Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Defeating Fear

Fear is one of the most primal parts of the human psyche.  At best it can cause us to be careful and, in some cases, even serve to motivate us.

Some Things We Should Fear

Some fears are instinctive and essential to our survival.  Newborn babies are born with a fear of falling.  Even in our technologically advanced society we have a natural fear of predators.  Such innate fears encourage us to exercise caution in certain situations.

Fear can also cause us to gain an appreciation, a deep respect in some instances.

In a somewhat similar fashion it is wise to fear God.

Matthew 10:28  Do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both the soul and the body in Hell.

If we truly fear (deeply respect) God, we will do what He commands without question.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is:  Fear God and keep His commandments because this applies to every person.

Some fears can actually be beneficial in the spiritual realm.  For example, we are told to flee sinful conduct.

1 Timothy 6:11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.

However, at this point I would like to turn focus toward the negative aspects of fear.  We know all too well that being afraid can have detrimental effects.  Fear can get the best of us and can be absolutely crippling, hindering us from being all that we could be, doing all that we could do.

The Pitfalls of Fear

In the physical sense, fear can limit our ability to live life to the fullest.  Some people have severe phobias that hinder them from flying, taking an elevator, or even climbing a ladder.  Others have such extreme phobias that they won’t even leave their houses.

Less severe, more common fears still limit people from reaching their full potential in life.  People can be afraid of failure and may never even risk trying, forfeiting life-changing opportunities.  Some may miss out potentially great relationships due to being afraid of commitment.  Others cave to societal pressure and fear the opinion of others, conforming to behavior that might be completely contrary to their nature!

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.” – Frank Herbert, Dune

Think of what you wouldn’t have accomplished in your life if you always gave in to fear.  Think of all the opportunities you could have missed out on if you hadn’t mustered up the resolve to grit your teeth and face the challenges of life head on.

Sometimes we can be so afraid of something that we fail to realize that what we are afraid of really isn’t worth the worry.  How many times have you found that to be the truth?  How many times have you faced up to something you dreaded only to come out unscathed on the other end?

I’ve worried about a great many things, but most of them never happened.” – Mark Twain

Fear is as limitless as the imagination because most usually fear is of the unknown, things which have not yet come to pass.  Therefore fear only has the limitations we ourselves place upon it.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Spiritual Consequences of Fear

Fear can also thwart us in our Christian walk.

Fear reveals that we are not yet perfected servants of God.

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

Fear reveals a lack of faith.

Matthew 8:26  But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?”  Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Mark 4:39-40  Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”

We could even do as far as to say that fear is actually the opposite of faith!

Fear can hinder us from serving God.

In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus told the Parable of the Talents.  Notice what it was that prevented the wicked servant from doing as his master commanded.

Matthew 25:25-26  And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.

As you might recall this was not pleasing to the master in the parable.  Likewise, God is not pleased when we allow our fears to keep up from performing our Christian duties.

2 Timothy 1:7  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

“Do not Fear”

It’s interesting to notice that “Do not fear” is one of the most often repeated commands in the Bible!  In fact, aside from Jesus’ teachings of loving others, the rejection of fear (Do not fear/Do not be afraid/Fear not/Take courage) appears to be a major point of Jesus’ message across the Gospels!
While there are countless fears that we could succumb to, we must realize that none of these fears excuse us from serving God!

The Apostle Paul recognized the challenges presented by fear.

2 Corinthians 7:5  For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side:  conflicts without, fears within…

However, we know that Paul pressed on to do the Lord's work!

Even Jesus Himself confronted fear – recall His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane – He had to overcome great fear to fulfill His mission on Earth and go through the anguish of the cross.

Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”  - John Wayne

So how do we defeat fear?

David and Goliath

Perhaps one of the greatest examples of defeating fear is the account of David and Goliath.  Recall that during this time that the Israelites were battling against the Philistines.  Their champion was the giant Goliath who was around nine feet tall, covered in heavy armor, brandishing a huge spear.  The Philistine mocked the Israelites and challenged them to send out their own champion to challenge him in one-to-one combat.

1 Samuel 17:11,24 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid; And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid.

Around this time David – at this point a young shepherd no older than 15 – came to the Israelite camp to deliver food to his brothers.  Upon hearing the words of Goliath, David questioned the soldiers asking who would dare defy the armies of the living God? David volunteered to go out and fight the giant, only with his staff, sling, and five stones…  The very tools he used to defend his flocks as a shepherd!  David reasoned:  “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37)

1 Samuel 17:45-47 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.”

What was it that made David so confident in the face of the Philistine giant, the one who so many others feared?

Draw Your Strength from God

Notice that David was not afraid of Goliath because he drew His strength from a Higher Power.

Psalm 46:1  God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.

Likewise when we face our own seemingly insurmountable challenges, we should let God be our strength!  While we may never face a Philistine giant, God can be our strength in times when we are weak and afraid.

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

2 Corinthians 12:9-10  And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Philippians 4:13  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Seek the Reassurance of God

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane knowing that in a few agonizing hours that He would be marching to His death, what did He do?  Recall that He prayed, seeking the reassurance of God!

Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 56:3  Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.

As always, we cannot allow ourselves to overlook the power of prayer.  God offers comfort to us in times of distress. When we are afraid we need to pray to God for relief.

Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Focus on Pleasing God Alone

Remember throughout the account of David and Goliath that David kept giving the glory to God.  Through His submission David found victory on the battlefield.  We must do the same in our spiritual warfare against the Devil.  God promises us victory when we trust in Him alone!

James 4:7  Submit therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Additionally, if we focus on pleasing God and God alone, we can let go of the fear of societal pressures.  We should not concern ourselves with what everyone else is doing and feel ashamed of being the odd one out.  Instead, we should focus on God’s will and seek to please Him.

1 Peter 5:6-7 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

Hebrews 13:6 So we say with confidence:  “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?”

Study God’s Word for Encouragement

The word “Gospel” translated from the Greek literally means “Good News”!  We don’t have to look too hard in the Bible to find words that will embolden and encourage us when circumstances are uncertain.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Conclusion:  “There’s a Great Day Coming”

Do You Fear the Judgement Day?

We sometimes in my home congregation sing the song “Are You Ready?”

I remember when that song used to fill me with a degree of anxiety as the lyrics asked:  “There’s a Great Day coming… Are you ready…  For the Judgement Day?”

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Do You Fear the Judgement Day?

As inevitable as our own death, the Judgement day is coming…

Hebrews 9:27 And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment…

Do these verses cause you to feel a sense of dread?  Perhaps the matter of your salvation is unresolved?  Maybe you need to seek a closer relationship with God?

Do You Fear the Judgement Day?

You Don’t Have To!

One who walks with God as He should and has made the appropriate preparations has no reason to fear…  The coming of the Judgement Day should actually fill us with hope!

Hebrews 9:28 ...So also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for Him.

Christ died so that we could have a closer relationship with God through the forgiveness of our sins.

If you haven’t taken that first step in becoming a Christian, why not remove that burden of fear and instead seek the hope and certainty that Christ offers?

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