Summary: We all struggle with fear. This post brings out the danger of fear, the types of fear we face, and finally gives us three practical and proven ways to overcoming fear.
Illustration: A few years ago, a 7-year-old boy was accidentally shot to death by his younger brother. His mother, a single parent working two jobs to support her children, often had to work late at night. Fearing for her safety returning late and back home alone she purchased a hand gun. Usually she kept it away from her children, safe in her purse. But on this one occasion she left it on the front seat of her car. The boys took hold of the gun and as they were playing with it, the gun accidentally went off & a little 7-year-old boy died. Now if we had to put the cause of death, I think the most accurate cause would be “fear.” He died, in part, because his mother had been caught in the grip of fear.
Fear Definition: Fear is an anxious feeling, caused by our anticipation of some imagined event or experience.
President Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
In every circumstance of our life, we either operate in faith or in fear. Everyone has their own fears. Maybe you’re afraid of losing your job, or your health, or your finances. The list could go on and on, for all of us have things that cause us “fear.”
Fear and worry statistics from U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, Sep. 4, 2016:
Percentage of things feared that will never take place: 60%
Percentage of things feared that are considered to be insignificant for you: 90%
Percentage of things feared in relation to health that will never happen: 88%. So why fear?
Joke: 5-year old Johnny was in the kitchen as his mother made supper. She asked him to go into the pantry and get her a can of tomato soup, but he didn’t want to go in alone. “It’s dark in there and I’m scared.” She asked again, and he persisted. Finally, she said, “It’s OK, go; Jesus will be in there with you.” Johnny walked hesitantly to the door and slowly opened it. He peeked inside, saw it was dark, and started to leave when all at once an idea came, and he said: Jesus, if you’re in there, would you hand me that can of tomato soup?”
Three types of Fear.
1. Protective Fear.
Fear that helps us respond to a dangerous situation is protective fear.
Illustration: When I was a child I loved going to my grandparents’ home in Kerala. I used to enjoy the days but dread the nights. It was in the early 80’s and there were absolutely no streetlights. They had meetings almost every night and coming back from the meetings were so fearful. I was afraid if I would stamp a snake, scorpion, or a leech would come on me.
All fear is not bad. Protective fear is good for us, it can help us respond to a dangerous situation. We tell our children look both sides before you cross the road, because it is dangerous. We say “don’t keep your hand on the stove or you will burn your hands.” All these are protective fear.
2. Godly fear.
As believers, we are to fear sin and its consequences. We fear God. When the Bible says fear the Lord that means to acknowledge him, revere him for who he is. To fear God does not mean to be terrified of God, but to respect God. It is a good fear.
Psalm 76:7 It is you alone who are to be feared.
Proverbs 19:23 Fear of the Lord leads to life, bringing security and protection from harm.
Proverbs 22:4 True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honour, and long life.
3. Chronic Fear.
Chronic fear is unhealthy fear. This is a type of fear that either starts as sin or some circumstances that you have been in, heard, or assumed. When it persists it turns into anxiety and stress. This fear keeps us from doing things we should do. It is a fear based on one’s presumptions and assumptions and can even lead into depression.
The Danger of fear.
1. Fear torments you. Torment means physical or mental suffering.
Someone said that that fear has two meanings: Forget everything and run or face everything and rise.
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: Because fear has torment.
Joke: A man has been visiting a therapist because he has had a fear of monsters living under his bed. The man has been seeing this doctor for months. Every time he would come in the doctor would ask “have you made any progress?”. Every time the man would say “no”. The man decided to go and see another doctor. When he went back to his other doctor and he asked “have you made any progress?” he said “yes, I am feeling all better now” The doctor asked “what happened”. The man said “I went to another doctor and he cured me in one session”. The doctor asked “What did he tell you?” The man said “he just told me to cut the legs off of my bed”.
2. Fear restraints you.
Fear will restraint you from doing God’s will. Fear will prevent you from using your talents, getting your work done, and relationships. Fear will make you useless or nonproductive. God told Gideon: Judges 7:3 Now announce to the army, “Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Gilead.”
