"Fear and Faith"#87-53
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 30, 2020
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Hebrews 11:1
In the 11th chapter of Hebrews, the first verse, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see." God's grace.
When you die will your epitaph speak a message of faith or fear? That may sound like a strange way to begin a sermon, but your answer is important. Before World War II, many people tried to sum up their hope with a few words carved on their tombstone. In New England there's a stone which reads, "If there is another world I live in bliss. If not another, I've made the most of this." There was no doubt on the stone of a man from Ohio. He knew his final destination. His stone reads: "He who wrote this did it well. The devil waits for me in hell."
When you die, will your epitaph be one of fear or faith? More importantly, is your life one of fear or faith? Please understand, proper fear is a gift of God that keeps us safe. Not all fear is bad. A small child needs fear of automobiles. Otherwise, he can easily be crippled by playing in the street. Adults who plunge rashly into fearful situations rarely come to a happy ending. Proper fear stops us from saying things we shouldn't say and doing deeds that are downright dangerous. But fear loses that godly purpose when it cripples us, when it dominates our lives, and rules us with an iron hand. Did you ever pick up a robin or sparrow that had fallen out of its nest? As you held that bird in your hand, you remember the rapid, terrified beating of its heart. You were trying to help, but the bird's fear wouldn't let him trust you. That kind of fear is sad when it comes to a sparrow, but it's horrible when it keeps a human from God's help.
So, when I ask if your life is one of fear or faith, it's a question you understand. I know you understand because fear has been part of every person's life since the fall into sin. When Adam and Eve took a bite from the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, fear was served up for dessert. In fear our first ancestors hid themselves from a justly angered God. In the New Testament, we see people surrounding the Savior being filled with fear. Before Jesus was born, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, that blessed woman God had selected to be the earthly mother of His Son. The angel began his world-saving, life-changing announcement with a compassionate, "Fear not." After Christ's capture and crucifixion, on the glorious day of resurrection, when God devastated death, demolished the devil, and squelched sin's horror, the angel sitting at the empty tomb announced to the confused mourners, "Do not be afraid, He is risen."
Now, these heroes of faith who lived in close fellowship with the Lord are not immune from fear, why should we think we can escape the ravages of worry? People all around us are living their lives in fear. Advice columnists report the single common denominator in the letters they receive is fear. Physicians say it is often fear that brings people to their offices. Even children are not immune. A nationwide survey says two-thirds of our children are scared that "someone bad" is stalking their neighborhoods, waiting to break into their homes.
It's quite possible that you listening to this broadcast are living a life hideously twisted by fear. Trapped by terrors, you find yourself traumatized by unrealized dreams, dashed hopes, difficulties of body, mind, and soul, tensions at work, insecurities, past sins, indiscretions, and the possibility of future failure. There seems to be no escape.
Money and success offer no immunity to fear. Alfred Krupp, the Prussian manufacturer of munitions, was a successful man. Yet, he was afraid. People weren't allowed to talk about death in front of him. When a relative passed away in his house, he ran out the door. When his wife spoke to him about death, he left her. Is it possible power can keep you from fear? The Russian ruler, Josef Stalin, was the most powerful of men. Yet, he lived in constant fear of assassination. Each night he had eight different bedrooms prepared for his night's rest, selecting one at the last minute, so no one would know where to find him. Power left Stalin wracked with worry.
Is your life one of fear or faith? I cannot read your mind and heart. I don't know the fear that robs you of sleep, that puts a hollow spot in your stomach, and makes your palms sweat. I don't know what fear you keep buried deep down inside, so horrible you don't want to look at it. I don't know your fear, but I do know whatever your terror, trauma, trouble, trial, or tribulation, Jesus is coming to you today, as He has come to so many in the past and says, "Do not be afraid."
Skeptics who are listening to these words will say, "Why should I put my life into the hands of someone I can't see, someone I've never met? Anyway, I know some Christians. They seem to be just as afraid as I am." Well, Christians do worry, and they do have fears. Being a Christian doesn't give you an immediate, instantaneous immunity to every fear of life. But this is our failure, not God's. The more a Christian believes and trusts in God, the greater peace he has.
