Leaders Show No Fear
We were with a tour group and needed to cross a busy street in Rome. If you’ve been to Rome, you understand. Big cars, little cars, smart cars, scooters of every sort, and a plethora of tourist buses. The simple act of crossing the street can be a life or death experience. The 57 in our group had to get from one side of the street to the other in order to board our tour bus. While we were waiting for the right moment to cross, seemingly out of the blue our guide raised his hand and shouted to us, “Show no fear,” as he charged into the traffic with all of us following. And, that did it. We crossed the street and made it safely to the other side as drivers jammed on their brakes to let us through.
There are so many situations that we may fear: losing a job or changes in job requirements, illness, temptation, and a fear of others. Yet, mature leaders “show no fear.” Or, maybe it would be better to say that they “have no fear” or that they “have nothing to fear.”
Fear can be especially an issue for leaders because of the responsibilities that they have for others and for the weight of carrying out the mission of their church or organization. Leaders can be helped in dealing with fear by understanding what it is, how it is described in the Bible, and by considering suggestions for overcoming it.
What Fear Is
Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached a sermon on “Overcoming Fear” in 1933, shortly before Hitler came to power. He said, “Fear is… the arch-enemy itself. It crouches in people’s hearts. It hollows out their insides, until their resistance and strength are spent and they suddenly break down. Fear secretly gnaws and eats away at all the ties that bind a person to God and to others, and when in a time of need that person reaches for those ties and clings to them, they break and the individual sinks back into himself or herself, helpless and despairing, while hell rejoices.”
Fear in the Bible
There are many passages in the Bible that address the issue of fear. Think about Old Testament examples, such as Daniel, Esther, Jonah, Moses, and Nehemiah, to name a few. In the New Testament, we immediately think of the annunciation and the angel saying to Mary, “Do not be afraid” (Luke 1:30). But the classic passage on fear is Matthew 8:23-27, where Jesus calms the storm.
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Suggestions for Overcoming Fear
Fear can be a very deep spiritual and psychological issue. It is not the intent of this blog to trivialize its complexity. There are many situations that require a credentialed counselor or uniquely-qualified minister. However, we can identify practical pointers for overcoming fear as they relate to Matthew 8:23-27.
F – Faith:
In the boat, when the disciples were afraid of being swamped by the waves, Jesus referred to them as, “you of little faith.” During the storms of life, faith brings to mind assurances such as, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).
E – Equipped:
This was not just a cruise across the lake or a fishing trip for the disciples; rather, it was a training experience. Jesus is equipping them to deal with many of the other storms that will follow. It is the work of ministry leaders “to equip the saints for the work of ministry…” (Ephesians 4:12).
A – Acceptance:
The storm came upon the disciples unexpectedly, as storms can do on the Sea of Galilee. Some of the storms in our lives hit us just as fast and just as hard. Others are more subtle or extend over time. It helps to identify the storm and deal with it in the present, not to ignore it or act as if it doesn’t exist, nor run from it. In this case, the disciples learned a faith-lesson. During a storm, turn to the Master of the wind and waves and say, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
R — Relax:
We see that even though they were in a storm, ”Jesus was sleeping.” Sleep demonstrates the absence of fear. We know this because most of us can recall times of having difficulty getting to sleep because of fears or worries. It is as if Jesus is demonstrating the maximum, “Keep calm and carry on.”
There are many ways in which we deal with fear. Church Leadership Center helps leaders navigate through the storms of life and ministry by equipping them with ministry competencies. Your participation is invited.