Overcoming Fear, Part Two

Last week was an overview of fear in relation to the Bible. This week will build on the Christian’s view of fear, and more on how to deal with it. First, let’s understand what fear is and then how it’s the opposite of how a Christian should react to it. Fear is an emotion caused by something we think is a danger to us. Fear causes physiological changes and alters behavior.

Fear is good in that it causes people to react in a way they think will protect them from harm. It stimulates the fight or flight response that causes our reaction to fear, whether the fear is of a physical nature, such as a mean dog attack. Fear keeps most people away from the edge of a cliff so they won’t fall. Fear can also be of a nonphysical threat, such as the fear of not passing a test in school. I remember that one. It can be false, constructed of imaginary threats that we develop in our minds which have no basis in reality.

Two types of fear exist, innate and learned fear. The first is fear of something that is wired into our nature, such as fear of predatory wild animals. Learned fear concerns things we may not realize are dangerous to us until we learn about the danger. Children often do not realize the fire on a stove is dangerous until they get burned because the flame looks so pretty, And there isn’t enough heat over a distance to warn a child to stay away. When I was small my parents took me to the stove and turned on a burner. Dad explained that even though the flame looked pretty, it was dangerous. He took a piece of paper and held it into the flame, and we watched it burn to ashes. Dad explained that the pretty little flame could do the same to my fingers. That was enough to keep me away from the flame.

I also have a fear of spiders. I hate spiders! All kinda of spiders are on my death list if I see them in my house. We had a lot of spiders in our basement from time to time, which sometimes were black widows and brown recluses. My parents gave me a fear of all spiders before I was old enough to tell one from another. Many kinds of the little critters are harmless to humans and are beneficial to us because they catch bugs. I don’t like bugs in my house, but I don’t care. The spiders are going. I’ll deal with the bugs myself, thank you.

Irrational fear is called a phobia like the fear of all spiders, the fear of all dogs, or the fear of water. A man that worked for me back in the mid seventies had a fear of the then-popular revolving doors, and of elevators. If there was a regular door next to a revolving door he’d use it, and he’d use the stairs instead of an elevator unless he was going was several stories up. Both fears were phobias, because revolving doors and elevators are harmless, except for elevators in action movies. But we survive movies without a scratch. My sister would scream and run out of the living room when a scary scene came on the TV. She’d hide in the hallway and peek around the door frame until the scene was over. Fortunately, that phobia didn’t survive past age seven or so. She outgrew it.

Anxiety is closely related to fear. It is a lesser form of fear. Anxiety is an emotional reaction to events or situations that we feel may be harmful and which are inevitable, and which we have no control over. Anxiety, like fear, can be caused by a lack of faith in ourselves. If we think we are not capable of dealing with something we may become anxious or fearful.

Worry is a lesser form of anxiety. People worry about all kinds of things. People who unreasonably worry about everything are sometimes called worry warts, at least by old geezers like me. I think that’s an antiquated term now. Here’s an interesting point: Worry is often caused not by our inability to cope with something, but by our believing that we may lose status or position because of a situation or the actions of other people. In that case worry is a selfish reaction to a position or event.

God spent a lot of space in writing about fear the Bible through His chosen ambassadors from Moses through John and other disciples. Moses thought he was not capable of bringing the Jews out of Egypt. He made all kinds of excuses to God at the burning bush, but God told him not to be afraid or worry about his ability to cope, because He would take care of the hard parts when Moses was dealing with the little things. He told Moses to raise his arm, and God, not Moses, parted the sea and dried the mud so the Jews could safely pass out of Egypt.. And, God is still taking the hard tasks today. Jesus explained the correct way to address dangers. He said that in this world we will have problems, but to be of good cheer, because He has overcome the world, and through Him we also overcome the world.

Our overcoming doesn’t mean that we will live trouble free lives. Jesus said we will have troubles. Abdu Murray with the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) wrote that God blesses us with difficulties and sufferings in order to give us a credibility we wouldn’t otherwise have. In other words, it’s not that we have suffering, but how we deal with troubles that counts. God expects His people, which includes Christians, to deal with troubles in a biblical manner that gives credit to God. Thousands of unsaved people are inspired and become Christians every year because they saw how a Christian dealt with a seemingly impossible situation.

Now, here’s the key point to remember above all else: Jesus said for us not to fear situations or people who can harm or kill our bodies but can’t harm our souls. We are to fear God, who can cast our souls into hell ( Matthew 10:28 ). He explained that God dressed the lilies of the field better than King Solomon, and He takes care of the little birds, but we are more valuable than a flock of sparrows ( Matthew 10:28-31 ). He continued by saying that if anyone loves anything in the world more than Him, he is not worthy of Christ. “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:34-39). Losing your life does not necessarily mean death. It also means losing self into Christ, which I have writen about before and will again.

Paul tells us that to live is Christ and to die is gain. That is, our living in the world is to the glory of God, to fulfill His purpose for us on earth, not our own. And, those who do faithfully live for Him go to a better place when our worldly body expires. We are in essence spiritual beings temporarily inhabiting earthly bodies. We are immortal, our bodies are not. Therefore, it’s not a matter of our dying, but where we will spend eternity. And eternity never stops. There is nothing in this world or the spirit world that can take us away from God if we are truly His. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” ( Romans 8:37-39). If God is for us, nothing can be against us.

The key to overcoming fear, anxiety and worry then is to stay in the will of God, and focus on what He has planned for us instead of being scared of worldly things that can’t touch our souls. You could walk on water if it suited Christ’s purpose for you to do so, as long as you kept your eyes on Him. But be distracted by the waves and the wind, and you will sink. It all boils down to a matter of priorities: There is nothing more important to our eternal well being than our relationship with Christ. Not our jobs, not our family, not our position in society, not even what others think of us. Keep your attention focused on Christ and your family will prosper beyond anything you could do yourself.

And, this is true of our country and society as well. God’s mercy is on the society that will follow Him from generation to generation, but He scatters the proud in the imagination of their hearts ( Luke 1:50 – 51 ). The United States isn’t following Him. “One nation, under God” in our pledge of allegiance was replaced with the word indivisible. We are no longer a nation under God, and we are no longer enjoying His mercy. And, we are no longer indivisible politically or socially, or any other way. It’s past time for the US to again be one nation under God.

Being again one nation under God begins with the individual. It begins with you, and with me. Like Moses, we think we are incapable of doing much ourselves. And that’s true. We ourselves can do nothing, but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. All of Christianity can bring the world back under God if only we would. That starts with you and me keeping our attention focused on Christ so we don’t sink into the world. And right now is the time to refocus your life if you need to.

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