Fear – an unpleasant emotion caused by the anticipation or awareness of danger, pain or a threat; dread; terror; cause to flight; cowardice; timidity
The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clock used to represent a countdown to global catastrophe. It has been maintained since 1947 by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board. The clock hangs on the wall in their office at the University of Chicago. The factors that influence the “time” on the clock are nuclear weapons, climate-changing technologies, biotechnologies, cybertechnologies, and anything else that can destroy our civilization. On January 26, 2017, the Doomsday Clock was moved up by thirty seconds. These scientists say we are now at 2 ½ minutes until midnight, or doomsday.
Few of us want to hear warnings about catastrophes in our future. It strikes fear in us. But even Jesus gave warnings to His disciples about things that were coming on the earth. He said that the powers of the heavens would be shaken, the sea and waves would roar, there would be distress among the nations, tribulation, persecution and “men’s hearts failing them for fear.” Then He said, “And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled”. Jesus was telling His disciples not to fear all these things.
Don’t be troubled? Don’t fear? How can anyone face such overwhelming circumstances and not be troubled or afraid? Why did He tell them those things? To scare them? Of course not! He told them so they could be prepared…and so we can be prepared.
If Jesus said not to be afraid, we need to take Him seriously that there is a way to conquer fear. We can find our way through the Word of God and by taking a closer look at the various types of fear. Then we will see how Satan uses them to paralyze us and destroy our faith in ways we may not have realized before. When we see how Satan uses fear against us, we can be equipped. Otherwise, fear will shut us down. It will send us spinning in circles trying to fix things that only God can fix. It will put our mind in a state of such turmoil that we cannot think clearly. Fear is a diversionary tactic of the devil to turn us away from our faith and confidence in God. It paralyzes us from moving forward.
Let’s look at some of the various characteristics of fear. One of those characteristics is called dread. Dread is an anxious anticipation of evil. It isn’t terror, but rather an inner darkness and sense of foreboding. It reminds me of the darkness and eerie stillness just before a tornado hits. Dread hangs over us like the lull before the storm…even when there is no storm. It gives us a continual sense of danger approaching. When dread rules, we don’t expect anything good to happen. We see the negative in every opportunity God sends instead of having confidence that He is working all things for our good. We let dread lead us down the path of defeat instead of victory.
Don’t you think Satan must have tried to put dread in the hearts and minds of the great men of faith? “Joseph, you will never be free again. Just be content that you have favor here in prison.” “Peter, you missed your chance. You denied the Lord. It’s over now, and there is no turning back.” We are not to live in a dream world and pretend our circumstances aren’t real, but we can’t let fear convince us they are bigger than God.
Another type of fear will “cause to flight”. It is something that makes us run. That happens to a lot of people when God asks them to step out in a new area. (Remember Jonah?) Or it may be a problem that is bigger than we are, so we are faced with a challenge. We can accept the challenge, or we can run. We can step out in faith to obey the voice of the Holy Spirit, or we can retreat. This type of fear will bring up every negative reason for us to turn away from the call.
Even Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go?” He brought up the fact that he wasn’t good at speaking and the people wouldn’t believe him. Finally, he said, “O, Lord, send somebody else!” (my paraphrase)
Fear probably tried to tell David, “You can’t kill Goliath! Run while you have the chance.” “Peter, you can’t walk on water or preach a sermon! Don’t do something foolish.” And the enemy of our souls will call your name, too, and say, “you can’t (fill in the blank).” Don’t listen to him. When you are reasoning out if you can do it or not, don’t factor out God. If Satan can trick us into listening to his voice and acting on it, he can snuff out our faith, just like putting out the light of a candle. When God calls us to something or we face a challenge, He says, “Fear not, I am with you.” What more do we need?
Cowardice and timidity are fears that cause us to withdraw from life in the Spirit. This type of fear will immobilize us and cause us to constantly pull back because we are afraid to make a move.
When I was a little girl, I was afraid of monsters under my bed. Now, technically, I knew they weren’t there, but I was afraid of the darkness and the unknown. It was an unfounded fear. When we get older, our fears change, but most of them are still unfounded. They turn into “what-ifs”. “What if I fail? What if I heard God wrong? What if people reject me or come against me? I might do the wrong thing, so I will just do nothing.”
Usually, we know what God said, yet we keep questioning Him. But He doesn’t say anything else because He has already told us what to do. If we continue listening to this type of fear, it will hold us captive in indecision. Then we will either compromise by doing something that seems a little safer, or we will hesitate in confusion and insecurity until the opportunity passes. Either way, fear has done its job. We cannot allow fear to intimidate us and rob us of our relationship with God and our work in His kingdom. So, what are we to do?
In Mark 4, Jesus taught the disciples a lesson in faith. They found themselves in the middle of a terrible storm in the sea. The storm they were battling was very real. It was very dangerous and about to drown them all as the waves covered their boat. It wasn’t an imagined danger, but one they were literally in the middle of. They woke Jesus and asked Him, “Do you not care that we perish?” And He said, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!” (Matthew 8:23-27) The disciples were given a glimpse of His power and authority, even over the wind. They saw a little more clearly Who He was and what He could do. They were learning to have a little more faith in every situation they encountered with Jesus. We can, too.
Why are we so fearful? Why do we have so little faith? Faith comes from trusting Jesus, and trusting Him comes from having a close relationship with Him. And we can’t have a close relationship with Him if we don’t know Who He is, what He can do, what He taught, and what He still teaches those who will listen. Faith will overcome fear. Faith will lead us on in the face of danger and uncertainty.
When fear overtakes us and crushes our faith, we need to realize what is happening and overcome it. Romans 10:17 tells us how. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” That is simple enough, but it takes some initiative on our part. Be careful what you read, what you watch, what you listen to, what you allow inside of you. If we are not careful, fear will set up a blockade between us and Jesus. When that happens, it blocks the light and we find ourselves groping in darkness. Darkness brings fear and is full of lies. Light brings truth. Truth brings faith. Faith eliminates fear.
The more we read the Word of God and listen to the voice of God speaking to our spirits, the stronger our faith will be. Hearing the Word is the first step. But, the word ‘hear’ means more than just hearing with the physical ear. It means “a receiving of the message”. In other words, we have to take what our ears hear and put it into practice day by day as situations present themselves to us.
Here is a random example. When we read Ephesians 4:26-27, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil”, then we need to use some self-control to keep from sinning when we get angry. We also need to make sure we have our anger resolved before the day ends so it won’t take root in our spirits. It’s that simple! Follow the instructions you read in the Bible.
Fear comes from hearing, believing, meditating on and acting on the words of the enemy. It comes with practice. Faith comes from hearing, believing, meditating on, and acting on the living Word of God. It comes with practice.
It may sound like a terrible struggle, but it’s really not. Our part is simply to “let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly.” (Colossians 3:16) It is a decision that will build confidence and trust in Jesus and a faith strong enough to conquer fear. If you don’t eat any food for a few days, you will be weak. If you don’t communicate with Jesus for a few days, you will be spiritually weak.
Remember, fear pushes us with threats and lies. Faith leads us gently with light and truth. Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” We may see some perilous times, but He will be with us, and He will give us the kingdom.
“Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?”
“faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
(Additional Scriptures: Psalm 56:3; Luke 12:22-34; Psalm 46:1-10; Ephesians 6:10-18)