful feelings, which trigger fearful reactions, which frequently is to withdraw, to retreat, to isolate. So instead of being faithfully proactive and taking steps, taking measures, we limit ourselves and we say wait a minute, I failed that time, I don’t want to fail again so I’m going to hold back and I’m not going to try quite as much. And we limit our self because of fearful reactions where as faith propels us; propels us to positive pro-action.
What would happen to our country? What would happen to our world? What would happen to God’s church if we all based all of our actions on fearful reactions? There would be so little that would be done for the glory of God. You know Satan wants to do that. He wants to give you that little lie that says oh you’ll never make it. Oh don’t try again. He puts those fearful thoughts, which become fearful feelings, which become fearful reactions of retreat and withdrawal. And so what would happen, conversely what would happen to our world, what would happen to our entire universe, what would happen if we as a nation, as churches if we rose up and we had positive, faithful pro-action? Just think of what amazing things we could do for our world and for people around us.
Terror, panic, fear; terror, panic, fear. There’s good news, people, because today you need to hear this from God almighty because it’s His word for you. Terror, fear, panic are nothing more than responses. Just responses. That’s all they are. That means that when everything is out of your control, and I know that most of you have times more often today than not, when you feel like life is out of your control. But when everything is out of your control, you can always, always control your responses to whatever happens to you. And you can always choose to respond positively. You can always respond with peace of mind. You can always respond with faith. You can always respond with courage no matter what the circumstance, because no matter what the circumstance, we can trust in God, amen? Amen. That was kind of a weak amen. We can always trust in God, amen? Okay good. All right that’s a little better.
Now I’m going to turn to Daniel because I’m going to give you an illustration of this. It’s such a powerful illustration. Daniel; we all know who Daniel was in the bible, right? Daniel was a great man, he was an honorable man. H was so faithful to his God and his Lord. And here he had been promoted by Darius, the king of Persia. Darius had promoted him to being ruler of the whole kingdom and the other guys they didn’t like that. They got jealous and so they tried to set him up in a trap. And they went to Darius and they said you know Darius, we think that it would be really cool if you had a new edict and you signed it and you sealed it with your signet ring. In other words putting this law in stone; nobody can change it, not even you King Darius. And this is the new decree and that is that nobody can bow to anybody and pray to anybody but you, King Darius, for the next thirty days. You are it. You are the God, the only God that anybody can pray to for the next thirty days. They did this as a trap because they knew Daniel. They knew that Daniel was a man of prayer. They knew that Daniel would not follow this edict. And what was the punishment if they were found guilty? They would be thrown in the lion’s den. That was the punishment.
Well Darius didn’t know this was a trap for Daniel so Darius signed it, the edict was proclaimed throughout the nation. And Daniel 6, verse ten, it says this: Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, now we’re going to hear what his response is. This is his circumstance. The circumstance he has no control over, the circumstance that he finds himself in is a terrifying circumstance, don’t you agree? That if he prays to his God as he believes he’s supposed to do, he’s going to be thrown in a lions den. That’s a terrifying circumstance. So what’s Daniel’s response? Daniel says: Daniel, when he learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened. In other words, people could see him. He wasn’t hiding down in the basement. He was in his upstairs room where the windows were opened and three times a day he got down on his knees and he prayed. He went ahead and obeyed God anyway. That was his response. But he didn’t do it all panicky. He didn’t do it all full of fear because it says also he did it giving thanks to his God. He did it with praise. Wow, talk about courage. The courage of Daniel. And it was just that he chose to respond courageously.
Why was Daniel able to do that? Why was Daniel able to respond courageously in such a terrifying circumstance? I know people say I wish I had the courage of Daniel. Anybody here wish you had the courage of Daniel? Well what does Daniel do? He gets on his knees three times a day. That’s his source of courage. I don’t do that. I don’t get on my knees three times a day. I pray a lot during the day but I’m not actually on my knees three times a day. I’ve been seriously giving it some serious consideration of starting to do that after reading this about Daniel. But that’s where he found his courage was kneeling three times a day. And so if you are tempted to give in to negative, fearful responses remember, remember how God redeemed and delivered His children over and over again.
