by: Rev. Ed Schneider
Fear is an interesting concept. It is recognized as a thought or feeling of great apprehension or the assumption of hurt or harm. This understanding of fear is in direct contrast to the biblical notion of “fear of God.” This kind of fear denotes reverence of greatness and final authority. To have the “fear of God” has nothing to do with being afraid. Having the “fear of God” is the essence of ultimate assurance.
So, it occurred to me the other day that far too many of us “professed” Christians who claim to belong to the one, true, and living God are greatly influenced by some level of earthly fear instead of existing in the fullness of God’s grace, and authority. I have a few ideas of how we have arrived at this undesirable state and a few thoughts on how we can address this profoundly weakened state of spirituality.
First, we need to absolutely grasp the connection between fear and courage. Courage is NOT the absence of fear. Courage is continuing to address, challenge, and face directly the “sense of fear” that has entrapped your emotions.
In the Bible’s Old Testament book of Ezra it partially tells the story of those outside the faith seeing what they thought were beaten and disillusioned people rebuilding the symbol of their worship and the earthly greatness of God Yahweh. It says the following;
“We asked those in charge to tell us who gave them permission to rebuild the temple. We also asked for the names of their leaders, so that we could write them down for you. They claimed to be servants of the God who rules heaven and earth. And they said they were rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago by one of Israel‘s greatest kings.” (Ezra 5:9-11)
These returnees from exile in Babylon had endured great hardship, humiliation, and cultural devastation while they lived under their captive’s rule. They had every reason to doubt their future and their historic past. Man of their people had given up and given in to their new imposed culture of what is current day Iraq. The religious leaders, both clergy and laity, tried all that they could think of to try and retain some semblance connection to their glorious past. I will grant my Biblical scholars out there that these leaders would often fall into the trap of tribalism, racism, or religious sectarianism trying to hold on to what they believed was essential to Israel’s very survival. However, the greater goal of not losing their faith in a living and righteous God was more important. Their goal of reattaching their very identity to the “fear of God” and trusting in Yahweh’s faithfulness to those who lean on His mercy to save the just from the unjust was the very foundation of not just their survival as a “chosen people” but also their future promise of divine promise and abundance.
We are quite literally in the same circumstances in our current day. Far too many of us have lost our way because of the devilish trap of “earthly fear.”
My question is, “What are you afraid of?”
Let’s take a look at some of the all too common fears of professed Christians and respond to them by allowing scripture to speak directly to each category of earthly fear.
- Fear of hurt or harm. Daniel 3:14-17 reminds us,
“…If you bow down and worship the statue when you hear the music, everything will be all right. But if you don’t, you will at once be thrown into a flaming furnace. No god can save you from me. The three men replied, Your Majesty, we don’t need to defend ourselves. The God we worship can save us from you and your flaming furnace.”
- Fear of failure. Psalm 34:4 says,
“I asked the LORD for help, and he saved me from all my fears.”
Here’s another one that has served dozens of times in my service to God’s kingdom. In 1 Corinthians 12:5-6 it reminds all of us who re fearful of what may be coming toward us because of our effort. It says,
“There are different ways to serve the same Lord, and we can each do different things. Yet the same God works in all of us and helps us in everything we do.”
- Fear of success. This may sound surprising but unfortunately it is not. People are frequently afraid of succeeding at something. It can be for two very basic reasons. One, because by striving for success there is a real opportunity to fail. So they never really try hard enough to accomplish the goal that is in front of them. Two, by actually succeeding they have now raised the standard that they will be judged by from then on. Both of these concerns are false and driven by the enemy. 1 Corinthians 9:24 boldly tells us,
“You know that many runners enter a race, and only one of them wins the prize. So run to win!”
- Fear of worldly judgment. Isaiah 50:8-9 says,
“My protector is nearby; no one can stand here to accuse me of wrong. The LORD God will help me and prove I am innocent. My accusers will wear out like moth-eaten clothes.”
In the very next chapter in verse 7 it extols the faithful to remember,
“If you want to do right and to obey my teaching with all your heart, then pay close attention. Don’t be discouraged when others insult you and say hurtful things.”
- Fear of self-examination. Looking in the mirror of personal truth is never easy. It can be often emotionally torturous. But all faithful people who are bonded together spiritual connection to something greater than themselves must honestly look inward not just periodically but often. You grow your courage by facing your fear. Here is one fear that will always be intensely challenging. However, it is absolutely essential in our maturity. In John 9:41, Jesus purportedly proclaims an important reality of our walk of faith when He says,
“If you were blind, you would not be guilty. But now that you claim to see, you will keep on being guilty.”
- Fear of loss of control. We have but one teacher, one guide, and one Lord in our lives. That is Jesus. He is the one we look toward to see not only what we should be doing but also what we are doing it in the first place. The fear of “loss of control” is a real challenge for many. In Luke 22:42 it shares with us Jesus’ attitude and demeanor regarding this on-going challenge. It reads,
“Father, if you will, please don’t make me suffer by having me drink from this cup. But do what you want, and not what I want.”
Beloved, verily, verily I say unto you, living under the grace and the empowerment of God’s Holy Spirit will prompt us to do remarkable things. We need to trust that God is indeed a controlling agent in our lives and the life of the church. Living under any of the above fears only helps the enemy and most certainly limits our personal transformation in Christ-likeness. By facing our fears WITH God we can do all things THROUGH Christ that strengthens us. The God that I know will not only be there for you but with you. Peace.