Fear not is a command repeatedly mentioned for we need to remember that fear creates a prison around us that not only takes us away from God but also causes unbelief.
The Toughest Command
God’s commands as contained in the Scripture are to guide and lead us on the
path of establishing and maintaining a close relationship with Him. God in His
mercy is ever ready to forgive our trespasses but the command to not be afraid,
which is repeated more than 360 times, is probably the one all of humanity
violates. This is probably central to our life in fellowship with God and
violators are even barred from entry into the New Jerusalem.
Why the emotion of fear is given so much importance in the Scripture? – In creation that was very good, fear was the first expressed emotion by
Adam and Eve though this should be more of a feeling of guilt for disobedience
(Genesis 3:10). Cain after murdering his brother Abel complained to God about
the severity of his punishment while fearing for his life that ‘anyone who
finds me will kill me’ (Genesis 4:14). After that Abraham feared for his life
and asked Sarah his wife to claim to be his sister so that others do not kill
him (Genesis 12:12-13). Moses made various excuses to avoid going back to Egypt
from where he had fled after murdering an Egyptian man (Exodus 3:10 – 4:17).
Hebrew word ‘yare’ is translated as fear, revere, shoot and pour and its source
is always external. Fear has two aspects – one is fear in the evil sense and
the other is fear as reverence. Psychologists identify two fears one is born
with, the fear of falling down and fear of noise and then we develop many more
during our lifetime. A psychological survey of 500 people revealed seven
thousand types of fears. Fear is a feeling of something unknown and that always
takes us away from the source of fear and in our fallen state since we do not
know God fully fear leads us away from Him.
The Holy Bible lists two kinds of fears where one is the commanded fear and in
the concluding statement King Solomon said ‘Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including
every secret thing, whether good or evil’ (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
Scripture terms it as godly fear (Hebrews 11:7). This fear leads to holiness (2
Corinthians 7:1) and secondly, it helps us in working out our salvation which
we received through faith in the Savior Lord (Philippians 2:12) and thirdly, it
guides us into obedience to the command of evangelism (2 Corinthians 5:11). The
second type of fear is the forbidden fear and it is synonymous with dread;
alarm, fright, terror, anxiety and distrust (Psalm 91:5 & Luke 12:32). This
fear is condemned or forbidden.
God desires that we experience His love for ‘There is no fear in love; but
perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears
has not been made perfect in love’ (1 John 4:18). This type of fear is
different from caution due to which we read the prescription slip and the label
on the medicine to avoid medicine overdose. The fear of getting run over by a
vehicle causes us to look towards both sides of the road before crossing.
Similarly, vaccination is due to fear of contacting a disease and these are
normal and good
what are we afraid of? – The different types of fears that we are
faced with are connected to various aspects of our life. The first is fear of failure and it
caused the servant with one talent to do nothing (Matthew 25:25). We fear
failure in profession, school, sports or leadership etc but the greatest
failure is not about failing after trying to do something but it is in never
fear of the unknown future due to which missionaries are not sent to
new areas, expanding the existing structure or a program is stopped or avoided.
People go to astrologers for future gazing and this is due to our inherent
nature to control the events of our lives. King Saul was afraid of the large
Philistine army and he sought out a prophetess at Endor to know beforehand the
outcome of the battle (1 Samuel 28:5-7).
fear of truth since the biggest fear is of being found out for our
lies and being forced to admit being in the wrong. We are afraid for truth
demands change and we do not want to let go. Lord Jesus said, ‘You shall know
the truth and the truth shall set you free’ (John 8:32). We are given new birth
through the word of truth setting us free from fear (James 1:18).
fear of responsibility – Moses before the Burning Bush, tried to avoid
going to Egypt and even said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and
bring the children of Israel out of Egypt’ (Exodus 3:11). Fear will keep us
from being fishers for men or to walk on water and thus reaching up to great
heights (Luke 5:10). We are not required to be successful always but to try,
not to have all the answers but to sow the seed of care and love.
men fear old age – Scripture equates old age with glory that ‘Gray
hair is a crown of glory, it is gained in a righteous life’ (Proverbs 16:31).
