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Overcoming Your Greatest Fear | With Special Guest Lee Strobel

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
November 28, 2021 3:00 am

Overcoming Your Greatest Fear | With Special Guest Lee Strobel

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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November 28, 2021 3:00 am

How can believers use the hope of Heaven to defeat the fear of death? In this Sunday message, bestselling author and speaker Lee Strobel reveals the secret to overcoming your greatest fears. Get real encouragement today!

This Giving Tuesday, do big things and invest in transformed lives. If you believe in the work of evangelism that Harvest Ministries is doing, give today here or just go to harvest.org/support.

Notes

“My heart pounds in my chest; the terror of death assaults me.” 

David in Psalm 55:4 (NLT)

“…[God] has planted eternity in the human heart….” 

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

“…[Jesus] set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” 

Hebrews 2:15 (NLT)

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John 14:1-3 (NLT)

“God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” 1 John 5:11 (NIV)

“…Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?...Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55,57 (NIV)

“…No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)

Luis Palau’s message to Christians: “Go for it!”

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6: 23 (NLT)

Luis Palau’s message to others: “Don’t be stupid!”

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Hey there. Thanks for listening to the Greg Laurie Podcast, a ministry supported by Harvest Partners. I'm Greg Laurie encouraging you if you want to find out more about Harvest Ministries and learn more about how to become a Harvest Partner, just go to harvest.org. Hi, I'm Lee Strobel.

It's great to be with you at Home with Harvest. And I'd like to begin by asking you kind of an odd question. Does your dog hide under the bed on the 4th of July?

You know, there's a good chance that he does. And the reason is, about a third of dogs have a condition called phonophobia, which is a fear of the sound of fireworks. And so they freak out on the 4th of July. In fact, did you know that more dogs run away from home on the 4th of July than any other day of the year?

Now we may think that's kind of odd, but you know what? Human beings have our own phobias as well. And some of them sound a little strange. For instance, there's a phobia called triskaidekaphobia. That's the fear of the number 13. There's omphalophobia. That's a fear of navels. There's pterophobia. That's the fear of cheese.

Now I can understand not liking cheese, but actually some people have a fear, a literal fear of cheese. There's globophobia. That's the fear of the sound of balloons popping. And here's one I've got, nomophobia. It's the fear of being without cell phone coverage.

I think I've got that one. There's even phobophobia, which is the fear of developing a phobia. So there's all kinds of phobias that people have, but there's another one that is extremely prevalent, but a lot of people just don't want to talk about it. And that, friends, is the fear of death. The fear of death. In fact, Hebrews 2 verse 15 says people can actually become enslaved to the fear of death. Even King David feared death at times. In Psalm 55, he describes how his enemies are harassing him.

And in verse 4, he says, my heart pounds in my chest. The terror of death assaults me. So even though you may not want to dwell on it, even though it's an uncomfortable topic, maybe, just maybe, the fear of death is your greatest fear.

And you know, the pandemonium has surfaced this in a lot of people. A psychiatrist at Stanford University said, we can never completely subdue death anxiety. It's always there, lurking in some hidden ravine of the mind. I remember when I was an atheist, I used to think that, you know, when I die, it's sort of like the light going out in the refrigerator when you close the door. Boom, you're just sort of snuffed out of existence forever. And when you really consider that, it's a frightening prospect.

It really is. Well, the Old Testament of the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3 verse 11 that God has planted eternity in the human heart. The Hebrew there, it's kind of obscure, but most scholars say that this refers to God putting a desire in us to live forever.

And as a result, a lot of people try to somehow achieve immortality without God by creating a legacy or leaving a mark on the world through their achievements. Well, my new book is The Case for Heaven, a journalist investigates evidence for life after death. And I explore in that book the evidence from neuroscience and near-death experiences and various other areas that show that the biblical teaching about life after death really does make sense. But I also have a chapter in this book about this fear of death. And for that chapter, I interviewed an expert on this topic.

His name is Dr. Clay Jones. He's written a book called Immortal, and he talked to me about several ways that people try to escape this fear of dying, how to cope with it. First he said, there's denial. Denial. How many times do we go to a funeral and the unspoken thing, we never say it, but the unspoken thing as we leave the funeral is poor Uncle Bob.

