New Hope Notes

Running In Fear
Fear Project

Pastor Josiah Nordgren
July 23, 2017 - W1730

Today, I'm honored to be able to open the Fear Project series with something that you and I struggle with every day whether we know it or not—fear. We will discuss the negative effect fear has on our lives and how to overcome it. Fear often holds us back from what God wants us to do. Your fear may be to invite your neighbors over to dinner, serve in church, join a small group, or give blood—whatever it is, do it and you will realize that fear didn't carry as much weight as you thought it did!

My name is Josiah Nordgren and I'm the lead pastor at the New Hope Leeward Waipahu Campus. In this series, we will study stories in the Old Testament of people who either overcame their fears or succumbed to them. Today, we will look at someone who succumbed to fear and ran—Jonah. This is one of my favorite books because it's full of drama and rich with application in just four chapters. My hope is that you will read this book (takes about 15 minutes), and see what God is speaking to you about your fear and walk with Him.

Jonah 1:1-3 NIV says, "The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 'Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before Me.' But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD."

God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against it and tell them to repent of their wickedness—but Jonah flees in the opposite direction. There were two likely fears that Jonah was facing: first, the city of Nineveh was not in Israel. They were Assyrians and history tells that the Assyrians were very cruel in war. They would put hooks through the noses of their prisoners as they led them out; cut off noses, ears and tongues just for fun. Jonah feared for his life!

The second fear is seen at the end of the story. Jonah didn't feel that the Assyrians deserved to be saved and was actually afraid that God would forgive them.

Before you hate my man Jonah (believing he is the worst prophet ever), let me make this personal for you. You wake up tomorrow morning, pour a cup of coffee, sit at the table, and you hear the audible voice of the Lord say, "I want you to go and preach to ISIS. (Yeah, I felt all the air suck out of the room when I said that.) I want you to go into the stronghold and tell them, 'You all need Jesus. Everybody needs to repent right now.' I'll take care of everything and everything will be fine." You might question, “ISIS?” and try to figure ways not do it because your fears would likely be the same as the prophet Jonah’s.

Running is often a common impulse to fear and discomfort, and we all in some way have run from God’s call. Maybe it's not as obvious as boarding a ship and sailing to a different place, but we've all run.

For some, it may be a toxic relationship that God has called you to leave, but you keep running back to it over and again for fear that you'll be alone or that you won't be able to cope, or that you'll fail again.

For others, God has called you to forgive, to reach out to certain people, to invite your neighbors to church, but you haven't for fear of ridicule or rejection. Maybe God has called you to grow deeper in faith and you haven't done it saying, “I don't want to give because I'm afraid I won’t have enough”; I don't want to read my Bible because it doesn't make sense, I feel dumb”; “I don't want to serve, I'm going to fail”; “I don't want to open up in a small group because I will be judged like I was many years ago”. Fear is usually the underlying excuse to not obey God.

1. When you run in fear, you often run from growth.

Running from fear is not a bad impulse in itself. Fear is given to protect us. If I'm afraid and I run, that's a good thing; but if I run from every challenge God has called me to do, I won't grow. Fear manipulates and dictates until it confines us into a neat little box that we call our “comfort zone.” As believers, we will always have tensions in our lives because God always calls us outside our comfort zone—where growth happens!

We have two choices: (1) shut out the voice of God or (2) be obedient and go outside the comfort zone. Stepping outside the comfort zone makes me realize I cannot take this step on my own so I humble myself, get on my knees before Christ—where God wants me to be!

If you're bored in church and find that the sermons aren't hitting you right now or the worship is not hitting you the way it did before and nothing seems to interest you, it's not your pastor's fault or the worship team's fault or the church's fault. The exciting life with God can only be discovered when we step out of our comfort zone and watch what God will do.

Back to the story of Jonah—God told Jonah to go to Nineveh; instead, he boards a ship going the opposite direction and falls asleep below deck. A huge storm hits, and it's so huge that a prayer meeting begins upstairs as every sailor cries out to the god they serve.

The sailors finally wake Jonah up and find out he's responsible for this storm! I don't know if it was a moment of courage or hopelessness or compassion for these guys, but Jonah tells them, “Throw me in the sea and the storm will calm down.” They actually tried to save his life for a while, but the storm only gets worse so they throw him into the water.

Jonah 1:17-2:2 NIV says, "Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said: In my distress I called to the LORD, and He answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.’" Though this great fish seemed like a punishment, it was actually a lifeboat to rescue Jonah.