In the early church, Christians struggled with fear. Daily they were challenged by persecutions, pains, and personal problems. To calm these concerns and cares, the writer to the Hebrews, by the Holy Spirit's inspiration, told them, and us, how to successfully deal with fear. He said: "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." In other words, have faith in God. Even if you don't see Him, He's there.
The kind of faith we are talking about here is more than raw knowledge. The devil has knowledge about religion. The devil has knowledge that Jesus came to live for humanity, to die, and to save sinners. The devil has knowledge that the Bible tells the truth. The devil has knowledge about a lot of things, but knowledge is not enough. It's not enough to know Jesus as a great teacher, a wise philosopher, a brilliant leader, a person with great insight and love. If that's all you know about Him, your life will continue to be lived in fear. Real Christian faith—the faith that puts fears to rest—is one that trusts Jesus as Savior.
Let me explain. In the early part of the 16th century, two men, both sharing the name Martin, came to faith that they were saved by the grace of God that comes to those who believe in Jesus as their Savior. Both of these men had the opportunity to make that message of mercy known to the world. The first Martin, fearing public disfavor and persecution, wrote on a piece of parchment: "Oh, most merciful Christ, I know I am saved only by the merit of Your blood. Holy Jesus, I love You." Then, he hid that parchment behind a stone in the wall of his bedroom. It was only by accident, several hundred years after his death, that his hidden testimony to Christ was discovered. Martin of Basel never had a faith which could conquer his fear.
How different was the faith of the other Martin. This Martin was given a faith that made him certain of his Savior. That faith gave him courage to be the Lord's champion in changing the world's history. Sure that the Savior was by His side, this Martin did not waver. Sure that the Lord would never leave him, he used every means and method, pulpit and printing press, school and church service, hymn and hall, to share the Gospel of salvation. A cursory study of history shows Martin Luther as a man who was sure of what he hoped for and certain of what he did not see. His life was a life of faith, not fear.
This kind of faith is more than intellectual information. It is believing in the power and love of God as shown in Christ Jesus. Faith is knowing God loves us, helps us, saves us in this world, and the next. This kind of faith the world does not have, the devil cannot have. But it is this kind of faith that has brought a billion souls to a life without fear. By faith, Abraham believed in a Savior that would not be born for over a thousand years. By faith, Peter was transformed from being a fisherman to faithful friend and follower of the Lord. By faith, Paul was transformed from murderer to martyr.
Do you want a life of fear or faith? If you opt for faith, hold onto Jesus tightly.
You know what I'm saying. Too many of us have placed our hope in other things only to find them false. Faithful friends have proven themselves to be faithless. Job security proves to be insecure. Retirement nest eggs are hollow. That is why I boldly share with you today; Jesus is the only One who can give us a life of faith, not fear. To give us a fearless life is why He came into this world. That's why He was born among us. That's why He fulfilled Law and prophecy. That's why He allowed Himself to be cursed, captured, and crucified. He rose from the dead and offers forgiveness to all who acknowledge Him as Savior. But He also wanted to give all who believe in Him a bonus—a life of faith, and not fear.
I've known such people who have, by the Spirit's power, learned to trust Jesus. They are very special people. Let me tell you about one of them—a lady who had seen her share of heartache and worry. She lost her husband and buried two children. She wasn't wealthy or beautiful. She had crippling arthritis and was seldom healthy. When her time came to leave this world, she held onto Jesus. Holding onto Him, she decided it was time to go to the hospital.
Dying took her about one week. During that week, she slept and dreamed of her Savior and the reunion He promised with friends and family who were waiting for her in heaven. She was always disappointed when she woke. She couldn't understand why God was keeping her around. After all, she said she wasn't helping anybody. Let me tell you, during those days when she thought she wasn't helping anybody, three shifts of nurses, countless doctors and other staff saw the peace a Christian has when they hold onto Jesus in faith. She introduced them to a God who conquers fear.