Yeah, Uncle Bob, glad it's never going to happen to me, but poor Uncle Bob. We think that somehow we're the exception. We think that somehow, you know, if science keeps advancing, if medicine keeps making progress, then doctors are going to be able to cure anything by the time I'm ready to die.

Of course, that's ridiculous. It's just wishful thinking. Death has a hundred percent rate. Everyone dies.

In fact, get this, this is sobering. Just during the time it will take to deliver this message, 3,710 people around the planet are going to die. 3,710 people will die just during this message. So denying death, it doesn't really do anything. Second way people cope with the fear of death is through distraction. Jones said, we pay entertainers and sports stars huge amounts of money because they're valuable to us. They divert our attention away from the fact that we're going to die.

And then there's delay. We think somehow if I just eat the right foods, if I just exercise enough, somehow I'm going to beat that. And yet a Harvard demographer calculated that even if we were able to cure all cancers, the average lifespan in America would increase less than three years. We'd all die of something else. Others try to delay death by having themselves frozen when they die so they can be thawed out when a future cure is discovered for whatever it is that killed them.

This is becoming popular in some areas. Now, the problem with this is, I don't know if you've ever had a glass of ice and you pour Coca-Cola or some sort of cola over it. What do you hear? You hear cracking, that cracking sound of the ice.

Scientists call that sonic fracturing. And guess what? That's what happens to brains and organs when you try to thaw them out. That's what happens to them. Nobody knows how to fix that.

One cryonics company suggests that maybe you can sew the parts back together or glue them back together. Come on, now you got Frankenstein. Another way some people try to deal with death is through depression, especially among those that don't believe in God. I mean, if there is a God, if Christianity is true, there's hope.

Without God, there's really no hope. One atheist wrote this in a national publication. He said, depression is a serious problem in the greater atheist community, and far too often that depression has led to suicide.

He said, this is something many of my fellow atheists don't like to admit, but it's true. On the other hand, recent research at Harvard University shows that attendance at religious services dramatically reduces depression-related deaths from suicide, drugs, and alcohol by 33% among men and by 68% among women. With God, friends, there's hope.

There's hope. Other people try to cheat death by living on through a legacy, being remembered for something great that they did. So in a positive sense, this can lead to people designing great buildings and wonderful cathedrals or writing profound books or painting masterpieces so that somehow they'll be remembered through history. But in a negative sense, this can prompt others to commit horrible crimes just so their names will live on. For instance, why did Mark David Chapman kill John Lennon? Well, he said why. He said he wanted a piece of Lennon's fame. He told the parole board, that bright light of fame, of infamy and notoriety was there. I just couldn't resist it. Others seek immortality through their families in the hope that their name and their memory will at least be kept alive through their descendants.

But that doesn't work very well either. Let me ask you a question. Do you know the names of your great-great-grandparents? They're full names.

First name. Do you know the names of your great- I bet you don't. I don't know the names of my great-great-grandparents.

I've asked lots of people this question. Virtually no one knows the names of their great-great-grandparents. Besides, even if you do remember their names, you probably don't care very much about them.

It means so much for living on through your family. I mean, let's face it. Fame is fleeting. The artist Andy Warhol once said, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. And then a few years ago, a commercial on television said, somebody once said, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.

They actually removed his name. Even his fame didn't last very long. So it's a challenge to try to deal with our fear of death apart from God. One physician wrote in Psychology Today, I've tried to resolve my fear of death intellectually and come to the conclusion that it cannot be done, at least by me.

In his book, Clay Jones sums up the atheistic story of dying without God this way. He said, when you die, your consciousness will cease. Your body will then decay where, as the hearse song goes, the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out.

The worms play pinnacle on your snout. You have no hope of reuniting with loved ones. You will never again enjoy other people or sunsets or beaches or breakers or redwoods or mountains or roses or anything else for that matter.

Soon, soon, everyone is going to forget you. But even if you do become a footnote of history, does that really matter? You're still dead. That's a pretty good summary of the atheist view of death.