Jonah prays this powerful prayer and quotes Psalm 18, Psalm 31, and Psalm 42, and ends chapter 2 with worship. He worships God in the middle of this situation (still in the fish, everything is still dark, stink, and the water is still up to his ankles), yet God is with him in this moment! That part is amazing but what's even more amazing to me is that God is with him in this place even though it's Jonah’s fault, even though he made his own bed, even though he's in his self?loathing regret, the Lord is still with him!

2. Even when you run in fear, God knows exactly where you are.

King David worded it well and Jonah is an example. Psalm 139:7-8 says, “Lord, where can I get away from your presence? Like, Lord, where can I escape you? If I go to the highest heavens, Lord, you are there.”

Even if you don't understand where you are right now and life makes absolutely no sense, everything is dark, and you don't understand what is going on, the amazing thing is God knows where you are. He's still there. He still loves you. Nothing has changed. Most importantly, He is still calling you.

The whale vomits this wayward prophet out on the beach, and as Jonah’s feet hit the sand, the first thing (this is so important!) the Lord says to him is, "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you." (Jonah 3:2) God gives him the same call as before. Isn't that amazing? Even though Jonah changed, God didn't change. Even though Jonah was unfaithful, God was still faithful. God calls him to pick up right where he left off.

This is such a great reminder to us that our God does not give up on the sinful, disobedient, flawed, broken, cast aside, and reluctant runners. God hasn't given up on you. The God that called you (whether it was years ago) is still calling you now to pick up right where you left off.

Jonah goes into Nineveh, and for three days proclaims, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” Suddenly, revival breaks out in the city. Everybody from the least to the greatest begins repenting—even the king. The whole city is wearing sackcloth.

At the end of Chapter 3, the text actually says the Lord relents. This is huge. Jonah should be walking on cloud nine. He should be blown away. He should be worshiping God and rejoicing. But, instead, after all of this, Jonah learns absolutely nothing. He walks out of the city angry and says, “God, I knew it. I knew it. I knew you would do this. This is why I went to Tarshish. I knew that you would forgive them. You always do.” Then he says, “Just kill me because I would rather die than live.” Jonah gets dramatic!

Jonah 4:5-8 says, "Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. [He's so angry that he's sitting outside of the city hoping maybe God will still destroy it.] Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. [It's actually the only time in the book of Jonah that it says he was happy about anything.] But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, 'It would be better for me to die than to live.' But God said to Jonah, 'Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?' 'It is,' he said."

God basically says, “Look, Jonah, you're being ridiculous. You have no reason to be angry about this plant. It's not yours. It's mine. You have no reason to be angry about the city of Nineveh—120,000 people. They're not yours. They're mine.”

Jonah is passing out and dying in the hot sun. God is counseling him and suddenly, the book just ends! It just ends, nothing more! It’s one of the saddest endings in the Bible. It should have ended triumphantly, but it ended very depressing. Despite all that Jonah had been through with the Lord, we find him back at square one—outside of the city, outside of God's will, sitting in fear, bitterness, and anger.

3. When you run in fear, it leaves you in a place of not being fulfilled.

Running in fear doesn't just stunt your growth, it leads you to a place of stagnation in your faith and life, and no amount of doing more church things will fix that. Even the purest water, if it just sits, will become stagnant and stink. Christians are no different.

Fear confines and boxes us in; not being fulfilled will hold us there. It's a difficult place to escape because like Jonah, it's easier to sit and complain and choose to stay in this situation.

If you feel empty and bored with church, the longer you sit here (even though it's easy and comfortable), you will be robbed of joy, hope, peace, love of the purpose and life that God has for you. The solution is to step beyond your comfort zone (sin, doubt, and fears) and trust Him. God is saying, “I will not let you sink. You mean more to me than anything, just trust me.”

4. There's a beautiful plan that exists beyond your fear.

Wherever you are, even in a place where you have wasted and squandered your time in not being fulfilled, God knows exactly where you are. His plan for you hasn't expired; it hasn't run out; hasn't changed even if you have changed. Pick up where you left off, take the step forward, and trust God with your fears!


  1. What is the underlying excuse for running from God’s call?

  2. What is God saying to you about your fear and walk with Him?

  3. How does running from fear stunt our growth and faith in God?

  4. What is the amazing thing that Jonah did that caused the fish to vomit him out on the beach?

  5. Share an experience you had when you stepped out of your comfort zone.