Illustration: Janez Rus lived in Germany during the days of the Nazi ruler Adolf Hitler. During that time he was a young shoemaker, looking to make his name prominent. Because of the power of the German government, he participated in public supports of the Nazi regime in hopes of gaining recognition. But after the regime fell, he realized the error of his ways, and out of fear, fled to his sister’s farm in Slovenia to hide. It was in her barn that he hid for thirty-two years, without so much as a visit to town or interaction with guests. After he was discovered, reporters interviewed him, wondering how someone stayed hidden for so many years. He told of how he allowed his fear to keep him at home, away from anyone outside his family.
Fear ruled Janez Rus’ life for thirty-two years. He went nowhere, visited no one, and lived a sad life of regret. Yes, the threat of retribution for his crimes was real, but he allowed the fear of what could happen rule his life.
3. What you fear will catch up with you.
Peter walked on water towards Jesus. But Peter’s fear of sinking brought on his sinking. Job 3:25 What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.
4. Fear is contagious.
Deuteronomy 20:8 Then the officers shall add, “Is anyone afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his fellow soldiers will not become disheartened too.”
Joshua 14:7-8 7I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear.
We are told not to be afraid in the Bible: See what Paul said to his spiritual son, Timothy: 2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. The angel spoke to the shepherds on the night that Jesus was born and said: Luke 2:10 Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. The message of the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior is that we do not need to be afraid.
God told Abraham not be afraid. Genesis 15:1 Do not be afraid Abraham. I am your shield
Deuteronomy 1:21 Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.
Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you
David says in Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. If God can do that for David, then He can do it today for us, too.
Overcoming Fear. How to deal with fear?
1. Expose your fears to God.
First of all, we need to face our fears & realize that sometimes our fears are the result of sin.
Illustration: God created man and woman and placed them in the garden. Everyday in the cool of the day, God would come fellowship with Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden. It was a time of complete innocence. There was nothing hidden, nothing to fear except God.
But then Adam and Eve end up eating of the forbidden fruit then everything changes. God comes to the Garden and He looks for Adam and Eve & they’re not where they usually are. So, He calls out, “Adam, where are you? Where are you?” Finally there is this weak little voice from behind a bush, “I’m over here, God. I’m hiding.” Adam says: Genesis 3:10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
Now let me tell you something. The more we try to hide or cover up our sins, the more we try to hide from God, The more we refuse to face them; the deeper we go in fear. Your fear may be because of your sin or your circumstances, either way, expose them to God.
Illustration: A couple of years ago, one night we prayed and put our children to sleep. We finished our remaining work, prayed and was going to bed. The moment sleep set in, we heard some knock in the door. We got up, went to the door but there was no one. Thinking that it was our imagination, we went back to bed. In five minutes, we heard the knock again. I had never heard it before and got up. I felt a surge of fear. I laid there in bed for a while and listened. I laid there trying to figure out what it was. All kinds of thoughts went through my mind.
“I imagined burglars breaking in to get our valuables & I smiled & thought, `Boy, are they going to be disappointed!’ I imagined all kinds of things as I listened to this noise. Finally, I decided, “I
am going to sit in the living room, next to the door to see who is knocking the door this late at night.” So I got up and came to the hall trying to find who or what was making that noise.
Well, it was a windy night and when the wind came from just the right direction, it would bang a window that was not bolted next to the main door. I had never heard it before, but that’s all that the noise was.” I had lost an hour of sleep trying to figure out what was making that noise, and the second it was exposed the fear was gone.
Whether our fears are the result of something unknown, or the result of sin, we need to face them & expose them for what they really are.
2. Trust God in your fears.
Psalm 56:3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
The Bible speaks of a King of Judah called, Jehoshaphat. He and his people were surrounded by three major armies and they were getting very close to them. In the natural they never had a chance to win. They were facing an impossible situation. I am sure they were fearful, sensing worry and defeat. But I love what King Jehoshaphat did. He gathered all the people and then said a simple prayer. 2 Chronicles 20:12 O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.
Since they refused to depend on their strength, but prayed to God, the Lord was faithful and did his part. God intervened and said: 2 Chronicles 20:15 He said, “Listen King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you” ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.’