She smiled. She prayed. At the end of that week, she got to go to heaven. I have never seen so many hospital staff at a funeral before, or since. Why did they come? Because they had seen Jesus can destroy fear for those who trust Him. They had seen His power in a dying Christian lady, and they wanted the same comfort and hope for themselves. They wanted a life of faith, not fear.
I could tell you many more such stories—stories of people who have never seen Jesus face to face, but who still trusted Him. None of these people had ever walked with Him, broken bread with Him, or sat at His feet to hear a sermon. None of them had ever been visited by a heaven-sent angel. But what makes these souls stand out is this: washed in the blood of the Savior, their faith became a powerful thing. Moved by Jesus' marvelous message of forgiveness, they trusted Him, and shared how others might trust Him as well. They lived and died in faith, not fear.
So, we come back to the question: Will your life be one of faith or fear? If you are the adult child of an abusive parent who is afraid you will not be able to break that cycle with your own little ones, Jesus says, "Do not be afraid. I am here." Trust Him. If you are a fearful youth on the street who has left home to escape an intolerable situation there, Jesus is saying, "Do not be afraid. I am here." Rely on Him. If you are a senior who is afraid of being alone, unwanted, unneeded, Jesus says, "Do not be afraid. I am here." Let Him be your Friend and Companion. If you are afraid that you and those around you are trapped in a welfare problem, Jesus says, "Do not be afraid. I will give you courage." If you're married and afraid your vows of faithfulness and support are melting away like the mist, lean on Jesus. His words, "Do not be afraid" can allow you to forgive, rebuild, and rediscover hope. If you are an unmarried mother afraid for your child who is growing up without a father, come to Jesus with your little one. Hear Him say, "Do not be afraid. I will give you guidance." If you are afraid of death and dying, and what for you it is a dark unknown, know Jesus is with you. He wants to bring light into that darkness. Listen to Him. Trust Him when He says, "Do not be afraid." I cannot, in this brief broadcast name every fear. But I can say, in every fear, Jesus is the answer. He is our hope.
Today is the day when the Holy Spirit is calling you, when the Spirit wishes to introduce you to the Savior if you don't know Him, to strengthen that faith if you do. Jesus wishes to rescue you from hell, most certainly, but He also wants you to have a present life free from fear. If you wish to know more about the Savior, call us at The Lutheran Hour. We can connect you to a church which knows and believes in this Lord I've been talking about. We can introduce you to a group of people who trust the Savior who gives a life of faith and not fear.
In the last century, when steamships plied the waters of Lake Superior, a number of passengers became nervous. The boat's deck was encircled by a heavy fog, yet the captain was steaming full speed ahead. Finally, the passengers went to the first mate, and complained. The mate replied, "Don't be afraid! The fog lies low, and the captain is high above it. He can see where we are going."
In World War II, during the blitz against London, a house caught fire, and a young boy was forced to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms. He called to his frightened son, "Jump! I'll catch you." Looking down, all the boy could see was flames, smoke, and blackness. He hesitated. Time was running out. His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "Daddy, I can't see you." The father replied, "Son, I can see you. That's what matters."
How those two stories ended is unimportant, but the end of your story is extremely important. Yours is a story being written right now. Hear the Savior's words, "Do not be afraid." And having heard those words, you will know your epitaph will be one of faith, not fear. And your life will be the same. For this is the will of God. Amen.
Reflections for August 30, 2020
Title: Fear and Faith
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. It's Archives August and that was Pastor Ken Klaus before he became Lutheran Hour Speaker. That was actually his first message heard on The Lutheran Hour when he was a guest speaker. I'm Mark Eischer and I'm here in the studio with our current Lutheran Hour Speaker, Dr. Michael Zeigler.
Michael Zeigler: Hello, Mark. I get to talk to you today. We've been talking with people who've been a part of The Lutheran Hour program for the last number of years, and now I get to talk to you.
Mark Eischer: That'll be a little bit different because even though I've been a voice on the radio for 35 years, I'm not really a talkative person, so kind of a role reversal here.
Michael Zeigler: All right. So the emphasis of this last month is to hear from our former Speakers and celebrate the legacy of The Lutheran Hour, especially as we look forward to October when we will celebrate our 90th anniversary of the program. So for you, Mark, personally, how have you come to more deeply appreciate the legacy of The Lutheran Hour?
