According to psychology, rational fear and irrational fear are the most basic forms of fear. We know, however, fear is always counterproductive, whether rational or irrational. For example, the author of 1 Samuel describes Goliath and his weapons in great detail not only to highlight God’s power over the enemies of his people but also to imply Saul’s men feared him for a valid reason. However, it was counterproductive, and God raised David to deal with Goliath.
Fear renders us unproductive emotionally (by hindering the processes in your brain), physically (by weakening our immune system), and spiritually (by questioning our faith in God). How do we conquer it? Tonight, I want to share three biblical principles you can use to overcome your fears. (By the way, I adapted this sermon from a message preached by Dishan Wickramaratne, the Lead Pastor of People’s Church in Colombo Sri Lanka. You can watch that sermon here.)
1. By recognizing fear Accurately
In the film ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ the fans are introduced to ‘Boggarts’ – a deceptive creature that takes on the form of its observer’s worst fears. For instance, if the Boggart encounters someone afraid of Spiders, it will take the form of a giant Spider. Fear is like a boggart sometimes. It manifests in many different ways. Therefore, to conquer it, we must recognize it accurately.
According to psychology, there are five common types of fear. These are fear of death, fear of losing freedom, fear of loneliness, fear of being sick or mutilated, and fear of humiliation. Every other fear even the phobias stems from these. All of these fears have one characteristic in common. They masquerade as anxiety. There’s an excessive amount of prescriptions being written for anxiety, stress, and despair all over the world today. Fear is the root cause of all these.
Hence, you must recognize fear accurately before you can eliminate it for good. There are two approaches to this. Ask God for wisdom so that fear cannot deceive you anymore (James 1:5). Then if you have been asked to pray for someone suffering from anxiety or stress, pray that the Holy Spirit will grant discernment (Psalm 119:125) because there’s a high probability fear is the root cause. In either case, if fear is the problem, pray for fear. Not for anxiety or stress.
2. By realizing fear is Beatable
Once you have recognized fear, know that it’s beatable. Fear makes a great deal of noise. Nevertheless, it’s empty within, and here’s why? The devil is the author of fear. The word of God says he prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). A roaring Lion certainly is a sight of great terror. However, did you know this so-called Lion was de-fanged by Jesus at the cross? (Colossians 2:15)
The devil reminds me of Adolf Hitler. Hitler was a successful orator. He knew how to use words to inspire courage in the hearts of his soldiers and strike fear in the hearts of the enemy. According to his fellow soldiers in the first world war, however, the Daily Telegraph reports Hitler was a coward. Hitler feared fighting in the front lines so much that his peers called him “Etappenschwein” German for “a rear area pig.” The then world believed Hitler and his Nazi Germany were undefeatable until the allied forces took a stand and finally defeated them in the year 1945.
The devil is just like that. His roars (threats) are so loud and scary; that we believe he is unbeatable. How does he roar? By exploiting our vulnerabilities. Given below are three significant vulnerabilities he uses often.
Some people have been brought up in an environment of fear and worry from their birth. The devil exploits it for striking fear into the hearts of people for the rest of their life.
The renowned Danish physicist once said, “The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy, but the best weapon of a democracy should be the weapon of openness.” Just like a human dictator, Satan can use our secrets to rule over our lives.
As fallen human beings, we tend to control everything. Some, however, are control freaks. The truth is nothing is ever under our control. Unfortunately, we still freak out when we cannot control life’s outcomes. The devil can use our insecurities against us.
The devil’s threats are null and void. He cannot lay a finger on you unless God permits him. Jesus crushed its head (its power) on the cross. Nevertheless, we need to address the vulnerabilities mentioned above so that the devil cannot take advantage of us.
Once you have identified your fears trace their roots in prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to help discern whether you need to deal with your past, confess a sin, or let go and let God take control. While biblical counseling can eliminate the spiritual – strongholds of the past (2 Corinthians 10:4), confession destroys bondage (1 John 1:9). Letting go and letting God take control abolish every sense of insecurity (Philippians 4:6-7).
3. By fueling your faith
From a human’s point of view, the opposite of fear is courage. From the biblical point of view, however, the opposite of fear is faith. Here’s why? Courage is to have confidence in my ability (Isaiah 40:30), while faith is the courage to trust in God’s ability (Psalm 27:1). Jim Fiebig once said, “There’s a fine line between courage and foolishness. Too bad it’s not a fence.” Courage is good. However, courage can fail—faith; on the other hand, never fails. It always rewards. Now faith also can grow weaker over a while. Then you need to refuel your faith regularly. How do you do that?
A. Feast on the word of God
In Romans 10:17, we read that faith comes from hearing the word of God. Then we need to feast on the word. By the phrase feasting, I mean spending time listening to God’s word and getting to know Him as much as you can.
B. Give thanks to the Lord
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the apostle Paul urges the congregation in Thessalonica to give thanks to the Lord in every circumstance. Thanksgiving helps us remember the goodness of God. Remembering His goodness nourishes our faith.
C. Stand on God’s Promises
At the beginning of this sermon, I mentioned the command “fear not,” and its synonyms are repeated 366 times in the Bible. Each one of these commands carries a promise with them. In Genesis 15:1, God told Abraham not to be afraid because He is with Abraham. In Isiah 41:10, God commands us not to be frightened because His presence is with us. In Isaiah 41:13, God says not to be afraid, for He will help us. Claim these promises and stand on them.
D. Confess Your Faith in God
Often, we don’t pay much attention to our thoughts, but did you know your thoughts are the arch-enemy of your faith? Fear causes irrational behavior, and fear enters the heart through doubtful thoughts, suspicion, and assumptions (Job 3:25). How do you conquer your thoughts then? By confessing your faith, (2 Corinthians 4:13).
We looked at three things you can do to fuel your faith. Begin feasting on the word of God if you haven’t done that already, (Jeremiah 15:16) Savor (taste and enjoy thoroughly) every single word. I covered this in detail in this blog post. Give thanks to the Lord in every circumstance, not only when all is well (Colossians 4:2) because remembering His goodness at times of hardships uplifts the faith (Psalm 103:2).
Then stand on God’s promises by trusting Him for His word (Psalm 56:3). In the Bible, there are at least 7,487 promises by God to man. That’s approximately 95-100 promises per day, assuming you lived up to 80 years. Finally, conquer every negative thought by confessing your faith. James said faith without actions is dead (James 2:17). Confession is one of the simplest yet most powerful ways we can exercise our faith (Proverbs 18:21).
You are a child of God, and He has fashioned you inwardly for faith, not fear. Faith is your native land, not fear. God made you in such a way that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life. Faith is the oil. You live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt, and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, you are gasping for breath—because those are not your native air. But in faith and confidence, you breathe freely—because those are your native air.
A doctor from John Hopkins University once said it’s a fact that people who worry die sooner than people who don’t and medical science doesn’t have an answer. But we know that God has shaped our body, soul, and mind for faith, not for fear. It’s a reality. Therefore, whether rational or irrational, to live by fear is to live against reality.
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