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For years, I have struggled with an unnaturally all-consuming sense of fear. With shame and regret, I’ll tell you that fear has dominated far too many of the moments of my life. I really hate that because I’ll never get them back. Life is so precious, short, and fast-moving, and it is beyond frustrating to think I have allowed fear to steal so much from the only one I’ll ever live.
As I talk to and counsel with others, I find that I am not alone. Perhaps you also battle fear? If you do, you already know very well how intense the struggle can be. My heart goes out to you, and I hope, by sharing some of the things I have learned am learning firsthand, you can find encouragement. At least, you will know you are not alone, and we can pray for one another in this battle.
First, let’s clarify the difference between “healthy” fear and the terrorizing, “unhealthy” kind of fear.
There are two types of “healthy” fear.
- Fear, as an emotion, is needful. The emotion of fear is a natural reaction and response to perilous situations. It makes us aware of danger and compels us to move to safety and make necessary adjustments to protect ourselves.
- Fear of God is a debt we owe.
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13 (KJV)
The word “fear” in this verse means, “affright.”
Each one of us will stand before a sinless, holy, Almighty God when we leave this world, and we will give an account of how we responded to His commandments while here on earth. Knowledge of this should instill in us a sense of sobering awe and reverence, as we consider that He paid the ultimate price to make a way for us to live a holy life, and we will stand before His righteous presence, without excuse.
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:31 (KJV)
May we never lose our fear of God. It is vitally important to our spiritual vision and moral compass.
“Healthy” fear is necessary. But, when fear becomes a continual, overshadowing, paralyzing force that drives every decision and consumes even the best of moments, it has gone far beyond what is natural and healthy. This, my friends, is the fear with which I am so embattled and of which I speak.
I recently shared a glimpse into some of the root reasons for my intense battle with fear at No Sidebar. As I continue to unpack my emotional baggage, I am delving deep into what the Bible says about such agonizing fear and psychological intimidation—ever seeking God’s face with all my heart for deliverance and victory. I want to know the truth because I want to be free. Don’t you?
Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32 (KJV)
Here’s what God’s Word tells us about “unhealthy” fear. Herein lies the truth.
1. Fear is a spirit.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)
2. Fear never, ever, ever comes from God.
God gives us the spirit of power ~ to overcome fear, to take control of fearful thoughts, to conquer the lies of fear, to identify and annihilate deceit and psychological intimidation, to press through the smoke and mirrors and fake facades of fear into what is real and what is truth.
God gives us the spirit of love ~ to accept His forgiveness, to open our hearts to His truth and what is real, to understand that through His shed blood and atonement on the cross we have been washed clean from the sins of our past, to embrace our true identity as a joint-heir with Christ, to fully walk in and enjoy a privileged life as an adopted child of the King, to finally see ourselves as fully His—redeemed, forgiven, completely loved, and capable of loving others with the same spirit of love.
God gives us the spirit of a sound mind ~ to live free from what is irrational, to make level-headed decisions based on reality, to think sanely and sensibly, to live at total peace—with Him, ourselves, and others.
Power and love and a sound mind—not fear—are good and perfect God-given gifts.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 (ESV)
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” I John 4:18 (KJV)
God would never bestow such torment and anguish as comes from fear. Finally knowing, understanding, and believing that fear NEVER comes from God is extremely liberating.
3. Since fear doesn’t come from God, we know who it comes from.
There are only two sources from which everything flows in this life—good and evil. God is goodness personified. Satan is entirely evil. Satan is our archenemy. Satan is a liar. If we are listening to him, we are serving him, instead of God.
“Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on My own; God sent Me. Why is My language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:42-44 (NIV)
Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy everything good in our lives. Jesus comes to make our lives completely full—of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22,23)
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 (KJV)
One of satan’s ways of stealing, killing, and destroying the good in our lives is to take perfectly wonderful moments and force his lies into our thinking, making us afraid to enjoy the abundant life Jesus stands offering to us. Jesus said there is NO truth in satan. Every, single time he speaks, he tells a lie. He is the father of lies.
So, since satan is a liar, and he is the source of fear, we now know the truth that will set us free. Fear is a liar.
4. Since fear is a spirit, this is spiritual warfare. We can’t see fear. If we could, this battle would be so much easier, but our battle is against what we cannot see with the human eye. It is happening in the spirit world.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
5. Since this is not a fleshly battle, it cannot be won with fleshly weapons.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:4 (ESV)
6. Divine power is tapped into by speaking God’s Word out loud.
If we want to give the spirit of fear a TKO blow, this is how it’s done.
When Jesus was being sorely tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Satan chose to begin his first two attacks with the word “if.” This was a fear tactic. He was trying to place seeds of doubt in Jesus’ mind as to who He was and cause Him to fear that He may be mistaken about being God’s Son.
“If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” Matthew 4:3 (KJV)
“If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in their hands, they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.” Matthew 4:6 (KJV)
Though Jesus knew who He was as young as 12 years of age when He was found conversing with the teachers in the temple, Satan tried to undermine Jesus’ belief in His own, true identity. He knew if he could get Jesus to fear that He may not really be who He was, he could deter Him from pursuing the whole reason He was sent to this world in the first place. If he could inject the spirit of fear into Jesus’ mind, he could sabotage the whole plan of salvation, and he could win the ultimate battle. Can you even imagine such? To think of it is unimaginable.
Jesus was fully aware of what was at stake, and He wielded the only all-powerful weapon, striking satan down in utter defeat every, single time. To each of satan’s underhanded, fearful “ifs”, Jesus responded with the Word of God—spoken out loud.
“But He answered and said, it is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 (KJV)
“Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Matthew 4:7 (KJV)
The Word of God is proven and tested artillery. It worked for Jesus and enabled Him to overcome, and it will work for us in the battle against fear. In order for us to use the Word of God, we must first hide it away in our hearts so it will be there, at the ready, automatic, and at all times. The way to do that is to read it, study it, and memorize it.
“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” Psalm 119:11 (KJV)
After it is hidden in the heart, we use and wield it as an offensive weapon by speaking it out loud.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21 (KJV)
We are in control over what comes out of our mouth. We can either give in to the spirit of fear, give it an audible voice, feed into its intended frenzy, and perpetuate its existence, OR we can speak God’s Word into existence. Spoken truth exposes and dispels the lies of fear.
When David went out to fight the giant Goliath, he refused the untested armor King Saul offered him. He chose to go into battle with nothing less than what he was familiar and experienced with and what he had tried and proven to be successful in the past—with what he knew. David knew his trusted sling, and David knew his God.
“Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine. David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands. As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.” I Samuel 17:40,45-51 (NIV)
What purpose would David’s sling and stone have served if he had left them in his shepherd’s bag and turned away from Goliath in defeat? For sake of space, I didn’t include the whole story, but if you have time to read it, you will see that Goliath was continually spewing threats toward David that would make a lesser person tremble and run in the opposite direction. David identified the threats for what they were—total bullying, empty fear tactics, and absurdity when stacked up against his GOD. He stood firm in the face of such terror, reached into his bag, pulled out a stone, placed it in his sling, marked his target, and landed the blow that felled his opponent once and for all.
The giant of fear will rear its ugly head in all of our lives. Of this, we can be certain. It isn’t a matter of “if” fear will resurface, but when. The wonderful thing about it is that the next time he reappears with all his taunts and threats, we are armed and fully loaded with the truth. We know he is a liar, and following Jesus’ example and speaking God’s Word is the only “stone” we will ever need to minimize and take him down.