Old age is to have and to seek great achievements before one heads home and in
any case aging is God created.
Six, fear of insecurity – This is
fear of not having enough but God’s Word assures a believer of enough
provisions to meet all needs. As it is written, ‘my God will meet all your
needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:19).
Seven, fear of growth – People
argue that big church will become unmanageable and we should not take in too
many members. But it relates to our love for God and His Word. Growth is
inevitable and to resist is to die or stagnate.
what others will say or do – Lord Jesus warned us that men would speak
against us and to also beware against all men speaking well of us (Luke
6:26). Apostle Peter denied the Lord thrice yet returned and was forgiven
(Matthew 26:69-75). People use various substances and sex to boost their self
fear of death – Lord Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection and through
that victory over death was to free us from the ‘fear of death’ (Hebrews 2:14-15).
He has assured us of a place in His Father’s house in heaven and promised to
‘come back and take you with Me that you may also be where I am’ (John 14:1-3).
Hebrew word ‘yare’ is translated as fear, reverence, shoot or pour out where
fear of God is reverence of God but we are cautioned about the immobilizing
fears. God the Father desires that we develop a close relationship with Him
while the devil’s sole aim is to keep mankind under his control and away from
God. He shoots or pours out his lies on us and though he cannot read our
thoughts but our spoken words and expressions reveal our mental state providing
him a key to attack. The devil then repeatedly pours out his thoughts into us
to make us terrified of small insignificant things and keep us away from our
prayer and worship. A disciple in Delhi is bombarded with whispering voices
telling him that prayers are of no use and he and his family will suffer
miseries always and this is despite God blessing the family abundantly and
Lord Jesus’ message to the seven churches in Revelation 2 & 3 is to exhort
them to overcome and this is not only about temptations but also about fears
that restrain us. A very short book by C.S.Lewis ‘The Screwtape Letters’ is a
classic example of how the demonic forces attempt to affect our thinking
process. This book contains letters to and from a trainee demon to his
controller about an individual that he is assigned to corrupt and control.
does fear affect our lives? – God promises that ‘I will move ahead of you
and straighten the crooked paths, I will break open the doors of brass and
break the bars of iron’ (Isaiah 45:2). In this the paths being straightened and
the doors being opened are about obstacles in the way but the bars of iron are
the self created prisons that stop us from moving forward out of fear. God
promises to break those bars or chains also to set us free. Fear causes
undue stress which is the root cause of most of the diseases affecting our
bodies. The disciples faced a severe storm while the Lord was sleeping in
the boat and they woke Him up and said, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are
perishing?’ (Mark 4:36-41).
makes us suspect God also that He has turned against us and affects
our overall personality. Fear causes torment and prevents us from doing God’s
will (1 John 4:18). God desires us to overcome evil while seeking forgiveness
through confession of sins but in fear forming friendships and relationships
gets prevented. Fear makes us useless for God – Gideon told to
send back those who are fearful and afraid (Judges 7:3). Fear brings
defeat – Apostle Peter walked on water but looking at the storm he was
afraid and started sinking (Matthew 14:30). In fact what we fear we attract and
it comes about in our lives. Fear spreads and is contagious – God
commanded, let the fearful return home lest the heart of his brethren faint
like his heart (Deuteronomy 20:8). The 12 spies returned and except Joshua and
Caleb the other ten said ‘we are not able to go up against the people for they are
stronger than we’ (numbers 13-14 & 31&14:4). Fear can make a church and
its congregation ineffective stopping it from doing good work for God’s
kingdom. Fear kills and destroys and many commit suicide –
Judas Iscariot felt remorseful, returned the money to the Chief Priests in the
temple and committed suicide (Matthew 27:3-5). Fear causes a person to
be lost – the greatest fear that we face is about others knowing about
our faith and condemnation by them or loss of property etc and many though
fully aware of the truth of the Gospel fail to accept and thus perish.
affects our spiritual growth also – Often we do not pray for others
that God would not answer and people will insult me for enacting a façade. Fear
restrains us from asking questions from others to learn about the Scripture.
Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews or a member of the Sanhedrin,
came to Lord Jesus at night for fear of losing his position (John 3:1-2). God
assured Joshua of success everywhere, ‘no one will be able to stand before you’
but you just be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid was told three
times by God and twice by the people for probably Joshua’s fear was visible and
could have stopped him from receiving his due in the history of the Israelites
(Joshua 1:3,5,6-7). Probably that is the reason of Lord Jesus’ command to the
Seven Churches and even later, ‘he who overcomes shall inherit all things and I
will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly (and other sinners)
shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is
the second death’ (Revelation 21:7-8). Fear would deny us any part with God and
His kingdom causing eternal damnation and separation from God. It is better to
fail and not succeed rather than not attempting and missing the chance. I would
better ask, seek and knock on the door rather than repenting later at not
having tried for most of us have such regrets, ‘if only I had done that’.
How to overcome fear – Most of
us live in constant fear of something or the other, fear of loss of job, family
member, health issues, natural disasters or terror attacks and even that ‘God
may want me to go through poverty or other types of suffering’. Father of the
deaf and mute boy first said to the Lord, ‘if You can do anything, have
compassion on us and help us’ but later cried out ‘Lord, I believe, help my
unbelief’ (Mark 9:23-25). First and foremost is to recognize my fears
and bring everything to Lord in prayer. Our LORD God assures us that
‘all those who were incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced; they
shall be as nothing… you shall seek them and not find them..those who war
against you shall be as nothing, as a nonexistent thing. I the LORD your God
will hold your right hand… fear not, I will help you (Isaiah 41:11-13). When
God is assuring that our enemies will be as nothing, nonexistent, why should I
enemy wants to destroy our faith but God is telling otherwise. I must
read, meditate upon and understand the Scripture and use it as ‘Sword of the
Spirit’ a weapon of God to slay the lies of Satan (Ephesians 6:13–18). I pray
for and receive the weapons of God to fight not only what is external but also
the internal, my fears, my unholy desires and expectations. Prayer and
seek the Lord to cast your burdens on the Lord, and He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved (Psalm 3:4; 55:16,17 &22).
Lord Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer
to God. He prayed in the Gethsemane Park and rather our Lord prayed before and
after every important event (Luke 6:12). In like manner the disciples were
joined together in fasting and prayer before being filled with the Holy Spirit
(Acts 1:13-14). Rid ourselves of sin for sin and fear are inseparable –
Adam and Eve hid from God after their disobedience (Genesis 3:6 &10). ‘If
we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to
cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him
a liar, and His word is not in us’ (1 John 1:9-10). Satan’s control over
mankind is only because of the open door of sins that we have not confessed and
have not been forgiven. Confession closes that door and we are freed from the
in the present – ‘Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry
about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble’ (Matthew
6:34). Apostle Paul is clear on this, ‘one thing I do, forgetting those things
which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead’
(Philippians 3:13). God revealed His name to Moses ‘I AM WHO I AM’; not I was
or I will be. God is of the present before whom past and future are also
revealed and we also are to live in the present, a day at a time (Exodus
3:14). Fill our heart with love – first feel and realize God’s
love for me and then filled with that reach out to others in that same love for
‘There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear’ ((– 1 John 4:18).
God promises not to leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6) and again that ‘I
am with you to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20). God promises that ‘I will
not leave you orphans’ (John 14:18) and ‘if God is for us who can be against
us?’ (Romans 8:31).
God will make my enemy as nothing and non-existent (Isaiah 41:12-13)
and I will not fear for I worship and serve a God ‘who is able to do
exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power
that works in us’ (Ephesians 3:20). When I believe in His promises I will then feel
His presence and fear will flee for His Holy Spirit is with me and in me. I am
assured of my place with God eternally, provided I do not succumb to fear and I
must remember this. The power of the Holy Spirit works in us and the command to
overcome is from One who has and knows that we can. To Him be glory now and