Fear is the exact opposite of faith, for it creates a doubt about the truth of what we perceive to be true. Fear is the oldest emotion of mankind and leads us away from the Creator and His love, mercy and forgiveness while reminding us of His righteousness alone. Fear is only as deep as the mind allows it to be and is overcome by bringing up from deep within the strength that was experienced in the past. Joshua and Caleb could overcome it in reminding themselves about what God had done in Egypt and on the way while the other ten succumbed to it by focusing on the visible danger, while ignoring the invisible power of God available to them.
What is fear and why do we fear something? – Fear entered mankind only after sin of disobedience was committed for it was only after that that Adam and Eve tried to hide from God. Before this they were rejoicing in the holy presence of God during His daily visits “in the cool of the day”, in the evening. Fear is an emotional response to unknown future happenings that may or may not come about, but are able to cause dread due to unexpectedness of the time and content thereof. Our response of fear is due to our inability to predict the details, the time as well as the source of such unknown situations as also in remembering the sufferings of others in similar situations. Thus man faces the unexpected with dread the forces, events and situations about which he has no or least knowledge and which are likely to break through his defenses. Fear of Satan and evil, darkness and the unexpected is due to a belief that these can and will cause undue harm to us and we may not be able to save ourselves from the same. Because of this much of our suffering gets attributed to Satan and his demonic forces which may not be the case in every situation.
Joshua was long expected to be the next to lead Israel after Moses, for he had been with Moses for forty years in every situation – waiting at the foot of the mountain or outside the Tent of Meeting while Moses was with God. God assures him of His continuous presence with him and sensing the fear ruling his heart, God and the Israelites urge Joshua “Do not be afraid”. Fear is the opposite of faith. Faith is belief that God is what the Scripture says about Him and He will do what He says. Fear is also a form of belief that the unknown forces will cause harm as much as they can and we shall not be able to protect ourselves from that harm. Faith or fear rules our lives depending on the source of our confidence – God or Satan.
The Hebrew word “yare” is translated as fear, reverence or honor and thus represents both aspects since lack of faith only brings about fear to rule us. Prophet Isaiah witnesses the glory of God filling the Temple, the Seraphim and then becomes aware of his own sinful nature causing dread at the consequences of being in the presence of God. Reverence and honor for turns to fear of God due to the expected punishment for our sinful deeds of the past. Fear is the negative form of faith itself and we see this in the acts of worship and sacrificial offerings of Job to atone for any sinful act his children might have committed which may bring retribution from God. Negative emotion of fear opens the doors to evil to enter our life and lead us away from God or lead us into worship to escape God’s wrath and not as an act of honoring God. God declares that cowards will have no place in His holy presence in heaven and will go into eternal damnation and hell fires (Revelation 21:8).
What should we actually fear? – Scripture commands us to fear God (Leviticus 19:14 & Matthew 10:28); God’s name – and not take it in vain (Psalm 86:11), our parents (Leviticus 19:3); hell (Proverbs 1:26-29) and evil (Proverbs 1:33). We are commanded to fear God and our parents for the love that they shower on us every day of our lives. We fear God for His love, mercy and grace that has allowed us to make use of His bounties on the earth that are given for we do not deserve any mercy for our sins. Entry into hell is through a one way door and after that eternal torture in fires that will never get quenched and anyone would fear that. Evil has the unlimited potential to harm, lead us into sinful living and also create a barrier between us and God where it would then be impossible to worship God without the redemption available through faith in Lord Jesus.
What should we not fear? – Lord Jesus commanded all believers not to be afraid of any man for he can only harm the body but to fear God who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:26-29). Since we are repeatedly warned of bowing down to any other god, we are not to be afraid of any such man made god (Judges 6:10). In this difficult times where we are faced with threats from various quarters, Scriptures cautions us from being afraid of the reproach of men or their insults for such people are also subject to God’s laws (Isaiah 51:7). A wicked person may try to create trouble for us causing sudden terror but we are to remain steadfast and not fear that (Proverbs 3:25). God is well aware of the designs of Satan to cause persecution of believers, trials and even imprisonment, but the ‘Crown of Life awaits those who do not fear and remain faithful (Revelation 2:10).
The ill effects of fear – Faith is confidence in God and His Word and leads us to good deeds in the love of Lord Jesus while fear is confidence in Satan and paralyzes us from taking any action or into taking wrong decisions. We generally fear the revelation of our thoughts for fear of rejection and retribution but God is All-knowing and nothing is hidden from Him. I revere and honor God and when I am afraid I will put my trust in Him for in His protection what can mere mortals do to me? (Psalm 56:3). King Saul was selected by God and when Prophet Samuel saw his extra ordinary height – others barely reached his shoulders – and his mighty frame, he was pleased to anoint him as king as commanded by God (1 Samuel 9:2). But the same Saul was struck by fear when he disobeyed God and was faced with Goliath when the Philistine armies faced the Israelites in battle. Goliath was over 9 feet tall and challenged the Israelites raining abuses on them and cursing God (YHWH) for forty days seeking any one man to fight him to decide the outcome of the battle. Saul had lost confidence in God and his fear had also percolated down to the troops and they readily accepted Satan’s terms through Goliath where this was not necessary and they could have defeated him as a group (1 Samuel 17).
