One should never go through life afraid. Fear is something that hampers not just our potential ability but also our current ability. When one gives into fear, even those things that can easily be done start to become the Goliath’s that challenge us. Yesterday we looked at three steps that can help us eliminate fear from our life.
The primary reason for eliminating this fear is to become more like Jesus. No passage that I am aware of ever says that Jesus experienced the emotion of fear. His relationship with God is a primary reason for that and while we strive to become more like him, we take baby steps towards removing our fears.
Additional Step number one: Speak with confidence.
Asserting something in all confidence is a practice that anyone can use. State what you believe to be true. It not only causes others to take heart but just the proclamation leaving your own lips can embolden you too. When Daniel’s three friends were given a second chance to bow down to the idol the King made, this was their response:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (Dan 3:16-18)
Speaking like this may seem suicidal but, really, if there was any smattering of doubt or mildness of temptation in their minds, such a declaration would chase it far from them.
Additional step number two: Remember God is in control.
That same passage also illustrates that we should always remember that God is in control. Apparently they did not know the end of the matter. Neither do we in our own lives. Too often we make bold plans and do not allow God to be part of them. We are like those in James 4 who are rebuked for planning and not so much as even saying “If the Lord wills…”
Daniel’s friends did not say God would deliver them in a prideful way. They simply acknowledged the boundary that God had set up: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” We are not going to cross it even if we do die, they indicated to the King. They let God be God and they just followed along. As I asked in a post a couple of days ago, “What’s the worst that can happen?” If they survive, they continue on in this world, if they were burned up, then they would rejoice in before God’s throne. Which would be better for you?
Job also had this attitude: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” He would not blame or accuse God rashly. No sin escaped his lip.
Additional step number three: Focus on the realities and not what might happen.
Jeroboam did not focus on reality when he became king. The ten northern tribes made him their king just as God had said they would. However, Jeroboam was apparently afraid that they would return to the King of Judah if they went up to Jerusalem to worship God. So he took matters into his own hand:
And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. (1Ki 12:26-29)
Had he only exalted God, the result would have been different. Many times others have shown the same fear and, in that fear turned away from God. Israel in the wilderness choose fear over God by listening the report of the ten spies. Another king of Israel responded with worry when Namman came to be healed rather than send him to the Prophet right away.
The Pharisees responded to Jesus with fear too. They feared that their position would be taken away and so, rather than accepting the Messiah, they sought a means to kill him. (John 11:46-48) Fear of change can be a powerful force and because they gave into it, indeed not just their position, but their whole nation, was taken away from them.
Fear should not be accepted as an option. Let’s follow Jesus’ example of no fear and work to remove what fear we have.
Fear is sometimes explained as an acronym with each letter representing a word: False Expectations Appearing Real. However, as you read the Bible there is one person that is never described as being afraid: Jesus. Why is this? Jesus showed many emotions but fear is not one of them. Until last week, I had never thought of that and to my knowledge have never heard anyone mention it before. (If you can find a scripture that would suggest otherwise, share it!)
It doesn’t seem that Jesus ever had any false expectations. He knew why he had come and what he needed to do. Why would you fear the very task for which you have been born? But we fear many things in our life and most of those never need to be feared.
I am going to offer three steps today that will help us remove fear or at least minimize it. If Jesus did not have fear and we are to imitate Him, then this would be a good thing to work on. Perfect Love casts out fear. (I john 4:18)
Step one: Learn more about God.
This is best done when we are young. Parents have the responsibility to teach us about God and instruct us in His ways. (Dt. 6 and Eph. 6) David wrote that a young man can cleanse his ways by taking God’s word into account (Ps 119:19) Yet, even as we grow older we can still learn more about God. Moses didn’t really start learning about God until he was 80 years old.
In learning about God, you will learn about His character. He is ever-present to help those of his household. If God is for us, who can be against us? God does not allow us to be tempted above what we can bear and we can have confidence in His promises because He does not lie. (Rom 8:31, I cor 10:13, Heb 6:17-18) No wonder Jesus was able to be asleep in the bow of the ship during a storm that frightened the apostles (Mark 4:38-41), he knew the promise of the Father that He would be protected while on earth so that the mission would go forward. Though misapplied by Satan in Matthew 4, the scripture was accurately quoted.
Step two: The Lord has conquered the truly great reasons to be afraid.
While fear of public speaking is one that outranks death in most surveys, if you never had to speak in public you would be fine. However, though non Christians may fear death, it is one something that, for the Christian, God has removed the need to fear:
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Heb 2:14-15)
Yet, even of more fear than the actual death is the fear of our eternal destiny: Will I make it to Heaven? Jesus adequately deals with that as well.