When you are afraid, pray. God will give you the strengthen. One of the first things that fear attacks is our prayer life, our trust in God. The devil makes us very busy in our troubles.
Illustration: I was with a group of pastors and we were talking about getting together for a time of revival prayer. And every time a date was suggested, each of us would pull out our calendars to see if that date was open. But there were always conflicts.
Everybody was so busy that we almost couldn’t find a time to meet for prayer. We’re so proud of being busy, because the busier you are, the more important you are, right?
No, that’s wrong! And sometimes we’re so busy running from one place to another that we don’t have time to slow down & be still & know that He is God.
Prayer is a sign of trusting God. If you pray, you will receive the confidence to face your fears.
Illustration: I remember going for a Missions Conference in Jaipur, Rajasthan. We had the conferences, meeting people, the conference kept us pastors very busy. The lunch break was an hour and by the time we get to lunch we are very hungry after an early morning breakfast. With a lot of hunger, I decided to call my family back in Bangalore.
Glory received the phone and it made me feel so good. I just talked with her. We spoke of almost everything. We talked about what the children did when they went to school that day and so on
Then she passed the phone over to Sam who told me of his day. He talked about his struggles. Then grace took the phone. She started complaining of her elder brother and things in school. When she finished she said, `I love you, Dad.’” I felt really good talking to my family.
I forgot how hungry I was. I forgot how tired I was because I had called home, & that made all the difference in the world. Maybe we all ought to call home more often. As you call home and grow in your love with God, you’ll find your fears disappear.
Trust God in your fears. Jairus was afraid of his daughter’s health. See what Jesus told him: Mark 5:36 Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”
The Lord promises to give us His presence; His power. What more could you need?
3. Change your focus.
As long as focus on the fear, it is not going to get smaller. The longer I focus on it, the bigger part of my life it consumes, the more it influences me. So change my focus.
Put your focus on God. How? Turn your focus to the most powerful weapon in the time of fear. What is it? The Word of God. Read God’s word, this will give you courage to go on.
Isaiah 41 is the anchor for fear in the Bible. Isaiah 41:10-13 10 So do not fear (why), for I am with you; (who is I am, Jehovah God, creator of the universe, who rules over everything. Somebody says do not be afraid, but it is another for God to say do not fear. He is God.) do not be dismayed, (do not be anxious, shocked, or horrified why? Put your focus on God) for I am your God. (I am not a man, not a friend, or father or mother, but it is persona, I am you God) I will strengthen you (how much strength, omnipotent) and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 11“All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. 12Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. 13For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.
Whatever you face in life you are in my hands, I am the God of this universe, I will hold you, I will lift you, I will strengthen you, nothing will outmaneuver from the Almighty God.
Do you believe this verse of scripture? Say an Amen! Is this scripture true? Yes. Does God change? No. Do you believe this verse is still true today? Yes.
Do you have a reason to hold on to your fear when God said do not fear? Oh but you do not know pastor, I do not know but God does. Is there anything about you that God does not know? Can he handle it? Does he know you? Then give it to him.
There may be something in your life that you cannot change, do not fear. He said I am going to uphold you with my righteous right hand, he did not say I am going to remove you. That means when the storm blows you have an anchor that absolute is not going to move because that anchor is almighty God.
Mark it down and say on this day I am going to stop being afraid because Almighty God has got me in his right hand. I will not be afraid.
Hebrews 13:6 The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
1 John 4 Perfect love drives out fear.
That verse tells us that fear & love cannot coexist. The closer you get to love the further you get from fear. But the other side is true also. The closer you get to fear the further you get from love. They are like the north pole & the south pole. The closer you get to one the further you get from the other. So the more you learn to love & the more perfectly you love, the further you drift from fear.
So first we need to expose our fears. Then we need trust God in prayer. And thirdly, we need to change our focus to God.
Conclusion: As you journey forward in life, don’t be surprised when fear emerges. Remember, nothing good in life comes without a struggle against fear. The key to overcoming fear is to have your faith and trust in Christ alone.