Why are you scared? Is it an illness? Maybe physical pain? How about the unknown? Or this is a big one, public speaking? Let’s face it; you struggle with fear. How do I know? Everybody struggles with fear. While it may vary significantly in specifics and severity, it is common to us all.
The Bible has a lot to say about fear. The exact phrase, “Fear not” appears over 60 times in the King James Version. The words “do not be afraid” show up roughly 77 times in the NIV. It should be no surprise then that fear and anxiety are a major problem with so many folks today.
Fear: to put to flight, to flee, be afraid of one, hesitate to do something for fear of harm.
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The antidote to fear of course is faith. For the Christian, our faith is in God. He is the object of our faith and the one on Whom it rests (Psalm 91:2). We are told to fear (respect, revere) the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). We are called to overcome our fears and live our lives by faith (Psalm 56:3-4, Isaiah 41:10, Mark 4:40).
I don’t know about you, but I’m not quite there yet. Even though I love God and trust Him, there remains some fear in my heart. Total eradication has not happened yet.
So does that mean I don’t have real faith? Do my fears have to be annihilated to prove my trust in God? Or is there more to this on-going battle in the human heart between fear and faith?
The Weight Of The Matter
Imagine a giant balance scale. You are the vertical rod at the center and above your head is a balance bar representing your thoughts. There are two pans suspended from this bar – one on either side of you. The pan to your left is labeled fear and the one to your right is labeled faith.
Think of your fears as bricks. Begin stacking all the things you’re afraid of on the fear side. I’ll even help you get started. Place a block labeled “fear of man” on there. Go ahead. Pile them up – whatever they are. They can be things that are real and legitimate, or even perceived fears you have.
Now, place all the things you know that are right about God and His character and pile them up on the faith side. These are all the reasons you have to trust God.
Which one weighs more? Which side do your thoughts typically lean? Is your fear heavier, or your faith? Whatever side is weightier will have the most impact on your life and the decisions you make.
Which Is Greater?
If faith in God and His promises typically govern your thoughts, you will make choices that honor Him for the most part. Acts of obedience will characterize your life because of the trust you have in Him. Your starting point is faith, and everything else proceeds from that (Psalm 9:10, 16:8).
But if fear controls your thoughts, you will be ineffective, immobilized, and even disobedient to the call God has on your life. You will not make wise decisions (Matthew 25:25).
Fear was the downfall of King Saul. Now there was a guy that clearly operated out of fear! He was more concerned with what people thought about him than God (1 Samuel 15:24). He disobeyed an explicit command from the Lord and as a result, was removed from his position as Israel’s first king (1 Samuel 15:18-19, 26).
David’s life, conversely, was characterized by his faith. As a young man, he set out to kill a giant with a simple sling and five small rocks. He didn’t consider the size or strength of his opponent when he went out against him (1 Samuel 17:32). David was more concerned for God’s glory than his well-being (1 Samuel 17:26). He boldly faced Goliath because he trusted in the God he served (1 Samuel 17:37). That was his starting point.
All the other men there? Fear paralyzed them (1 Samuel 17:11). They didn’t dare come against this big bad dude, no matter how much he taunted them (1 Samuel 17:8-10). It took a young boy to show them what trust in God looked like (1 Samuel 17:45-47).
Think about all the bricks on your fear side. They are finite. Limited. I would even venture to say you have less than ten that cause you to struggle. The faith side? That is infinite. There is no limit to the reasons you have to trust God. He is infinite and far greater than you can wrap your mind around (Psalm 147:5, Revelation 1:8).
Jesus called 12 ordinary men to follow Him. They left their nets, walked away from their tax booths and followed.
Follow: to follow one who precedes, join him as his attendant, accompany him, to join one as a disciple, become or be his disciple, side with his party.
For about three years these men spent their days with Jesus. They shared meals with Him (Luke 5:29). They traveled from town to town with Him (Luke 10:38). They watched Him perform all sorts of super cool miracles (Luke 7:11-16). They were up close and personal with Jesus and knew Him better than anyone else.