So what's the answer? Well, the Bible provides it in Hebrews chapter 2, verse 15, where it says, Jesus set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. In other words, Jesus is the answer to our fear of death. A robust view of Jesus and who he is and what he has done, that, friends, is the antidote to our fear of death. You see, in contrast to the hopelessness that's offered by atheism, Jesus offers the best possible outcome for his followers after they die.

Reveling in God's presence, reuniting with loved ones, living without tears, without struggles, without fears, experiencing a wondrous world of adventure and excitement and exploration and satisfaction and joy and contentment, finding love forever. No wonder that even the atheist philosopher Luke Ferry conceded this, I grant you that amongst the available doctrines of salvation, nothing can compete with Christianity, provided, that is, that you are a believer. And I'm convinced that it is rational to believe in the Christian worldview. I've written several books that talk about the historical evidence that Jesus not only claimed to be the Son of God, but he backed that up by returning from the dead. Strong historical data showing that Jesus did indeed conquer the grave and thus prove that he is who he claimed to be. And therefore, that means his view of the afterlife is definitive. He created the afterlife, so we ought to listen to what he says about it.

And this is what he told his followers in John 14. He said, don't let your hearts be troubled. In other words, hey guys, don't fear death. Trust in God.

Trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father's home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I'm going to prepare a place for you?

When everything is ready, I will come and get you so that you will always be with me where I am. And I love how he uses this metaphor of home to talk about heaven. I don't know if you've ever traveled maybe in a third world country, maybe under difficult circumstances. I remember spending quite a bit of time in India many years ago, and it was in a rural area, a very primitive area. Conditions were harsh. I was sleeping on the ground. The food was very alien to me, very different.

It was not what I was used to. And after several weeks of this and living out of a backpack, you begin to long for home. You get this homesickness. And when you finally get home, when you walk in the door, when you crawl into your own bed, it is such a sense of security and warmth and love and contentment. And Jesus is saying, that's the metaphor I want you to remember about heaven, that it's a home. You're only in this world for a short time. You're going to be in your home in heaven for eternity.

And it is a home that reflects those characteristics of security and love and comfort and joy and fulfillment and satisfaction. Well, as I was writing my book on heaven, I did something kind of unusual. I flew out to Portland, Oregon, to spend the day with a hero of mine, a friend of mine, an individual who was one of the great evangelists of our time. His name is Luis Palau. And through his rallies and through his books and radio media activity and so forth, during his lifetime, Luis Palau shared the message of Jesus Christ with a billion people, a billion people. But he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and he was going to die. He knew he was going to die.

He knew he was headed for heaven. And I wanted to spend the day with him. It was his last interview before he died, because I wanted to see what's it like for someone who knows they're about to leave for heaven. And we had an incredible day of very deep and profound conversations. And I asked him that day, do you fear death?

Do you fear death? And he thought for a moment. He said, you know, I really don't. He said, I'm so convinced from Scripture that when I close my eyes for the last time in this world, I go to be with God. He said the Apostle Paul said to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. And you recall how his father, who was a devout Christian, they lived in South Argentina. He died when Luis was just 10 years old. And just before dying, just before he passed from this world, his father suddenly sat up in bed and began to sing a hymn about heaven.

Bright crowns up there, bright crowns for you and me. And then his head fell back on the pillow and he pointed upward. And he said, I'm going to be with Jesus. And then quoting Paul's words in Philippians, he said, which is better by far. So Luis told me, you know, my dad taught me how to die with a hymn in my heart and with Scripture on my lips. And that's how Luis died a short time later, how he at age 85 passed from this world into heaven.

You see, it was Jesus who released him and his dad from this fear of death. And Luis told me that Jesus is the first person he wants to see in paradise. He said the first thing I'll do is fall before him with a heart overflowing with gratitude and praise. He said he wanted to meet the great heroes of the faith. He wanted to see the throne of God. He said, Lee, just read Revelation chapter 4. He said it's magnificent, it's breathtaking, it'll blow your mind.

The one sitting on the throne has the appearance of Jasper and Ruby. There is a rainbow shining like an emerald. There are flashes of lightning and peals of thunder. There's a sea of glass clear as crystal. There are 24 elders and fantastic creatures with everyone praising the Lord. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. He said, how much of that is literal?

