Fear! How well we all know this dreadful enemy that paralyses our will, sucks the resolve from our heart, and mocks our every effort to step out in faithful obedience to our Lord. The sacred pages are saturated with the tears of men and women who succumbed to the tyrant named “Fear,” and who betrayed both themselves and their God while held prisoner in the grasp of this merciless despot. Fear cast its cold shadow over Aaron so that he yielded to the Israelites’ demand for an idol. The icy fingers of Fear chilled the hearts of the ten spies so that they refused to tackle the giants in the land of promise. Fear entered the tents of Saul’s warriors and released its venom into the bloodstream of Israel’s army so that God’s people trembled before an uncircumcised Philistine named Goliath. Poor, impetuous Peter, weeping alone in the darkness after his denial of Jesus, knew all too well the bitterness of defeat at the hands of a pitiless foe called Fear.
You and I know the foe equally well. We yearn to take our God at His word, and we long to make the precious promises ours, but often the cunning adversary sows the seeds of doubt within our minds so that our best intentions dissolve in a sea of indecision. We know the promise: “And my God shall supply all your needs” (Philippians 4:19), but the tyrant whispers in our ear, “What if?,” and our peace of mind disappears like smoke in the wind. With our intellect we grasp the meaning of our Lord’s words, “I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), but Fear is like a lead weight that threatens to drown us in a bottomless sea of anxiety and worry. The words on the sacred page tell us that “God has not given us a spirit of timidity but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7), but still Fear invades our soul by a dozen different doors: fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear of rejection, fear of change, fear of darkness, fear of crowds, fear of financial loss—the list is endless. And as the oppressive iron-fisted ruler squeezes the joy from our days, Fear is joined by Guilt because we know in our heart of hearts that our joyless, insipid lives have no power to attract an unbelieving world.
The bad news is that Fear’s henchmen are Guilt and Despair. The good news is that Fear has an implacable enemy that stands with drawn sword to protect against the ravages of our foe. Its name is Faith. Its source is the Word of the Holy Spirit. Its fruit is optimism, hope, and courage. Faith banishes Fear: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I dread?” (Psalm 27:1). You see, if we can but saturate our minds in such promises, then the ridicule of unbelievers and the rejection by men are powerless to harm us! Again, trust is the antidote for despondency: “Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name” (Psalm 33:20-21). Trust and joy are inseparable. Are you worried about the future? Listen to Isaiah 57:13: “But he who takes refuge in Me shall inherit the land, and shall possess My holy mountain.” Is the prospect of death a shadow upon your happiness? Listen to Paul: “I know whom I have believed, and I am confident that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). Does the world appear to be out of control? Listen to Isaiah again: “For the Lord of hosts has planned and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?” (14:27). Faith banishes Fear! Let us saturate our minds in the promises of God, immerse our hearts in the faith that guards from Fear, and place our plans in the hands of the One Who upholds the Universe with a word.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Rex Banks preaches for the Church of Christ in Hamilton, New Zealand.]
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