The book of Mark records something interesting not found in the other Gospels. As they were entering Jerusalem with Jesus leading the way, the disciples followed Him, but the text says they were afraid (Mark 10:32). Even though they knew Jesus intimately, there was an element of fear still residing in them.
But that didn’t cause them to flee in fear. Not at this point anyway. No, they continued to follow Jesus even though they were afraid.
How about you? What do you do when things get a little scary? When the going gets tough, which way do you get going? Do you succumb to your fears and freeze? Or, do you trust the Lord and follow (Proverbs 3:5-6)? You can choose to follow, even though your fears remain. You know what that is? It’s called courage.
Courage: confidence, boldness, to strengthen, prevail, be strong, be firm, be resolute
Courage is the deliberate decision to trust God and obey Him, no matter what you’re feeling. As you do, your fears then actually become opportunities, not obstacles. They are a way of putting God’s power and strength on display (Psalm 56:3-4).
Do you think before being thrown into a den of ravenous lions Daniel was completely free of fear? Or what about Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego? I seriously doubt they were cool as cucumbers as they were being dragged to their imminent death to be burned alive in a blazing furnace!
These men exhibited steadfast faith, even though I’m pretty sure they had some fear going on. Their faith was bigger because God was bigger. They had greater reasons to trust God than to cower in fear (Daniel 6:23, Daniel 3:28).
Warning: Costly Road Ahead
I saw a cartoon recently that reminds me of the fear struggle we have. It’s a silly example but go with me on this. Two guys wanted to ride a new and incredibly scary roller coaster after seeing it advertised on TV. The problem was, they were terrified!
They decided to go to the park anyway in an attempt to conquer their fear. After procrastinating all day, they finally muster up enough courage to get on the ride. As the coaster begins its slow ascent to the top, the one guy looks at the other and suddenly exclaims “I don’t want to face my fears, I’m afraid of them!”
Ain’t that the truth? We don’t want to face our fears because, quite frankly, they scare us! We’re intimidated by them – real and perceived. We even work ourselves up so much over them we experience weird and uncomfortable symptoms. Sweaty palms, dry mouth, upset stomach, are just a few things that have happened to me because of fear.
At the entrance of the ride was a warning sign. It said: “Warning: May cause crying, screaming, projectile vomiting, amnesia, spine loss, embarrassing accidents, uncontrollable gas, and explosive diarrhea.” After reading it, the one character turns to the other and says “big deal, I did half that stuff already this morning.”
Following Jesus will be uncomfortable and even costly. It requires sacrifice. You will be called to face your fears as you follow Him, even those things that make you afraid. Jesus has His warning sign. He gives full disclosure up front about the cost of following Him. He said if you want to follow Me you have to:
- Deny yourself (Mark 8:34).
- Carry your cross (Matthew 16:24).
- Leave your old life behind (Matthew 10:39, 19:29).
- Expect rejection (Mark 13:13).
- Be ready for persecution (Matthew 5:10-12).
This is hard stuff, right? But big deal! Why? Because what you receive far outweighs any sacrifice you make (2 Corinthians 4:16-17). It’s like comparing the weight of a single feather to 1,000 elephants. It won’t even come close! Jesus said if you follow Me, you will:
- Become fishers of men (Mark 1:17).
- Never be thirsty (John 4:14).
- Receive a great reward in heaven (Matthew 5:12).
- Bear much fruit (John 15:5, 8, 16).
- Have abundant life (John 10:10).
- Never walk in darkness (John 8:12).
- Have My presence with you always (Matthew 28:20).
While you probably won’t completely rid yourself of fear, not this side of heaven anyway, it doesn’t have to control your life. Your reasons to trust God are so much greater than all those fear bricks piled up on your scale. Follow Him and obey, even when you’re scared. Be strong and courageous. He’s with you every step of the way (Joshua 1:9)!
Also published on Medium.