Well continuing with our story of Daniel, what happened to Daniel? Well we know that the men went to Darius and they said hey you know that edict that you signed? That irrevocable edict that’s written in stone that you signed with your signet ring? Guess what, Daniel, your golden boy, he’s over here praying three times a day and it’s not to you, Darius. So you need to follow through, you need to throw him in the lions den today. You need to follow through on this. And it says that Darius stayed up until sundown trying to find a loophole, trying to get Daniel rescued from not having to be thrown into the lions den but he was unsuccessful. And so when Daniel is thrown in, he’s thrown in the lions den, the lid was put on it and it was sealed shut and it says that Darius, Darius was so upset and so terrified for Daniel that he returned to his palace and he spent the night without eating. He couldn’t sleep. So I can just see him pacing, pacing back and forth. Darius terrified, terrified, terrified for Daniel. So Darius is having panic, but meanwhile Daniel’s in the lions den and he’s not panicking. Again, we see the circumstance may be terrifying, but our response doesn’t have to be. We can control our response.
So what happened? The next morning the king expects to find Daniel eaten, devoured. Now I want you to imagine you’re Daniel. You’ve been thrown into this dark pit because it’s nighttime, remember? They throw a lid on the top of it, it’s sealed shut, there’s no way out, there’s no sunlight coming in. It’s so dark you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. This is a terrifying, terrifying, terrifying circumstance that he’s in. Not only that, he can probably hear in the dark the breathing, the growling of the lions, plural, right there around him in the dark, right there in the dark. So what was Daniel’s response this time? It says he cried out to God, God help me, save me. And then it says there was an angel, an angel appeared, so here in the midst of this dark, terrifying pit with lions, there’s a blinding angel bringing light and he sees.. because it says he can see the angel clasping the mouths of the lions shut. He is delivered. When they bring him up the next morning, there’s not a scratch on him. Wow. Wow. His response was positively to cry out to God knowing and believing that God would deliver him.
So are you feeling afraid? Is there fear, panic or terror in your life today? If you find yourself in a circumstance where you feel like you’ve been thrown into a lions pit and it’s dark and it’s terrifying and you don’t see any way out. You see no way of escape? Then I’m going to encourage you today to call 9-1-1. Isn’t that what you call when there’s an emergency? Anybody here call 9-1-1 when there’s an emergency? 9-1-1. Well, here’s the 9-1-1 I want you to have at your disposal next time you feel afraid. It’s Psalm 91 verse 1. Psalm 91 verse 1.
Psalm 91:1: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the most high will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. They say of the Lord He is my refuge and my fortress. He is my God in whom I trust. He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge so,” hear this part, “so you will not fear the terror of night nor the arrow that flies by day. You will not fear the pestilence that stalks in the darkness nor the plague that destroys at mid-day. If you say the Lord is my refuge, no harm will overtake you.” That’s what it says in 9-1-1, Psalm 91:1 and beyond. For, now I want you to think of Daniel whenever you read this, “for He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” yes He will. “So that you will not strike your foot against a stone, rather you will tread on a lion,” right here it says, you will tread on a lion, think of Daniel when you read this. “They will call on Me, says God. I will answer them and I will deliver them. I will deliver you,” says the Lord right here in Psalm 91.
So today, today I encourage us as a church, I encourage us as a nation to not give in to fear, terror or panic anymore. I encourage and I exhort all of us to live by faith, to live with peace of mind, to live with courage, the courage that God can give you no matter what. No matter what. No matter what. And so I want you to repeat after me right now, I want you to say “no matter what, I will trust in God!” “No matter what, I will trust in God!” One more time: “No matter what, I will trust in God.” “No matter what, I will trust in God.”
Let us pray: Lord God Almighty, give us Your courage of Daniel that the pits of life we are not in them alone. We can cry out to You: God save me, and You will send an angel, and You will give us the ability to tread on lions. Give us the courage of Daniel in this church, and the courage of Daniel in this nation, and oh Lord, we drop to our knees and we trust in You and You alone, Amen.