How much of it is a word picture to point us to something we can't even comprehend at this point? He said, well, you know what, I can't wait to find out. And then he said, Lee, I wish I could send you a text message from heaven and tell you all about it because I know the journalist in you would want every detail. And that's true, I wish he could have. Friends, why was Luis able to conquer his fear of death? Was it because he was a great evangelist who had earned enough brownie points with God because he spent his whole life sharing the gospel with a billion people around the planet? Did he do enough to earn his way to heaven? Is that why he no longer feared death?

No. It was because of what Jesus did. 1 John 5.11 says, God has given us eternal life and this life is in the Son. You see, Luis was a sinner, just like I'm a sinner, just like you're a sinner. But Jesus went to the cross as his substitute to pay for all of the sins that he committed in his life. He paid the penalty so Luis didn't have to, and he offered forgiveness and eternal life as a free gift of his grace. And Luis, in gratitude and in joy and in appreciation, confessed his sin, received this free gift of God's grace. That's why he had confidence he was going to go to heaven. It's a gift I've received.

I hope it's a gift that you've received. So if you fear death, meditate on verses about this message of hope. Verses like 1 Corinthians 15, verse 57 that says, Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? Thanks be to God. He gives us the victory.

How? Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Or one of my favorite verses, 1 Corinthians 2, verse 9, that says, No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has ever even conceived of what God has prepared for those who love him. We can't even imagine how God in his love is going to provide an eternity for us that will blow our minds. When we talk about the glory and the adventure and the wonder and the joy of the life to come, then the prospect of leaving this life becomes less onerous. We begin to, like Luis, anticipate what awaits us after the grave. When I was talking to Luis, I asked him in all seriousness, I said, What if you could send a text message back from heaven?

What if you could, from heaven, after you're there for a while, you send a text message back to all the Christians in the world? What do you think that text message would say? And Luis thought about it for a moment, and then he said, I think it would say, Go for it.

And I laughed. I said, What do you mean go for it? He said, Take a risk. Tell others about the good news of Christ. He said, Remember, it's the job of the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sin. He's your partner.

Let him do his work in them. You bring them the best news on the planet, that there's redemption, that there's a relationship with God, that there's heaven, that there's an eternal party that is waiting for them. And then he told me how when he was a new Christian in Argentina, my brother, who was a widow at that point, would urge him to take the gospel to the small towns around where they lived in a rural area. He said, She kept encouraging me and pushing me. She said, Go, go, go.

Go out and reach people with the good news. But he said, I was slow to step out in faith. I'd say to her, Mom, I'm waiting for the call. And then she got upset. She said, The call? The call? The call went out 2,000 years ago, Luis. The Lord's waiting for you to answer. You're not waiting for his call.

And he said she was right. So the Bible makes our task clear. Go out and reach people with the gospel, whether they're friends or family members or neighbors, colleagues, just people we meet along the road of life.

This should be the default assignment for all of us. The absence of a specific call should never be an excuse for inaction. And then he said something I'll never forget. He looked at me knowing he had just days to live. He looked at me and he said, Lee, I can tell you something from personal experience at the end of your life when all is said and done, you will never regret being courageous for Christ. You'll never regret being courageous for Christ. You'll never regret seizing an opportunity to share the gospel with someone.

You'll never look back at that and say, Oh, I wish I hadn't done that. You'll never regret being courageous for Christ. Friends, if you're a follower of Jesus, have you been courageous for him?

Have you really? Are you taking social risks by telling other people the good news? Are you looking for opportunities, praying for opportunities to share the message? What do you say at a moment when the time seems right and there seems to be an opportunity? We were at a restaurant recently and we got in a conversation with the waitress.

And because of COVID, she's terribly afraid of death. And she said, how do you deal with it? And I said, you know, I find hope in the Bible. But I said, I know the Bible is a big book. It's over 800,000 words. There's a lot to understand in it. But I said, would you be interested if I could summarize the essential message that the Bible wants you to know in just 21 words? One verse from the Bible, summarize what the Bible wants you to know. Would you be interested?

Oh, yeah, that would be interesting. Well, and then I recited Romans 6 23. For the wages of sin is death. But the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. I said, the wages of sin is death, what we've earned, what we deserve for our sin, for the way we've rebelled against God and not followed his ways and rejected him. The wages of that, the results of that, the consequence of that is death, which is eternal separation from God.

