This summer I touched briefly on fear (see article here). I have been thinking about fear a lot this year. It has saddened me to see the extent that it has gripped our society. Fear – to the point of paranoia – enough override our faith and trust in God – of death – of neighbors – of …
According the DK Merriam-Webster Children’s Dictionary:
Fear is a strong unpleasant felling caused by being aware of danger or expecting something bad to happen.
Did you catch that? Fear is expecting something bad to happen. There are real times to be afraid but most of the time when fear and anxiety strike it is an assumed danger. When we overreact and let our imaginations run away with the what if’s we are running on assumed fears. Fear is a very strong emotion that can take over and control us.
Now, for some trivia –
The first time “fear” is mentioned is in Genesis 3:10 just after the fall. God asks where Adam is and Adam answers
“I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid…”
It goes on but fear seems to be a direct result of the fall. It is sad that being afraid of God would be one of the first results we see.
The first time “fear not” appears is in Genesis 15:1 after Abram rescues Lot. God makes a covenant with Abram and tells him
“Fear not, Abram, I am your shield…”
I love the fact that along with the first “fear not” is the line “I am your shield.” God’s protection is a great reason to not fear.
The Bible mentions fear specifically over 100 times.
But, there are enough verses on the concept of “fear not” for every day of the year. Just start reading and you will find them. They are everywhere.
Fear is not the opposite of faith…that would be unbelief.
Fear is not the opposite of courage…that is cowardice.
So, fear is not a lack of faith, but rather a symptom either of our lack of faith or that our faith is being overridden. In a sense, fear is a barometer of what we truly believe. A symptom of the cracks in our faith and trust. If we are truly believing and relying on God, then it will show in our lack of fear.
Rely on God
Paul David Tripp in his book Lead says “The reliability of God’s promises of grace to us is only as great as the extent of his sovereignty…” So, how far does God’s sovereignty extend? Does it cover every aspect of your life? Let’s continue. “God can only guarantee the sure delivery of his promises in the places over which he has control…” Similarly, which areas in your life does he have control over? But, don’t miss this next part. “God’s promises of grace are sure because his sovereignty is complete.” Now, does God really have control in our lives and circumstances? He should.
When we neglect to remember and stand firm in our faith that God is sovereign and his promises are reliable, our fears can take over. Our focus is so easily diverted by life circumstances, books we read, the movies and TV shows we watch, social media, news media, sports, the activities we choose to allow into our lives. Our love for things temporal, of this world, can override our sense of God’s sovereignty. We are warned in 1 John 2:15-17 about loving the world. “Do not love the world or things in the world (15).”
“Fear not” from scripture
The reminders from scripture are maybe the most important part of conquering it. These are some verses that have stood out to me over the late spring and summer. Some are overviews of chapters or sections and not specific verses. (Yes, I know they are mostly from the New Testament, but that is where I have been reading all summer.)
Let’s start with the entire chapter of Isaiah 41. It is talking to Israel and why they need not fear in relation to who God is and what he can do. Here I want to look at two specifically. But, I want you to go read the entire chapter.
First, let’s look at Isaiah 41:10 – “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Next, let’s look at verse 14 – “Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord.” Now, go back to Jacob and change it to your name.
Because fear is such a strong emotion, it can control us. But, we can walk in confidence and not fear.
Galatians 4:1-7 tells us we are children of freedom not of slavery. We are sons and heirs and no longer slaves. Don’t let fear enslave you.
Also, from Galatians, chapter 5:1 says “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
1 John 4:1-6 & 5:1-5 remind us we have overcome the world for He is greater.
1 John 4:4 “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them (spirits), for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
And then in 1 John 5:4-5 “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
Other reasons to “fear not”
We were chosen before creation in Ephesians 1:4. Have you ever considered that? God chose you before he created the world.
In Philippians 4:6 we are told “do not be anxious about anything”
2 Timothy 1:7 tells us for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
One final “fear not”
And finally, Revelation 1:17b-18 “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one, I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Our greatest reasons for not fearing are rooted in the nature and character of Christ and his gift of salvation.