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (Joh 14:1-3)
Knowing that we are not going to cease to exist at death or wind up in Hell’s fire should give us great comfort. I wish more Christians would look at death that way. Paul, in Phil 1, said that he really desired to die…so that he could be with the Lord. Many Christians act as if waking up each morning is the best thing that could happen to them. Not quite!
Step three: Ask for help
While I am suggesting that we should not be afraid, I am not naive. We all fall into fear in so many ways. However, Jesus does understand and is not just able to, but willing to, help us.
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:15-16)
When we find ourselves suffering from fear, we need to ask for the help that our High Priest is ready to give us. We can then walk through the valley of the shadow of death knowing that God is with us. We then can say with confidence: the Lord is my helper, what can man do to me?
These three steps will help us to reduce our fears and give us greater confidence. In that confidence, we will be more useful for His purposes.
When it comes to being afraid, I think I would be safe in saying that there are times in which we all have fear. A loud thunderstorm, a venomous snake, a plane that shakes at 35,000 feet may be things that cause us to become afraid. In the Bible there are times when people are afraid and then there are those people who never seem to be afraid. One cannot read the life of David and conclude that he was never afraid but there are not many times recorded. Some passages (Ps 55 and 1 sam 21:12) indicate fear on David’s behalf.
By and large though, he not a fearful person. Many of the psalms written encourage us by sharing that there is no reason to fear. Psalm 23 is probably the most well known.
Even 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. (Psa 23:4 ESV)
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. (Psa 27:1-3 ESV)
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, (Psa 46:1-2 ESV)
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Psa 118:6 ESV)
David seemed to have a very pragmatic approach to situations that would cause other men to cower in fear. This approach could be summed up in “What’s the worst that can happen?”
This seems to be the attitude that David had as he confronted Goliath. As you read the passage in 1 sam 17, you see David, time and again, express his confidence that God would deliver him.
The armies of Saul heard the challenge of Goliath and were afraid. They had forgotten who was on their side! David came to remind them of that simple fact. The assembly of God’s people did not know how the Lord saves. They soon would!
and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.” (1Sa 17:47 ESV)
Fear is often the result of worry about what might be. I agree with Mark Twain: most of the things I have worried about never happened.
What might have been in David’s case is a quick death. However, he would then be with God and that would be good. So if you can accept the worse case scenario, then go slay your Goliath with the help of the Lord. What’s the worst that can happen?
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
It is the imaginations of the heart that we need to bring into captivity, the thought that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. Whatever philosophy, practice, desire, plan, idolatry, pagan or Gnostic consideration, we need to bring it all under captivity and God gives us the tools and weapons to do so. Romans talks about those who refuse to have God in their knowledge, even though they knew God the did not honor Him as God and became futile in their thoughts, so God turned them over to their own imaginations and let them do what they wanted to. (see Romans 1:18ff) The flood resulted one time when man got so bad, but the world is reserved for fire this time around.
Man got so bad “that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. ” (Gen 6:5) Really, it doesn’t have to get that bad. Any thought or imagination that prevents God from being glorified in our life, that does not promote the Kingdom of God, that prevents or stops us from being zealous for good works, are thoughts and imaginations we need to bring under control.
Sometimes, fear tries to capture our thoughts. I am sure that you know the acronym for fear. F.E.A.R. False Expectations Appearing Real!. Mark Twain said something like this: 98% of everything I have been afraid would happen, never happened” And so it is in my life and I am certain in yours as well. However, I know I have put a lot of worry and concerns to events in the past and many, if not most, of them never materialized.
Jesus told the parable of the talents and introduced the three servants with these words:
And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. (Mat 25:15)
Then when the last one came to give an account.
“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ (Mat 25:24-25)
Notice that this last servant was “afraid” and in his fear, he did nothing. NOTHING! He didn’t even put it in a bank account and let it earn interest. If you read the next verse, you will probably get the impression, as I do that the Master would not have been upset if he had done only that. Even at a meager .25% interest, it would have grown something. Still, the Master had given a responsibility according to his ability. It was FEAR that kept him from doing what he could with the little the Master had given him.
Fear can be conquered by certainty. Two examples (though there are many more) from the Scriptures:
Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-Nego, Daniel’s three friends were put in a situation in which they had to choose to serve God or man. Told that they needed to bow down to an idol that the King had set up, they refused. This did not set well with the King and in his anger, he brought them before him and gave them a 2nd chance. Their answer shows their certainty:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (Dan 3:16-18)
The confidence and love of God allowed them to respond, not in a spirit of insubordination but simply stating the facts that God comes first.
Moses also was not afraid.
By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. (Heb 11:27)
A true love of God casts out fear. When we have our eyes focused on the goal and know that this life is temporary, we can then use our life to serve God better. When we have no fear of death, we are able to let go of other fears more easily and put our lives and plans into God’s hands.
My dear friends and readers. Fear not! Be careful, little mind, what you think.