You don't want that. But the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. He went to the cross, he paid the penalty for all your sin so that you don't have to. And then he offers forgiveness and eternal life as a free gift of his grace. And like any gift, you just have to receive it. You receive it in repentance and faith and you become a child of God, knowing that when you die, when your eyes close for the last time in this world, you will open them in the presence of God forever.

So here's an idea. Here's a challenge for you. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, why don't you memorize that verse? Romans 6 23. For the wages of sin is death. But the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Why don't you memorize that? It's kind of a one-verse evangelistic tool you can keep in your head and pray for opportunities so you can share it with someone just this coming week.

Because if you're ready and you're willing to share that, guess what? God is able to use that to change people's lives and eternal destinations. Well then I asked Louise one last thing. I said, Louise, if you could send back another message from heaven to people who are not followers of Jesus, what do you think you'd say in that message? And he thought about it for a moment and then he said, Lee, I think I'd tell them, don't be stupid. And we laughed because he meant it in the most winsome of ways. He had to know Louise.

He was a very winsome guy. It was not being offensive. What did he mean? He just meant do the smart thing.

Do the smart thing. He said, Lee, don't pass up what God is offering out of His love and grace. Why embrace evil when goodness beckons? Why turn your back on heaven and choose hell? Why expose yourself to the harmful side effects of a sinful life when you can follow God's path of righteousness and healing? He said, don't miss the party that God has waiting for you in heaven.

That's a party, by the way, that right at this moment, Louise is enjoying. Friends, is it easy to die? No, I know it's not. My mom went through a prolonged bout with cancer before she died. But guess what? Jesus walked her through that experience. And today, many years later, after all these years of being in God's perfect presence in heaven, I would suspect that that difficult time of her death has just faded to her to insignificance in light of the glory of heaven.

I mean, it's natural that we don't want to leave our loved ones, that we may have trepidation over the death process itself. I get that. And you know what? Jesus gets that. And that's why Jesus promises to be with us, to help us, to guide us, to encourage us, to give us the strength that we need.

Deuteronomy 3 16 said this in a different context, but I think it's relevant here too. It says, so be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid and do not panic, for the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you. Friends, when you get toward the end of your life, remember this, the best is yet to come.

The best is yet to come. Death is merely a doorway to an existence that will be more real, more exciting, more stimulating, more vivid, more satisfying than anything we've experienced in this world. Jesus has flung open the gates of heaven to everyone who comes to him in repentance and faith, receives this free gift of forgiveness and eternal life. So hope is waiting.

The party is starting. The admission is paid. Eternity is hanging in the balance. Maybe you fear death because you're not sure where you stand with God.

You're confused about that. You have apprehension about that. You have anxiety about that. The first verse I ever memorized as a new follower of Jesus is 1 John 5 13. It says, I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know that you have eternal life. God doesn't want you in a sense of anxiety or confusion or apprehension at the end of your life. You can know that your eternity in heaven is secure.

How can you know? You can know if in a moment in time you have confessed your sins, you have turned from that, you've received God's free gift of grace. And when you do that, you can have confidence that heaven awaits you. Have you done it?

Well if you haven't, I couldn't come all the way out here to California and be with you today without offering you an opportunity. So if you want to know for sure, just like that verse says, if you want to have confidence of where you stand with God, adopted as a son or his daughter forever, headed for heaven, just, I'm going to pray a prayer. And just in your heart, you can say it out loud if you want, but just in your heart, God knows your heart, just repeat these words. Are you ready? Are you ready?

Are you ready? Pray these words. Say, Lord Jesus, as best I can, I do believe that you are the son of God. You proved it by returning from the dead. And right now I confess the obvious, that I'm a sinner.

And I want to turn from that. And in an attitude of repentance and faith, I want to receive, I want to receive your free gift of forgiveness and eternal life that you purchased for me on the cross. Thank you for loving me so much. You endured the torture of the cross so we could be reconciled forever. Help me, Jesus, to live the kind of life that you want me to live, because from this moment on, I am yours. Pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-16 16:02:56 / 2023-07-16 16:14:30 / 12

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