Fear and faith cannot work together and fear stops us from acting in faith as a representative and ‘child of God’ acting in His power and authority. Knowledge of this world is through the visible means or through the use of five senses whereas spiritual knowledge is through what is invisible – the Holy Spirit. It was this knowledge that Prophet Elisha sought to be displayed in his servant when surrounded by the Syrian army in his village Dothan. In the morning the servant saw the enemy and was terrified to come running to Elisha, who assured him that “those with us are far greater than those that are against us”. The Prophet then prayed to God to open the servant’s spiritual eyes and he could then see the “horses and chariots of fire” deployed on the hills all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:16-20). Satan uses images and symptoms – the visible – to strike terror in our hearts – the debts, medical reports, sickness etc and this shifts our focus from the Word of God and His invisible power working in and around us. We tend to shift our attention to the visible “giant”, howsoever small and insignificant it may be, while forgetting that “If God be for us who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
David, though a young man not yet of age to join the army, stepped out to face Goliath in full confidence that “The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the out of the hand of this Philistine”. And in this confidence in his God David stepped out with the shepherd’s staff, his sling and five round stones in his bag to face Goliath, who on seeing him cried out ‘am I a dog that you come at me with a stick?’ Goliath saw a young boy with a stick in his hand while David’s perception of the scene was different. David in his heart was clear that this was an unequal match – a man without God facing the ‘anointed of God to be the next king’. The curses hurled by Goliath at David were ineffective for David’s total focus was on God and His power working in him to give him victory – for he had already imagined the victory scene before even stepping out to fight. His reply reflected his attitude – ‘I come in the name of the LORD of Hosts and He will deliver you into my hands and I will take your head’ – while there was no sword in his hands. “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it” (Philippians 1:6) for God does not leave anything incomplete or imperfect and in this confidence David could overcome fear and the giant (1 Samuel 17:37-47).
Fear of man is a snare, a trap that causes our downfall as also is the love for the praise and honor from men (John 12:43). The Pharisees desired approval from men more than acceptance from God and Lord Jesus warned us of that for then the reward is here on the earth only and not in heaven – a reward in heaven is what we should covet more than anything (Matthew 6:1-8 & 16-21). Also what we fear is more likely to come upon us as Job feared God’s wrath on his children more than his confidence in the love of God and his innocent prayers caused the fears to come true (Job 3:25-26). Our fears open the door for evil forces to overpower us and bring havoc in our lives.
Can anything good also come from fear? – Fear propels man into taking evasive action to save himself from the coming danger and this action is guided by the excess adrenalin released in to the blood stream due to fear thus providing more oxygen and energy to the body in the time of crisis. Fear also turns man towards God in prayer, for our prayers are offered in total earnestness when we are faced with a crisis of any kind in our lives. “Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7) for this not only takes us back to God but also helps us receive this gift of knowledge through the Holy Spirit. “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:7) and it is fear that helps us evade evil in our thoughts and deeds. Fear of the LORD helps us develop hatred for evil, pride and arrogance and helps us in loving others and prolonging our life in return (Proverbs 8:13 & 10:27). It helps us be confident in the power of the Lord, provides us a refuge in Him and leads us to the ‘fountain of life’ (Proverbs 14:26-27). Riches, honor and life accrue to us as a result of fear of the LORD and we receive help in overcoming envy of the sinners for their ‘short lived success and prosperity’ (Proverbs 22:4; 23:17). When we fear the LORD, it becomes the key for our sure foundation in Him, a rich store of salvation, wisdom and knowledge for all these are gifts from God’s mercy (Isaiah 33:6). It is the fear of the LORD that reveals His might and His justice to clothe us with humility and to surrender before His throne (Isaiah 2:10-21).
How can we overcome fear? – In the process of defeating the evil spirit of fear in us, we have a part and that then lets God play His part in our lives. we cooperate with God to let Him freely work in our lives by seeking Him diligently and He then delivers us from all our fears (Psalm 34:4). Our acts of disobedience to God bring all types of fears in to our heart, for Adam and Eve sinned and only then decided to hide from Him (Isaiah 66:4-6). Peter denied the Lord Jesus three times yet after repentance he could confidently preach the Truth in the Temple courts and heal the lame man. The Jewish leaders were astonished with the confidence of Peter and John and finally “realized that they had been with Jesus” which had helped them overcome all fears despite being uneducated and untrained (Acts 4:13). Being with the Lord means time spent in prayer, worship, reading and understanding the Word of God and making that Word personal through developing a close relationship. It is then that we can counter fear with God’s Word and His promises and faith in the Truth of the same to make His grace strengthen us in our weaknesses.
Prayer is establishing a connection with the spiritual realm in heaven by looking unto Lord Jesus seated on His throne in power and glory and taking the physical into the spiritual realm and receiving visible results from the invisible. Adam was tasked to set up God’s kingdom on earth as His representative and in His power. Having now been redeemed from the clutches of Satan and washed in the atoning blood of Lord Jesus, we are given the same task to reach out to others to make them understand the rules of heavenly living through the Gospel. Through faith in the power of God we close that provide access to the demonic forces to exercise control over us. We have not been given “the Spirit of fear but of power and of love and of sound mind” personal discipline and self control (2 Timothy 1:7). The Gifts of the Holy Spirit include the gift of discernment of spirits and accordingly dealing with them in God’s power without fear of any kind.
God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in us brings out in us the fruit of ‘self control’ to fight fear in faith in His Word. Apostle Peter then defines who we become after being chosen by God through faith in His Son. “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful Light” (1 Peter 2:9). God has brought us out the darkness of sin and resultant fears into the glorious light of His Son Lord Jesus, our Savior, who has promised to be with us everywhere at all times ‘till the end of this age’. We are required to feel His presence with us and then overcome all fears in His power and authority by making Him real in our lives.