Mark Eischer: As we all know, we're living through a difficult time right now, but that's nothing new in terms of the program's history. You think back to when the program first got started 1930. It's the Great Depression, right after that World War II, Dr. Walter A. Maier spoke to those times and those conditions. Later on with Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, the Vietnam War, the social upheaval of the 1960s. We've always faced difficult times, but God has provided a Speaker and provided a voice that speaks to each of those situations.
And Dr. Walter Maier said it, and Pastor Klaus echoed it, it's a "changeless Christ for a changing world." We chose some of these messages for Archives August because they spoke to that subject of fear and uncertainty, and we've tried to show this month, how each Speaker addressed that particular concern in his time. These messages I hope will remind our listeners that God is our ever-present help in trouble.
Michael Zeigler: Do you remember listening to The Lutheran Hour, as a young man, or a boy?
Mark Eischer: As a boy? Yeah. Dr. Oswald Hoffmann would have been Speaker at that time, and his voice coming over the radio certainly made an impression on me—never realizing that someday I'd have the privilege of working with him, and actually being his recording engineer. That was one of my first jobs here.
Michael Zeigler: And then later you became an announcer, and then the announcer.
Mark Eischer: Right.
Michael Zeigler: That's a pretty prestigious position. As I understand the story, Brace Beemer, the voice of the Lone Ranger, was one of the first announcers for The Lutheran Hour. So, it's a great position you got to be a part of.
Mark Eischer: Dr. Elmer Knoernschild was the announcer when I first started here, and he gave me my opportunity to work here, I thank God for him.
Michael Zeigler: What do you enjoy most about your job now that you've been doing it for 35 years?
Mark Eischer: I sort of think of myself as the cabinet maker who makes the same chair every week. The program itself is very similar from week to week. Although we have different materials, various raw materials that we work with—the text for the day, the theme, perhaps the music, the interview subject—and it's the craftsmanship I think of being able to put that together.
Then also there are these unexpected, I call them "Holy Spirit goosebumps" that you get when you're putting a program together and things come together in unexpected ways. To bring those elements together and hear how one component kind of speaks or reflects on another component. That's when you kind of realize that there's more to this than just putting a program together on paper. There's the work of the Holy Spirit in helping to communicate a greater message sometimes than just the sum of the parts.
Michael Zeigler: This is ultimately His program, and we entrust it to Him to speak to people. How have you personally seen God do that—speak through this program, bless people?
Mark Eischer: I guess I'll have to speak on more of a personal level because I don't always hear back from listeners directly. For me on a personal level, it's been a great blessing and a privilege, as I said before, and I'm thankful for the opportunities I've had to work here. I'm thankful for the co-workers and the mentors who have helped me along the way.
My wife and I both grew up hearing The Lutheran Hour, and she always talks about how, when she first moved here to St. Louis, she was fresh out of college, and she came here to teach at Lutheran South. Her first day in St. Louis she turned on the radio and tuned in KFUO, and there was Dr. Hoffmann speaking on The Lutheran Hour. And she thought to herself—Wow! I'm now living in St. Louis, the same city where they produce The Lutheran Hour—never realizing that one day she would go on to marry a guy who would become the announcer, or that because of a pandemic The Lutheran Hour would eventually be produced out of her basement.
Michael Zeigler: We certainly are blessed to be a part of this. It's hard to comprehend how God has used this program through the years. I feel the same way that I never would've thought I would get to be a part of this. It's been a joy to work with you over the last couple of years, and I look forward to seeing what God has in store for us in the future.
Mark Eischer: Thank you. I also appreciate the long-standing partnerships we've had with many of our radio affiliates. I appreciate the support and encouragement that we received from listeners, and I hope that The Lutheran Hour will continue to be a blessing, and for them a trusted voice of hope.
Michael Zeigler: Let it be for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Oh, Sing Jubilee" arr. Henry Gerike. Used by permission.
"Hail, Thou Once-Despised Jesus" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)